We’re much more aware of the effects of stress these days, with more light being shone on the mental and physical impact.
But while we’re aware of the outcomes of this mental strain, do you know what really causes stress in your organisation?
Job responsibilities, interpersonal relationships and pressure to meet targets all have their part to play, but new research from the CIPD shows that managers can be a serious root of this problem.
Let’s delve into the impact that management can really have on your colleagues…
Stress is Still Growing in UK Workplaces
Despite our increased awareness of the issues surrounding workplace stress, it’s still on the rise in the UK. While some companies are bringing in stress-busting initiatives, this isn’t indicative of an overall trend of stress reduction.
The signs that the workforce is stressed are apparent, with issues around presenteeism and leaveism rearing their head in the report. Feeling the need to come to work while ill, working on annual leave and lack of action from organisation heads has created quite the sticky situation for the UK workforce.
62% of respondents in the survey pointed the finger at heavy workloads from poor management as the cause of their stress-related absence. 43% of respondents also reported that management style was a contributor of this kind of leave from work.
So, what does that mean for those in the HR function? Well, if you have poor managers they may be costing you sick days and creating undue stress for their staff. Further down the line, this will increase staff turnover, burnout and cause a wide array of negative effects.
The top cause of long-term absence is mental ill health, which contributes to 23% of these kinds of absences. This is followed immediately by stress; this contributes to 20% of long-term absences at work. It’s clear to see that not tackling stress head on and ignoring mental ill health can cost an organisation dearly.
Tackling the Root of the Problem
A lack of awareness and knowledge among managers seems to be the root of this issue. While 50% of respondents in the survey stated that managers have been trained to manage stress, they seemed less than confident when putting this knowledge to use.
Just 18% of professionals reported that managers within their organisation were confident and competent in spotting early warning signs of mental in health. 30% stated that their managers were confident enough to have a sensitive discussion or signpost staff towards expert help. Finally, just 40% of organisations had invested in training managers to support staff through mental health issues.
This shows that even in the minority of organisations providing mental health training, many were not using this training to its full advantage. This may indicate that the training is intensive enough to actually impact the workplace; it may even indicate that this is more of an exercise in ticking a box rather than implementing real change. In either case, it appears that this training isn’t robust enough to equip managers with these tools on a wider scale.
Rachel Suff, Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD advises:
“Managers should be helping to alleviate stress among their staff, not contributing to it. But too many managers are being set up to fail because they haven’t received adequate training, despite them often being the first person employees will turn to when they have a problem.”
If you have these training or wellness schemes in place, then it’s time to assess whether they’re really making a difference to your colleagues. Mental health and stress management are nuanced subjects, so make sure your managers are secure in their knowledge to give them the power to discuss these.
If managers are equally stressed, then they may not be able to help employees manage their own stress. This is why changes must be enacted at each stage in the hierarchy to set an example to all direct reports throughout the organisation. Their managers must be ready to act on this, with training, regular reviews and reallocation of duties where required.
On the issue of presenteeism, there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce this at a management level. One of the easiest things to instil in your managers is to send employees home that are unwell. This sends a clear message to employees that if they are unwell, they shouldn’t be in the workplace. Remind managers that their own actions also set an example to their direct reports.
On a higher level, you can also ensure that policies are clear surrounding sick leave. Guide employees on the process of reporting themselves unwell and make this simple for them. Managers should also be trained on how to react to these messages; an emotional reaction from a manager could make an employee feel like they can’t take leave in future.
Without sick leave and holiday leave being used by employees, departments run the risk of severely burnt-out employees.
Giving Managers the Tools to Succeed
Traditionally, first-line managers come into their position through being successful at their job. While they may be diligent and skilled workers, they’re not always equipped to manage others in the same role. Even more experienced managers may have come to their position through a series of promotions, with no formal training.
As Rachel Suff stated, without this kind of training these managers are really being set up to fail. Concrete knowledge is key to tackling these issues and improving the productivity of the department.
Speaking on the ILM training on mental health and management, Karen Eagen, ILM Business Development Manager, stated:
“…equipping managers at every level with the skills they need to effectively support those for whom they have responsibility is commendable.
It represents a really positive change in the way we talk about and prepare for these issues.”
If you want your organisation to be viewed as a positive, modern workplace then it’s essential to develop great managers.
Through online learning, managers can shape their training around even the busiest of schedules. This is much more cost effective than traditional classroom learning and reduces the disruption to the business, while still providing the highest quality of training.
Managers are proven to have a massive impact on the employee experience, for better or for worse. Ensure that your managers have the support and training to create happy, productive employees within their department.