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your life at work

Coping skills are the skills you have at your immediate disposal to solve problems and make decisions under pressure. The better you have developed your coping skills, the better you will be able to perform under pressure, manage emotions, push through setbacks, and believe in your potential. You will also be less likely to be negatively affected by environmental stressors.

Developing coping skills, which include problem solving, emotional intelligence, resiliency skills, can help you better manage your stress load. Your level of coping skills mastery can predict how effectively you will perform both at home and at work.

Learning coping skills is like acquiring any other skill; it requires attention and effort. Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, shared his research that suggests that mastering a new skill takes 10 years, and that there are no shortcuts or flukes. Since the education system has not yet included coping skills as core competencies students should learn, many adults have skills gaps. The good news is that coping skills can be taught through traditional classroom instruction, online learning, coaching, reading, self-study, online digital coaching and mentoring.

To obtain a baseline of your coping skills, go to the Your Life at Work Survey found on The Globe and Mail website. This tool provides instant feedback on your coping skills as well as your overall quality of life score. Having insight into your coping skills is a positive first step.

Once you get your baseline, the next step is to determine where you fit in the Nine Boxes for Mastering Coping Skills Matrix. See the figure included in this article. Awareness is an important first step. The next step is accountability. Developing coping skills requires motivation and a desire to learn. U.S. business consultant Jim Collins taught the world in his landmark book Good to Great that good can be the evil to great. When evaluating yourself on the matrix, consider whether you are coping as well as you would like to in all situations in your life.

With insight on your baseline for your level of coping skills, you are now in a position to consider whether you are motivated to take action.

Employers can facilitate opportunities for employees to learn coping skills, and employees can ask for support. Employers can also eliminate unnecessary environmental stressors to help employees to cope better. This interaction is a two-way accountability model where both employees and employers take responsibility for what they can directly control.

Every healthy employee has a life outside of work that will require attention and energy. Coping with work is one piece. For many, managing the demands of home and work can be challenging.

In a study conducted with The Globe and Mail with over 2,000 respondents to the Are You Satisfied With Your Life? survey there have been some interesting findings with respect to respondents' reported satisfaction with their current job function, work relationships, personal relationships, financial stability, physical health, managing demands of home and work, and engaging in community, recreation and social activities. The survey found a positive correlation between coping skills and these outcomes. These results suggest that the higher a person's coping skills, the more likely they are to be satisfied with these areas of their life.

This statistic does not tell why a person is confident. Similar to coping skills, many people are not taught how to have a healthy and loving relationship, manage money, get along with peers at work, and engage in community.

Think about the new manager who one day is on the floor as a top performer with proven coping skills and then the next day is promoted to a frontline manager position. Within a month, the new manager is struggling, stressed out and failing. The root cause may not be a lack of coping skills; it may be that he never learned how to have a difficult conversation, run a meeting, or delegate responsibility. He hadn't been taught the right skills in order to manage people – which they are now being asked to do – and this caused stress.

The ability to cope effectively with life often can be linked to a person's personal core competencies. These are the knowledge, skills and abilities you develop to effectively interact in your environment. Having developed cognitive coping skills will support your mental health and your ability to make good decisions. It will also help you understand development gaps that need your attention.

One way to evaluate yourself in several critical personal core competencies is to complete the following worksheet to rate the degree of confidence you have in each of the seven areas and then calculate your overall average.

Improving any of these personal core competencies requires knowledge, skills and practice. Every individual's happiness will ultimately be defined by how well they manage their entire life. Developing coping skills is important, as is developing core life skills competencies that influence overall fulfillment and happiness. It's never too late to gain knowledge and learn skills that can help improve success in each of the core competencies.

In summary, get a coping skills baseline, determine how motivated you are to learn, and evaluate whether there are areas of your life where you have core life skills gaps. By paying attention to these three levels and taking action, you can greatly improve your overall mental health and happiness.

Bill Howatt (@billhowatt) is chief research and development officer, work force productivity, at Morneau Shepell.