At a local meeting of human resources professionals last month, I talked briefly about the links between workplace stress and employee disengagement. It is incredible when you realize that in the U.S., the combination of these two conditions costs companies nearly a TRILLION dollars annually. Yep, a trillion dollars annually. That’s lost productivity, sick days, employee turnover, and more.
I can absolutely think of places where I have worked that had both high levels of stress and disengaged employees marking time, just begging for the day to end. It’s oppressive to work in a culture like that. I remember dreading to go to in the morning. I remember having difficulty shaking off the negativity when I got home at night. And I remember the mingled feelings of relief and joy when I found a new job.
That’s no way to live. As a manager, there are things you can do, even in difficult cultures, to ensure that your employees are not just marking time until they find that next job. Three things employees will tell you that they need from you to help them engage are:
- Talk to me. Every employee, every person, wants to feel like they matter. Making sure they do is an important job for a manager. If I asked you right now, would you know the birthdays of your immediate reports? Their work anniversary dates? Would you know what they do at work that makes them fulfilled? What they do that they would really like to pass on to someone else? What they consider to be their strengths? Their weaknesses? Would you know if they are struggling with something, whether it is personal or professional? If you do, you learned most of that by talking to them. And I guarantee your employee knows you care.
- Motivate me. Yes, you can motivate employees. Sure, they need to develop and demonstrate self-motivation. I hope you know your employees well enough to recognize it that lags, because that is something you want to talk about. Aside from that, employees are also motivated externally. A few, and only a few, are motivated by money, or more specifically, by getting ROI. Others are motivated by having power, while some want the ability to serve others. Some people are absolutely motivated by their surroundings and having positive experiences. Then there are those who are lifelong learners and thrive on knowledge. Finally, there are those for whom structure, process, and systemization are what it is all about. If you talk to your employees enough (see #1), or observe the kind of environment they establish for themselves, you’ll see these different motivational values come into play.
- Make a plan with me. A key factor in workplace stress is job security. That means a lot more to employees than just knowing that they aren’t about to be fired. It also means knowing that they have a way to grow: skills, experience, and financially. As the manager, it’s your job work with your employees to develop their career path. This means knowing their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. And to do that, I refer you back to item #1.
I hope you caught onto the fact that connecting with your employees is about the best stress reliever there is. Connection to their manager, their co-workers, and yes, the company and its mission is key to bringing down stress levels and raising up levels of engagement.
Increasing employee engagement and reducing workplace stress are two ways we work with companies. We do that by building more self-aware leaders which in turn makes stronger leaders and managers. Does your company need some help?
Susanne Dalton Dupes is a training and communications specialist and co-founder of Ignite Succeed. You can Susanne by phone at 865-896-9665 or by email at Susanne@IgniteSucceed.com.