Monday, March 27, 2006

Reduce generational conflicts at work through greater understanding
Stress for Success
March 28, 2006

Tom, a 62 year-old manager, locks horns frequently with John, a 34 year-old colleague, who seems so impatient and impersonal. It really bugs Tom when John rudely continues to work on his computer even with Tom standing right there talking to him!

Rachel, a 22-year-old new hire enthusiastically emails her new boss, Jennifer, a 55-year-old, her best ideas on how Jennifer can make her project even better. Jennifer rolls her eyes with each email thinking, “Who does she think she is? This is probably her first job out of college!” Rachel, never getting a response for her hard work, assumes Jennifer resists any idea that isn’t her own.

Do you think it would help if these employees could understand why those who frustrate them behave as they do?

My mother would answer an enthusiastic “yes”. She encouraged all of us kids in my family to challenge our negative judgments of people by exploring why they behaved as they did. Develop greater understanding of each generation and why each is the way it is and you can judge less thereby remove an important building block of conflict.

For example, what in each generation’s background might explain why older workers get irritated when their younger colleagues aren’t willing to work late? Would greater generational understanding help younger workers be more patient with older workers who resist change? Could Boomers resent Xers less for demanding life balance, something a Boomer only dreamt of? And could Gen Yers, the youngest employed generation, gain more perspective with the older generations for getting the world into such a mess?

Generational diversity is the hottest diversity issue in today’s workplace. With the four generations working side-by-side with their significantly different values, expectations and assumptions, it’s easy to understand why there’s frustration between them. How each individual workplace handles their generational conflicts will determine whether they have more conflict or creativity.

If you’re a business owner or manager, why should you care? Because if the predictions of the worker shortage are anywhere near accurate you’ll have to compete with all other employers to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. Veterans and Baby Boomers, the largest generation of all times, have their eyes set on retirement and there simply aren’t enough Gen Xers, the smallest recent generation, and Yers to take up the slack, especially the leadership slack.
This is a huge challenge to all employers. If you have a business-as-usual attitude you’ll be scratching the bottom of the barrel for employees. The organizations that manage the four generations the most creatively will have a competitive edge in recruitment and retention of talented people. By making your organization a great place to work you can hold on to more Veterans and Boomers, even if just for part-time help and attract more Xers and Yers whom some have accused of having “just in time loyalty”.

Over the next weeks I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch of each generation:

• The Veterans, born 1922 – 1942
• The Baby Boomers, 1943 – 1960
• Generation X, 1961 – 1980
• Generation Y, 1981 – 2000

I’ll briefly describe the historic events that shaped each generation, which helps to explain their values and why they behave as they do. Hopefully the understanding this creates can help decrease intergenerational conflicts just like my Mother taught me it would.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Diminish your fatigue by breathing more and drinking more water
Stress for Success
March 21, 2006

Recently I visited an old friend who told me that she loves my column and reads it every week. She chuckled and then said, "But I don't necessarily follow your advice." (Thanks, Elizabeth for keeping me grounded.)

I'm realistic enough to know that many of even the most stressed and exhausted among us who most need to faithfully practice stress reduction don't; many because they’re just too tired. So here are two bits of advice that are easy to practice, free, require virtually no willpower nor additional time, and yet still are very beneficial in boosting your energy: breathe more deeply and drink more water.

When you breathe shallowly, which stressed people do most of the time, you aren’t taking in enough oxygen. With lower levels of oxygen and higher levels of carbon monoxide in your blood you become more tired and put pressure on your body because your heart rate and blood pressure go up.

So breathe deeply from your abdomen every hour on the hour. Abdominal breathing gives an oxygen boost that energizes and relaxes you instantly. Also do this before times you know you’ll be stressed, like a difficult conversation you’re about to have with someone.

As you inhale, focus on making your stomach and chest move so it expands your lower lungs. This allows you to take in more air with each breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Concentrate on pushing the air out as you exhale, which encourages the body to breathe correctly. Maintaining good posture also facilitates healthy breathing.

Another common contributor to fatigue is dehydration. Some estimates are that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. And no wonder! Look at all the caffeine we consume from coffee, tea and soda. And we simply don't drink enough water. If you’re very stressed you’re probably one of the 75%. Besides fatigue dehydration can cause headaches, constipation and irritability.

“When you feel thirsty, you’ve already lost two to three percent of your body fluid” says Susan Kleiner, a registered dietician in Mercer Island, Washington. This can lower your blood volume, which means you don’t get as much blood to your brain so your heart has to work harder.

Sometimes you mistakenly perceive your body’s plea for water as hunger pains. For a few weeks between meals when you think you’re hungry drink a glass of water instead. You’ll hydrate yourself more and decrease the extra pounds you put on over the years. Drinking water when you want to munch can also help keep you on a diet.

Also consider:

• Drink enough water so you have to urinate once an hour during wakeful hours.
• If your lifestyle is mostly sedentary drink nine cups of water per day; if active you’ll need closer to twelve.
• Since this can get tiresome, spark up your water with lemon or orange slices, drink noncaffeinated herbal tea, and eat more soup, fresh fruits and vegetables.
• When constipated drink lots of water in the morning. It works better than the over-the-counter products upon which we tend to rely.
• Avoid drinks that contribute to dehydration: coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages all of which are diuretics that require more water from the body than they provide.
• Have water nearby throughout your day including in your car.

