As a manager you need to get the best from your people. Push a machine too far and it breaks down and it doesn’t care about the consequences. People, keen to hold onto their jobs and livelihoods, are likely to put up with too much for too long before cracking. Many organisations are managing with fewer staff following the financial crisis and the word “on the street” is that everyone is now asked to do too much. This represents a dilemma for managers. The data below gives a snapshot of what’s happening in the UK.
This is taken from the Health and Safety Executive’s web site at the link above. Work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands place on them at work.The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey  (LFS) show:
- The total number of cases of stress in 2011/12 was 428 000 (40%) out of a total of 1 073 000 for all work-related illnesses
- The estimated cases of work-related stress, both total and new cases, have remained broadly flat over the past decade.
- The industries that reported the highest rates of total cases of work-related stress (three-year average) were human health and social work, education and public administration and defence
- The occupations that reported the highest rates of total cases of work-related stress (three-year average) were health professionals (in particular nurses), teaching and educational professionals, and caring personal services (in particular welfare and housing associate professionals)
- The main work activities attributed by respondents as causing their work-related stress, or making it worse, was work pressure, lack of managerial support and work-related violence and bullying.
Leaving industry and sector specific issues to one side, the two questions you need to ask as a manager are quite simply, “am I asking too much from my people?” and “am I providing the right level of management support?”.
If you are asking too much of people this is likely to be down to one of the following failures:
- Poor organisation and ineffective job design.
- Faulty communications – staff assume too much and over complicate the work.
- Inadequate training.
- Inaccurate assessments of people’s capabilities.
- Poor planning and control leading to too many objectives and either too much measurement or insufficient measurement of results.
The right level of management support would be evidenced by:
- Staff feeling comfortable about communicating with you especially about “bad” news.
- People having the resources they need to do a first class job.
- Staff getting good feedback about the outcomes of their work.
- High morale.
- Good results and outcomes from the work itself.
These are challenging times for all organisations and the managers who run them. Asking too much of staff, however, is just not going to pay off. What conclusions do you reach from the two central questions above? Ultimately, taking care of your people will make your management role all the easier. You may feel that you are being asked to do too much and that that pressure simply gets pushed onto your staff. If so see managing the boss
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