The RateYourBoss Quick Guide to: Stress
Workplace stress commonly stems from four causes:
- Unclear task assignment. So many workplace misunderstandings arise when the expectation of a manager, when requesting an employee to undertake a task, is not met with the task being performed according to outputs, quality, timing or some other measure. A system of task assignment adopted by the team, or more broadly by the organisation, ensures that everyone operates to the same standard of execution. There is a consistency in how work is described and delegated to employees. It should include how the employee reports progress to the manager when outputs differ from expectation, or there are obstacles that need to be managed.
- Mismatch of ability for the role: Employees do their best work when they operate in a state of "flow". This is where the work feels like a good fit for their skills, with some challenge, but not onerous, or tedious. For an employee to be in a state of "flow", there must be alignment between their level of work ability, which is their ability to manage work complexity, and that of the role they are performing. Mismatch in this alignment can cause stress, poor results, and fear at one end of the spectrum, and boredom, frustration and depression at the other.
- Lack of good systems: Systems of work not only ensure consistency, but also reduce "on the job discovery" when employees are forced to work it out for themselves. Sometimes bullying and coercion are used to get work done. At other times, results (including quality and timeliness) will vary widely. When the employee is left to devise a work method rather than following a clearly documented process, the pressure of workplace deadlines places a heavy burden on those who are genuinely trying to do the right thing.
- Lack of forethought and the necessary decision making: Business situations will occur when strong leaderhip is required to consider downstream impacts to the team and the business, and make decisions (including implementing systems or policies) that will streamline handling and issues. Especially when considering problems that arise, inaction on behalf of the manager can lead to employees having to fend for themselves, sometimes with dire consequences.
It is the job of the manager to be vigilent of these four causes of stress in the team, and work to eradicate them. This is something that the manager must undertake and be held accountable for. A team that operates in a lower-stress environment will generally have much better productivity, and be in a mindset to contribute more strongly to the objectives of the team and the organisation within which it sits.