How Middle Managers Create Stress

In essence,​ the​ reason that they create stress for others is​ that they do not manage well. For all those working in​ the​ operational,​ functional areas of​ the​ organisation,​ most of​ the​ workplace stress is​ created by the​ team leaders,​ supervisors,​ and middle managers.

The ways in​ which managers create this stress are endless,​ but here are some of​ the​ most common ways.
Being Inadequately Trained. the​ underlying reason why middle managers are stress-carriers is​ that they are not trained to​ be effective managers. Even though management training and development is​ universally agreed to​ be essential,​ more than 80% of​ those managing in​ today’s organisations have received no more than 5 days management training. it​ is​ tempting to​ believe that this statistic is​ biased because of​ the​ shortcomings of​ older managers,​ but this is​ not the​ case. the​ majority of​ younger managers have received no more. Little wonder that the​ majority of​ managers don’t know how to​ manage effectively. the​ result is​ that the​ manager behaves in​ ways which are inherently flawed and therefore highly likely to​ cause stress levels to​ rise in​ those affected by their actions.

Implementing Operational Plans. the​ stress-carrying manager will: not be familiar with the​ corporate level strategies and objectives; implement local,​ operational plans without regard for the​ higher level objectives; not involve key individuals and teams in​ the​ planning process; not balance risks against desired outcomes; not build in​ an​ appropriate degree of​ flexibility into the​ plans; not ensure that individuals and teams are provided with the​ necessary training and resources; not monitor and adjust the​ plan on​ a​ regular basis. Will the​ plans be successful? No. Will stress levels rise? Yes.

Encouraging Innovation. Good managers encourage creativity and innovation,​ by: promoting a​ culture of​ continuous improvement; motivating individuals and teams to​ identify improvements to​ existing processes; responding positively to​ ideas from teams and individuals; discussing ways in​ which improvements or​ new methods could be implemented; promoting agreed changes to​ senior management; make sure that the​ originators of​ the​ changes are given recognition. Poor managers don’t do these things. as​ a​ result,​ dissatisfaction and resentment is​ fostered,​ and individuals and teams feel worthless. Will stress levels rise? Yes.

Managing Health and Safety Conditions. a​ major cause of​ workplace stress is​ the​ condition of​ the​ workplace in​ which people work. This can include issues such as​ temperature,​ safety levels,​ personal space,​ air quality,​ cleanliness,​ access to​ emergency exits,​ and so on. the​ conscientious manager,​ aware of​ the​ high priority that health and safety should be given,​ ensures that: they are aware of​ their personal responsibilities regarding health and safety in​ their areas of​ responsibility; the​ organisation’s health and safety policy is​ communicated clearly to​ all relevant employees; each individual is​ aware of​ and trained to​ carry out their individual health and safety responsibilities; systems are in​ place for identifying,​ reporting,​ and removing hazards; sufficient resources are allocated to​ the​ management of​ health and safety; an​ effective monitoring and review process is​ in​ place. When the​ manager does not take health and safety seriously,​ conditions deteriorate and become dangerous,​ the​ health of​ the​ employees will be damaged,​ and accidents occur. Stress levels will rise and,​ perversely,​ the​ risk of​ illness and accidents will rise in​ proportion,​ as​ individuals become less confident,​ more distracted,​ and potentially ill,​ due to​ the​ negative impact of​ the​ stress.

Managing Operational Processes. the​ core activity for middle managers is​ to​ manage the​ operational processes,​ the​ business processes. the​ stress-carrying manager does this ineffectively by: not adjusting the​ processes so that they deliver the​ desired outcomes; not ensuring that necessary resources are allocated to​ each part of​ the​ process; not providing sufficient information to​ individuals and teams carrying out the​ activities; not defining responsibilities; not implementing a​ monitoring and control system; not taking appropriate corrective action when the​ process is​ failing. For the​ teams and individuals carrying out the​ operational activity,​ the​ result is​ lack of​ information,​ unclear objectives,​ unclear roles and responsibilities,​ conflict and frustration. as​ a​ direct result of​ these effects,​ stress levels will rise.

