An e-mail from Philip, a student working on a senior thesis on “management practices that can help reduce stress in the work environment,” provoked me to think further and review some of my writing on this growing epidemic.
Below are Philip’s questions and my responses. Stress is a classic symptom or result of many underlying — and often complex interconnected — root causes. My responses provide links for a deeper look at the multi-facetted issue of stress.
How important is it for managers to be familiar with practices that can help reduce stress in the workplace?
It is vital. It is critical. It is absolutely essential to building higher performing and healthy workplaces. It gets to the very heart of leadership.
Read more about the American Psychological Association’s research on the huge size of this problem, their five core elements of a psychologically healthy workplace, and a humorous take on how King Henry VIII ruled the anti-health workplace at Building Healthy Workplaces: Learning from Good and Bad Examples (like King Henry VIII).
What are some practices managers can use to help reduce stress (for employees) in the workplace?
The first step is recognizing the extent of the problem. Morale, climate, or engagement surveys can be a big help in scoping out the problem and pointing toward ways of reducing workplace stress. A highly simplified quiz at Do You Have a Dysfunctional, Average, or High-Performing Culture? shows some team or organization culture dimensions of this complex issue.
What are ways managers can implement these practices?
Implementation approaches need to be tailored to the causes of stress, a manager’s style/skills, and the team or organization’s culture. A 10 minute podcast linked at Leadership for a Healthier and Safer Workplace — Podcast Now Available identifies a few broad approaches.
Another part of recognizing the extent of the problem is for a manager to get honest and unvarnished feedback on whether he or she is adding to or reducing workplace stress. The concept of Multipliers or Diminishers described and linked at Genius or Genius Maker: Do You Multiply or Diminish Intelligence Around You? provides a very helpful look at this issue.
How can a manager handle his/her own stress in the workplace while still administering the company’s employees?
The starting point is recognizing the ‘glasses’ or frameworks we wear at work — and in life. We need to be thinking about our thinking. As we deal with changes, setbacks, and crisis we have a choice whether to lead, follow, or wallow. You can read more about the three choices and some steps toward leading at Five Resolutions to Lead, Not Follow or Wallow in 2010.
A critical stress management skill is whether we allow ourselves to fall into the frantic busyness and acceleration traps. As our world spins ever faster we need to learn how to focus, set priorities, and slow down. Slowing down not only reduces our stress, it actually can help us advance faster toward our goals. You can read more about this at:
- The Acceleration Trap: Frantic Busyness and Priority Overload is Overwhelming Way Too Many Teams and Organizations
- Reader Reflections on Frantic Busyness, Priority Overload, and The Acceleration Trap
- Another Study on Slowing Down to Speed Up.
- Slow Down to Increase Your Speed
- Multitasking Dumbs Us Down and Ups Our Stress
Is there anything else that you feel is important for managing stress in the workplace?
Connected to, and part of, the busyness trap is how we handle electronic communications like texting, social media, and e-mail. The E-Beast is out of control and driving up stress in way too many workplaces — and personal lives. See The E-mail Beast Grows Ever Larger for perspectives on the problem and a quiz on Measuring the E-mail Beast. There’s also good advice on it at Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmmm… on Taming the E-Mail Beast.
Shameless Plug! Many of these personal, team, and organizational leadership issues are what we’ll cover in my Leading @ the Speed of Change: Navigating Turbulent Times workshop on June 14 and 15 right here in the center of the universe — my hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. It’s the only public or open workshop I’ll be doing this year.