April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day. It’s interesting that this awareness day is around the same time as the deadline for filing taxes. But what’s even more important is the reason leaders and managers should care about stressed out followers. Leaders, managers, supervisors, vice presidents, CEO’s and everyone in a leadership position should care about stressed out followers because according to Eastern Kentucky University’s Online graphic, work related stress causes $300 Billion (that’s billion with a B!) in costs for health care and missed work days as a result of stress every year. That’s a major revenue leakage. Not only that, the study also indicated that businesses lose another $150 Billion (that’s billion with a B!) through stressed followers that come to work but have low productivity because they are stressed out. And when followers just can’t cope with being stressed in the workplace, they call out at a rate of one million per day at an average cost of $602 per employee. This should get every leader’s attention!
Followers can appreciate leaders more when your business, organization, department or whatever work unit you are responsible for has a strategic plan and direction that is shared with everyone on the team. When followers don’t know how they and the work they perform for your company fits within the overall company direction, they can feel disconnected and confused about their value on the team. They can also feel that their work doesn’t really matter because they don’t have a clear picture of the results the team is striving to produce. Work to increase clarity for everyone, and reduce the feelings of disconnection, confusion, and invalidation and see how that can increase the productivity of your team.
Treat your followers as individuals who make up a cohesive team. Leading a team, in some ways, is a lot like being a parent. There are not two individuals who are exactly alike in education, personality, or work style. Treating everyone who works on your team fairly is more important than treating everyone exactly the same. Appreciate those who follow you for the unique skills, talents, and abilities they bring to your team. Give praise in as many ways as you can, when and where praise is due. Your display of genuine gratitude will go a long way in reducing workplace stress and potentially reduce absenteeism on your team.
Be mindful of your followers workloads. As a leader, your plate is probably overflowing. But when you delegate to quickly, to the wrong people, or to the same person over and over again, followers may feel that they have to guess which task is most important to complete. Be realistic about how many projects you delegate. Carefully understand the complexity of the projects you delegate. Be specific and realistic about when you need to have first drafts and finished drafts of projects so that followers can appropriately adjust their workloads. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of who is responsible for which project and when you have asked for results. A spreadsheet overview can help you to see if deadlines are too close together leaving no time in between to do the actual work. Your appreciation and understanding of the time that it actually takes your followers to do their best work for you, will not only reduce stress, it will foster appreciation and help your followers to feel that they are valued members of your team.
Don’t eat lunch at your desk, and don’t allow your followers to do it either. Encourage your team members to take a break during the day and to leave their desks, and potentially the building. You be an example and lead the way. I’m not suggesting that you have to eat lunch together, although occasionally it would be a good idea to spend time with your followers outside of the office environment to get to know each other better, it’s a proven fact that taking a break from work helps the brain to refresh and rejuvenate for better performance. And 8 hour work day, plus a 1 hour lunch break, all sitting behind a desk puts stress on the body. A stressed out body won’t produce more or better work, but it’s more likely to produce a disengaged employee. If the culture of your organization is that everyone eats lunch at their desk, you should be aware of the research indicating that sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy and contributes to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other health concerns. Save your life and the lives of your followers. Start a new tradition in the office. Encourage everyone to leave their desks for lunch and take other walking breaks throughout the day.
As a leader you must care about followers being stressed out because you genuinely care about your followers. We spend a lot of time with our coworkers. Many times we spend more woke hours with coworkers than we spend with our families. Not genuinely caring about people you spend that much time around is stressful for you as the leader. It’s also stressful for followers to know that you don’t genuinely care about their success and well being. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people don’t care about what you say, they care about how you make them feel. We must be caring leaders. There are some stresses that you as the leader have no control over. Followers still have to do the work. However, leaders have a huge expanse where they do have control over the stress that can consume the workplace. Genuinely caring about your followers the right thing to do as a human being. It’s also the right thing to do for your company’s bottom line.
One way to reduce stress in the workplace is through leadership coaching. Are you ready to explore how leadership coaching can help you get the most from your team? Schedule a Discovery Session and let’s see how we can work together to get the results you want.
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Originally published at leadershipsituations.com