This blog is a revised and updated version of a previously published blog.
Employee stress. I think this is a phrase every manager has heard, and more than likely, quite frequently. Being in middle to upper management means thinking about the well being of each and every employee, including ourselves. How can we accomplish this along with the lengthy to-do list we are expected to complete?
If you are hearing many employees, perhaps a quarter to half of your team, talk about employee stress, stop for a minute and do some self exploration. Could you be the cause of the stress? Remember the old saying, sh** runs down hill. It really does. As managers, directors, and leaders, it is our job to set the tone of the office. If we arrive at work and are quiet and tense, our employees will be too. No matter what happens, you must set a positive tone for the office. This is easier said than done. One morning, as I was making the mad dash to get everyone up and off to work, my day unraveled. My dog hid my keys, really she did, my daughter was upset over some pre-teen problem, and they all needed me. I got in the car to head out on my 30 minute commute, and realized 15 minutes in that I had forgotten my laptop. When I ran in the house to grab it, I discovered my dogs were having an unapproved party. Needless to say, when I got to the office, an hour late, I was more than frazzled. Problems hit me the minute I walked in. I had two choices, laugh or yell. I decided to call an impromptu meeting, sat my staff down, over coffee shared with them my morning. The meeting ended with laughter and the day got better.
Stress is defined by the dictionary as the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Let’s unpack this definition. Mental or emotional strain are both hot topics right now. Emotional intelligence is almost as important as mental intelligence. People who are able to identify and name their emotions are typically in better control of their emotions. Similarly, people who can recognize, identify and empathize with emotions in other people are more liked and easier to get along with. Mental health is key to almost every facet and nuisance in life. Mental health affects your physical health more than physical health affects your mental health. For example, on days when my body aches or my head feels like it is going to explode, I am able to cope and accomplish tasks because I am mentally healthy. Days when stress or grief consume me, there is almost nothing I can do to feel well mentally or physically.
Strain and tension often arise from an unhealthy environment. Toxic people are more often than not to blame for strain and tension. For reasons I will never understand, some people thrive off of discord, chaos and anger. These people, no matter how talented, are the most detrimental to a team. Toxic people can be hard to identify. They are not always the people who complain, gossip or actively try to hurt other people, no, they can be the overly arrogant people who refuse to listen to anyone or grow from constructive criticism, they can be the naysayers who disagree with every idea. Yet somehow they make it seem like they are acting in the best interest of everyone else. Toxic people come in many shapes and forms, but when identified, they either need to change or leave the team.
Adverse and demanding circumstances can happen in every office, no matter how well the team works together and now intuitively the management team is meeting their needs. Demanding circumstances go hand in hand with a successful business. The key is not to eliminate the demanding circumstances, but rather to navigate them in a way they become a success.
For example, the next time your team begins a new project try this approach. Encourage every team member to share their thoughts on how best to work through the project. From this open meeting, create a brainstorm of ideas, and work through each until you find the best fit. From there, assign tasks to employees based on their strengths, not their job titles. Check in regularly with your team, motivate them through the homestretch and celebrate your victory. If you make every project a way to focus on team member’s strengths, hear their thoughts and be motivational, employee stress will decrease. And remember, no matter how valuable a toxic employee may seem, they are always a drain. Cut them loose, and find a positive replacement. Trust me, even with the extra work, employee stress will greatly decrease.