Are you a manager? Have you ever noticed that some of your team are physically at work but only operating at 20 per cent efficiency? Or they’ve had more sick days than usual and you’re not entirely convinced that they’re legitimate? Or you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour; perhaps making uncharacteristic mistakes or lying about completing tasks when they haven’t? Or maybe you’ve noticed a change in their attitude; where they’ve been snappy or overly sensitive when you’ve tried to talk to them about it? If so, it’s highly likely that they’re suffering from stress.

Impacts of stress

Stress can affect your team’s health, morale, productivity, performance, and attendance, which also affects the business’s productivity, staff turnover and reputation. The latest estimates show that the total number of cases of work related stress is around 595,000, which is a prevalence rate of 1,800 per 100,000 workers. (1) This equates to an estimated cost to the UK economy of nearly £6.5 billion each year.

The causes

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), there are six main causes of stress in the workplace. Staff are:

·        Not able to cope with the many demands of their jobs

·        Unable to control the way they do their work

·        Not receiving enough information and support

·        Having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied

·        Not fully understanding their role and responsibilities

·        Not engaged when a business is undergoing change

A manager’s unique role

As a manager, you are in a unique and powerful position because in addition to being able to reverse all of the above, you are able to prevent them from happening in the first place. Sadly managers are not given the skills nor the tools to enable them to do either. On top of that, they also need to be able to identify and deal with personal issues which might be causing stress too, such as bereavement, illness, money worries, or relationship problems.

How stress spreads

Stress is clearly an issue for the individual in your team who is affected by it, but it also impacts you and the rest of the team. Not only do you have to spend additional time and energy on the employee who’s struggling with the stress, but you have to ensure that their work is being picked up by other team members, all the while you have to get on with your day job. If you don’t manage it well, the team becomes frustrated at being over-worked, they feel under-valued because you have no time for them, and before you know it, the high performers in your team have handed in their notice, and you’re left with a staff shortage. Recruitment and training of new staff takes time (and money), and so the workload increases, the team feel even more under-valued, and so on and so on. Before you know it, stress has spread through the team like wildfire and everyone is consumed by it, including you. So what can you do as a manager to stop this from happening?

The solution

The simple solution is to ensure that you – as the manager – have the skill-set and mind-set required to handle stress in the workplace. Here are just some of the key skills that you need to be able to master:

· Knowing individuals in your team well enough so that you can notice quickly when stress is negatively impacting someone

· Having sufficient rapport with your team so that they feel comfortable to open up to you

· Being approachable so that your staff feel able to talk openly about their experiences and feelings

· Listening effectively so that you can understand and appreciate their perspective even if it is vastly different to yours

· Reacting with compassion whilst remaining objective and non-judgemental

· Asking the right questions to probe deeper into the problem

· Coaching them to find out the real cause of their anxiety, and using your skills to help them to understand and help themselves better

· Mentoring them to pass on your knowledge and experiences so that they can learn different responses to stress

· Being open to criticism should it turn out being you that’s the cause of the stress

· Being flexible to adapt your style of management and communication to suit the needs of each member of the team

· Communicating openly and effectively, which is especially important if there are significant changes taking place in the business which will impact your team

· Being assertive to ascertain a way to meet the needs of the business as well as the needs of the individual

· Having the confidence to know that you’re doing the best for your team

As you can see from the list above – which is by no means exhaustive – managers have a tough job. In addition to needing to be self-aware, they have to encourage self-awareness in their team too, which requires an openness to receiving feedback (direct and indirect), as well as giving it with confidence too. They need excellent communication skills to build rapport, listen effectively and ask powerful questions as well as specific management skills from delegation and feedback to influencing and coaching. They also need the right mind-set that enables them to motivate, inspire, and empower every member of their team. It’s no mean feat.

The reality

Unfortunately, I’ve heard many managers complain that when they were promoted to the position, they were given a one day course on management and that was over ten years ago! Since then, they’ve had nothing until one of my courses, which is often booked as a stand-alone coaching, self-awareness or influencing course. It’s my passionate belief that if managers are trained in all of the skills mentioned above, over a period of time, there would be no stress to deal with in the first place.

Must-have management training

Businesses should be investing in their managers to give them the ability to be able to spot the symptoms of stress and learn how to prevent, reduce and deal with it. As a result of 13 years’ development, I have designed The Whole Programme, which is a blended learning approach to up-skill managers with the right people skills and soft skills, as well as the right mind-set to do their job successfully while creating a well-being culture within their teams and the wider organisation.

The programme takes delegates on a professional and personal journey to help them understand themselves and others on a profound level by challenging every aspect of who they are and why they do what they do; and in many cases, their very perception of the world. The result is that they can be their best selves, be equipped with the mind-set and skills to be able to communicate and influence others to bring the best out in their teams too. All of this is achieved while providing the key management skills they need to ensure that they can manage themselves, their team, clients and stakeholders effectively.

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