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14

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Stress Management

Inadequate at USAID,

Study Finds

U

.S. Agency for International

Development employees “suffer

from undue stress caused by a variety

of factors and are at risk for develop-

ing numerous

stress-related health

conditions and/or

disorders,” according

to a report released in

September.

The study, “Stress and Resilience Issues Affecting USAID Per- sonnel in High Opera- tional Stress Environ- ments,” also found

that significant gaps in

adequate institutional-

ized support exist at the

agency.

If left unaddressed,

these vulnerabilities will have long-

term implications on the effectiveness

of USAID personnel, their physical and

psychological health, total workforce

management and the achievement of

USAID’s mission.

Commissioned by USAID, the

research was carried out by the Virginia-

based consulting firm Greenleaf Integra-

tive Strategies.

The assessment was undertaken as

part of the agency’s effort to comply with

the objectives in the 2014 Quadrennial

Diplomacy and Development Review,

including improving how it manages

and mitigates risk, ensuring its employ-

ees have the tools and skills required

to do their jobs well, and increasing its

focus on taking care of its people.

Through a series of site visits (Jordan,

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kosovo),

interviews and survey responses from

TALKING POINTS

personnel in the field and in Washing-

ton, D.C., GIS gathered input from more

than 556 USAID Foreign Service and

Civil Service employees and personal

services contractors.

Conducted between December 2014

and September 2015, the study also

involved discussions

with the Department

of State’s Office of

Medical Services,

USAID leadership

and a working group

comprised of USAID

officers and subject-

matter experts.

According to the

report, the primary

sources of stress

affecting employ-

ees and their work

performance are

related to institu-

tional management

practices (e.g., excessive workloads,

leadership deficits, inadequate human

resource management and personnel

support services).

Secondary factors, such as family

stress and security concerns that have

become commonplace in the post-9/11

era, have exacerbated institutional inad-

equacies.

Nearly 65 percent of survey respon-

dents had been employed with USAID

for more than five years. Only 22 percent

believed that services offered by the

USAID Staff Care Program—the office

that handles employee wellbeing and

work-life issues—are adequate, and 23

percent characterize USAID programs to

support staff as “accessible.”

Of those who had utilized Staff Care

resources, 74 percent found the support to

be useful. However, respondents repeat-

edly cited a culture of stoicism and a

significant stigma associated with seeking

support as reasons for either not request-

ing help or for concealing treatment.

The report’s authors conclude with

recommendations for strengthen-

ing USAID’s institutional support and

addressing sources of stress at each

stage of the staff job cycle. Among the

more notable recommendations, USAID

should better plan and budget for stress

mitigation initiatives and staff care

programs and implement monitoring

and evaluation measures to track their

investments and inform continuous

improvement.

In addition, individuals should be

briefed on the specific stress risks they

can expect in their new assignments,

be provided with tools to self-monitor

stress, and receive better post-high-stress

assignment support.

—Maria C. Livingston,

Associate Editor

The Quiz: Tower of Babel

Here is another in our series of

worldliness quizzes, courtesy of retired

FSO Rob Callard. Please turn to

p. 16 for the answers.

What country speaks the following

language?

1. Amharic

2. Bengali

3. Hrvatski

4. Dansk

5. Eesti

6. Vakaviti

7. Ge’ez

8. Kreyòl Ayisyen

9. Igbo

10 Sardu

11. Tagalog

12. Herero