Each year, during tax season, employees in the tax and
accounting industry take on a much heavier workload. With hard deadlines and
demanding customers, stress levels tend to naturally rise.
For a successful tax season, we must overcome stress, by understanding
what it is, and what it’s doing to our bodies and minds.
It’s important to remember that stress is natural. It’s the
body’s way of defending us from predators and danger. When danger is detected,
our bodies are flushed with hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and
norandrenaline. These hormonal chemicals help prepare us to either confront or
evade danger, which increase our heart rates and elevate our muscle
preparedness, sweat production, and alertness, among other physical reactions.
This phenomenon is also otherwise known as the “fight-or-flight” response.
But, in a world where we are no longer living in the wild,
and instead are working in safe, comfortable office spaces, stress is not our
friend, and must be fought off to remain cool, calm, and collected.
“In every day terms,
stress is a feeling that people have when they are overloaded and struggling to
cope with demands,” said Michele Kirkham, a former Content Support
Representative for the tax software, in the Wichita offices.
Kirkham is now a Supervisor over Product Support, but has
about 15 separate tax seasons on her resume of accomplishments.
“The biggest stressors that most people feel around tax
season is a “sense of urgency,” said Kirkham. “I try to remind my colleagues
that no matter how many calls are waiting, you can only take one call at a
time, and stick to the rule of taking three calls and working on one open case.
This way we are still making sure that open issues are no less important than
new incoming contacts.”
Michelle’s outlook on tax seasons has become even more
positive lately. She notes the helpful changes to processes, and said that
there are some key things that she does to stay physically, and mentally,
“In the past you owned your case from start to finish, so processes,
and time management skills were even more critical. Now with the new tiered
system, if you can’t resolve the case in a set amount of time, you transfer the
case to a more experienced representative and move on to the next interaction.”
“I also try to stay in shape by exercising, and I try to
eat better during tax season during any other time of the year,” said Kirkham.
“Our bodies get more run down than usual during tax season, so it’s critical to
stay on top of your nutrition.”
Michelle pointed out that during tax season, nearly every
customer thinks that their problem is the biggest issue that any customer
support representative will have all tax season long. She noted that this will
inevitably add to that “sense of urgency” that a representative will
Sometimes, when a customer doesn’t get the answer they
want, or a resolution takes longer than they’d like, their anger may be
misdirected at you, Kirkham explained.
“In situations where a customer has misdirected anger
towards me, after the call I have to step away from my desk and take a break. I
like to get off of the floor, and actually step outside and take a walk to
think about something that has nothing to do with tax,” said Kirkham.
Kirkham reminds others that when dealing with a difficult
customer, it’s important to remember that the anger and frustration isn’t
really directed at them personally, even if it sounds that way. She also makes
sure to remind her colleagues to try to check their difficult day at the door,
“It’s easy to get home and stew on a difficult day, but
it’s critical to maintain focused on everything else going on in your life,
such as friends, family, sports, etc.,” said Kirkham. “You can check some it at
the door, but it’s natural for negative emotions to come home with you. Those
are the days that I try to go do something fun after work.”
Katie Stout, the Senior HR Business Partner for the Wichita
office, defines stress by the dictionary definition: being in a state of mental
or emotional strain or tension resulting from very demanding circumstances.
Stout, who does not proclaim to be an expert on stress
management, noted that there are several resources available to employees.
“All employees have access to the Life Resource Program,
which can provide tips on overcoming stress,” said Stout. “Information on the
Life Resource Program can be found on the benefits page of the Wolters Kluwer
Michelle Kirkham leaves us with one last piece of advice;
“Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. If it’s one of your first tax seasons,
it’s easy to let yourself get overwhelmed, but we get through them together, as
a team. Don’t try to take everything on by yourself, and know that we will all
get through it.”