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  • Writer's pictureLauren Drago

Manage Work Life Stress Like a BOSS: Why You Need A Performance Improvement Plan (Part 4)

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In Part 1, we talked all about the unique work-life stressors women face as they take on loads of responsibility both at home and in business. If you missed it, read it here! In Part 2, we identified how sharing the load, and being able to name your strengths and successes when things get hard, can help you not only cope, but also thrive. Read Part 2 here. In Part 3 we learned how identifying, and then communicating, our needs is absolutely essential if you're going to live a life that's in the driver's seat of stress and anxiety. Read all about it here.

To wrap up the series, I'm going to walk you through a reflective exercise that will help you identify and get in touch with your needs. Then we'll discuss one final tool you can use to take stock of what needs to change when the going REALLY gets tough.

Ready? Let's begin. Here are a few questions a great boss would use to know and understand her employee’s needs. Answering these questions for yourself will help you get in touch with your own needs and begin to understand where you get your needs met and how you feel fulfilled as a human.

Grab a pen and a paper and begin to answer each question fully and as honestly as possible:

- What are you passionate about?

- What’s working for you? What’s not working for you?

- Where do you draw your energy, and what types of things make you feel energized? What would help you spend more time in that space?

- How do you personally restore yourself or relax?

- What might help you feel more successful or supported right now?

- What’s the best way you move forward when you feel stuck?

- How do you usually deal with challenges? In what ways would you like to handle challenges, and, if different than how you do now, how might you begin and who might help support you in making a change?

I encourage you to ask yourself those questions now, about both your work and personal life, and continue to take stock of them regularly.

So far I’ve told you a lot about the common pitfalls women face as they take on enormous responsibilities and stressors. And I’ve shared various ways in which you can raise your awareness of the contributing factors so that you can shift your self-talk, level out those intense emotions, and return to a more reasonable and realistic internal state.

I’d like to wrap up by sharing one final effective strategy bosses use to navigate extreme disrepair. This is the strategy you can use when you need more than just a reality check, but rather when you need tangible readjustment and change in multiple areas of your life. To do this, we’ll turn to one of the most useful and productive tools in the tool belt of a great manager: The Performance Improvement Plan (otherwise known as a PIP).

Utilizing a Performance Improvement Plan format to evaluate your own work and life stressors can help you clear the confusion and regain traction. To many who’ve unfortunately worked in fear based environments, and I have, the PIP is often known as the last straw used by companies to cover themselves before an employee is let go. But in a work environment that has a healthy culture and set of guiding values the goal of using a PIP is to genuinely help a valued employee succeed when they are at their lowest. <- don't you want that for your life?!

A great manager uses a PIP to gain clarity about what’s going wrong and to strategize about change. The PIP draws on both facts and self-reported experience to do a few key things: to accurately identify the existing problems, to pinpoint what isn’t working and why, to create an actionable and measurable plan for new and more productive thoughts, behaviors, and patterns, and then to set a goal and expectation for turning things around. As a manager, I’ve used PIPs not only to save people’s jobs, but more importantly to transform employees who were drowning in everything that wasn’t working to employees who ended up being confident and successful.

In many ways, the process of therapy is much like using a good Performance Improvement Plan. When we extend the PIP to personal use, you’re not only handling your stress like a boss, but you’re also tackling problems a bit like a therapist. And that is the ultimate goal of therapy – for you to develop the insight and skills to handle things differently on your own.

If we’d use a PIP at work, we should also use a PIP when we need to take a hard look at our work-life stressors or at difficulties in our personal lives.

Get a journal, carve out some quiet, and ask yourself:

-How am I feeling?

-What is going on that’s contributing to how I feel?

-What would help this feel or be different?

-What can I begin to do that would make a change?

At work, we have clear strategies to effect change when things get tough; and yet in our personal lives we allow ourselves to live so long at our low points. We watch ourselves struggle, repeat old patterns, and stay stuck. What I hope I’ve helped bring to light for you through this series is that there is another way to handle what’s hard. It’s a way that requires thoughtfulness, practice, courage, and often times, a bit of assistance.

In your times of work-life stress, remember to think like a boss. Remember to ask yourself, what would a great boss say to me right now? Then, remember our acronym:

B – Be aware of my needs;

O – Open up about them;

S – Share the load; and

S – Say my successes and strengths.

As women, when we change how we think, understand ourselves, treat ourselves, and hold expectations of ourselves and of our world, we can look our stressors in the eye, take a step back, and better cultivate the amazing life we deserve. Call me for your free consultation; I'd love to help you get there!

This blog series is adapted from a talk given by Lauren Drago Therapy as part of the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Series.

Lauren drago licensed counselor psychotherapist therapist old saybrook ct pa ny

Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, and call (860) 339-6515 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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