Can interventions help reduce the negative effects of stress in the workplace?

I have designed and tested a number of strategies and interventions that managers and organizations can use to better manage stress. One intervention involves changing people’s mindset about the nature of stress in general. Through short video clips and training sessions, I show that teaching people that stress can sometimes be beneficial for performance improves how they physiologically and cognitively experience stress. More specifically, changing their mindset in this way can engender more fluid stress responses, which in turn enhances their ability to generate more creative ideas when under stress.

Another intervention offers a way to combat the negative effects of stress during salary negotiations. There is evidence that the stress and anxiety of salary negotiations can increase cortisol and impair performance. However, results of an experiment also reveal this dynamic can be reversed simply by changing how people appraise the anxiety that accompanies stressful situations. When negotiators were given no instruction on how to view their anxiety, cortisol increases did have negative consequences for their performance. Yet when individuals with increased cortisol were told to view their anxiety as beneficial rather than detrimental for negotiation performance, they performed better in their negotiations and walked away with higher salaries.