Stress triggers: Would you be able to spot them in your team?

Working in logistics can mean unsociable hours and time away from loved ones. Throw into the mix delays in the supply chain or traffic and it can result in stress and sometimes depression.

But, with many drivers on their own a lot of the time, how can managers and team leaders spot the signs of a stressed-out employee and offer real help?

It is easy to say that employers can put preventative measures in place to remove stressful processes or situations, but there is no ‘one size fits all’. What one person may find stressful, someone else may feel driven or motivated by.

Healthy stress vs unhealthy stress

To understand and combat stress in the workplace – or on the road for that matter – we need to make that distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress. There is always stress in the workplace, but some can be good, like when you are up against a deadline and you perform better.

We all think, react and adapt to situations differently and some may be more resilient to stress than others. Research shows that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal and there is a point when pressure and performance peak simultaneously before dropping down again, creating a curve known as the Yerkes–Dodson curve. The upward part of the curve is the energising effect of arousal. The downward part is the negative effects of stress on cognitive processes like attention, memory and problem-solving. In an ideal world, we want to create environments that achieve peak performance – and just the right amount of stress – but don’t go over the line.

Recognising behaviours

Signs of unhealthy stress in a person could include changes in behaviour, a drop in performance or absence from work. Recognising changes in behaviour is not about having a checklist of things to spot. It’s looking at an individual and knowing how they would normally act and if you see a shift in those behaviours. Has someone who is normally chatty gone quiet lately? Has someone usually punctual started arriving late to jobs?

What can we do?

Focus on building a stress-resilient culture and teach coping strategies to build resilience and mental toughness. This will enable individuals to cope with stressful situations in a way that stops them creeping over that line into unhealthy stress territory.

There’s no quick fix. We all have different triggers and self-beliefs. Add to that your own life experiences and it’s not difficult to see why two people in the same job may need to focus on very different aspects to improve their resilience.

Here are some things to try:

  1. Get enough sleep – Prioritise getting a good night’s sleep and make time for regular breaks and exercise. It will raise your motivation and your mood, leaving you better prepared to deal with stressors.
  2. Talk to Yourself – Left unchecked that ‘inner voice’ can do a lot of damage. Learn to ‘hear’ what that voice is saying and, where necessary, correct it. Recognise negative reactions to events and adjust your thinking to reduce the impact of a stressful situation.
  3. Have a healthy relationship with failure – Be pragmatic when things go wrong. Look at what you can take from that failure to achieve a different outcome next time. 
  4. Build a support network – Whether at work or at home, we need people who we can rely on to support us when we need it. Simply talking things through with someone can lend a much-needed perspective in challenging circumstances.

By Anita Douglas

About the author


Anita is an Occupational Psychologist specialising in organisational and people development, with a track record of success gained at board level in rapidly expanding, client-focused environments. Her management career started in 2002 as Training and Development Manager at Carter & Carter Group Plc. where she successfully orchestrated commercial and leadership training programmes for Audi UK, achieving the accolade of Number One support service for five consecutive years.

Her progression to Operations Director saw her successfully lead a number of automotive apprenticeship programmes. She became known within the organisation for her results-oriented focus and someone ‘who gets things done.’ Her passion for ensuring all learners touched by her training teams would improve and indeed excel, knew no bounds. This reputation for excellence results in a 10% increase in existing learners and a new programme for 150+ new learners from a major UK client.

In December 2010, Anita set up Leading Results with her business partner Doreen Yarnold. The company specialises in leadership and management training and works with organisations, teams and individuals to develop their knowledge, skills and capabilities so they can deliver exceptional and sustainable results. Clients include TV stations, High Street stores, pub chains and big name car dealerships.

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