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Reduce Workplace Stress by Opening Lines of Communication

Are your employees looking a little worn out? Do they seem a little irritable or stretched to the limit? Are they hesitating before accepting new projects and making weak promises about deadlines and completion dates? January and February can be challenging months in the workplace, since breaks are few and far between, the days are short and dark, and the weather can present serious challenges. If you pile tight deadlines or complex field work on top of this equation, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your employees so they don’t approach the breaking point. If you’re one flu outbreak away from losing your overworked and invaluable team, try this simple, time tested move: listening. Here are few things to keep in mind.

Don’t force employees to drop hints.

Subtlety and indirect remarks don’t usually help an important message get through. But if your workplace culture discourages or punishes employees who get to the point and simply state what they need, then they’ll be left with no other recourse. Keep an eye out for hidden, veiled messages that are couched in polite, vague terms. These mean one thing: “I’m exhausted. And NO, I would rather not stay late this evening…again.” When you hear these messages, tune in.

Keep an open door policy.

Your own door, the doors of your managers, and the doors of your HR team should be kept open (literally and figuratively) barring specific reasons to close them (like private conversations). Make sure your employees feel comfortable walking right up to the door and asking you if you have a minute. The same applies to your (thoughtful and non-judgmental) HR staff.

Make it clear that you’re listening.

If you can’t grant a request or resolve a complaint, at least register that you’ve heard it. You can’t make sure every path is completely cleared and every conflict is resolved, but at the very least, you can demonstrate that you’re trying and that you care. Sometimes employees don’t even need your help as much as you might think; they just want you to know what’s going on and how they feel.

Don’t ignore interpersonal problems.

If an employee complains of bullying, unjust treatment, or an impasse with another worker, don’t just dismiss this and encourage the parties to “work it out.” It takes courage to bring these things to a manager’s attention, and this courage should be respected and addressed. Listen to both sides of the story before you make a decision.

For more on how to keep your door and ears open—and your valuable employees on board—reach out to the experienced staffing team at PSU.