Stress on the Job

I work with an amazingly talented team who somehow manage to pull rabbits out of the hat every day. Even better, they do it with a smile on their face!

However during a quick update this week with Heather, a bright and very capable member of our team, she mentioned that she was juggling a lot of different balls and was afraid she was going to drop one of them.

Strangely enough, she also shared that she had spent time the previous evening designing her own rules for the stress-free Christmas day she wants to host at her house. One of her rules was that sweats would be mandatory attire! Another of her rules was that dinner would be served some time between four o’clock and seven o’clock and if you weren’t okay with that you would be welcome to bring your own snacks.

That’s when I started to get worried.

If the juggling analogy wasn’t enough of a message, for sure her thinking about a family holiday more than six months away was definitely a clue that she was feeling a tad stressed.

There’s no doubt, especially during tough times, that organizational demands impact everyone at all levels in an organization. And, when employees are stressed and worn out, the consequences are felt at a personal level.

It definitely got me thinking about what I could do as a manager to reduce the impact of the stress that seems pretty much inevitable these days.

Like Heather, I do my best to find humour in the situation when I start taking things too seriously.  We definitely do see laughter as an important investment rather than something frivolous.

Experts say that communication is also a key. Managers need to share information with employees and clearly define their roles and responsibilities especially if there is concern about their job and future. I’ve learned that if people don’t have all of the information to fill in the blanks, they often fill the blanks in on their own with information that may or may not be accurate.

Communication needs to be friendly and efficient, and not heavy handed or petty. I learned that lesson the hard way by once sending out several late night emails during a particularly stressful time period. In re-reading them later, it wasn’t surprising to see they weren’t well received as they did come across as being quite terse. Now I often read an email out loud before I send it to make sure it reads the same as if I were saying it in person. 

We’ve also learned that it’s really important to give everyone opportunities to be involved in decisions that affect their jobs. While they sometimes choose not to take up the invitation, they at least know the door is open.

In a fast paced environment such as ours we’ve also learned to check in on a regular basis to make sure that deadlines are realistic and workloads are manageable as well as suitable to individual interests and abilities. In fact, placing a priority on matching individual passions to the work that needs to be done, is probably one of the most important things I’ve learned about leadership.

Ultimately acknowledging good work, providing opportunities for growth, and promoting an entrepreneurial spirit that gives employees more control over their work can do a lot to reduce stress.

As for Heather’s concerns about juggling those balls, I told her not to worry because chances are that she, along with every other member on our team, likely will, if they haven’t already done so, drop a ball once in a while.

We’re working flat out doing work for which we have no prototype. It is a given that we will drop the ball once in a while. What is of utmost importance is that we remember to be gentle with both ourselves, and with one another, when we do.

Posted on 05-10-09


Wow, I say so many brilliant things every day - and this is the one you write about?

Just kidding - great article, made me laugh and point well taken.

•Posted by Heather  on  05/13/09  at  02:41 PM

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