Do you find yourself talking about how stressed out your employees always are? Or perhaps you, yourself, are always feeling under great pressure to perform? Equally as problematic is if you don’t think the pace is too crazy, but your employees do.
How do you view your work environment?
Some managers view on-going, hectic, harried environments as the equivalent to high-performance because they know everyone is always working hard to do their best. Somehow, it feels good that workers are so busy, looking productive, and that there is never a lack of work (good job security, right?). But too much stress, for too long a time, isn’t healthy. It’s not good for individuals and it’s not good for productivity or high quality outcomes, either.
Grace is a dog that feels a lot of stress and pressure, even in simple situations (of course, simple to me, but complex to her). Our home is pretty low-key. Not a lot of noise or commotion, and aside from the cats instigating a little sibling mischief with her, there aren’t many demands placed on her. Yet things like bikers on our road or wind whipping through the windows are seen as a threat by her. She is on constant vigil for some danger lurking to scare or harm her. What worries Grace doesn’t even register on my radar screen for concern.
Because we work hard enough for Grace to feel at ease in her own home, we don’t often travel with her, choosing not to torment her with additional worries in new places. However, we decided to give it a try for a few days when we visited friends in Maine over the July 4th holiday. And to our surprise and delight, Grace even seemed to enjoy it there. The car ride (usually a long and frustrating experience with her constant whining) was pleasantly quiet as she slept nearly the entire way. On our arrival, she explored the property, inside and out, and then we took a boat ride on the river. She sat in my lap, calm, collected, and serene, peacefully resting her sweet head on my shoulder. Ahhh, I thought, how nice is this!
Our decision to take Grace was based on several factors, though. We knew that the environment would be generally aligned with what was within her tolerance. We would have never exposed her to a crowded place with tons of people and small children, for example. She would have been a mess.
Grace provides a lesson for all of us. It’s ok to take calculated risks when expanding the horizons for your team. It allows them the opportunity to conquer challenges they may not have otherwise. But we can never be sure what will cause stress for another person. Our role as a manager is to be alert to what the other person is experiencing, and help address it quickly with them.
Working at a stress level that exceeds your tolerance shouldn’t happen
All employees should be held accountable to expectations that were established for them in performing their job. But they shouldn’t be working with a level of stress that exceeds their tolerance.
There are lots of ways to explore this together. First, be a constant observer of your team. These are some questions to ask yourself to see if problems might already exist:
- Does each person have adequate time to complete assignments?
- Are projects adequately and thoughtfully planned or are they haphazardly created without consideration for the bigger picture?
- Does the employee feel he has access to the resources he needs to be successful?
- Is there time allocated for maintenance and/or improvements for systems and/or equipment? (Ignoring systems will create failure at some point!)
- Are employees constantly coming to you with concerns about project deadlines or the amount of work they are expected to complete?
If there is an isolated situation, it’s something to resolve with that employee. But if your entire team is constantly feeling overwhelmed, it’s a problem you have likely created, or at least are not addressing adequately.
Another excellent way to help identify stress in the workplace is to gain a clear and objective understanding of individual work styles with a good assessment tool. A ‘fast pace’ to one person can be very different than a ‘fast pace’ to another. An assessment will allow you to put the variables into a common language so it’s clear where everyone does their best.
Don’t let the stress get out of control. You can help prevent it. Your employees might like a shoulder to rest on occasionally!