There is a scene in a major T.V. series set in corporate America where the main characters is siting in his office and starts feeling his face and running his tongue round his mouth against a loose tooth. He puts his fingers in his mouth and wiggles the tooth which immediately falls out. His tongue brushes against another loose tooth and that also falls out. The panic in his face increases as more teeth fall out. His desk top is soon covered in bloody teeth. He suddenly wakes up in sweat. The scene is away of conveying the constant pressure of his job and the effects of stress. If only stress was always that visible maybe it would generate more sympathy.
Prolonged pressure or stress is bad for our wellbeing and can led to physical and emotional exhaustion. Recent research findings the Resolution Foundation identified a sharp rise in the proportion of the work force who say their work is always or often stressful. Describing themselves as,” used up” by the end of the working day.
The role of a manager is therefore to manage other people’s stress but all too often they are responsible for increasing stress it. A manager should absorb stress not pass it on to their team. In many organisations pressure from the top to improve performance is passed down the line in the form of over ambitious targets, unrealistic expectations, a long hours culture, lack of job security, anxiety and insufficient resources to do the job properly. This is then compounded by an aggressive absence management policy-3 strokes and you’re out. Such an organisation encourages a demanding management style that can easily become bullying.
These types of organisations often have a culture of encouraging internal competition. The new interns are told that only two of them will be offered permeant posts so they must impress with their commitment, dedication, and performance. This type of approach encourages individuals to focus on their responsibilities and their performance rather than the teams.
One of the indicators of work place stress is the inability to turn off or stop thinking of work outside of work. This has become more difficult as technology has removed the traditional boundaries between work and home. People can work anywhere at any time. Where as this can be an advantage to those who control their work it can be an added pressure to those who are at the beck and call of their manager 24/7.
Organisations can reduce the risk of work place exhaustion by helping managers to understand the difference between motivational pressure and disabling stress. They can encourage team work by taking collective responsibility for performance and helping each other out, especially when an individual is under pressure. Organisation need to introduce good practise guidance such as managers should not send emails or expect to get responses from emails when employees are not,”at work”. On a positive note some recent research by the London School of Economics has shown that hybrid working from home can make a significant difference in how people feel about work.