Guest Writer: “How Are You Managing Your Stress and Overwork?”

Article by: Judy L. Buka MED., LSW
Comprehensive Counseling Services, Inc.

As a therapist who works in a small business, a special interest of mine has been how to keep rising stress levels down.  Trying to run the business, build it and concentrate on its growth and success can be overwhelming especially for small business owners and individuals who run, or own, their company.

A recent study of 2,500 American workers by CareerBuilder.com found that 77 percent feel burned out at their jobs!

“So what,” you might ask? It’s no secret that stress is a fact of daily life, and in fast-moving cultures with technology thrusting us to new heights, what else is new?

Well, some things we may not think about are, for example, that if the stress is ignored in a workplace, rising stress levels can actually affect the atmosphere and relationships between coworkers by affecting employee behavior. Under strain and stress, for example, managers sometimes lash out at their employees, become overbearing and can create a hostile workplace. Companies pair down their workforce to remain competitive and increase the demands on themselves and each other. Small business owners especially feel this pressure, as they try to do all they can to keep costs down.

Effective communication in the workplace is essential in management and leadership. Constructive communication is essential for effective functioning. Lack of effective communication skills can create disconnect and destructive dynamics. Look at your own situation and try to figure out what you can do to eliminate stress both at the workplace and at home.

Here are some areas of workplace stress to be examined and perhaps modified for a more relaxing day!

1. Environment and Organizing Your Environment:

-Is your workspace being kept orderly?
-Do you and your staff have all of the papers, materials, equipment, and tools you need at hand.
-Are they easy to find and organized in a way that is convenient for all to use?
-Remember that a constant need to look for or find needed papers and materials can cause frustration, overwhelm and increase stress.
-Time spent looking for materials is time taken away from accomplishing things in a timely fashion.

2. Distractions:

Do you find that you are interrupted a lot during the day to return phone calls or look at and answer e-mails? Are there people dropping in with constant interruptions?
-Try to reduce distractions!!
-Set up specific times during the day to check e-mails and return phone calls.
-Set up hours when others can ask you questions or when your door will be open for them. When you are trying to get things done, stress is lowered when your attention is not diverted to other things or people.

3. Time Management:

A considerable amount of office stress results from allocating too much time to less important things or working on what is in front of you, rather than what is important. You end up then, facing a rapidly approaching deadline on an important project and experience stress and pressure.
-Prioritize important projects and schedule them accordingly. Daily “to do” lists help clarify time frames.

4. Delegating Responsibility:

Small business owners and executive directors often try to do too much. It is a trap into which many fall.
-Try to delegate tasks to others competent to do them.
-Learn to say “no” and only bite off what you can chew.

5. Balance:

Small business and non-profit people have a personal stake in their financial future and in the success of the business or organization. However, make certain you have some time every day that is free from the pressing concerns of your business.  Make sure you take adequate breaks to get away from work. Take a walk outside, go have some coffee or read a magazine as a small break.

6. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations:

Stress and the feeling of failure come from feeling that you are not meeting your expectations or someone else’s expectations.
-The solution is to set realistic goals for yourself and your employees. Expecting too much in too short a period of time sets the stage for stress, anxiety and, eventually, burnout.
– When offering your services to others, it’s often best to promise less than you can deliver and then deliver more than you promised!

7. Get Sleep!:

Stress is greatly increased by trying to work if you’re too tired.  Make sure you are getting sufficient sleep. Set a bed time and stick to it!

8. Look at the Substances You Take In!:

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol all boost stress levels.
-Replace coffee and soda with water or non-caffeinated beverages.
-Quit smoking and encourage your employees to do so, too. Moderate your alcohol consumption.

9. Eat Healthy

Eat low fat proteins, vegetables and fruit daily. Be careful not to skip meals.
-Eating smaller meals throughout the day can relieve stress and is better for your metabolism.
-Eating correctly and getting enough exercise will make you feel better. You will release endorphins, which will reduce stress and help keep your blood pressure down while boosting your immune system.

10. Deal with Employee Conflicts as They Arise:

-Create an open atmosphere where employees can discuss any problems they are having with you and try to resolve them through effective communication.
-Get help on effective communication if you have not had it.
-Festering disputes between employees will be destructive and can cause stress for everyone.
-Remove problem employees who create negativity or hostility in the office at once.
And remember, effective communication is the key to a harmonious atmosphere.

