Stress in the Business World: the responsibility of management

30 Jan 2023

(Republished from an earlier article)
Today I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you a few things I’ve learned over the years. Here are some ways that a manager can help support their team to prevent and/or resolve stress within the business.

As a manager, you want an efficient and highly motivated team working for you. You want them to be happy in their job and excited to push themselves to new heights. Of course, every job has its slow days and mundane tasks, but in general, you want the team you manage to enjoy what they do.

I love what I do. I find it challenging sometimes, but I always enjoy seeing what new features we’re developing, speaking with new clients and solving their CRM requirements. I found the job I love and a team that are just as passionate as I am about it.

Even with a passionate and motivated team, though, there are challenges. Deadlines to meet and obligations to fulfil. Personal issues impacting performance.

As a manager, you can be heartless and say “this is having a negative impact on the business—sort it out!” But let’s be honest, that doesn’t help anyone. It just makes the person or team feel even worse about themselves, which then increases the pressure they are under.

So what can you, as a manager, do to help?

What is stress and how does it affect business?

Let’s start with the basics.

First, stress isn’t motivating. You don’t do better work “under stress” and “stress” doesn’t make you work harder.

Being under some pressure can be motivating. A deadline you have to push yourself to reach. A piece of work that you have to learn skills in order to complete. This is pressure and I firmly believe that a little pressure can be a good thing.

That’s not stress. Stress is:

 “That which arises when the pressure placed upon an individual exceeds the capacity of that individual to cope.” — Confederation of British Industry

It is:

“Stress is the body’s way of responding to excessive or too many pressures and when this becomes overwhelming stress occurs, as the body experiences the fight or flight or stress response. This means that stress is not good for you and is an unhealthy state of body or mind or both.” — The International Stress Management Association UK

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Pressure can help a person achieve more than they thought they could. Stress makes a person feel lousy and inhibits their ability to do their job.

To sum up: some Pressure can be good for business. Stress is bad for business.

Preventing stress in the workplace

So what can you do as a manager to prevent stress?

First off, you can conduct a risk assessment to see if the people in your business or department have a high risk of developing stress. Think of stress as any other health hazard and treat it with the same attention you would as lifting heavy objects or working at height.

This means ensuring your employees have a way to easily raise their concerns if they start to feel that pressure is becoming stress. It also means having regular meetings to talk about stress, workload and, business pressures.

There are loads of other suggestions for preventing stress in your business that you can read about here on the HSE website. But I have always found that communication around pressure, stress, and workload to be the most important.

If they feel confident and trust in raising concerns, your team will tell you when they are feeling overwhelmed.

The thing you have to remember is that this pressure doesn’t all originate from the workplace. Sometimes the starting point can be pressure at home. This pressure then builds and affects their ability to do their job. And if they feel comfortable telling you that things are tough at home, you can put measures in place to support them.

When stress happens anyway

Sometimes stress happens, regardless of support and assistance. So what can you do when someone begins to suffer from stress (some warning signs here)?

The first step is, of course, to encourage them to seek medical attention. Stress is a health concern and needs to be treated seriously.

The next step is to work with that person to identify which areas of the business (or personal life) are both causing the stress and being affected by it. This will help you identify what changes can be made to help them through this period.

I think that’s a really important thing to recognise…stress isn’t something a person should live with for large periods of time. It can be incredibly difficult, but with help and support, they will come out the other side.

But sending someone to the spa for a day won’t fix it. And giving them a subscription to a mindfulness app won’t either. These things may help for a day, but if you as a manager don’t put practices in place to support them through their recovery, they will just keep returning to that crisis point.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers, when I speak to someone who is struggling, I spend a lot of time researching best practices. And I think that’s really the takeaway here—you don’t have to have all the answers. You need to listen and act accordingly to support the person in the most appropriate way possible.