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How to work with someone who is always stressed (or is it you?)

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Working with, or around, people who seem to always be carrying stress can be detrimental to your health and theirs, here’s how to deal with them.

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stressed overworked employee

My baseline level of anxiety is pretty high. I get stressed out if I forget to pack a fork in my lunch even though there are utensils at the office. If someone is mean to me, I get on edge. If I make a small mistake I’m probably going to carry it with me for a few hours.

Others may not exhibit stress unless they’re up against a tight deadline or coming from a difficult meeting, but it seems like they’re always inclined towards stress regardless of their schedules. While many people exhibit stress in understandable, fleeting situations, for some stress is a default setting. It can be difficult to work with someone who’s always stressed out.

When someone is perpetually stressed, it takes a toll on everyone else too. That energy can be toxic and leave you wondering if you should be helping or if your colleague is intentionally being a Debbie Downer.

For starters, don’t make a judgement call about your coworker. Everyone handles stress at different levels, and for some people that means not really handling stress at all.

You may be able to breeze through your day with minor frustrations while others are thrown off by the smallest thing.

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate, notes “Don’t think what can I do to change this person?” Instead, she suggests considering how to neutralizes the situation and move forward.

If you want to offer the most basic form of help, acknowledge what’s going on and offer a compliment. Even if it doesn’t seem like much is going on, simply letting your stressed colleague feel heard and appreciated can make an impact.

Author of How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb, explains stressed people are “feeling out of control, incompetent, and disrespected. A compliment is your easy way to help them get back to their better self.” Make sure you’re not enabling them by dragging out the situation, though.

Acknowledge, offer some praise, and try to move with the conversation.

Although it’s not necessarily in your job description to fix your coworkers problems, you can still offer support. You may not actually be able to do anything, but offering assistance gives the other person a chance to think through solutions.

Webb also suggests brainstorming way to “reduce their cognitive load,” to ease what’s making your coworker feel overwhelmed.

Some simple solutions include splitting requests into smaller steps, shortening emails, or dividing work into parts.

Ultimately the job needs to get done, but you can provide your coworker with more manageable means of accomplishing tasks by breaking things into chunks.

You can also check in on your coworker to find out if you should be concerned, or if their stress limited to the work environment. If their stress is beyond what you can reasonably handle with these de-escalation tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone about further steps to take.

Check out our mental health series for some more insight if you’re concerned your coworker’s problem may be more than regular stress.

Just like some people are easily stressed, some easily pick up on the negative feelings of others. Be aware of how your coworker’s stress is affecting you. If someone is truly draining you, try to get some distance.

While that may be difficult in a small office, Weeks recommends keeping in mind that out of all the “office characters…the stress case’s temperament [is] less of a problem” than others.

Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility to destress your coworker, but you can certainly make your work life a little easier if you take these steps to make for healthier, happier collaboration.

Business News

Cybersecurity: Russia cyberattacks pose concerns for US hacking red lines

(BUSINESS) Governments are beefing up their cybersecurity in the midst of Russian cyberattacks. What does this mean for the US’s hacking red lines?

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Lock in computer keys representing cyberwarfare, cyber attacks, and threats against Cybersecurity..

Digital lines in digital sand in cyberspace – how does one define what across the line means? As governments around the world bring cyberwarfare into their wheelhouse, what does this mean for defense and cybersecurity? The US government is making moves to define policy around these topics in the face of known Russian government malicious activities and fears amass around the consequences of the Ukraine conflict. What is our government doing and how worried should we be?

I think we should absolutely be concerned about what the government is getting up to in this arena. We are entering an era of a sort of “cyber arms race” where who has the best hackers, best defenses, etc. is in a constant state of flux. The sands are constantly in motion, which makes drawing lines all the more challenging.

First of all, how do you define cyberattacks and responses? A lot of people envision whole electric, sewage, and other utility grids going offline without warning. There are proposals to add digital attacks against any critical civilian infrastructure as a crime in the Geneva Conventions.

I spoke with an IT and Cybersecurity consultant and he stated,

That stuff shouldn’t happen. Not to mean that it can’t, but it shouldn’t. Critical systems like that should be abstracted from the internet. What that means, is it there should be no way from the internet to connect to those internal systems. They should be oh, if not completely isolated, then have a few very, very secure layers in between, and should those be compromised or cut off, then the system should continue to run without issue.

So what would a war inciting cyber-attack entail exactly? Access to certain parts of the internet could be disrupted. You could theoretically attack news sites, government sites, or websites that provide the public with information. You could also hijack those, sending out your own messages, propaganda, whatever. However, this is fairly easy to disrupt.

Our consultant cited an instance from several years ago where a county website in Kentucky frequented by lawyers, mortgage companies, builders, and landscapers to get property info was compromised once, and it took them weeks to acknowledge the problem, much less fix it. It was ill-preparedness, pure and simple. How much spyware got onto computers and law firms and construction company systems? We’ll never know.

This sort of happening could become a big problem if we look to compromising systems for use in information gathering and reconnaissance. If your target is critical infrastructure, infecting a construction company with spyware and stealing architectural drawings might be a big deal.

