Reduce Stress by Opening Communication Lines

April 25th, 2014

Feeling tired? Hassled? A little burned out? Are you experiencing fewer satisfying days and a growing number of days that make survival feel like a victory? If you’re hanging on by your fingertips, navigating one crisis after another, and just barely managing to stay on top of your overflowing inbox, imagine how your employees must feel. And if you HAVE to imagine this, because you know that your employees will never tell you directly that they’re overworked and need a break, then your solution might be summarized in one word: communication.

Better communication and more open dialogue can solve a long list of workplace problems at once. And as these problems are resolved, obstacles to productivity fall away one by one. Keep the lines open by keeping these considerations in mind.

1. Open your door, literally.

It’s one thing to claim you have an “open door policy”, but it’s another to stand by it. Unless you’re in the middle of a very private conversation, keep your door ajar and never answer a knock or a hello with a glare or exasperated sigh. Respond to inquiries with an expression of welcome and interest. And even when you’re buried in work, don’t let the door close completely.

2. Practice blameless reviews.

Your marketing campaign is over, the big contract project is complete, the product rollout is underway, and—win or lose—it’s time for a review and debriefing session. If the project was an unquestionable victory, this process will be pleasant. But if it wasn’t, don’t make things worse by assigning blame. Employees who fear blame will clam up, take no risks, share no ideas, and foster a culture of silence and dishonesty. In a blameless environment, everyone works toward the same goal, feelings and ideas are shared, and real progress can happen.

3. Practice criticism-free brainstorming.

After big projects, rein in the blame. Beforehand, rein in the criticism and shut-downs. And really rein it in—don’t just prevent managers from engaging in this behavior; encourage them to prevent it in among their direct reports.

4. Keep your reactions measured, calm and positive.

An employee needs better resources to complete their job. Another wants to ask for a raise. Another has to deliver a bit of bad news. And a fourth wants your signature on a complex document you don’t have time to read right now. No matter how you react to each of these advances, think carefully, and take a deep breath before you respond. Snapping, dismissals, and hasty decisions can push employees away and make them hesitant to approach you with real and pressing concerns. Stay in control and don’t let this happen.

While you allow your employees to come to you with their issues, learn how to approach them directly with yours. For more on how to keep conversations flowing in both directions, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

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