Just like a disease, before you can cure stress, you need to know the source of the problem. Workplace stress is like that. It does little good to teach people how to cope with stress if you don’t understand where it comes from. And, as with a disease, the best way to fight it is to get rid of the source.
So, here are some lessons for managers and leaders to de-stress your workplace.
1. Person-Job Fit. People feel stress when they are in jobs that they are not prepared to do, or in jobs that are a bad fit (e.g., they lack the needed skills or temperament). Making sure that you have good, basic human resources practices in place can alleviate this source of stress by ensuring that you are hiring the right people (i.e., appropriately skilled and experienced) for the right jobs. Take this into consideration, as well, when you are moving people up in the organization. Are they prepared to take on the additional responsibilities? Do they truly want those responsibilities? Ensuring that you have good person-job fit alleviates an important source of stress at its source.
2. Adequate Training. Another HR stress-related issue is lack of adequate training. Employees get frustrated if they don’t know proper procedures and/or how to use technology. And, their frustration leads to stress. Ensuring that employees are properly trained nips this in the bud!
3. Authentic Communication. People get stressed when they lack information about what impacts them or is important to them. Leaders need to communicate openly and authentically with employees, particularly during times of economic downturn that may lead to layoffs. In general, leaders who not only communicate what is happening, but also why it is happening, will reduce stress among employees. Keeping employees in the dark can lead to increased, not decreased, stress. In addition, there is a tendency for leaders in organizations to under-communicate (“they don’t need to/want to know”). Generally, more communication reduces the stress that occurs when employees feel “out of the loop.”
4. Ensure Safety and Security. Employees in high-risk occupations, such as firefighters, some factory and construction workers, and other potentially dangerous jobs, can experience stress resulting from fear of injury/disability. Ensuring that proper safety procedures are in place can alleviate this source of stress. But, stress also comes from a lack of job security. The more that leaders can ensure employees that they will try to protect their jobs (as well as offering good retirement and healthcare benefits), will reduce this source of stress.
5. Increase Employees’ Sense of Control. Psychological research clearly shows that if people believe that they can control the source of stress, they are better able to cope with it. Empowering workers, consulting with them on important work-related decisions, providing some autonomy and flexibility on how they do their jobs (e.g., working from home, flexible hours, etc.), can reduce this very common source of stress.
What’s the bottom line when it comes to reducing employee stress? Good HR practices, open and honest communication, and concern for employees’ welfare goes a long way to reduce stress across-the-board for employees.
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