MSPB discusses stress among feds, agency wellness programs

Many federal employees provide services to Americans that involve intense emotional labor and stress, and the Merit Systems Protection Board wants feds to know that agencies are taking note and are making efforts to offer relief.

“As government provides direct services to persons in varying states of emotional distress, the employees who deliver such service must engage in various degrees of emotional labor, the September issue of MSPB’s newsletter states, adding, “Emotional labor exerted for too long can cause emotional fatigue which can present challenges to service delivery. Fortunately, there are things agencies are doing to support these employees in increasingly emotionally demanding workplaces.”

Examples of these stress-induced jobs include investigators and those who work with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children and “require the ability to show compassion on a daily basis despite difficult interactions and patient death,” according to the newsletter.

These particular workforce issues can negatively affect work outcomes, including discretionary effort, intent to quit, and job performance.

Most agencies offer employee assistance programs to help employees deal with the stress of their job, health and wellness programs, flexible work-life balance options, unscheduled leave, and distressed employee hotlines.

Some agencies also have stress management courses, peer support, and chaplaincy programs.

At the Department of Homeland Security Investigations unit, the agency recently implemented ARMOR (Awareness and Resilience Mentoring for Operational Readiness: a Safeguard Program for Child Exploitation Investigations) that includes orientation and pre-exposure training for employees who will be exposed to potentially traumatic events and images.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau has the Crisis Intervention Program and Post Critical Incident Seminar, which aim to heighten the awareness of employees regarding common stressors related to their job, possible reactions they may experience.

The Resiliency Program at the U.S. Marshals Service aims to “build resilience within USMS personnel to proactively manage stress in response to traumatic situations.”

Employees are encouraged to read a recent research brief, “Managing Employees to Perform Emotionally Laborious Work,” to learn more about emotional labor, emotional fatigue, and steps agencies can take to help employees.

Reader comments

Mon, Dec 9, 2019

I agree with both the above comments. Management is to blame for much of the stress and anxiety employees feel. It was this way 25 years ago and not much has changed nor is it likely to change.

Mon, Dec 9, 2019 Sam USA

Federal employees bring stress upon THEMSELVES by caring about doing their jobs correctly and honestly. When any manager instructs you to do anything you are uncomfortable with doing simply say "Please show me how to accomplish that", because I do not know how to accomplish it in a fast enough manner that is satisfactory to you. I want to follow your instructions, but you have to train me first to do it in the way you want it done.

Mon, Sep 30, 2019

Employee wellness and stress reduction and increase in productivity will only result when the inept management is eliminated from civil service. These inept self-serving, backstabbing managers go out of their way to cause harm to hard working employees. It turns out that other managers who observe such activities, ignore it or play it down because they will not be favored when it comes to bonuses and perks. Eliminate such overpaid do nothing minions and watch employee satisfaction, health and morale increase significantly.

Tue, Sep 24, 2019

Fire imbeciles known as managers, 99% are inept and go out of their way to make employees stress levels peak constantly.

Tue, Sep 24, 2019

At the big outfit in Bethesda, the stress of employees comes from the bigoted, corrupt, backstabbing, bigot and age bashing managers who have entitled themselves to perks, bonuses, bogus travel and have the ability to write up marginal reviews for productive employees. This is a continuous situation which the senior management is also complicit and actually condones such activity. The EEO programs and employee assistance offices are nothing more than a rubber stamp for the illegal and unethical way management treats their staff. If one wants to get serious about the situation, they examine all management and notice the ones who have pushed highly motivated people out of the organization. Also speak with all the employees to see what they feel, it would be a wake up call and if such inept management was down graded or relieved of employment, stress and anxiety levels would decline significantly. Do not expect this to happen since it is part of the standard operating procedures.

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