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February 2016 Management Toolbox


Help Your Employees Manage Stress
Stress is incredibly common in the workplace. During your years of employment, you’ve probably found yourself in a great number of stressful situations and thus discovered effective ways to manage your response to them. Now that you’re part of the management team, one of your responsibilities to your employees is to help them find healthy ways to cope with their own job-related stress and anxieties.

The first step to helping someone deal with a high level of stress is to recognize there’s an issue. Some on-the-job stress is normal, but if you’re in tune with your employees, you can usually tell when they’re not acting like themselves. They may be irritable or panicky, or their productivity rate may decrease. Essentially, if you notice that something just isn’t right, that’s the time to intervene.

So, what can you do to intervene? You won’t always be able to decrease an employee’s workload – that is the reality of today’s business world. But you can take the individual aside, gently explain to him that you’ve noticed he hasn’t been acting like himself, encourage him to share his feelings with you and ask what you can do to help. The simple act of listening and being compassionate toward your employee can help him immensely. Even when there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done in a short period of time, workers tend to be happier and feel more relaxed if they know they are working for someone who cares about them and is rooting for their success.

Noticing when someone is stressed and talking to him about it is only part of your role as a leader. It is also your responsibility to demonstrate healthy behaviors in the workplace. Like it or not, you help to set the tone for employee behavior. Following are a few things you can do to model the way.

First, take time for yourself. Use your earned vacation days to spend a week with your family or friends. Unless an urgent matter arises, refrain from responding to emails or engaging in other job-related tasks after work hours are over for the day. Demonstrate to your employees that it’s important to disconnect, rest, reflect and recharge – and explicitly encourage them to do the same.

There are things you can do on the clock, too, like providing stress management training to employees on at least an annual basis. Even if training isn’t in your budget, an inexpensive way to help workers cope with stress is to openly talk about it. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room – acknowledge stress when you feel it, acknowledge it when you know others feel it and begin to dialogue about it in ways that let your employees know you’re all in this together, and that you’re all going to work together to help each other do the best, safest job possible.


5 Ways to Eliminate Workplace Negativity
There are an extraordinary number of optimists out there who don’t want to hear this, but a pessimistic outlook in the workplace can periodically be a great thing. A person who focuses on the worst possible outcome of a situation can bring to light verifiable hazards and other problems that a more optimistic employee may not have identified. And yet at a certain point, an employee who brings continuous negativity to work every day can sap a team’s energy, diminish morale and slow productivity. What can you do to make sure negativity doesn’t drag down your crew? Following are five points to consider.

1. Seek positivity when hiring. Next time you have an open spot to fill on your team, look for someone who can do the job and do it with optimism and enthusiasm. The right candidate will be realistic about problems, but he or she will maintain a positive attitude while digging into those problems to look for potential solutions and opportunities for change and improvement.

2. Communicate. Do you currently employ someone who brings negativity to your work environment? It’s possible they don’t know the effect they are having on their teammates and others, so take some time to confidentially and respectfully explain to the individual how his or her comments and behavior are being perceived. During your conversation, reiterate your expectation that employees bring a positive, can-do attitude to work with them each day.

3. Ask for solutions. People are quite skilled at pointing out errors and problematic situations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – sometimes we aren’t aware of an issue until someone mentions it. What isn’t helpful, however, is an employee who regularly points out problems yet brings no potential solutions to the table. As the leader of your team, continually emphasize that you want to hear about any issues workers are experiencing, but that you also expect them to brainstorm and share possible ways to resolve those issues.

4. Use peer pressure. A team is more apt to be successful when each member explicitly understands what is required of them. So, do an exceptional job of reinforcing positivity and direct communication as values within your team. Then, if a team member demonstrates negative behavior, it’s likely that other team members will approach that individual about his or her behavior, often without you having to be directly involved.

5. Look within. Do you praise employees for their accomplishments? Do you demonstrate trust in their skills and ability to get the job done safely and correctly? Do you give them the tools and other items necessary to complete their work? Are you honest and transparent about what is happening within the company? If your team seems bogged down by negativity, reflect on your actions and behaviors to ensure you’re not part of the problem.

Management Toolbox

Kate Wade

Kate Wade is the managing editor of Utility Fleet Professional and Incident Prevention magazines. She has been employed by Utility Business Media Inc. since 2008.