It seems that as the economy has been taking a hit of late, more of my clients are complaining of the undo stress they feel they are under at their jobs. In some cases these people used to love their jobs, believing in the mission of the work they do. In many cases they also got along well with their fellow co-workers feeling that the work that they did together was an important contribution to those they served. With all the down sizing of the larger companies and mergers and acquisitions there are many stressors that the employees feel. Some companies make it a policy to go through laying off employees on a regular basis. This creates a feeling of instability by employees who may even have a secure job, though never really believe that because one does not want to feel over confident while lay offs are happening throughout the company.
With the pulling in on the financials to bring ever greater profits to companies, many of the once counted on benefits are vanishing. Pensions have turned into 401K plans leaving many employees wondering what they will have for retirement unclear in how to invest on their own. Others, are seeing their health benefits getting more expensive as their pay is cut in real terms with a less than cost of living increase while their share of the premiums go up. Many are finding that they are receiving the same pay as the previous year with the real income given the decline in the dollar going down.
In some companies one unfair manager demonstrating favoritism for one person, while antagonizing others, will do more harm to your organization leading star performers to leave. This puts a further burden on the employees who have to take over the job responsibilities of the departed employee.
The end result of all this stress is unmotivated, depressed and anxious ridden employees who feel trapped in a job that they no longer enjoy, working for managers or employers they feel don’t give a damn about them any longer.
What can be done on the employer’s end of the deal to create a better work environment?
1. Understand that it would be ridiculous to believe that a person who is unsure of having a job tomorrow is going to be in the best frame of mind to be productive for you. Stop the conversations of layoffs before they come through and instead speak to the positive contributions that your employees are making to the wider organization.
2. If there is one employee who is particularly negative, undermining the moral of your organization, it would behoove you to take some constructive action toward getting that employee into a happier place. If that is not possible, best to hand over the pink slip.
3. If there is something that is going wrong on the production end of things, ask the employees what they need to make things operate more smoothly. They know the job and can give you great suggestions if asked (instead of told what to do).
4. If an employee is acting differently such as: isolating from a group s/he was once a part of, is overly emotional, or taking a lot longer to get things done then before, you have someone on your hands who is going through some sort of crisis either at work or at home. The quicker you get some help for that employee either through your employee assistance program or let them know that they are to get help for their problem, the better off your whole organization will be.
5. If your employees are not getting along, bring in a consultant to help to get them working together again. An outside voice can do wonders to bring a new way of communicating with one another while dealing with the underlying issues.
6. As the manager or employer, you will get much more respect and assistance from your employees if you are willing to do whatever it is that you are asking them to do.
7. If health issues are a particular problem in your work place a program that introduces wellness and health would be a good way to implement some useful changes bringing more energy and enthusiasm to your employees. These programs can deal with anything from smoking cessation, to eating healthier, working out regularly or learning how to better handle stress, the underlying culprit behind lost revenue.
Remember that your employees are people with feelings and needs, same as you. Treat them with the same respect that you would like to be treated. Employers who are understanding of the needs and concerns of their employees will find that the lost productivity due to lack of energy, being out ill or hurt or having a lack of moral losing interest in your company will be headed off. According to the World Health Organization American work places are losing $300 Billion due to stress. Wouldn’t you be happy to reclaim your business’s part of that money?
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