The role of the manager in preventing workplace stress in employees and staff

The role of the manager in preventing workplace stress in employees and staff

We recently highlighted the importance of the workplace culture in the construction of effective work environments. Indeed, just as each of us have an impact on the construct of productivity within the workplace, so to do our stress levels and pressures. Picture this – a web, or diagram of people in an organisation, all attached by wires and string. Through the string runs our positivity, negativity and connections through physical and verbal communication. In the position of a manager, who is above other employees, the energy and stress they harbour is often passed down the web to their employees. However, this isn’t always negative – a positive, go-getter type will spread positivity just as well to those under their employment. Today, we examine further how the manager can prevent any undue stress in their employees, and how to remain mindful to prevent the delegation of their own pressures to their employees, staff and colleagues.

In research from main stress institutes and workplace regulators, as much as 46% of workplace stress can be attributed to an employee or fellow staff member, usual due to the ‘taking on’ of another employees workload. Not only is this unfair, but given an appropriate amount of time, will begin to create rifts in employee relationships and breed stress into other relationships. More so, the pressure felt from ‘holding-up’ other employees will begin to bleed into other areas of the employees life, leading to conditions like burnout. As a manager, your employees trust you to take charge and identify issues in company policy, productivity, company process and in output quality. However, in an organisation already pushed to its maximum, what time does the manager have to be mindful of their own stress levels and prevent the passage of pressure to their employees?

A good way to understand what is within your remit and responsibility is to mind map your expectations of yourself, and of your employees. Near times of pressure like periodic reviews, audits and company change, it is vital to ensure the jobs you delegate to your team are within their job description, and appropriate alongside their current workload. For example, if focus on another project has left you neglecting your usual duties, it is vital to not simply delegate your duties to a member of your team. Firstly, this sends an incorrect message and absolves responsibility, but also could be much more damaging in a long-term business perspective. To deal accordingly, it is vital to not pass down the chain – but rather to raise the issues with your superior about the lack of time, resources or ability to complete areas in your role. Remaining mindful about what you can and can’t complete in times of pressure is vital to prevent the random delegation of tasks to your employees simply because they ‘work for you’. With this approach, we prevent creating more issues for our employees that truly are out of their jurisdiction, and it demonstrates sustainable working practice.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, managers who often practice meditation and mindfulness will likely be less stricken with issues such as stress and feeling overwhelmed. But what does being present hold for those in charge of teams, budgets and targets? Remaining mindful and present during times of stress is vital to prevent unhealthy practice, and allows managers to retain better coping mechanisms when things get tough in the work space. In fact, many big corporations now have meditation schemes to encourage better team cohesion and alleviate stress at work. Remaining mindful allows the manager to keep in touch with their true duties, practice compassion with their employees and truly hear employee concerns. With these often comes a sense of empathy which is a pivotal aspect of good management, and allows the manager to remain truly ‘in-touch’ and grounded with their team, strengthening even further the cohesion.

In a long-term view, it is vital for managers to plan for workplace policy, changes and to cover the team shortages ahead of time. Having a long-term plan like this encourages sustainable practice, as jobs can be delegated to specific employees based on their personal resources and ability to fully complete a task. With great planning comes great success, and sustainable approaches like this really improve the team cohesion and reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed in employees – as changes and new policies are presented ahead of time. Not only is this a clear strategy for everyone to adhere to, but it also gives time for employees to review changes to their role, policy and demands and to negotiate to a working position which they can fulfil adequately. In this process, the manager is valuing the employee input and also nourishes the employees sense of self within the workplace, breeding wonderful qualities like loyalty. When everyone in the chain is aware of what is going on and expected of them, there is a lesser sense of pressure, even more so when any extra work is delegated to a new employee, rather than assigning it all to a burnt out one.

With great expectations often comes great… stress! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Through our own experiences of counselling, audits and workflow reviews, we at WorkingWell have effectively mediated changes towards more sustainable company practice in big corporations. However, just as we highlighted in our piece on workplace culture last week – it is vital to take changes in company policy in a slow and deliberate manner as a manager to elicit sustainable change. Alongside tools like remaining present and mindful, the considerate manager is one who has true empathy and compassion with their employees and understands that for the work to be done passionately, the employees must be empowered. With empowerment comes better self-governance and the ability to feel appreciated for tasks that are assigned, and often leads to a real sense of cohesion and corporate loyalty. For the manager, however, it is vital to keep a check on both personal stress and the tangible ‘corporate’ or ‘cultural’ stress within a team and company, and to take steps mentioned in this article to address as swiftly as possible.

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