Are you overwhelmed with over-planning?

While the mental wellbeing and burnout of employees is receiving a fair amount of attention in our Covid-driven world, how are leaders themselves faring? And what stresses are they finding themselves under?

New research by Frog Recruitment has found that 68 percent of 900 New Zealand workers surveyed were feeling more burnt out than they did 12 months ago and well over half (62 percent) saying they were either looking to change jobs this year or weren’t sure whether to, or not. Only a third (33 percent) said they would stay in their roles, down from 40 percent in November 2021.

Frog Recruitment says that 41 percent of those surveyed cited poor leadership as the reason they would leave their current job and the firm’s managing director Shannon Barlow says leaders need to be at the top of their game or risk losing a significant portion of their workforce.

She says leaders need to up their game.  “This is a signal that it’s time for leadership to understand their workforce’s wellbeing and to create solutions that show their people they genuinely care to improve their mental health.”
However, she says, at the same time the pressure on managers who also hold a leadership role “cannot be underestimated”.
While the firm’s research was focused on workers’ mental wellbeing, Management asked Barlow to expand on how leaders and managers were coping.

You note that the pressure on managers/leaders cannot be under-estimated. How are you seeing this manifest itself?

It’s the classic, “Apply your own mask before assisting others” scenario where managers are in a poor position to look after their staff if their own wellbeing is suffering. In addition to working longer hours and dealing with pandemic-induced stressors, managers also have the pressure of delivering on business performance measures in a disrupted market as well as navigating constant changes to Covid guidelines.

What is creating these pressures for managers? Is it more than just the pandemic itself… is the strain of not knowing what is going to happen next part of it?

Absolutely. Accommodating for current Covid settings and planning for future scenarios can be very draining, especially when often no sooner have you made adjustments and have things running smoothly again, then the settings change and the time and energy you have put into adapting operations can feel like it’s been for nothing.
For example, we have changed our processes and systems to be able to record candidates’ vaccination status to identify candidate pools available for jobs requiring full vaccination and this will be redundant with the removal of vaccine mandates. There is also the fear of missing an opportunity if you are too busy reacting to current circumstance, but it can be extremely fatiguing trying to predict the course of events two years into the pandemic.

Your research points to ‘over-planning’ – is it a matter of trying to foresee every sort of thing that might eventuate? 

Managers are in a constant state of responding to the Government’s Covid guidelines, and having to prepare sometimes more than one contingency – knowing that only one of the contingencies may, or may not, be drawn on.
Outward Bound in Marlborough is a good example – if a student or staff at the school tests positive, the school can make arrangements to get their South Island students back home in a private motor vehicle for isolation at home – this is plan one. 
However North Island based students won’t be able to travel, so they will need to remain at the school and be accommodated and fed and cared for – this is plan two. Plan three is the current status quo with no positive cases however operations have been changing sometimes weekly as the school adapts its programmes to changing Covid protocols.

Are some leaders failing to delegate – thinking they need to take on every task as circumstances continue to change?

Leaders are often guilty of taking on too much, and this is more likely now with the talent shortage and effects of the great resignation. Even if managers want to be able to shift resources and delegate tasks, chances are they have more work with less people so they may not have anyone available to delegate to.

Do you think it is a matter of leaders, who hopefully realise what sort of pressure their staff are under, forgetting that they too are under enormous pressure?

Some leaders will naturally put the needs of their staff before their own which can be dangerous to take on too much and risk their own mental health.
I think most realise the strain they are under, but it’s a constant balancing act – weighing up the need to deliver for the business and how much pressure they can take on and for how long. It’s a fine line and miscalculating can have dire outcomes both for the individual and the business.

As well as looking after their staff’s mental health, what could a leader do to take pressure off themselves?

Do what you can to shift resources and manage the situation in front of you, but don’t be afraid to ask for help – whether that’s from your organisation, business community, government support or personal networks. It’s important to model this behaviour with your team and to share different coping strategies. Let them know it’s okay if they are struggling and to lean on each other, they’re not alone in feeling burnt out.

As a leader yourself how are you looking after your own mental health, how are you taking pressure off?

Hybrid working has been very effective for me with two days working from home – especially with my dog Boh as my personal mental health champion at home!
I think it’s important to know my own limits and work within those boundaries and to tap into available support networks early – learning from times when I have piled on too much. I take shorter holidays, more often, to recharge (well the two-month trip to Hawaii and the southern states was off the cards!) and try to switch off from work while I’m on leave.  

Visited 47 times, 1 visit(s) today

A focus on culture

Rabobank’s 520-plus New Zealand employees work from 27 locations – places like Ashburton, Pukekohe and Feilding and from a purpose-built head office in Hamilton. Its employees are proud of the

Read More »
Close Search Window