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Feeling Stress as a Manager? You are not alone.

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Illustration representing a manager at work who is experiencing overwhelming stress.

Feeling Stress as a Manager? You are not alone.

Stress is inevitable and surprisingly necessary because it helps us build resilience. However, it’s safe to say that it has taken on new dimensions in the aftermath of the pandemic and the resulting changes. Almost nothing in our lives has remained unaffected. The types of stressors we’re experiencing are also what some may perceive as laden with more serious consequences for their well-being and security.

The workplace has seen tumultuous upheaval, resulting in different manifestations of manager stress and organizational stress. At the root of both types are changes in one’s work demand combined with feeling a lack of control over the situation. Managers and employees must cope with an evolving workplace that has been increasingly shrouded in uncertainty.

Dealing with stress involves venturing forth into uncharted territory. Employers worry about worker attrition, supply chain issues, and corporate expectations. Employees fret over making ends meet while dealing with an increased workload and encroachment on their work-life balance. Manager and organizational stress highlight the individual perceptions of stress and its consequences.

Deep Dive: Manager Stress

Manager stress includes many of the same elements of organizational stress. Both scenarios involve coping with job security and controlling stress. Leaders have the added burden of maintaining clear lines of communication despite moves toward a hybrid workplace. According to a PwC Pulse Survey, 36 percent of leaders ranked the loss of the corporate culture a significant challenge.

That task is especially worrying for managers, with 88 percent citing higher turnover rates. It’s difficult to boost employee engagement in a revolving-door workplace. Employers face other obstacles that directly impact their bottom line. Inflation and increasing costs make it harder to meet consumer demand. Moreover, expectations have also risen, adding to managerial concerns.

Keeping the corporate culture intact is more daunting than ever, particularly with so many factors outside of a manager’s control. Many things have required a quick solution to minimize the costs, often seemingly without warning, such as the lock downs. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills have never been more vital to an organization.

Prioritizing Stress Management

It’s imperative for an organization’s leaders to manage their stress. Inevitably, its adverse effects have far-

reaching consequences. However, companies can benefit immensely by prioritizing their leaders’ well-being. It’s worth noting that stress can affect your health, causing conditions ranging from depression to obesity to early mortality.

It behooves management to heal themselves to be better leaders.

Luckily, if you reduce stressors, it can lead to other welcome benefits. A more positive working environment will improve employee performance and engagement. It can also lower your turnover rate with bolstered job satisfaction. Remember that replacing workers is expensive, with the estimated cost at $4,000 per person. It’s an expense you can easily remedy.

What to Do About Manager Stress

An emotionally intelligent manager has an edge when it comes to coping with stress. They are aware and in control of their emotions. Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman’s Transactional Model offers an excellent way to view stress. Remember that it’s an individual emotion. This approach defines it as a two-stage process of assessing a potential threat and finding means to cope with it.

Managers should start by identifying their stressors or emotional triggers. It’s a vital part of self-awareness, albeit sometimes a difficult journey. Doing so offers rewards and opportunities. If you know the pushed buttons that make you angry, you can use this information to avoid these situations or stop something from getting out of hand.

You may find it helpful to keep a journal or use an emotion tracking app on your smartphone. Recognition is half of the battle.

A common issue with a manager is the lack of a confidant, especially in smaller companies. Everyone needs to vent once in a while. That’s hard if there are few people of the same level. Talking to a career coach or trusted friend can help you let off steam in a safe environment.

Another critical area to consider is your work-life balance. Too often, managers feel they are indispensable to an organization. They take conference calls on their days off or fail to use up all their vacation days. That’s why it’s essential to establish boundaries and give up the always-on mentality. Instead, cultivate healthy habits, such as regular exercise or mindfulness practices.

What to Avoid When Fighting Manager Stress

One of the main causes of stress is poor communication. It leads to misunderstandings, wasted efforts, and, yes, more stress. You may know the expectations for your team. However, it’s imperative to make this information crystal-clear to your employees. Too often, managers operate under the curse of knowledge by failing to clarify tasks.

It creates tension between management and their staff, fueling organizational stress. According to the 2021 Gallup State of the Workplace Report, only 60 percent of employees know what’s expected of them. It’s easy to see the cascading effects, starting with not meeting goals and quotas. A manager’s role is to lead by providing a clear path to meeting expectations.

Deep Dive: Organizational Stress

Work stress isn’t new. However, the degree and frequency have gotten out of control. According to SHRM, 80 percent of employees report having at least one thing stressing them at work. This tension also follows them home, with spouses and families feeling the effects. Organizational stress has many faces.

