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by Sellick Partnership | 15 July 2014

Stress...the word itself generally has negative connotations and associations. We all deal with stress, both in personal and professional situations on an almost daily basis, sometimes without even realising it, and feeling stressed can be a perfectly normal emotion.

There are two types of stress; motivating/positive stress and also damaging/negative stress. The former is the type of stress that gets you out of bed in the morning, helps you deal with daily challenges and also acts as a vital warning system i.e. the fight or flight response. The latter type of stress, prolonged periods of damaging and negative stress, can cause anxiety and even long term physical and mental health problems.

Stress in the workplace can be caused by a number of factors; a lack of autonomy, a difficult colleague, inadequate training, high targets, increased workloads or unsupportive managers to name but a few.

The effects of stress can be detrimental, not only to personal work performance and health but to the team and in turn the organisation as a whole. In their annual absence management survey, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) identified that stress is the most important reason behind long term sickness absence from work in the UK. The Law Society Gazette, in their article 'Motivation and Resilience,' also identified that in a survey of lawyers by LawCare, only 29% of their respondents indicated that they had never suffered from any emotional or addiction-related impairment.

So what can we do to recognise and manage stress?

There are an abundance of indicators to signify that someone may be suffering from negative stress. These include inconsistent performance, loss of commitment to an organisation, moodiness, over-reaction to problems, temper outbursts, sulking and criticism of others. In addition to the damage that stress may cause to an individual, these negative behaviours can also have a draining and damaging effect on immediate team members.

Early identification by an organisation that an individual is displaying these behaviours is crucial in taking steps to resolve the any potential individual and team issues. 

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but there are methods that may enable you to manage the manner in which you respond to stress and also avoid or change some of the situations that create negative stress.

Taking exercise, having a good diet, ensuring you obtain enough sleep and getting support from family and friends are a few of the things that you can do on a personal level. In terms of your approach to work, try and create realistic list of daily tasks that you can easily attain without over-committing yourself. Speak to your manager and explain how you're feeling and why you're feeling that way; it may be that your manager was oblivious to how you were feeling and can help to resolve whatever issue is causing you to feel stressed. 

Sometimes it is inevitable that whatever factors are causing you to feel stressed at work may not be able to be resolved.

I speak to many candidates who have tried to affect change at their current firms and have been greeted with dead ends and unresponsive managers. It has recently been noted that 22% of lawyers are more likely to leave their jobs compared with their counterparts in other sectors.

If you would like a discussion regarding the North West legal market or some advice in terms of your next career move, please do not hesitate to contact me for a confidential discussion on 0113 243 9775 or email me at gemma.crossley@sellickpartnership.co.uk