Reduce Workplace Stress by Opening Lines of Communication

February 6th, 2015

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.


How Spot and Address Employee Seasonal Stress

December 19th, 2014

The coldest and shortest days of the winter bring two important things to office: the festivity of the holidays, and the stress and struggle associated with cold, short days. Both of these lead to a cascade of events and changes that have a larger impact on the business environment than managers often realize. For example, the arrival of a new fiscal year often brings performance reviews and annual budgeting, which in turn bring reflection, renewal, and sometimes high turnover.

Employees who ask for raises and promotions need to choose a course of action if these requests are denied, so many of them step on to the job market at this time. Some companies experience a spike in orders during the holidays, and some experience the opposite—a lull during which the pace slows down and a skeleton crew takes over. In either case, the holiday season can be very stressful, and wise managers recognize the signs and fight back against employee burnout.

1. Look and listen.

When employees sound or look exhausted, it’s because they’re exhausted; it’s not because they’re lazy. Keep an eye out for obvious signs, like drawn expressions, tense moods, and an increase in sick days. Don’t underestimate the power of a word of encouragement.

2. Anticipate personnel issues.

If your employee is expecting a great review and a raise, and you know that he’s going to leave the meeting disappointed, embarrassed, and concerned about the future, get ready for anything. Resilience means different things to different people. Some chastised employees will redouble their efforts to please and impress their supervisors…but many will start looking for new jobs. And some will sulk and stagnate until they settle on a course of action. Stay flexible while your teams reshuffle and reevaluate their relationships with you.

3. Fight illness and injuries.

You can’t control emotional stress or work related stress, but you can exercise a small degree of control over physical illness and injury. Keep your walkways, parking lots and entranceways clean and dry to prevent falls, and be generous with alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Keep dispensers handy and full, and encourage employees to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze and stay home when they feel sick.

4. Pay attention to scheduling and work distribution.

Keep schedules and work tightly controlled and closely monitored. Don’t let projects fall too heavily on one team member while another takes two hour lunches and disappears for days at a time.

For more on how to keep your teams productive, healthy, and content during the holiday season, contact the staffing experts at PSU.

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