Avoiding Causes of Workplace Stress

May 28, 2015

Avoiding Causes of Workplace Stress

Job stress continues to be the major source of stress for American adults. Stress creates emotional and physical consequences for employees. The toll on employers is dramatic and costly.  A tense work   culture is unhealthy, impacting existing employees and customers. Work projects do not get completed efficiently and unnecessary job turnover occurs. Also, health claims multiply due to psychological, heart and gastro-intestinal issues.

Identify Causes

A crucial step in controlling stress is management’s identification of the causes that are behind workers’ stress. Distinguishing and conquering the key “causers” need to be an ongoing part of the ethos of every organization. Having worked in large organizations for much of my career, I was always amazed at the amount of employer-caused stress. Unfortunately it often takes a succession of key employee departures, or a tense office culture to shake up an organization, before it recognizes the need to focus on the primary causes.]

Top 10 Causes of Stress by Management

Here is my personal “top 10” list of management-driven practices that cause unnecessary stress in the workplace. I’ve included remedies to fix each of these “stress-points.”

  1. Unclear job expectations. This may sound ridiculous, but it is a chronic issue in many organizations.  Upon hiring, set clear job expectations.  Use an updated job description to help describe duties in a comprehensive manner. If there is a sales component, identify the requirements for the employee. Assign a senior employee mentor to assist new employees in their transition.
  2. Failure to set career development paths. Individuals feel trapped when they see themselves as performing the same tasks, without any progression. Creating meaningful career paths is very important for employees, especially high achievers, who are eager to move up quickly.
  3. Micro-managing staff.   This is a common challenge for many managers, who tend to micro-manage their staff. Sometimes it is inexperience, or simply the inability to delegate discrete assignments properly.  If the manager is concerned that the employee does not understand the project, then better explanations and mentorship are necessary. Employees want and need reasonable “space” to perform their work. Periodic check-ins are fine; however, constant interruptions are very disruptive to staff members.
  4. Lack of positive and negative feedback.  In our technology-driven world we often lose sight of the value of feedback. We all have a strong need to be recognized for what we do at work.   Both constructive and positive feedback are very critical. It keeps employees on the right track and provides the much-needed “pat on the back” to express our appreciation. Refer to my blogpost on the importance of feedback.
  5.  Non- competitive compensation. We all have financial demands and feel devalued when we are not paid competitively.  We also naturally want to keep up with our peers in comparable positions. A smart employer needs to participate in periodic salary surveys or in some other way benchmark information about pay rates, to ensure employees are paid a competitive wage.
  6.  Inadequate staffing.  This is a problem that exists across the board. Most employees are performing multiple jobs, a legacy from the contraction of the economy. With the economy improving, many employers are staffing up, ever so cautiously. Listen to your managers when planning staff increases and try to ensure that staff levels match the workload.
  7.  Misapplication of technology.  Technology is the lifeblood of most employers, and managing technology is often a challenge.  Make sure you shape technology to serve you, rather than you catering to the needs of technology.
  8.  Loss of management’s mission.  As covered in a prior blogpost, (Janet ADD LINK) many organizations lose track of their original purpose and mission. By neglecting this important value, they forfeit the best motivational tool – the real reason we get pumped up every day. Give your employees a renewed sense of purpose and direction by emphasizing your organization’s mission.
  9.  Lack of teamwork and trust.  Many employers fail because their staff simply does not work together. Most of us do not work in silos. Cultivating trust in the organization and working together in sharing the employer’s values, are both critical to the success of every enterprise.
  10. Failure to focus on the client/customer. Many employers lose sight of their most primary purpose – serving the client. A smart employer needs to constantly engage its employees and clients in sharing its focus.  This empowers the employer to deliver its product or service, stronger than the competition.  Following and serving the client better than others will help you plan your staff, fashion your unique initiatives, and more than anything else, impact the bottom line.

 Key to Success

Stress causes uncertainty and self-doubt. The opposite of stress is not just relief, but conviction and confidence. While management does not set out to cause these stress points, smart executives not only identify them, but also learn how to prevent them from occurring. In this way, you can instill self-assurance, trust and passion for your organization’s goals.

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