Judy L. Buka M.ED., LSW is licensed by the Marriage and Family Counselor and Social Work Board, and offers counseling, for individuals, couples, and groups.

Groups (small and confidential) available for stress reduction, and small business owner support.
Groups are 2 hours $35 per session.
Contact Judy for more information: 513-891-1533
Also workshops available on effective communication!

Judy L. Buka M.ED., LSW
Comprehensive Counseling Services Inc.
10999 Reed Hartman Highway Suite #233
Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
513-891-1533
http://www.bcounseling.org/

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
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Operation Happiness: Non-Profit Employees

How to keep your non-profit’s employees happy with all the changes and belt-tightening that seems to be across the board is a challenge. Harvard Business School reported that job satisfaction nationwide is at a 23-year low and that’s not just with non-profits. Chronicle Survey says that 40% of workers characterized themselves as dissatisfied with their jobs. That means, if you have 10-20 people with your organization, 4-8 of them are probably unhappy.

This dissatisfaction can be attributed to a number of things, though. The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted an online discussion recently with Jan Masaoka, the Chief Executive of the California Association of Nonprofits and, previously, with Blue Avocado, and Trish Tchume, the National Director of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. They took questions from readers and also posed some of their own, answering them with their many years of experience.

The first question was “What is employees’ #1 dissatisfaction?” The responses centered mostly around transparency of procedure. It would depend on who was being asked, but a large complaint is not necessarily that employees want to be in on the decision-making process, but that they are unclear about what the process is. In non-profits and many other agencies and organizations, there are formal and informal hierarchies. Decisions are often made through the unofficial hierarchies and employees need clarity on how the organization is structured in this area as much as the formal processes which would be written in the handbook. Jan stated, “Too many non-profits (and for-profits) emit messages like ‘we do everything as a team’ that people read as indications that the non-profit is a democracy. It’s important to be able to say, ‘This is a decision that you will have input on, but the decision will be made by X.'” According to Daniel Pink, people are motivated by three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Give your people these things and they will thrive.

Another topic brought up was that of “bailing” by employees, or “organization-hopping.” People who find themselves dissatisfied with their current position or place of employment may “bail” on that organization if they are confident they can get another job at the same pay or see themselves as marketable. This brings up another point: How long does a person need to stay at position/organization in order to be seen as a dependable/loyal person? There is a statistic that leaders of younger generations have about 8-10 transitions over the course of their career as opposed to far fewer in previous generations. However, this can be misleading because while younger leaders may change organizations, they are often staying within the same cause.

No turnover can equal stale ideas. Some organizations and positions expect a certain amount of turnover in staff. Some are meant to turn over every year or two. For example, you would not want a 35% turnover in management positions, but having a high rate of turnover for youth workers on a playground is expected and acceptable. Employers should be seeking ways to build into their employees not only for their current job, but also for any jobs they may have in the future.

One other question was on effective methods in getting good problem-solving input from staff. Jan and Trish suggest that good problem-solving cannot happen when there is widespread distrust. But if there is a general attitude of “we can work things out,” then having teams prioritizes their own work is the best way to start. Check out an online resource: Structuring Leadership: Alternative Models for Distributing Power and Decision-Making.

To read the full discussion, visit the website.

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
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Raising Money Without Asking for It

During these winter months, giving can decrease as people prepare and recover from holiday shopping and gift giving. A report by Campbell Rinker shows that 7 in 10 Americans say they will give more sparingly to charities in the coming months.  But there are ways to help your donors help your organization without making them give you money.  Here are some ideas from Guidestar:

  1. While there is something special in going to a store and picking out a gift personally, many people choose to do their shopping online.  Register your organization with GoodShop and direct your supporters to start their online shopping trips there before going on to any of the more than 2,500 stores which offer to percentage of almost every purchase to your organization. Plus, GoodShop has more than 100,000 coupons listed to save your supporters money.
  2. Hold a gadget drive at your organization for old electronics and turn them in for cash.  Gazelle for Good is a great resource for setting up a gadget drive fundraiser. They even let you personalize a webpage for easy online promotion. 100% of the value goes to your cause.
  3. American Express and Citi Card offer cardholders the chance to turn their credit card points into charitable donations.
  4. GoodSearch.com is a Yahoo!-powered search engine and it donates about a penny per search. It works just like any other search engine but a donation is made each time someone searches on it.

