What to do after stress-management training
Act on feedback from the training
Look at the feedback from the training, and see if there is anything you should act on. This might include considering whether further training on other topics would be helpful. Content of additional training should be guided by the participant feedback, but some topics to consider might include:
- Trauma and critical incident care;
- Grief and loss;
- The impact of sexual violence;
- Gender issues;
- Assertiveness and other communication and conflict resolution skills;
- Management skills such as time-management and delegation;
- Understanding and dealing with pressures common to humanitarian work (travel stress, vicarious trauma, spiritual challenges); and
- Team building.
There may be particular needs for leadership training for those with leadership responsibilities (including how to spot signs of stress in their team and what to do about it). Many training courses are now available online. For example, information about leadership training and other courses is available on the website of Learning for International NGOs.
Provide regular team-building times
Staff morale and motivation can be enhanced by providing regular team-building times. This might include informal social times (e.g. weekly football or volleyball; celebrating birthdays together), or including national staff in more formal team meetings or devotional times.
Team building days can be especially helpful – perhaps every six months, when a day or half-day is set aside for the whole team to take time together. This may be a combination of reviewing the work (perhaps encouraging people to raise any questions, concerns or problems); letting people talk about how they are personally; and fun time (e.g. a game or relaxation at a nice venue).
Stop and Think
- What is one additional topic you think your national staff would benefit from training on?
- What is one step could take to improve team cohesion?
Help to reduce the stress of expatriate staff
Sometimes national staff state that one of the main things which causes them stress is that the expatriate staff members are very stressed, and therefore irritable, impatient, unhappy, unavailable, and so on.
“National staff face intercultural relationship difficulties with expatriate humanitarian staff. They can experience frustration and conflict with Westerners who appear not to understand their culture and which can be compounded by power differentials … Interpersonal conflict may also be exacerbated by different cultural norms regarding the expression of conflict and negative emotions … These situations have the potential to impact work performance, security and wellbeing.”7
Therefore, one way to help national staff is to help the expatriate staff deal with their stress. The first step is to listen to the expatriates and ask what they think would help to reduce their stress level. Among other things, some things that might help include:
- Stress-management training (you can find additional training material on the Headington Institute website);
- Individual consultations (e.g. coaching);
- Reducing pressures on them (e.g. deadlines, reports required);
- Reducing the workload;
- Providing more staff;
- Providing extra holiday or “Rest and Recuperation” (R & R) times.
In addition, it is important to help expatriates to understand the culture of national staff, and vice-versa. Time together exploring similarities and differences can be very beneficial.
Stop and Think
What might be a good and realistic way to help reduce stress for your expatriate staff?
Next: Supporting those who experience trauma