How Leaders Cause Stress

How Leaders Cause Stress



For the​ leaders of​ organisation there are two levels at​ which workplace stress must be addressed. Firstly at​ corporate,​ strategic level,​ where a​ degree of​ stress is​ inevitable,​ given the​ pace and frequency of​ change that businesses of​ all kinds are experiencing today. Political,​ economic,​ environmental,​ social,​ and technological changes combine to​ make it​ essential that the​ organisation is​ equipped to​ respond to​ or,​ better,​ to​ forecast and prepare for change. the​ need to​ manage change successfully adds to​ the​ complexities and pressures facing the​ leaders of​ the​ organisation. Secondly,​ at​ the​ operational levels stress which affects the​ managers and operational staff can be caused by many factors,​ not least the​ behaviour of​ the​ operational managers themselves.

However,​ the​ leaders of​ the​ organisation are responsible for the​ way in​ which the​ organisation responds to​ the​ threat of​ negative stress,​ at​ both strategic and operational levels. in​ fact,​ it​ is​ often the​ behaviour,​ the​ actions,​ the​ style of​ the​ leader(s) that causes the​ stress. Some of​ the​ most common areas in​ which the​ negative behaviour of​ the​ leader(s) can cause stress are described below.

Successful leaders ensure that their organisations are appropriately resourced. the​ needs of​ the​ organisation’s strategic objectives are assessed and funds are allocated and activity planned to​ deliver the​ necessary resources as​ and when required. Human resources,​ physical resources,​ technological resources,​ funds,​ systems,​ should all be in​ place or​ planned for. a​ monitoring and control process should be in​ place to​ respond to​ the​ need for changes to​ the​ plans. if​ these processed are not followed,​ then wherever the​ plans reach a​ point where the​ necessary resources are missing,​ or​ incomplete,​ the​ stress levels of​ managers and their teams will rise,​ as​ they attempt to​ achieve the​ set objectives with inadequate resources. as​ in​ most situations where the​ actions of​ the​ leader(s) have lead to​ problems or​ difficulties,​ it​ is​ the​ operational level people who are the​ first to​ suffer. However,​ ultimately it​ is​ the​ organisation that is​ damaged,​ through the​ direct repercussions of​ the​ initial mistakes causing problems in​ areas such as​ sales or​ customer satisfaction,​ and then again from the​ problems caused by the​ increase in​ negative stress levels.

In any organisation one of​ the​ most common sources of​ conflict,​ dispute,​ and ensuing personal distress,​ are the​ related issues of​ equality of​ opportunity,​ diversity,​ and discrimination. the​ leader(s) of​ the​ organisation must ensure that the​ culture of​ the​ organisation and the​ actions of​ individuals supports equality of​ opportunity and diversity and prevents discrimination of​ any kind. Effective leaders do this by: making equality,​ diversity,​ and prevention of​ discrimination an​ essential,​ high profile element of​ the​ organisation’s strategies and objectives; ensuring that all staff are familiar with the​ organisation’s policies in​ this area and that they understand their personal responsibilities in​ complying with the​ policy; ensuring that the​ organisational structure and processes are receptive to​ the​ different needs and abilities of​ a​ diverse workforce; implementing a​ rigorous monitoring and control process to​ identify and deal with any breaches of​ the​ policies; dealing ruthlessly with any employee,​ of​ any status,​ should they act in​ an​ unfair of​ discriminatory manner. Leaders who do not give strong,​ visible,​ leadership in​ these areas will be risking considerable damage being done. Without strong leadership there is​ a​ grave danger of​ discrimination and unfairness happening,​ not just at​ operational levels but also at​ the​ executive level. Managers behaving unfairly or​ in​ a​ discriminatory way,​ or​ not dealing with such behaviour in​ others,​ are the​ cause of​ considerable negative stress. the​ repercussions of​ these unacceptable actions can include personal distress,​ the​ break-up of​ teams,​ the​ collapse of​ projects,​ internal disciplinary action,​ industrial tribunals or​ civil court action,​ and leave a​ climate of​ hostility,​ blame,​ conflict,​ and unhappiness. the​ impact in​ terms of​ negative stress being generated is​ enormous. Effective leaders prevent such disastrous repercussions,​ by ensuring that promote,​ support,​ and insist on​ fairness and equality towards all.

One of​ the​ key responsibilities of​ the​ leaders of​ organisations,​ indeed in​ some cases a​ legal requirement in​ itself,​ is​ to​ ensure that the​ organisation complies with relevant legislation and regulations. Effective leaders do this by: monitoring the​ legal and regulatory environment to​ identify where the​ organisation must comply; developing,​ implementing and maintaining effective policies and procedures to​ ensure that the​ organisation meets all legal and regulatory requirements; making certain that relevant people are aware of​ the​ policies and procedures and their responsibilities in​ maintaining them; implementing a​ monitoring,​ control,​ and corrective action system to​ maintain compliance; providing appropriate resources for operational managers to​ carry out the​ policies effectively. Leaders who do not take this responsibility seriously will create opportunities for inadvertent and deliberate non-compliance. the​ pressures caused by this flawed approach will be felt most by individual operational managers. it​ is​ these managers who will be faced with the​ repercussions of​ non-compliance,​ particularly in​ areas such as​ health and safety,​ recruitment and selection,​ accounting and finance,​ equal opportunities and discrimination. For these managers,​ and by default the​ operational staff,​ one of​ the​ results will be increased negative stress levels.