There are a few more ideas on GuideStar here.

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This article was featured in the December 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Homeless YouthEach year more than 1.5 million children are homeless at some point in their lives, and that number is increasing.” That quote comes from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and shows just how big an issue  Youth Homelessness is.  Whether the child is a runaway, an orphan or hitting hard times with their family, being on the street exposes them to many dangers – increased likelihood of substance abuse, early parenthood, impulsivity, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a vulnerability to being trafficked.

Almost 40% of those who are currently homeless are under the age of 18, according to Covenant House.  They also state that in the United States, as many as 20,000 kids are forced into prostitution by human trafficking networks every year.  With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that the month of November has been designated as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, when temperatures are dropping across the nation.

Here are some great sites with information for various groups to get involved and help stamp out homelessness:

National Homeless Youth Awareness Month (November 2011)NCTSN

What Is Family Homelessness?The National Center on Family Homelessness

National Alliance to End Homelessness

If you are a shelter, this would be a great time to reach out to your supporters and enlist them to help.  Break down the need into bite-sized chunks to encourage involvement as focusing on the big picture can be overwhelming.  Be specific about what your shelter needs.  Maybe you have enough food donations, but not enough clothes.  Maybe you have the workers/volunteers, but not enough money to buy beds.  Maybe you have enough size 1 diapers, but not enough size 5’s.  Also, make it a family affair.  Brainstorm ways for parents AND their children to get involved and come serve.

If you are not a shelter, or an organization offering homelessness assistance, here are some ways that you can get involved:

  • Find a local shelter that works with homeless youth and learn about what is being done in your community to fight youth homelessness.
  • Volunteer your time by serving food at these shelters.  Many teens who are homeless are not getting the education they need to succeed in life once they reach adulthood.  Volunteer as a tutor to help these youths get or stay on track to a high school diploma or GED.  Proper job training can be vital to helping kids interview for a job and keep that job to meet their basic costs of living like rent.
  • Volunteer on a search group to find homeless youths and help bring them to the shelter where they can get assistance and be provided with resources to help get and keep them off the streets.
  • Donate much needed materials to shelters.  As winter creeps ever closer, homeless shelters struggle to keep enough blankets, towels and coats in their facilities to meet the needs.  Other items needed are shampoo, soap, new socks and undergarments and much more.  Contact your local shelter and ask what their biggest need is, then coordinate a drive with your workplace, place of worship and community.
  • As a non-profit, you may have a related service you provide. Have you thought about working a collaboration with a local shelter? Sharing resources in this economy is a great way to continue to meet needs without going over budget. For example, a community garden program could donate their fresh vegetables to the shelter for healthy dinners.  A women’s quilting club could come together and donate their finished blankets.  The possibilities are endless.

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This article was featured in the November 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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Writing a Non-Profit Mission Statement

A mission statement can make or break you.  Without a clear and concise mission statement, an organization can end up getting off course.  Your mission statement becomes the plumbline for your organization to determine if you are still balanced and on target.

A great non-profit mission statement can also establish your brand.  It should convey what the organization is all about and what its goal is.  Everything about your organization should build and feed into your mission statement.

Mission: To make today delicious...for small rodents everywhere. (Borrowed and adapted from Kraft.com)

A mission statement focuses your energy and clarifies your purpose.

Here are some great questions to answer so you don’t make your mission too broad or too specific – Who will you serve? Who will you not serve?  Are you concerned about just your local area?  Or the whole state?

A well-defined mission statement can and should motivate board, staff, volunteers and donors.  It also helps attract people and resources.  

The clearer your mission statement is, the easier it will be for the right people to get excited about your organization.  Including a compelling call to action can bring people in and get them.

A good mission statement can help you get 501(c)(3) status.

With a strong mission statement, you can show the IRS that your organization meets the requirements for tax-exempt status.  It’s a good idea to look at the requirements and incorporate them into your mission statement before applying.

