Do your employees seem stressed? Do you find it difficult to understand what is causing them stress and how to “fix” the situation? Here are five common causes and “fixes” of stress in the workplace.
1. The job itself
The job itself is a leading source of stress for employees. While overwork is a major cause, other sources of job related stress are working on unfulfilling and unchallenging work, lack of future career or advancement opportunities within the company, low pay, unrealistic job expectations, being unable to deal with the demands of their job, and having little control over how they work.
The Fix: Constantly assess workload and overwork as employees should not feel overwhelmed all of the time. If they do, there is likely a problem with expectations, staffing, or the individual’s personal work style. In addition, keep jobs engaging and challenging. Make sure employees are growing and learning, have reasonable job expectations and goals, and have some semblance of autonomy and control over how they perform their work. Be sure that employee are adequately trained for the tasks they perform, and that they have all the tools that they need to perform their jobs.
An employee’s boss is another leading source of stress, especially if they have a poor relationship or conflict with their boss. In fact, according to studies, the most stressful aspect of a person’s job is their immediate boss.
Employees will feel more stressed if their boss is intimidating, has an different management style, is moody, is unsupportive to employee needs, or is disrespectfully and unfair. When bosses act inconsistently (treating employees inconsistently throughout the organization, having inconsistent expectations of staff members, etc.), this can also lead to stressful work situations.
The Fix: Keep tabs on how managers are interacting with and treating their employees, observe employees’ behavior around their managers, and resolve issues before they escalate. Make sure that all employees have comfortable working relationships with their bosses. It’s also important to make sure managers have the right people skills to perform their job well, and to make sure that they are held accountable for attracting, retaining, and motivating employees. If several employees complain about the same manager, it may be time to provide additional people management training to the supervisor. You may also need to recommend a transfer of the employee or the manager.
Having conflicts or difficulties getting along with coworkers can be a common source of stress in the workplace. Poor interactions and lack of collaboration with fellow coworkers can also cause stress.
The Fix: Manage, mediate, and resolve coworker conflicts before they escalate – manage them quickly. Train employees on communication and conflict management/resolution skills. Minimize competition in the workplace. Provide opportunities for informal social interaction (e.g. low-stress “face time” or team building activities) so employees get to know one another and build trust. Additionally, provide opportunities for positive collaboration on work projects among employees.
Organizational change affects employees differently, with some employees relishing and welcoming it, and others fearing it or finding it stressful. Change in the job, team, organizational structure, new processes and procedures, as well as cultural or work environment changes – especially changes that they can’t control – can all create fear and stress for employees, especially if they are not managed or communicated well. Employees often wonder how organizational changes will affect them and their situation, and that sometimes causes stress.
The Fix: Involve employees in change if it affects them. Solicit their feedback and input. Inform them about change well ahead of time, explain why the change is occurring, and encourage them to ask questions about the changes. Foster open dialogue about changes to reduce suspicion. Allow employees to talk through changes with one another or with trusted superiors in productive ways.
5. Personal factors
Finally, a broad range of personal factors can create stress – commute, lack of work/life balance, childcare responsibilities, financial issues, family issues, among others. While these factors are not directly under an employer’s control, they cause stress in the workplace and employers need to be mindful of this.
The Fix: Employers can provide support to employees by offering work/life balance, fitness programs, flexible work schedules, employee assistance programs, financial planning help, stress management training, and other support benefits and services to help employees resolve any personal issues they may be experiencing and decrease their stress. Support benefits, such as these, are extremely useful in helping employees solve stressful personal problems.
Workplace stress can come from so many different things, but these tend to be some of the most common, and the ones that can best be managed and “fixed.”