Maybe you're thinking that stress is simply an inescapable part of the entrepreneurial environment. It's even arguable that good entrepreneurs thrive on stress-the more stress they're under, the tougher they fight. "But you need to recognize that employees aren't entrepreneurs-they aren't as driven as you are," says Richard Hagberg, an organizational psychologist and president of Hagberg Consulting Group in Foster City, California. When stress is out of control, productivity tumbles, creativity sags and good employees take flight.
One way to combat stress in your workplace is to look around for glaring trouble spots. Then ask workers what bugs them, and listen hard. You won't be able to resolve every annoyance they point to, but odds are, you'll be able to lessen at least some of their tension.
Another stress buster-and morale booster-is to give employees more control over their workload and pace. It's easy to put too much on an employee's plate, but eventually stress will set in and performance will suffer. The antidote is to give your employees more control. Make it clear that when employees feel overloaded, you want them to speak up so you can find ways to lighten their burden. And if they do speak up, be grateful for their honesty-don't make them feel they can't pull their weight. Empower your employees to set limits on how many hours they'll work. Granted, there will be times that you'll need to ask workers to suck it up and put in extra hours. But on the whole, respect their desire to set boundaries.
A third step is to "create a compelling vision for the company and its future, and link current activities to achieving that vision," says Hagberg. "When people clearly see what they're striving for and how what they're doing today relates to that, they can live with a much higher level of stress for a longer period of time. When they feel they're on a mission, their ability to cope with stress increases." It's up to you to articulate a vision your employees will buy into.