Here are some quick tips:

  • A mission statement should not sound as though it was written by a committee.
  • A mission statement should not be filled with jargon.
  • A mission statement should be written in the language of the audience and should be a call to action.
  • Try answering, “Why did I/we start this organization?”
  • A mission statement should be brief and succinct and repeating it should take no longer than a standard match burning from beginning to end.
  • Bring in lots of perspectives to develop and review the mission statement.  Talk to people in the community, your board, staff and volunteers.
  • Allow enough time to develop the right mission statement. Don’t rush things.
  • Be open to new ideas.  Especially if you’re the one who started the organization, you can get wrapped up in one thought or interpretation.
  • Ask or hire a professional writer to help write it.
  • Review your mission statement frequently.  Times change and organizations may change over time.  The American Heart Association reviews its mission statement every three years but doesn’t change it except maybe every few decades.
For more about writing mission statements, check out this article.

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This article was featured in the October 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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How Do Non-Profits Meet Greater Demand for Services?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently held an online discussion about the challenges non-profits face when trying to meet greater demand for service when the economy is still struggling.  75% of the people polled said their organizations have faced a cutback in government funding in 2011.  Contrast this with the 70% who saw an increased demand of service during the same year.  How do organizations keep up with the needs while still keeping their costs and budgets under control?

The experts brought in for the discussion were Anne Dyjak of Nonprofit Finance Fund, Joe Harrington of California Charter Schools Association and Jay Laudato of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. These professionals came together to answer questions put forward by the participants. We’re going to highlight a couple of questions and summarize their responses, but you can see the full discussion by following the link at the end of this article.

Question #1 – How do you meet immediate urgent needs without missing opportunities to address the chronic as well?

This problem can be approached by a couple of ways.  One would be by seeking a coalition, or a collaboration with other organizations doing similar work as yours.  Pool resources and focus on the strengths of your organization to meet needs in the most strategic way possible.   Another
approach would be to re-examine your mission and identify what need/service is really critical to your community.  Take a look at the programs you offer and prioritize them based on what you find to avoid being pulled in too many directions.  Also, be sure to include staff, board and other stakeholders in your decision-making process to ensure transparency and communication.

Question #2 –  In today’s market, funders want to see more collaboration among agencies, while agencies, particularly non-profits struggle to keep the doors open.  How do you work through those issues?

Collaboration is vital and yet difficult to do.  Organizations in a community could find themselves competing for the same funds.  If those organizations could find a way to work together to meet a need, the competition within the community would be diminished and the emphasis would be back on the community needs.  There may be areas where the organizations are overlapping service and programs could be streamlined through a partnership.  This is especially helpful and useful if the organizations have similar business models as well as a shared mission.

Question #3 – We still find turf issues among some organizations.  Are there any suggestions for getting people to move in the direction of collaboration which includes sharing of resources? What are some examples?

When getting people to move in the same direction, it’s important to identify key areas where you all agree and mobilize behind it.  This can be accomplished through a facilitator, or an external organization, to get people involved.  CDP has served as a facilitator on certain community-wide coalitions to help bring an overall focus to the need and direct resources in a strategic manner.  Often the organizations just need a well-respected member to step forward and inspire  people to think beyond themselves and their way of doing things.

For the full discussion, visit here.

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This article was featured in the September 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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Non-Profit Job Sites

The people who work in a non-profit are the backbone of the organization.  Whether they are on staff or volunteers, it is crucial to a non-profit to have arms and legs – and hearts – to do the work and pursue the mission.  There are several ways to advertise if you need to fill a position, but not every site may be the best.  Blue Avocado recently reviewed websites which post non-profit positions and employee/volunteer hopefuls.

The job sites were chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Is the site exclusively for non-profit jobs or does it have a substantial number of non-profit jobs?
  • Are the listings updated regularly?
  • Are special, helpful features included for either the employers or job-seekers? and
  • Are they national or local enough to be helpful?

According to the article, the best all-around site for non-profit jobs (either a non-profit site or for-profit site) is Idealist.org.  The best non-profit site is listed as Opportunity Knocks.  Both of these sites are non-profits themselves and have listings in the US and overseas.  The best commercial site is said to be Simply Hired and the best international site is Devex.  Devex, Development Executive Group, is a non-profit as well and began as a student project at Harvard.

The rating is based on several features, which are noted in the descriptions, such as: the Mission/Purpose, the organization type and longevity, scope, general usability and any social media links.  Further detail is given about the features specific to job seekers and employers.  Some sites allow submission of a resume as well as the online profile.  Any fees that may apply are shared in the features as well, both for the seeker and employer.

There are 32 job sites listed, in all, with varying emphases and features.  You can read the full article here. (pdf)

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
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