Working Through the Stress of Change
“The world has changed in the last couple of years. I feel bad for those who are losing their jobs and their homes. At least I still have a job. Well, at least for now I do. I’m not sure what to think or to expect. It seems that the more cutbacks the company makes, the more they expect from me. I’m only one person and some of the things they have assigned to me I’ve never done before and I’m not sure I have the skills.”
Does this employee sound familiar to you? The state of our economy has been in flux for the past few years and the emotions of employees run from being scared to being grateful that they still have a job. Many firms have adapted to the recession by cutting staff and expenses. As a manager or business owner, how do you deal with the needs of your employees? Your employees are looking to you for leadership.
First, you can make yourself aware of the effects of stress on your workers. Are you noticing some of these stress signals?
- Increased absenteeism
- Complaints of headaches, sore muscles upset stomach
- Complaints of not sleeping well
- Work quality decreasing
- Increased conflicts between coworkers
- Tiredness or irritability of workers
One of the first things you need to do is recognize the signs, then address them in a positive manner. Hold a meeting or meet with your employee one on one. This meeting should not be one of an accusatory tone but of concern with the intention of working on solutions. If you can get your employee to verbalize their stressors and concerns, then you have opened the door to making positive change.
Solutions to Reducing Stress
This article’s imagined quote exemplifies an employee dealing with numerous stressors: the layoff of coworkers, the need to do more work without the perceived knowledge and skills as well as the fear of potentially losing their job. The feelings an employee has are real to them and it’s not your job to tell them how to feel. But it is your job to help that employee deal with those stressors to promote a more productive employee and environment. It is not easy to see coworkers lose their jobs. Talk to your employee about the strategic plan of the company and the reason why it reduced staff to stabilize the company profits. Your employee needs to know that they are adding value and that they play an integral part in sustaining the quality of the work that is produced in their area.
If they express concern that they lack the skills, help them find the resources to aid them. Let them know that as they are taking on a more diverse role than they had previously, they are building upon their skills and knowledge, which demonstrates professional growth and added value. Most importantly, offer assistance and training.
When you see and hear employees talking about physical ailments such as headaches and stomachaches, you can act on creating an atmosphere of work/life balance. Demonstrate by your own actions that mental breaks throughout the day are good. Suggest taking a walk outside if the weather permits. If not, go to a window where you can sit and look outside without distractions, anything that gets them up and walking away from their desk. If the norm is to bring in donuts or candy for your group, try fruit instead. Be realistic in making deadlines and requiring staff to work longer hours. If the task permits, let your employees work in teams so that they are not isolated, making them feel alone and overwhelmed.
Communication helps reduce stress. Communicate often with your employees and allow them to talk to you and tell you what is on their mind. It will make their job less stressful and provide you with the information you need to be a more effective leader. Never assume that your employees are aware of the company strategy. It is critical to have regular sessions to review the goals and strategy of the firm so that they feel part of the team and not isolated or ignored. And when you ask for questions, start with some of your own to help break the ice and show that communication is valued.