Developing Positive Working Relationships. Effective managers will work hard and continuously to​ develop and maintain positive,​ productive relationships with their colleagues and with other stakeholders. This requires the​ manager to: identify colleagues and other stakeholders such as​ internal and external suppliers and customers; establish positive working relationships with relevant people; respect the​ knowledge,​ skills,​ roles,​ and responsibilities of​ other people; provide colleagues and stakeholders with the​ information that they need; consult colleagues and stakeholders to​ learn of​ their priorities and needs; behave ethically towards colleagues and stakeholders; monitor and review the​ condition of​ these relationships. Do stress-carrying managers behave in​ this way? No. Will their behaviour cause damage to​ these relationships? Yes.

Managing Change. the​ amount and the​ pace of​ change is​ often blamed for the​ increase in​ negative stress levels in​ the​ workplace. This perception clouds the​ real issue,​ that of​ managers not being able to​ implement or​ respond to​ changes,​ effectively. Change can be managed in​ a​ way that minimises disruption,​ avoids conflict,​ reduces resistance,​ and leads to​ the​ change being welcomed,​ at​ least by most. There are,​ of​ course,​ some radical changes which cause distress to​ some individuals,​ such as​ when redundancies are necessary. Such changes and the​ impact they have are outside the​ control of​ the​ middle manager. However,​ the​ manager should be applying an​ approach to​ change that will,​ in​ most other circumstances,​ make change a​ relatively stress-free experience. This approach entails: assessing the​ impact of​ the​ proposed change and preparing for that impact; informing all individuals and teams of​ impending changes and the​ reasons for them; making clear the​ objectives of​ the​ change; ensuring that changes made at​ the​ local level take into account local circumstances,​ whenever possible; making certain that individuals are clear about their roles and responsibilities in​ respect of​ the​ change; providing support to​ people as​ they go through the​ change process; keep people informed about the​ progress being made; encouraging discussion and debate about potential and current changes. Managers who don’t adopt this approach will find that change is​ a​ battlefield,​ there will be resistance and conflict,​ or​ at​ best there will be an​ unenthusiastic response to​ the​ change. the​ objectives of​ the​ change will not be achieved. in​ the​ process stress levels will have risen and will be difficult to​ lower.

Managing Personal Professional Development. Effective managers embrace the​ concept of​ continuous personal and professional development and practice it​ consistently and enthusiastically. They do this by: regularly forecasting the​ skills,​ knowledge,​ qualifications,​ they will need to​ continue to​ manage effectively and to​ progress in​ their careers; identifying ways to​ gain further knowledge,​ skills,​ qualifications; preparing and executing personal and professional development action plans; obtaining regular feedback on​ their performance from others; taking pride in​ their achievements in​ this area. Ineffective managers do none of​ these,​ or,​ at​ best,​ pay lip-service to​ organisational requirements by undertaking minimum or​ inappropriate development activity. They continue to​ be lacking in​ knowledge,​ unskilled in​ key areas of​ management,​ unaware of​ current best practices,​ and therefore continue to​ manage ineffectively. as​ a​ result,​ others continue to​ suffer from the​ stress caused by the​ manager’s actions.

There is​ no doubt that most workplace stress is​ caused by the​ managers. Managers are there,​ literally,​ to​ manage. Managers are given the​ responsibility of​ ensuring that the​ workplace around them is​ safe,​ healthy,​ organised,​ resourced,​ and achieving the​ set objectives. in​ support of​ this,​ the​ manager must maintain and continuously improve the​ levels of​ motivation,​ morale,​ quality standards,​ performance,​ and capabilities of​ individuals and teams. Managers who are not capable of​ managing in​ this way will cause problems,​ confusion,​ dissent,​ disagreement,​ conflict,​ disappointment,​ frustration,​ anger,​ higher levels of​ sickness absence and staff turnover. This in​ turn means that they will continue to​ generate workplace stress,​ and the​ individuals and teams that they manage will continue to​ suffer from the​ negative effects of​ that stress. the​ message is​ clear. to​ reduce workplace negative stress levels,​ it​ is​ necessary to​ have managers in​ place who are trained in​ management and who manage thoughtfully and competently. Yes,​ there will be times when increased stress is​ inevitable,​ but these periods should only be generated by the​ peaks and troughs of​ the​ activity of​ the​ organisation,​ not by the​ actions of​ an​ individual manager. Until managers know how to​ manage effectively,​ stress management will remain high on​ the​ agenda. Individuals will spend more and more effort and energy on​ coping mechanisms. the​ cost to​ the​ organisation will be higher levels of​ turnover and absence,​ and the​ cost of​ poor performance. the​ real problem,​ the​ cause of​ the​ stress,​ will remain.

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