The best laid plans…On 21 Oct 2003 in Personnel Today No matter how much effort you put into ensuring that jobs are well-plannedand designed, the significant spanners that are poor line managers can wreckeverything. So how do you go about minimising their impact? Scott Beagrieoffers practical tips for HR to ensure job responsibilities are clearlycommunicated down the lineStress in the workplace cannot be cured overnight. Its cause is oftendeep-rooted and the triggers are often hard to predict and identify. HR’s mainhope of dealing with it, and the destructive effect it has on the workplace, isto put in place a robust stress management infrastructure that incorporatesmeasures aimed at treating both the symptoms and root causes of the problem. For such a strategy to be successful, HR needs to ensure that key personnel,such as line managers, take their share of responsibility for tackling it.However, there is an inherent problem: poor line management is one of thebiggest causes of employee stress, whether through neglect of an individual, orthrough general poor communications with their teams. In Personnel Today’s 2003 report, UK Line Managers: Are they good enough?,67 per cent of HR professionals interviewed said that technical skills areconsidered more important than managerial skills within their organisations,and 40 per cent said that people management skills are not a major factor whenrecruiting line managers. Although it might feel as if you are on your own when it comes to puttingtogether a strategy, much of it is a reassuring return to HR basics, as can beseen from the practical steps outlined below. Set your stress indicators Introduce mechanisms for identifying stress, such as a stress audit, whichwill also highlight why it’s occurring in the first place. Exit interviews andmonitoring sickness absence are also invaluable, as they provide a reason forbroaching the subject with an individual, as well as creating a confidentialforum for discussing their problems. Results from employee surveys or regularchats with line managers (formal or casual) can also back up other data, andhelp pinpoint frontline problems. Design your strategy This can be broken down into several components: Job descriptions and job design Evaluate all job designs and job descriptions and ensure they areup-to-date, accurate and realistic – a major cause of stress is placingunreasonable or unrealistic demands on an employee. If rationalisation has occurred and resources have been cut, it may be thatan employee is now doing the job of one-and-a-half people, and no-one hasnoticed. Make sure staff are clear on their chain of command, and where their ownjurisdiction begins and ends. Job evaluation Establishing the relative worth and ‘size’ of jobs so that they can begraded within an organisation for the purposes of pay and reward is seen as areliable and unbiased way of setting pay scales. Being able to demonstrate thatthe process is transparent should eliminate disillusionment among staff –another agent of stress. Personal development plans Make full use of these as potential stressbusters. Next to the exit interview(when it’s too late for the employee anyway), it’s one of the few opportunitiesfor a no-holds barred discussion with an employee. Excessive work demands and continual deadlines are a major stress factor, sosetting attainable personal objectives should form the backbone of theexercise, and serve to make the employee feel encouraged about the year ahead. Improve communications If line managers are poor communicators, it is down to HR to improve theirskills through training. Encourage a consultative and communicative culturethroughout the organisation – staff who are kept in the dark, or go unheard,will inevitably feel undervalued, resulting in poor self-esteem. Introduceregular staff meetings and one-to-ones to give them feedback, and exploit the companyintranet to keep the workforce up-to-date. Appraise your company culture Are all your employees valued and given the support and training they needto do their jobs? The absence of a blame culture, combined with sharedownership of decisions and risks, will prevent them from feeling vulnerablewhen they slip up or when something goes wrong. Consider flexible working options Flexible working, or permitting certain individuals to work from home onagreed days, could be the difference between losing a stressed-out employeealtogether, or gaining an enhanced performance for two days of the week. Professional workplace support Introduce a mental health workplace policy which encompasses concerns suchas support, counselling, returning to work and substance abuse. Make staffaware of the policy, and that independent professional help is available tothem. Failure to do this could result in legal proceedings from thestress-affected employees – especially if related to workplace bullying orharassment. The existence of guidelines, backed up by a network of professionalservices, will help to prevent situations from getting out of hand. The role of management Line managers and senior managers both have a significant role to play, andHR needs to ensure any stress management strategy has their backing and thatthey appreciate where they fit in. Every policy and procedure put in place –from job descriptions to provision of professional counselling – must be seenthrough by the line manager. If their people management skills are deficient,remedial action must be taken. Performance development and coaching werehighlighted as problem areas for line managers in the UK Line Managers survey,and it is HR’s duty to confront their shortcomings. On the strength of this, there is also a compelling argument for sending allline managers on a stress management course. Impress upon senior management theimportance of communicating organisational change and the reasons for it. Anykind of reorganisation or restructuring breeds all kinds of insecurities, andworkers will operate on the basis of rumour if they don’t have the facts. Lead by example If you appear stressed and continually harassed, you are no good to thecompany. Make sure that your own work-life balance is in check and that yougive the impression of being on top of your job at all times. As a great dealof your time may be spent sorting out other people’s stress problems, it is agood idea to create your own social support system based on friends, family andmentors. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.