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Occupational Health Blog.

What do I do when it’s the Managers who are causing employees to feel stressed?

Such an interesting question…..
I was asked for advice the other day the other day by a HR manager trying to tackle the ever growing stress issues within the organisation. The employees were complaining that the managers were causing stress by increasing work pressures and the managers were complaining saying that their teams just weren’t delivering the latest programme of change.
She wanted to use the stress risk assessment approach, but was worried that this would be the spark which would inflame everyone’s tempers. How could managers sit down with employees and go through a stress risk assessment process when both felt the other was the source of their stress?
Don’t let this stop you.
If the situation is this bad and escalating every day, something has to be done. The stress risk assessment is designed to look at the job and what it is about the job which causes any employee to feel that they are under pressure and feeling stress. If you can’t use it as a one to one tool, think about using the stress risk assessment as an anonymous questionnaire so you can still gather the information from both employees and managers. If the HSE stress risk assessment is too long, look at my shortened example. www.theohbusiness.co.uk
Evaluate the results.
Assemble a small team from employees, union and management to help evaluate the questionnaires and pull out the main themes. Discuss what potential next steps there could be to test engagement. Feedback the results to senior management and put forward options to tackle the 3 main issues which are likely to have been highlighted. These may include employees feeling worried about increasing workloads and loss of work life balance and managers feeling that constantly trying to drive change and improved productivity forward, is taking its toll on their health and wellbeing.
Possible actions for improvement
It is likely that some kind of training programme will be of benefit and this should always start at the top. If managers learn different and alternative ways of dealing with stress in themselves and recognising it in others, this is likely to improve their overall people management skills and reduce employee stress. Neuro linguistic programming training for managers is effective as it offers the opportunity to learn a variety of powerful techniques and practical skills for making changes in individual and other’s behaviour.
Weaving the stress risk assessment approach through an organisation in team meetings appraisals and at every opportunity, will reduce the sensitivity of difficult issues within an organisation. Issues will be picked up very early and employees will feel that they are heard when they start to feel under pressure. This can start gradually and lead to a more open culture in the long term.
Lastly, introducing a wellbeing strategy will encourage all employees to take responsibility for improving their own health and will benefit the organisation overall.

Jean Fisher is founder and Director of The Occupational Health Business Ltd offering Consultancy services to improve health at work in Wales.