To generate more energy, which might motivate you to follow other needed stress management advice, breathe more deeply and drink more water. Do these two things very regularly for the next two months and see if you’re not more energetic. Then you'll have no excuse to stop you from taking better care of yourself in other ways.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Teach your children patience so they can have a better life
Stress for Success

March 14, 2006
Patience is a wonderful personal attribute. It helps you reach your goals as well as get along with others, while those who are impatient are spinning in emotional circles.

Impatience is a short step from more intense forms of anger. When your emotional brain is triggered it sends hormones racing through your body besieging your ability to think logically. So tame your impatience when you need to think rationally.

Whereas it’s never too late to learn patience, the ideal time to learn is when you're a child. But some experts worry that it’s being lost in our fast-paced, point-and-click world where technology brings us instant results, which lead to an expectation of instant results in everything from our relationships to traffic.

Dr. Marilyn Benoit, President-elect of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is concerned that there’s a disturbing trend that finds children having more emotional outbursts. She describes this melt down in Kids and the Demise of Frustration Tolerance. "The problem I see emerging in children is one of decreasing frustration tolerance … in lay language …a lack of patience."

Dr. Benoit says that impatient children suffer because they haven't learned to delay their own gratification so have a harder time empathizing with others and coping when life becomes challenging. Significant impatience leads children and adults to believe that everything is about them. What a rude awakening for kids when they learn that it isn’t all about them.

Impatience in two-year-olds is certainly near universal, but meltdowns in older children can be a sign of more serious problems. Family psychologist and author Elizabeth Carll, Ph.D., adds, "Poor impulse control can lead to aggression and violence for some children."

Another reason it’s wise to teach children patience is that when they learn that it takes time to work toward goals and plan ahead, they're more likely to adapt when their needs aren’t immediately met. However, Dr. Toby Sachsenmaier, child and adolescent psychologist in Buffalo, New York, says that parents often interfere with their children learning patience by not letting them learn how to deal with disappointment.

The experts recommend the following to help you teach your children greater patience:

• Model appropriate patience. When children see that there are times when it's natural to feel impatient, they can learn constructive ways from you to cope with their frustration. You, the parent, are their #1 role model so learn greater patience if necessary.
• Reward patience. For example, when your child exhibits appropriate patient behavior, say something positive like, "Thank you for being so patient, I appreciate it." “Catch them doing something right.”
• Don’t reward impatience.
• Avoid overloading your children's schedules and avoid rushing to buy all the latest new high-tech stuff. Encourage them to have downtime.
• Engage them in slow-paced and enriching activities such as enjoying nature. Teach them to appreciate its beauty and complexity. Gardening, participating in non-technology games, constructing something that takes a few days to build, and even card games can all encourage your child to be more thoughtful and deliberate.

When children master greater patience it can help lead them to improved self-esteem and greater success in life because they've learned the power of self-control. Dr. Carll says, "Any time you feel more control, you feel better about yourself." And having a sense of control is the opposite of being stressed.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Learn self-soothing techniques to increase your patience and decrease hypertension
Stress for Success
March 7, 2006

“Impatience is a fuse to a stress explosion”, said my husband. It can go off while standing in line at the grocery store or while navigating rush-hour traffic. People who irritate you or hold you up in some way can also be the detonation. For some, it can be ignited by pretty much anything.

Our techno-stress-age with its accompanying expectations for everything to be faster can push even patient people to the edge. However, for health reasons the concern is for those who are impatient much of the time, often over insignificant events.

Impatience and hostility are a form of stress and are part of the Type A personality. Research has long shown that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing a series of heart and blood vessel consequences, including narrowing of the blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure. These traits increase even a young adult’s long-term risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003.

3,308 blacks and whites, ages 18 to 30 when the research began in 1985, were studied. It found that higher levels of impatience and hostility were significantly associated with the development of hypertension after 15 years. Greater amounts of these equated to a greater risk. Interestingly, competitiveness, depression, and anxiety didn’t seem to increase the risk of hypertension.

The subjects rated their time urgency/impatience on a scale from zero to 3 - 4. After 15 years, participants with the highest score of 3 - 4 had an 84% greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Those with the second-highest score of 2 had a 47% greater risk. What didn’t affect the results: race, age, gender, education, blood pressure at the time of enrollment or the presence of hypertension risk factors such as overweight/obesity, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.
If you experience a great deal of time urgency and therefore impatience, you need to decide if hypertension is too high a price to pay. If it is, you’ll need to learn patience. The most important thing to help you is to develop self-soothing techniques.

Impatience is a form of anger, which pushes you to look for the cause outside of yourself, like the *!☆~ who cut you off in traffic. But this implies that the other person has to get out of your way for you to be soothed. Since that person is beyond your control you’ll instead need to soothe yourself.

• Deep breathe every time you find yourself becoming impatient.
• Distract yourself when impatient. For example, while standing in a checkout line read the sensationalist and comical headlines of tabloids.
• Ultimately you must change how you interpret whatever is getting in your way. Learn to recognize your impatient interpretations, "You ignorant moron!" Instead invent your own self-soothing-interpretation such as, "How important will it be in one year that this person is slowing me down?" Hopefully, more often than not you’ll answer, “It’s not at all important. Why am I wasting all of this energy on it?”

You've learned to be impatient and therefore can learn to be patient. It’s more difficult for those who experienced great amounts of early childhood trauma, which can program a short fuse for your fight flight response. Much of the trick to self-soothing is to learn to distract your mind at the earliest possible red flag of impending impatience/time urgency. Ironically, you’ll need to be patient to continue looking for techniques that calm you. Be very persistent in using them. The more you do the sooner and the better they’ll soothe you.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.