With ever increasing workloads and the need to achieve more to compete in a global workplace, it is critical to have a good handle on how to manage workplace stress factors in order to avoid depleted or checked out teams. Stress can come from many things. Employee personal/home life. Being in the wrong job. Physical or other illness. Poor performance. At least these are the first things that come to mind when we cite problems that (naturally assume) the reason for the stress is in the direction of the employee. However, I would argue that stress management in the workplace is a task that the good manager holds him or herself very accountable for as a team leader as well. Below are just a few ideas that come to mind when it comes to creating a stress reducing environment. The idea is, it is a blend of HR tools, right fit and good management.
Role Overload Management and “Right Fit.” This involves placing people properly, and if they are struggling in a role due to skill (not attitude), being flexible to change. This for example could be a professional who becomes a manager before ready – eg the classic “they know the job so they can manage people” promotion. This may require moving him back into a line role to avoid failure. Or, it may mean partnering him with a coach to teach and mentor. Either redeploying or training are positive solutions. After all not addressing means performance isn’t happening and stress is rising.
Teach Managers to Lead Wisely and with Expectation Clarity. This gets into making sure emotionally intelligent people who enjoy developing and growing people are in the manager and supervisor seats. It is not possible to “fake” being a good manager. However, the good news is many management skills can be taught. Host regular sessions to teach and practice things like conflict management, how to write SMART goals, how to deliver feedback, and so forth. It is critical in these sessions to have follow up and opportunity to share practical application stories.
The second piece to this is the clarity. Teach managers to be appropriately direct and clear with their teams. If goals and targets are not defined and measured, no team can be expected to reach them. The classic team coach analogy still remains the best one for describing how to manage. The reality is that people want to learn, grow, reach targets and win. The right management method can get them there. The wrong management style leads to unhappiness and high stress.
Fun Based Programs. Be sure to have fun together. This might be golf outings. Or quarterly meals. Or family fun days. Whatever it is the company needs to adopt a work hard, play hard mentality. And then play together. Human bonds form when we laugh and enjoy as a team. It’s critical stuff. It naturally also mitigates stress.
Balanced Work Loads, “Not too much” and “Not too little.” This gets back to good management. Both the under worked and the overworked get stressed. Managers should come together regularly to assess work load and balance.
Team Building. Build team skill and other building events into meetings and work. Perhaps at every team meeting have a person report out on a recent training. Or, at conferences invite in a professional team building group to facilitate a group activity. Or, rotate work partners to grow group relationships. Or have everyone take a personality test and learn about one another to enhance understanding. The idea is to build “together” into the culture so it’s a strong and united and loyal group. When we have a strong support system, we feel a sense of safety and belonging. This is a lot like Maslow’s Hierarchy here if you remember from college psychology class. Humans cannot achieve top levels of performance without the basic factors like safety met. I believe that a strong bonded team is the biggest piece to this. I’ll take an average job with a fabulous supportive team over a great job with a bunch of workplace sharks any day.
EAP Counseling. Keep EAP programs robust and well marketed. They offer so much these days. Beside 24/7 free phone counsel, many EAPs have life skill training. This can be financial advice, will advice, stress counseling, physical wellness coaches, smoking cessation, nutritional advice and more. A company should lean into this resource and promote. And, be sure to hold on-site workshops to feature various components. The whole person is the less stressed person, and EAPs help this.