The most logical plan of attack is the financial sector. If you cut off people’s ability to purchase things online, transfer money reliably or securely, or do banking, you can cripple a lot of the economy of a country, if nobody trusts the internet anymore. Hit too hard, all at once, it could be devastating because people, simply, are not careful and if too many of them lose faith in a system at the same time, it’s going to put a kink and everyone’s day-to-day life. If someone took out PayPal or Venmo, who declares war on who?

However, most tensions around cybersecurity are founded in psychological manipulation, threats to financial security, and the disruption of services impacting day-to-day life. A big permanent, catastrophic strike, comparable to the nuclear arms race,  is difficult to imagine. The military approach of treating cybersecurity like a nuclear mutually assured destruction, or MAD scenario is inherently misleading and caricatures the wrong end of the crisis spectrum. The real threat is in more sublime ongoing interactions, and targeted attacks compromising commercial systems

Lastly, some food for thought lest we forget: this conversation is focused on government versus government conflict. Attacks against multi-national corporations, special interest groups, and cyber activity by known terrorist hotspots aren’t even on the table, but arguably compose a larger proportion of risk. The question “When does one country declare war on another?” has many layers. Can a corporation request a government response to an attack against them by a third party?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Business News

How a Supreme Court ruling ending Roe v. Wade would affect businesses

(EDITORIAL) A leaked draft from the Supreme Court shows a possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, affecting both businesses and employees across the US.

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Pregnant person representing reproductive rights being challenged in the Supreme Court.

When the news of the Supreme Court leak hit last week, my intentions of writing to you about introverted leadership faded, and I found myself researching the impacts of the potential ruling.

Over the past several years, companies have taken stands regarding race and gender identity. Many companies are offering parental leave that extends beyond the mother and beyond birth. Yet, when this issue came to a head. Crickets. Very few organizations are voicing any opinion in the wake of the information detailed in the Politico article.

Women’s health is critical to any work environment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, 57.4% of all women participated in the labor force, and as of December 2019, women held 50.04% of jobs in the United States.

What can leaders do? What should leaders do? LISTEN. If you are uncomfortable taking a stand or making your opinion known. LISTEN. This issue is complex, and there is fear. Louisiana lawmakers are already authoring legislation that could criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization by defining a fertilized egg before implantation as a person, according to various news sources.

Women’s reproductive care is complex and fraught with challenges. Upon sharing my own experiences attempting to secure the birth control I wanted, I was shocked at the number of women who responded, echoing their own struggles.

Although the Supreme Court ruling is said to shift legislation on reproduction to the states, away from the federal level, 13 states already have trigger laws in place if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

No one knows what is going to happen. People’s feelings are valid. The wonderful thing about listening is you can listen with empathy regardless of your own feelings. You can show compassion and acknowledge someone even if you do not share their feelings.

If you are a leader or a decision-maker and want to support choice, QZ.com posted an article listing companies who are actively supporting choice that provides a brief synopsis of what companies including Amazon, Levi’s, Salesforce, Uber, Lyft, and GoDaddy are doing.

I do not pretend to know the answers here, but I believe we need to be having conversations, even if those conversations are uncomfortable. An issue that dramatically affects half the population physically and the other half by proximity cannot be ignored due to discomfort.

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Business News

Supply chain issues cause baby formula shortage – what sector is next?

(BUSINESS) Baby formula is the newest supply chain shortage, causing “crisis” levels, affecting families across the US. Is your business sector next?

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Grocery store representing supply chain issues.

Baby formula is the latest casualty of the supply chain crisis.

According to Fox News, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS have limits on how much baby formula that customers can purchase at one time. Supply chain issues had already created a shortage. In addition, Abbott Laboratories recalled some of its baby formula after two infants died, exacerbating the problem. This led many parents to stockpile formula, which hasn’t helped the situation. CNN reports that “manufacturers are producing at maximum capacity.” Abbott is hoping to resume operations at its Michigan plant, which was shut down because of the recall. In the meantime, parents are struggling to find baby formula, which is much harder to find alternatives to than toilet paper.

 Why should a baby formula shortage concern business owners?

Wondering why your business should be aware of this if you don’t have babies or toddlers? This particular supply chain issue may not affect you or any of your staff. But supply chain issues are impacting every industry. We can joke about the toilet paper shortage that occurred early in the pandemic, but the shortages are stacking up. It’s no longer just pasta, but eggs, beef, pork, and more when you’re at the grocery store. Building supplies are more difficult to find. Computer chips are in short supply, impacting car repairs and offices both.

Business owners should be paying attention to items in their own industry that may be impacted by supply chain issues. While we don’t want to encourage stockpiling, it is important to keep your customers aware of potential problems. If you are seeing items that are being delivered slower than normal, find in-house solutions or workarounds. Communicate to your consumers. It might be time to make product changes or use tools that boost productivity. Maybe you need to make new relationships with other suppliers. Supply chain issues aren’t going to go away overnight. Don’t let your company’s reputation suffer because you can’t solve your customer’s problems.

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