Leading Business Problem #5: Too Much Stress

In our latest eBook, we call out one of the leading business problems businesses face today: too much stress.

According to Harris Interactive, 83% of Americans are stressed to some degree at work. The American Institute of Stress reports 40% of workers feel their job is very or extremely stressful.

A small amount of "positive stress" can boost productivity. When expectations are placed on us to perform and produce, it gives us incentive. Working together to meet expectations helps strengthen relationships and produces results for everyone involved, including clients. But too much stress will weigh heavily on morale, reduce productivity, and create a culture high in turnover.

What exactly causes stress, you might wonder? A long list of things that leaders in particular need to be aware of. Here are just a few:

1. Excessive workloads – One person can only handle so much. If your employees feel overwhelmed by their workload, or if workloads are imbalanced, stress will result.

2. Fear-based cultures – In a fear-based culture, leaders threaten some form of punishment if expectations are not met. When employees are worried about being punished or reprimanded for under-performing, it can cause extreme levels of stress that lead to poor performance.

3. Micro-managing – Employees need a degree of autonomy and a sense of ownership over their own work if they're going to perform well. Being micromanaged is a sign of distrust on the leader's part, and stress levels rise when distrust is a component.

4. Lack of training – A lack of training in either task-related skills or communication skills will increase stress levels. Communication skills build relationships and are imperative for navigating employee needs, while task-related skills are needed to equip employees to meet the expectations of their role.

The Personal and Professional Effects of Stress

Stress has a domino effect on business results. Too much stress decreases productivity and increases absenteeism, leading to losses of time and money. A whopping loss of $200 billion annually, according to Highbeam Research.

When under stress, our brains are hijacked by the fight-or-flight survival response, sending us into a state of potential irritability, inability to focus, aggression, and even complacency or apathy—none of which are conducive to productivity or relationship building. When we experience stress and this hijack occurs, we're more likely to commit errors in our work.

Stress will also increase absenteeism through stress-related illness. Healthline lists the side effects of too much stress, including weakened immune systems, increased levels of depression, and a greater risk of heart attack. Definitely not something you want for the people you work with!

Too much stress impacts overall employee happiness and satisfaction levels. This also ties into another leading business problem we've identified: no purpose. If you believe your organization has a clear sense of purpose but employees are frequently bogged down by stress, morale will suffer, and the sense of purpose you thought your organization had will become irrelevant when faced with the reality of your culture.

Sick, absent, or unhappy teams are a symptom of a workplace culture in need of healing.

In our eBook, we recommend the following Fierce programs to mitigate stress and take your workplace culture from crappy to happy:

Fierce Delegate

1. Say goodbye to micromanaging – Effective delegation prevents managers and leaders from having to constantly look over employee shoulders by clarifying who owns what tasks and increasing personal accountability. When people know what tasks they own, it allows everyone to work more autonomously and alleviates stress for everyone involved.

2. Balanced workloads – Without proper delegation, leaders and even employees may not even know their workloads are imbalanced. Increase workload transparency and reduce stress with a method that will make the best use of everyone's time and energy, including leaders.

3. Promote self-driven growth – When delegation is done skillfully, it gives employees an opportunity to drive their own growth and discuss with their leaders in what areas they would like to grow. This then allows leaders to be proactive where they're needed most and delegate some of their own tasks to their team members who are ready for a new challenge. Stress is mitigated when new tasks are chosen, rather than dictated from the top.

Fierce Coach

1. Uncover personal truths – Effective coaching avoids dishing out advice and instead seeks to uncover individual truths that are absent of external influence. Only the individual really knows what they need to thrive. Learn how to place your employees and their personal needs front and center to reduce their stress levels and increase their self-driven productivity.

2. Devise solutions – When you coach successfully, two-way rather than one-way solutions are possible. This means teams and their leaders can work together to improve performance, prioritize, and meet collectively-decided upon goals without crumbling under the weight of stress.

3Alleviate pressure through self-generated insights – Effective coaching allows employees to determine how they feel and what they need to be successful, avoiding assumptions and instead revealing the reality of the situation. Apply a method that will allow individual employees to take their own reigns, build trust between leaders and teams, and alleviate top-down pressure.

Fierce Foundations

1. Establish a common language – Nothing alleviates stress more than when an understanding is reached. Establishing a common language through shared terminology and concepts facilitates more understanding and better communication between leaders and their teams, between team members, among leaders, and across departments.

2. Shift your context around currency – Your most valuable currency is not money—it's relationship. Knowing how to drive this concept home and apply it daily has the power to completely transform your culture and eliminate fear and stress from your workplace. Learn how to approach every conversation in a way that will strengthen these relationships that are critical to success.

3. Enlarge your perception filters – The way we see things and the way they are in reality are not always the same. We enter our workplace, our relationships, our lives with our own contexts, some of which create barriers between us and other people, creating stress and miscommunication. Discover not only why it's essential to enlarge our own filters, but also how we can do so during every interaction we have with the people in our lives.

If stress is an unresolved issue in your organization, it's one you can't afford. The health of both your workforce and your business are in jeopardy.

Leaders, it's time to step up and take action to address your frazzled culture. For more insights and ways to remedy the problem, download the 6 Leading Business Problems eBook here.

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