In today’s workplaces, stress is an inevitable factor. Well, it was always there I guess but we seem to be talking about it more and more. And that can only be a good thing. But as a manager, how do you best deal with stressed team members?
If you’re a leader, it’s crucial to spot employees with stress and respond to the signs of stress among your staff. How you handle this can significantly impact their well-being, productivity, and overall team dynamics.
So, here are some essential do’s and don’ts to guide you through these challenging situations.
1. Listen actively
The first step in supporting stressed team members is to listen actively. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable expressing their concerns and frustrations. Sometimes, all someone needs is a sympathetic ear.
Where this used to be a closed office or private space, this ‘safe space’ should be part of your team or company culture. Try and make it ever-present. More and more young people entering the world of work are demanding this and I do see some positive change for the future.
2. Show empathy
Understand that stress affects individuals differently. Show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and validating their experiences. Let your stressed team members know that you care about their well-being.
Empathy is a skill that can be cultivated, so work on your self-awareness and make sure you have this as part of your skill set. It will serve you for life.
3. Encourage open communication
This is easier said than done. I still see workplaces where there is very little open and honest communication. But again, it is a skill that can developed, and it should be part of your work culture.
Foster an environment where open communication is encouraged. Make it clear that team members can express their concerns without fear of judgment. This can help identify the root causes of stress and find effective solutions.
Don’t be scared of this. In my experience, the solutions have often been simple fixes and things that have a positive impact on the whole team.
Be aware that the cause of some stress may come from someone’s personal life. But if it’s seeping into work life there may be easy solutions to support your stressed team member.
Find out more about how to talk about mental health at work.
4. Offer flexibility
Recognise that everyone has different working styles and needs. Offer flexibility in work arrangements where possible, such as flexible hours or remote work options. This can help alleviate some of the pressure on stressed team members.
Don’t panic – you’re not going to have the office run amok with no discipline. I’ve seen a whole culture shift occur when people have been offered the option to come in 15 minutes later to work. People will be more productive if they feel safe and supported.
5. Provide resources
Ensure that your team has access to resources for managing stress, such as counselling services, wellness programs, or workshops. Promote a culture that prioritises mental health, and makes resources easily accessible.
And don’t just give it lip service. Actively get involved in workshops yourself and lead by example. Ask your team members for their suggestions on what has worked for them or what they would be interested in.
6. Set realistic expectations
Be mindful of the workload and set realistic expectations. Overloading team members with tasks can contribute to stress. And everyone is different here. What you may think is easy to achieve others may not.
If they seem not to be able to cope, can you offer more support or training? Prioritise tasks, and if necessary, delegate responsibilities to balance the workload. Also, make sure to help your team avoid pre and post-holiday stress.
1. Ignore warning signs
Ignoring signs of stress in team members is a recipe for disaster. You have a duty of care not only as a leader but as an empathic human being too.
Foster a healthy community. Be attentive to changes in behaviour, performance, or attitude. Proactively address issues before they escalate. It will save you time and money in the long run.
Micromanaging can exacerbate stress levels. Trust your team members to fulfil their responsibilities and provide support when needed. Give them the autonomy to excel in their roles.
I’ve seen many companies lose valuable team members because they did not address the constant micromanaging of poor leaders.
3. Minimise their feelings
Avoid downplaying or minimising the feelings of stressed team members. We’re all different and cope in different ways, it’s what makes us human.
Even if the stressors seem trivial to you, they are significant to the individual experiencing them. Validate their emotions and offer support.
4. Neglect team bonding
Team bonding activities can contribute to a positive and supportive work environment. Neglecting these activities may hinder team cohesion, making it harder for stressed team members to find support among their colleagues.
You don’t have to organise big team days out. But a culture of relaxed breaks and small accessible activities in the day or week can make a big difference.
5. Delay action
Timely intervention is crucial when dealing with stressed team members. It won’t go away on its own. Delaying action may result in prolonged stress and decreased productivity. Address issues promptly and work together to find solutions.
Effectively managing stressed team members requires a delicate balance of empathy, communication, and proactive leadership. By implementing these do’s and avoiding the don’ts, you can create a workplace culture that promotes mental well-being and resilience, ultimately fostering a more productive and harmonious team.
Remember, a supportive leader can make all the difference in helping team members navigate workplace stress challenges. It will be great for business, great for you, and the wider community.