Workplace stress: what place do managers have?

It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint where stress begins at work. Are we working cause we’re stressed, or stressed that we’re working too much? Often, in those times of pressure – there’s a distinct lack of clarity, and negative emotion seems to permeate every nook and cranny of our lives. Talking to someone outside of the situation can be a perfect solution to gaining a real sense of perspective and answer those questions as an outsider to the institution you work in. Is there an unfair amount of work set? Are you perhaps too sensitive to the qualms of your employer? It can be a real challenge seeing everything with clarity, yet some of the major areas which can build to cause workplace stress include;

· Not being able to keep up with the workload

· Not having enough support or resources to deal with the work

· Breakdown in personal relationships with staff and managers

In today’s article, we’d really like to take a chance to focus in more on the last point – particularly in relation to the management of a company and its employees. A recent article in HR review pondered the topic of the role of managers in workplace stress. Fittingly, the article debated the role of bad management in the development of significant stress for employers. But is it all that simple?

When we approach our working day, we do so in a conscious and unconscious manner. As employees, we have a role to endeavour to complete our work to the best of our abilities, in a timely manner and with a big smile. Socially, however, we may have to interact with individuals who normally we wouldn’t ‘gel’ with as much. When work continues to flow and demands are met, these relationships remain relatively harmonious, and the veil of our social bodies remains covered over our likes and dislikes in interpersonal relationships. However, when workloads are increased, demands aren’t met and we feel a shift in responsibilities, these relationships become strained. It is in these moments that we see a breakdown in professional relationships, as emotional elements come to the forefront.

As managers, it is imperative to ensure a fair workload to all of the employees, and good management are not above performing activities and roles ‘further down’ than their pay scale. In these situations, everyone pitching in is a crucial step to relieving work stress on the rest of the team, allowing a much better flow of responsibility and boosting productivity. However, managers and our seniors who feel they are above performing administrative duties or roles may exacerbate the social tensions, leading to a disarray of work and scheduling responsibilities. Humility, compassion and modesty are all crucial in delivering work responsibilities properly, as is the offer of support and resources to those in stressful situations.

We’d like to play with a concept we all know to be true, yet we see so sparsely played out. Often, in business situations in the modern western world, managers and our superiors wish to see as much done as possible by as few people as possible. This increased stress on the individuals leads to, at best, stress, but often vacation of work positions as individuals seek a much more manageable work load. This inevitably is a procedure taken to improve profit and margins by maximising work output from the remaining employees. However, consider this perspective – employ an extra member of staff who can take the workload off the remaining cohort (as a relief employee), lose perhaps a small amount of profit in paying for their salary, but potentially have a greater overall output and thus a much greater potential for turnover and profit. It is something we as professionals know to be true, but so often don’t see playing out in corporations and small business. Often, it is the prerogative of spending a bit of money to make a bit of money.

HR employees play a pivotal role in negotiations and the dispute with grievance in companies between individuals. Often, once it has reached this stage, it is difficult to bridge the gap and make amends for any personal disputes that have been had. As an employee, it is vital to have skills of mediation and an ability to remove personal prejudices from professional relationships. All too often though, in times of stress, we lose our ability to see situations with perspective and inevitably get caught up in the heat of the moment.

Using strategies like exercise, taking regular breaks, meditation and the arts, as an adjunct to stressful times at work and an aid to building resilience, is imperative to ensuring a sense of distance between work time and relaxation time. It is also vital to remember, we may disagree with individuals on a professional basis, but may have a lot in common with them in a personal manner. It serves well to view our managers, employers and colleagues as people too, with their strengths and flaws.

We’re interested to hear what our readers have to say in this debate. Is workplace stress down to the management? Or is it much more complicated than that?

You can get involved in the conversation on our forum and debate this topic in more depth:

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