Stress Management

By Magnuson, John | Journal of Property Management, May-June 1990 | Go to article overview

Stress Management


Magnuson, John, Journal of Property Management


High turnover! Excessive delinquency! Negative cash flow! Poor employee retention! Bad safety record! Lawsuits! Terrible owner relations ! If these were some of the words you heard at your last performance review, your first reaction was probably: an audible moan, increased heart and breathing rates, elevated skin temperature, dry mouth, and dilated pupils. You were experiencing stress. If you just smiled benignly, you do not need to read any further.

What is stress? Stress is the result of people's reaction to the difference between their expectations and the real world. Stress is defined as a physical, chemical, or emotional reaction that can cause bodily or mental tensions and may contribute to disease. Originally stress was seen as a physical phenomenon-the fight or flight syndrome. However, today researchers recognize that stress has physical, psychological, and emotional components.

Stress occurs when a person is forced to exert strenuous effort to maintain essential functions at a required level.

Stress threatens, prods, scares, thrills, and worries us. The manifestations of stress may take many forms, from increased irritability and minor depression to substance abuse, mental breakdowns and coronary disease. In the long run, recognizing the causes of stress and learning to cope with them will help each of us be better, more productive, and happier workers and human beings.

Causes of stress

Every type of business has its share of stress, but the tasks specific to property management sometimes seem designed to multiply stress in even the calmest among us. The demands on the property manager are incessant. Tenants expect to have questions answered and repairs made when they want them, not just during office hours.

Feelings of being unable to control a situation are also a major contributor to anxiety. Being unable to get an answer from the central office, getting different directions from the owner and the asset manager, or similar situations where the individual thinks he or she is unable to act greatly increases stress levels.

The high degree of responsibility that the property manager and the site manager bear also contributes to stress. This elevated level of responsibility is combined with a lack of finite control. Ultimately, the decisions on managing a property must be made by the owner, but the manager is charged with carrying them out. Conflicts between the manager's and owner's opinions on how a property should be run add to stress levels. If decisions are unpopular with tenants, it is also the manager who bears the brunt of their dissatisfaction.

The stresses on the property manager are also intensified because they often hear from tenants only when there is a problem. Few people call to compliment the manager on a clean lobby. Likewise the difficulties inherent in satisfying a variety of clients with different needs creates tension.

Competition among management firms also contributes to the property manager's stress level. Fee management firms must continually satisfy clients, or they may lose them. This situation, in turn, produces concerns over job security and economic stability.

In some cases, stress may become so severe that the individual experiences burnout. Symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, inability to concentrate, low productivity, and even personality changes. Victims of such extreme stress may need professional help. However, the best way to cure burnout is to lower stress before burnout occurs.

Taking the stress quiz (Figure 1) gives an indication of whether or not you are experiencing unhealthy stress levels.

At the same time, keep in mind that a certain level of stress is probably essential. Research has found that people in very low-pressure jobs suffer from many of the same symptoms as those facing burnout.

Reducing stress

Stress may manifest itself in many ways. …

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