It’s easy in these moments to keep going with the status quo. Even if you’re not feeling fulfilled by your work, your boss is terrible, and your hours are long, the easiest path to take is staying put.
I recently came across this article about a stress study done recently that produced an interesting finding: higher level employees are less stressed than lower level employees. This finding jives with what I found when I did a study on the role of stress in the lives of nonprofit employees. My data was self reported, unlike the article’s data which measured biological symptoms of stress, but nevertheless, the outcomes were similar – entry level employees were some of the most stressed out ones.
This sounds counter-intuitive at first. One might assume that with more responsibility comes more expectation, more to do and more stress. The study actually came to the conclusion that with a higher amount of control – something that higher level employees enjoy – the level of stress decreases. This is a great argument for the power of empowering lower level employees and instilling in others a sense of responsibility and ownership in their projects.
I have another idea. I’m not saying I’ve proven this in any sort of research project, but it’s just my postulation. We know that stress is most often self-imposed. I’d like to argue that higher level employees have more life experience and more awareness about how to manage stress. They have tools in their toolbelt and can identify when things are getting sticky.
Not to mention the concept that Millennials – the group that is entering the workforce right now at entry level positions – is made up of overachievers, perfectionists, and ambitious workers. We put very high expectations on ourselves, and that is manifesting in stress. And that needs to stop now!
I encourage you to be proactive about managing your stress, no matter where you fall on the food chain. I thought this article was interesting because it’s causing us all to think differently about what stress is and the role it has in the workforce and in our lives. It’s turned our traditional definition of stress on its head. And since stress is such an abstract thing that should really be paid attention to and analyzed, that’s just where it should be.
One undeniable truth about the nonprofit sector: all of us have more work to do than is ever possible to do in a 40 hour work week. There are always more donations to get, more updates to the website, and more people to serve. Things are always changing in the nonprofit sector and we do our best to adapt, keeping ahead of the trends and being flexible.
With mountains of work, it’s important that the work we do be intentional. For nonprofit employees, it’s not a matter of finding work to do, it’s a matter of determining what is highest priority.
Here’s a few reasons why working with intention is the best thing for a nonprofit employee to do.
- It helps your organization work strategically: Developing a plan and sticking to it helps you to see the forest for the trees. Think about what the organization needs, to the most basic level. The organization needs donors, constituents, volunteers, etc. Then think about how you will achieve those big goals. That’s where your list should come from, and that’s where priorities will fall into place.
- It makes you feel in control: Prioritizing workload and being intentional about the tasks you do makes you feel like you’re not just checking off your to do list, you’re working on purpose. It allows you to understand what’s important for the agency and put the rest of those tasks on the back burner, making you feel not so overwhelmed that you’re just spinning your wheels. Trust me, you’ll feel amazing when working with intention.
- You get more done: This is good not just for you but for the agency as well. When working with intention, you feel as though you’re moving forward in important ways. This helps build momentum to keep focusing on the important things, and other tasks will then fall into place. When you work more efficiently and effectively, more gets done for the organization.
I know it can be difficult to set aside some time to do big picture planning, but trust me when I say it’s worth it! When you work on purpose, it’s better for everyone. It’s important too to keep reviewing the big plan to ensure priorities haven’t shifted. When you keep on top of things, everyone will be happy.