Stress goes with the job – most jobs. The signals of stress include apathy, fatigue, tension, frustration, detachment, boredom, irritability, hopelessness, sense of not being appreciated, deteriorating health, and absenteeism.
Your staff aren’t immune from stress – in fact, you may well be the cause of it. Typically, we’ve assumed heart-attack candidates come from the executive ranks. It’s now known that middle and lower levels have their own problems. As manager, you can help alleviate employee stress in number of ways.
1. Be reasonable in your expectations
Don’t make unreasonable demands. Extra duties take them away from core tasks and make their goals more difficult or impossible to achieve. Often we apply too much pressure on staff to satisfy our own values or ambitions.
2. Be decisive, clear and unambiguous
When managers inappropriately delay making decisions or reverse previous decisions, employees report that they experience more stress than when firm, timely decisions are made. So collect relevant data, set achievable deadlines, and make decisions at the appropriate time. Lack of timely information about rules, standards, evaluative criteria, and goals causes confusion, uncertainty, and frustration.
3. Create supportive work environment
Some work environments isolate workers from one another and make it difficult for them to receive the encouragement and support of colleagues. Foster supportive network and let staff share problems and resources. Colleague support softens the effects of stress on staff members’ lives.
4. Be alert to the value of self-esteem
Workers often suffer frustration wondering how effective they are. They report stress from lack of feedback, especially if they feel they don’t get recognition from any extra effort. Be liberal with meaningful praise and encouragement.
5. Plan ahead
Stressful situations can be avoided with little foresight and planning. Alert your staff to special events, projects, and meetings well ahead of time so they can plan their schedules accordingly.
6. Involve employees in decision making
When staff are given the opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their work, they experience more clarity, fewer conflicts, and better relations with others. But don’t ask for input then ignore it.
7. Communicate with each staff member
This is the key to building trust, healthy atmosphere, team spirit and sense of community in your organisation. Seek out employees when possible and talk to them. Sponsor small group discussions or retreats away from the workplace. Use bulletin boards and in-house newsletters. Keep everyone informed of changes however small they may be.
8. Provide adequate resources
Lack of supportive supplies, equipment, and facilities can be stressful for enthusiastic workers. Make every attempt to fund existing programmes before allocating funds to new programmes or activities for which employee commitment hasn’t yet been secured.
9. Always follow through
Implement only important innovations for which you can muster sufficient time, skills, resources, and commitment. Managers are often criticised for initiating new programmes and then failing to follow them through.
10. Provide variety
Burnout comes from feeling of being locked into routine job. Identify potentially exhausting jobs and wherever possible have your staff switch assignments, projects and departments to find new challenges and fresh environment.
11. Be good gatekeeper
Protect your staff. Control the rate of innovations entering the workplace. Some you won’t be able to delay or exclude, but you can control your own initiatives. Protect staff from angry customers, and support your staff when speaking with others.
12. Check your personal style for defects
Your own managerial style may trigger feelings of anxiety in staff. Be alert to things such as delegating too little or too much, blaming others, playing favourites, not delivering on promises, discouraging creative thinking and frankness, hogging credit, nit-picking, being cheap with praise, setting unreasonable deadlines, and showing lack of concern for others.