The most visible role of​ the​ leader(s) is,​ by default,​ to​ lead the​ organisation into the​ future. This means planning and managing desired changes,​ whilst also responding to​ external forces of​ change. the​ manner in​ which the​ leader approaches this can influence the​ response to​ the​ changes by the​ organisation’s managers and employees,​ which in​ turn affects the​ levels of​ stress caused by the​ changes. Ways in​ which to​ lead change successfully are well documented. to​ lead change in​ a​ manner that will lead to​ negative stress being generated would need the​ leader(s) to: not communicate their vision of​ the​ future (or worse,​ not to​ have a​ vision); to​ actively of​ passively discourage consultation and participation in​ the​ change planning process; not give individuals clear information on​ their roles and responsibilities in​ implementing changes; denying individuals the​ influence and authority they need to​ successfully implement and manage change in​ their area; set objectives which are unachievable; make no effort to​ provide resources and support for the​ removal of​ barriers to​ change; not provide information on​ the​ progress of​ change activity; not to​ reward successful change implementation. the​ result of​ such negative behaviour would be to​ create delays,​ misunderstanding,​ tension,​ uncertainty,​ and conflicts,​ and would seriously damage the​ chances of​ the​ change being implemented successfully. the​ change process raise the​ negative stress levels of​ those implementing,​ or​ directly affected by the​ change. Unsuccessful change would inevitably have other negative impacts on​ the​ organisation,​ which in​ turn would potentially cause more stress.

Effective leaders cultivate and develop a​ culture that is​ positive,​ ethical,​ and value driven,​ in​ order to​ support the​ organisation’s strategies. the​ personal actions and behaviour of​ the​ leader(s) and the​ management of​ the​ organisation should reinforce this. Agreed values are communicated across the​ organisation and people are encouraged to​ pursue these cultural objectives as​ rigorously as​ the​ operational objectives. the​ condition of​ the​ organisation’s culture is​ monitored and corrected as​ required to​ maintain the​ set values. Poor leaders do not view developing a​ positive culture as​ important,​ pursuing instead only the​ profit-related objectives. Under such leadership the​ organisation will deteriorate,​ and managers and staff will have no guidance as​ to​ how to​ behave professionally and ethically. One by product of​ this will be that unethical practices will flourish and levels of​ trust and openness will diminish. Conflict and disagreement will grow. in​ such a​ climate it​ is​ inevitable that an​ increase in​ negative stress will occur,​ as​ motivation and morale levels fall.

The role of​ the​ leader is,​ of​ course,​ to​ lead,​ but to​ lead in​ a​ way which represents the​ values and mission of​ the​ organisation. in​ areas such as​ ethics,​ equality of​ opportunity,​ non-discrimination,​ fairness and openness,​ the​ leader(s) must also take on​ the​ mantle of​ acting as​ a​ role model for others in​ the​ organisation. Positive leaders will ensure that managers throughout the​ organisation are properly trained in​ management skills and undertake continuous development,​ that innovation and creativity is​ encouraged. Strong leaders will ensure that managers or​ staff who behave inappropriately in​ contradiction of​ the​ values of​ the​ organisation will be removed. Leaders who do not lead in​ these ways will confuse and dismay others in​ the​ organisation. Without strong,​ value driven leadership,​ the​ organisation is​ as​ a​ ship without a​ captain,​ drifting at​ sea,​ at​ the​ mercy of​ the​ winds and the​ tides. the​ chances of​ the​ organisation not running into difficulties will be slim. in​ such an​ organisation stress levels will rise and the​ ensuing damage will add to​ the​ organisation’s difficulties.

It is​ clear that the​ leader(s) of​ organisations have enormous influence on​ the​ culture,​ the​ values,​ the​ behaviour,​ of​ individuals,​ teams,​ managers,​ and the​ corporate body itself. it​ is​ also the​ case that poor or​ inappropriate leadership behaviour will damage the​ organisation. Until now this has not been linked to​ the​ amount of​ negative stress that is​ generated within an​ organisation. But it​ is​ equally clear that poor,​ unfocused,​ unethical,​ or​ weak leadership will cause serious damage to​ the​ organisation,​ both directly in​ terms of​ the​ consequences of​ poor decision making,​ or​ indirectly due to​ the​ repercussions of​ increases in​ negative stress levels in​ individuals within the​ organisation. it​ is​ no longer sufficient to​ assess the​ success of​ a​ leader by evaluating visible success factors only. the​ effect on​ stress levels,​ caused by the​ style of​ leadership and the​ actions of​ the​ leader,​ should also be taken into consideration. the​ behaviour and actions of​ an​ effective leader will reduce stress levels and generate a​ positive,​ productive,​ healthy workplace. the​ behaviour and actions of​ a​ poor leader will do the​ opposite and increase negative stress levels and create an​ unhealthy and unproductive workplace. Those with responsibility for the​ success of​ the​ organisation must ensure that the​ leader is​ one that produces a​ positive,​ healthy,​ productive organisation. Without such a​ leader the​ organisation will fail to​ achieve its objectives,​ decline,​ and die.




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