Managers have long since had a significant impact on employee well-being and engagement with work. Some are natural born leaders who know and understand their teams and magically seem to get the best out of them. Others operate in high-stress environments and a maelstrom of chaos in the team.
Yet workplace stress and depression figures are through the roof. Back in 2009, the World Health Organisation predicted that by 2020 depression would be the second most important cause of disability in the world. By 2017, it was already the no.1 cause of disability in the world.
Stress at work that leads to long-term absence, has more than doubled since the 1990s, with an estimated 500,000 suffering from work-related stress in the UK. The chances are that someone in your office is struggling with a mental health issue right now.
Trouble is, dealing with those difficult conversations is not a skill that comes naturally to all of us and the ability of the line manager to handle it in a ‘soft’ way, isn’t something that can be learnt overnight. The bitc.org.uk ‘Engagement and Wellbeing’ report states that only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress and that managerial trust is falling, with only 40% of employees believing their bosses acted with integrity. It seems that more managers than not find it easier to ignore those difficult conversations and do nothing at all.
The good news is that there is a proven link between positive manager behaviour and booming business. Evidence shows that good workplaces have higher productivity, greater employee retention and improved customer satisfaction. Furthermore, a three-year study (Towers Watson 2010) showed that operating margins improved by 4% in organisations with high employee engagement. That’s a significant financial uplift and the onus is on managers to enable a cultural shift that stops sweeping employees’ problems under the office carpet and normalises caring behaviour in the workplace. Employees need to believe that coming to a line manager with a problem isn’t going to mean they’re up for the next round of redundancies or could lose their job.
Recognising the benefits from training to improve your ability to understand issues, proactively solve problems and motivate your team is one of the first steps to changing the culture in your workplace. Even if you’re uncomfortable with those potentially difficult conversations, you can change your outlook and adopt positive traits to make a significant impact on the stress levels of your team.
There are 15 managerial behaviours, identified by the CIPD that can directly impact on employees’ stress at work in a positive way.
- Be decisive… do what you say
- Avoid speaking about team members behind their backs
- Maintain a predictable and even mood
- Plan work to realistic and achievable deadlines
- Act positively on any constructive criticism given to you
- Avoid passing your stress onto employees
- Plan ahead to avoid placing short-term demands on employees
- Give more positive than negative feedback
- Be a problem solver rather than leaving problems for others
- Help your team gain better work-life balance
- Give clear direction and ensure employees understand their role in delivering outputs
- Be open to alternative paths
- Resolve issues rather than opting to keep the peace
- Address complaints of bullying
- Check in with employees to make sure they are ok
If you struggle with any of the above it may be that you’ll benefit from some specific management training to take your team more happily and productively through the year ahead. You could call in help from a company like Cordell Health, that is experienced in helping you help your workforce!