Seasoned leaders understand that stress can cause short-term productivity loss and, if left unaddressed, systemic efficiency and quality issues. It can also have a negative impact on both employee engagement and customer loyalty. To be effective, they must understand employee well-being triggers and monitor them as closely as they would any quantitative financial metric.
Change factors, specifically those that impact daily work, are among the biggest employee stressors. These include:
- Changes to Vision/Strategy: When leaders waffle on the company’s vision it sends a message of uncertainly to employees. When they make a series of unplanned alterations to operational strategy it conveys a lack of competence. While the pace of business is faster than ever before, there is a big difference between making nimble adjustments to counter an uncontrollable external force and completely abandoning your long-term strategy in reaction to blip in the market. Leaders should consistently communication the “why” behind their vision and the “what” of their strategy and have a solid rationale for any deviation.
- Adjustments to Scope: Employees expect strategy to be translated into key projects and goals. Nothing is more stressful than having the scope of your project or key aspects of your work changed without reason. It’s understandable that internal or external customers may revised their needs and employees should be accommodating, but it’s critical that leaders explain why changes to scope were made and then ensure that goals and incentives are realigned to ensure employees are appropriately rewarded.
- Time / Deadline Crunches: Having the goalposts moved mid game is incredibly stressful. Once a time frame for a deliverable has been set leaders should honor that agreement. Again, sometimes flexibility is needed to meet a key customer demand, but this should be an exception. If timelines must be accelerated, leaders should ensure employees have the tools, talent, and resources to meet the new challenge.
All jobs can be stressful. The trick to reducing its impact can be found in clarity of focus, consistency of approach, and transparency in communication. Leaders who are known to operate with these high-performance behaviors earn the loyalty of their employees…a critical asset when times actually call for rapid transitions.
Before taking or leaving a job, consider how well your manager leads in times of stability and in times of change.
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