The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2016

14 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016 | 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