There are a lot of stressed out professionals in the workplace. And what leaders don’t realize is that much of the stress can be managed by learning to share the burden, becoming more transparent and having a support system. Yet most professionals suffer in silence.
When you don’t learn to manage stress, it can impact your health. In fact, an estimated 120,000 deaths a year are caused by workplace stress, based on research by Joel Goh of the Harvard Business School. Not only does it impact your health, stress can also impact your attitude and behavior in a negative way. Suddenly, people don’t want to be around you. They start avoiding you and stop sharing information. They may even start leaving the team and telling others about their bad experience.
Sarah is a great example of a stressed out manager. The company she works for is a rapidly growing digital marketing company. Due to an unexpected turnover in management, she was asked to step into a management role. Although she hesitated stepping up, she was a loyal employee and eventually agreed to take on the position.
Moving from single contributor to manager overnight, without any management training, Sarah found herself managing a group of young, inexperienced professionals. Because of her team’s inexperience, she reacted by not delegating many tasks because she wasn’t confident with the capabilities of her employees. The more she didn’t delegate, the more stress and burden she put on herself. Soon, she was working 60 plus hours a week, and she found herself saying things that were negative. Her body language became defensive.
On top of working long hours, Sarah had her own self-limiting beliefs. Remember she hesitated to take the management position? She accepted the position believing that she only got the job because of a short-term need. Her belief was that she wasn’t the best candidate, but the only candidate.
What I quickly realized was that Sarah wasn’t getting the support she needed from upper management. She had no idea how management was measuring her performance, and she was getting no encouragement from her manager. She felt like she was alone on an island. This situation required a conversation amongst Sarah, myself and her manager to get clear on what her success factors were and how she was going to be measured. Once she had clarity of success and encouragement from her manager, her confidence rose, and her stress decreased. No longer was she trying to guess what success looked like.
Using a 360 assessment, it was clear to Sarah that people perceived her as angry and negative. As a coach, I challenged her to reflect and analyze on what was triggering the behavior and what things she controlled that were causing her stress. The assessment also provided her with feedback that she was micromanaging her employees, and they didn’t feel trusted. Ultimately, she came to the conclusion it was her heavy workload that was causing her stress. She realized she needed to find a way to reduce her workload and not micromanage her employees.
Learning to delegate was her first step to decreasing her stress. She asked herself these questions:
- As a manager, what tasks am I doing that I was doing before my promotion?
- If I had the ideal team with the right skills, what tasks would I delegate to a team member?
- What team members have the capacity to learn how to do these tasks?
- How can a pass my knowledge along to others to prepare them for these tasks?
And finally, Sarah was also a very private person. She would never let her guard down and didn’t have any friends at work. No one really knew the “real” Sarah. This can be a very lonely place and can cause stress. When you have someone at work you can trust with your concerns, stress becomes more manageable. And in Sarah’s case, I became that person while coaching her. During our conversations, we explored how she could put herself in situations where she could open up, be more transparent and vulnerable. Soon she was making progress and developing some relationships with her new peers who could provide mentoring and support to her.
When Sarah combined effective delegation with being transparent and vulnerable to her peers, she rediscovered herself. And with increased communication and support from her manager, Sarah had the direction and encouragement she needed to be successful.