Everyone has stress in their lives, and many times those pressures spill into the workplace. Managers and supervisors are often the first to notice when workers are having problems. The response of management can play a crucial role in keeping employees focused and productive at their jobs, despite personal turmoil. Companies should give supervisors the tools they need to help, and reduce the likelihood of a good employee leaving, or affecting their colleagues negatively.
Managers and supervisors are the first lines of defense when it comes to stressed out employees. Therefore, training supervisors on how to spot a stressed-out worker before they leave the company can save the company time and money.
Key indicators of stress in an employee can include:
- A change in normal behavior (withdrawn, irritability, or a significant decrease in productiveness).
- A drastic change in appearance.
- Lateness, or a sudden lack of commitment or concentration.
- Being absent when they are normally very reliable.
Establish open lines of communication
Establishing open lines of communication between the employee and manager ensures that he or she can communicate about their stress openly, without fear of repercussions. Additionally, when a worker who is experiencing a lot of stress can bring that information to their supervisor, it can mitigate some of the fallout from a stressful situation.
It's important for managers and supervisors to exercise empathy and compassion. It does not cost the company any money for their managers to show compassion to their employees, and a study conducted by Google on more than 5,600 people in 77 companies found that compassion and empathy were the two character traits that made the greatest difference in an organization's productivity and profitability. Allow your employees to come to you with their problems and help provide workplace relief for those stressors.
Recognize and reward employee performance
Stressed out workers do not operate in a vacuum. They bring their stress to work with them, where it spreads to other employees. Interacting with or even observing someone who is stressed is enough to raise cortisol levels, causing increased stress levels to ripple out through the office. If not mitigated, the stress of a single employee can affect their team or, in extreme cases, even the entire company.
Recognizing employees who are picking up the slack for their stressed colleagues, not only acknowledges their contribution to the team, but will also help prevent the stress from affecting their own performance. Through a social recognition program, you can acknowledge and encourage an employee with a message saying "Thank you for going above and beyond on Project X. The extra time you put into the research, as well as your help in areas beyond your scope contributed to the success of the project. Thank you for being a team player!" Here the manager has thanked the employee for their work and communicated that they're aware that the employee did more than required, covering both bases.
Employees bringing stress into the workplace is nothing new, but it is a rapidly growing problem, and must be handled accordingly. Organizations should take a top-down approach, training managers to deal compassionately with employees, ensuring employees know they have a voice, and rewarding and recognizing top performers in order to reduce stress and create a relaxed and profitable environment.