It can arise from job insecurity, a lack of employee support, or changes within a company and its ensuing uncertainty. Interestingly, managers are a significant part of the problem, too. The top stressors workers have identified include:

  • Long hours
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Too much work
  • Effort-reward balance stress

Many individuals feel a lack of control or input into these factors. Low pay and a lack of advancement opportunities only compound the issues. Rising costs and skyrocketing inflation have put the spotlight on financial concerns, again, with the consequences spilling over into the employees’ personal life. Companies shoulder the burden with lower performance and engagement.

The uncertainty of the economy is compounded in the workplace. Management and staff may worry over the stability of their companies. Families will agonize over how to make ends meet. In the meantime, everyone’s well-being has suffered, with work-life balance delegated to the back burner.

A report from Modern Health spotlights a disturbing disconnect between employees and employers. Their findings show that 87 percent of workers want their organizations to care about their mental health and well-being. However, only 66 percent think that’s true in their jobs. The pandemic was a wake-up call that management needs to rethink its concept of mental health.

We’ve discussed how wages are a driving factor in stress. It’s also the main reason that 41 percent of employees leave their jobs. Employers ranked inadequate benefits as the second factor leading workers to greener pastures. The reality is that they want flexibility with their work. Perhaps it’s a fallout from the Great Resignation. What’s clear is that individuals are reassessing what they want from their careers.

Triage for Stress

Increased flexibility can provide an excellent way to get a stressful workplace under control again. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to disconnect and detach yourself physically and mentally from work. Many of the best employers have unlimited PTO, resulting in happier and less stressed employees. Of course, there are those who may be off the clock but still check their work email.

We suggest taking it one step further by encouraging your staff to use all their vacation time. You may even put a hold on the company emails and phone calls to team members not working. Some people get into a rut of over functioning and may need a gentle nudge to take care of themselves.

Another effective tool is to use a task management system such as the Pomodoro Method. Instead of staying tied to their desks for hours on end, encourage your people to embrace the benefits of micro-breaks. This technique involves staying focused on one job for a 25-minute work session, followed by a short 3 or 5-minute break. It’ll help them stop a bad habit of sitting too much.

Long-Term Solutions

It’s essential to realize that your employee’s mental well-being isn’t a short-term issue. You should make it a permanent part of your corporate culture with a long-term solution in place for everyone. A wise man once said you couldn’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. For employers, that means starting with an employee stress assessment.

The curse of knowledge is a two-way street. You may think you understand what is bothering your staff. The best strategies for managing stress in the workplace begin with their words and thoughts. As you’ve seen, organizational stress can have many causes. How it manifests in individuals will vary, too. It’s vital that your staff can speak freely in a psychologically safe environment.

You won’t get to the bottom of any problems unless everyone can speak their minds.

It’s all essential to remember that everyone is in a different place. Some may need more support than others. We recommend offering these services to your employees. Remember that we all experienced an unprecedented event with the pandemic, particularly with lock downs. We may all feel the after-effects of this turnover shock for many years to come.

If anything beneficial came out of COVID-19, it was the rise of telehealth offerings so individuals could get the help they need. As an employer, it makes sense to reach out to your staff members to show them that you care.

Work-Life Balance

We discussed the many reasons for manager and organizational stress. Underscoring many of these things was work-life balance. Employees are working too many hours with high demands on performance and production. The pandemic gave them time to think about their lives and put things in perspective. It’s no wonder that Gen Z and millennials are making flexibility a priority with their jobs.

It’s also wise for employers to be proactive if higher workloads are on the horizon. Limiting overtime or redistributing workloads can help nip common stressors in the bud before they start to impact your staff’s mental health.

A Pleasant Work Environment

A pleasant work environment can go a long way toward lessening manager and organizational stress. Even something as simple as putting plants in your workplace can help relieve tension and encourage productivity. The same thing applies to short walks outside. Spending as little time as 20 minutes can have a profound impact on your well-being. Instead of a meeting in a stuffy room, take it outdoors.

A Work in Progress

We suggest instituting an open-door policy for your organization. Just like your company and its people aren’t static, so are the changing solutions for managing stress. It’s vital to a business to invest in its corporate culture. It’s the cement that fosters good morale, employee retention, and a team-focused mentality. Remember that corporations are people.

If you aren’t sure what changes you should implement, solicit feedback from your staff. Long-term solutions are works in progress. Be flexible not just with your people but with the ideas they suggest. The best leaders practice active listening and empathy. Both will do wonders for organizational stress.

Final Thoughts

COVID-19 helped us all to reassess our lives and priorities. It emphasized physical health so we all could take better care of ourselves. However, it also affected us in many unexpected ways. Leaders felt the effects of manager stress as they tried to pivot with the fast-changing times and economy. Employees experienced it on all fronts with the many types of organizational stress.

However, the good news is that we learned vital lessons. We realized how precious our time is and how we must look out for each other. The employer-employee relationship evolved to one that is more flexible and emphatic. Companies can make a valuable investment in their people by getting a handle on burnout with employee stress assessments. It is time and money well-spent on your staff’s well-being.

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