Stress and the Leadership Factor
Could leaders who neglect their own emotional health be partly responsible for increasing stress in the workplace?
How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World, says the nature of work today continues to ratchet up stress levels in today’s organizations.
“It’s much harder to live a balanced life now because of business uncertainty, the speed of everything, there’s more scrutiny and distrust in the workplace, competition is greater and the world is interconnected,”
“All these winds of change are affecting the stress of employees and their leaders, and if employees are stressed, it’s going to influence their opinions and perceptions of their workplace, their bosses and colleagues, and the amount of work they have to do and how they’re balancing work and family,”
The obsessive focus on short-term results has led to unhealthy workplaces led by emotionally unhealthy people, he says. In such an environment, even the best-designed health-and-wellness programs won’t be effective. “If leaders are really stressed out and not taking responsibility for their own health, then how do you expect them to have the energy to help their employees do the same?”
Stress is the No. 1 workforce risk issue, as for what’s causing workplace stress, there’s a big gap between employees and HR on this issue. Most of the survey participants on the employer side were part of companies’ HR departments.
The HR respondents ranked the top three causes of workplace stress as a lack of work/life balance, inadequate staffing and technologies (such as smartphones) that expand employee availability during non-work hours. However, inadequate staffing is the No. 1 cause of workplace stress, followed by low pay or no pay increases, and unclear or conflicting job expectations.
The difference concerning pay was pretty interesting. “It’s symptomatic of an economy that continues to struggle and the suppression of salaries, and that’s starting to show up in terms of people having a hard time managing their budgets.”
While pay was an important factor, so too was inadequate staffing, she says.
“It’s ‘I have more work to do, I need to know what is important, so there’s this lack of clarity around what you need from me, I’ve got more to do, so tell me what’s important so I can be more successful.’
As for HR’s perceptions of the chief causes of workplace stress, she says it may have something to do with what HR has control over.
HR can only go so far in terms of pay raises and staffing levels — that’s dictated by the organization, not HR. They tend to have more influence over things like work/life balance, expectations for employees and technology availability during work hours.”
There is a problem between the disproportionality between top-executive pay and employee pay and that’s been a long-time problem, Having said that, a lot of employee complaints are related to their boss. Leaders at every level of the company create the organizational culture, and these leaders are either healthy or unhealthy in their approach.
Employers cited technology such as smartphones that potentially blur the lines between work and home life, but employees ranked that concern as No.10 on the biggest causes of workplace stress.
“Over the years, many of us have learned to set parameters around the use of technology,
Maintaining a balance between family life and work can be especially difficult for leaders these days, given technology’s reach.
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“For these folks, putting a plan into action can be the hardest thing — we all tend to spout off about the things we should be doing for ourselves, but actually following through is very difficult for professionals — for anyone, in fact,”
Leaders are often better able to handle high amounts of stress than others simply because they’ve had to learn to cope with it in order to attain their positions in the first place. However, stress coupled with a precipitating event — divorce, death in the family, etc. — can render them incapacitated.
“It’s getting them to take a step back and think about how they feel about what’s going on in their lives, what’s it like for their family members and colleagues to be around them?” We spend so much time at work that our colleagues are almost like our secondary families, and if we’re always stressed out, then how can we connect with these people?”
“It’s techniques for teaching their people about leveraging social networks, paying attention to stress triggers and managing their sleeping, eating and exercise routines,”
Managers can alter their own practices to lessen stress on their direct reports, such as changing the way they conduct one-on-one meetings.
“One-on-ones with leaders tend to be the most stressful parts of the week for employees, Getting leaders to face their problems requires courage on the part of HR.
“HR can bolster their argument by citing the demonstrated links between healthy corporate cultures and the bottom line. “They can also be the models and champions of physical and emotional health themselves. They can build healthy organizations within HR.”