In many job interviews, the applicant is asked how he/she copes with stress. Is this a valid question? What coping skills do some people use to deal with the variety of stressors encountered...

In many job interviews, the applicant is asked how he/she copes with stress. Is this a valid question? What coping skills do some people use to deal with the variety of stressors encountered daily?

Is spiritual awareness beneficial in this regard? In the age of technology, how can the internet be used to enhance spiritual wellness?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An employer who asks an applicant how he or she copes with stress is asking a valid question, at least from his point of view. Consider the possible answers to this question: drugs, alcohol or depression, among many others. While it is unlikely that any candidate for a job would tell the truth if those particular things were true for him, the employer has a reason to ask.

A study conducted by The Office of Radiation, Chemical and Biological Safety in 1999, indicates that when employees have stress that is not addressed or alleviated, the result is  

increased absenteeism, cost, low productivity, low motivation and usually legal financial damages. 

Obviously there is no real way for an employer to know, based on even an extensive, in-depth interview, whether an applicant will be an employer who will suffer enough stress to cost the company some potentially disastrous consequences. Considering the possible costs, however, it does seem perfectly valid and maybe even wise, to at least address the issue in an interview. 

The range of things people do or use to cope with stress is almost limitless. In general, people deal with stress in one of two ways: active or avoidant. Active, of course, refers to identifying the stressor(s) and trying to mitigate or alleviate the stress; avoidant is just the opposite and this person often resorts to substance abuse, isolation, or sleeping to avoid the stress.

One of the great dangers for those who try to escape or avoid stress is the phenomenon called self-medicating. In other words, people who want to forget about their problems (stresses) find ways to keep themselves in permanent states of forgetfulness or numbness. Drugs, both illegal and prescription, and alcohol are the deadliest forms of self-medication; however, falling into a depression can be just as dangerous if it is allowed to reach the level of suicide.

To avoid the potential addictions which can accompany stress, people can learn some harmless ways to self-medicate. Consider the following from the UCLA site linked below:

  • humor
  • seeking support
  • problem-solving
  • relaxation
  • physical relaxation
  • adjusting expectations
  • venting

There is nothing particularly spiritual on this list, but of course people who are grounded (or centered) by some kind of spirituality are more likely to cope much better than those who have nothing beyond or in addition to themselves. Think about the benefits in general of such things as prayer, meditation, and spiritual reflection on a person's well being; in times of stress, these kinds of practices and techniques are essential to creating and maintaining any kind of peace. Whatever form it comes in, spiritual awareness is able to provide calm in the midst of a storm, something those who are experiencing stress most need. 

As far as the internet as a tool to help develop or maintain spiritual wellness, it is full of information. In fact, I simply typed the words "spiritual wellness" and in .22 seconds I got 15,500,000 results. Of course there are lists and lists of books, techniques, music, and supplies which claim to enhance one's spiritual wellness. The reality, of course, is that having all of these things means nothing unless a person actually utilizes these or other tools, and the internet is not able to do that for us--at least not yet! 

tyler-k | Student

If an interviewer asks questions about stress levels or management, he/she is simply trying to understand whether or not the applicant would be able to handle whatever the job may require him/her to do.

When I interviewed for the job I currently have, I cannot remember being asked this question, but in some ways, I wish my current boss had. I work in fast food as a way to earn some extra cash before I go to college, and before getting my job, I had no idea how stressful it can be to work in a kitchen during a lunch or dinner period. 

Working the drive-thru at my job has proven to be a very difficult task for me. I can manage it well enough, but I almost always need help from multiple people to keep from holding back our customers and their orders. There are so many things that must be done in this position that it is hard to keep up. Every time I work in the drive-thru, my boss notices that I become physically and emotionally stressed, and he asks if I can handle it. While I have gotten better at managing the stressful situation, I sill have a long way to go.

This is the main reason I wish that my employer had asked me about how I cope with stress, or if I can do it at all. Maybe, if he had asked me this, I would have been more aware of what was expected of me once I got the job. I do believe that it is a very valid question, because in certain situations, anxiety has a way of making somewhat stressful and complicated situations incredibly hard to deal with. 

I did a little bit of research on the topic to help you out, and I found that, in the UK, it is a legal requirement of the business to assess stress that could be caused by certain jobs and tasks. They must evaluate risks and how they can affect different people. I could not find this same law and how it could possibly pertain to the US. But it does prove that stress levels and stress management are very important and prevalent in any type of work field. It is important, as an employer and employee, to understand what type of stress can be caused by certain tasks, and how to handle this stress. 

To deal with stress in a work environment, I think it is important to remember that you should always talk to your boss or manager if you feel uncomfortable in a certain situation. If you don't let anyone know that you are under a lot of stress, there is no way to make it better. You should also not be afraid to ask a coworker for help, especially if he/she has been working longer than you. With that being said, if your boss, manager, or coworkers do not actively attempt to help you deal with any stress that your work has caused, I think it is important to remove yourself completely from the situation. While stress may not seem like a big problem, it has a way of getting bigger and bigger the longer it is ignored.