Do Not Do These: 5 Ways to Stress Out Your Staff

29 January 2016 -


With the latest CMI research showing managers are stressed and overworked, Insights looks at five things every manager should avoid to make sure their staff are kept at the top of their game

Jermaine Haughton

From the damaging long hours culture to poor executive leadership and direction, the CMI 2016 Quality of Working Life report has revealed a number of ways employees are being made to feel stressed in their jobs.

Here, Insights reveals five managerial no-nos that everyone should avoid if they are to keep blood pressures down and morale up.

Not involving your staff in change programmes

Too many management teams do not seek to engage their workforces when implementing a change programme, ignoring their feedback and removing them from the decision making process.

This often leads to organisational change that does not fit the purpose it is intended for and alienates team members who begin to lose trust in the abilities of senior leaders.

The Quality of Working Life report found that only 27% of managers have experienced increased productivity as a result of organisational change and as little as 36% of managers say that financial results have improved following the implementation of a change programme.

To avoid these failed attempts at improving the fortunes of a business, senior bosses must engage with staff at all levels of the organisation.

John Rawling, Sunderland City Council’s deputy director of human resources and organisational development, said: “Employee engagement and productivity is dependent upon employee wellbeing – which in turn is hugely influenced by employees’ experience of management and leadership, and the trust relationships they have with each other.”

Failing to recognise the importance of social skills

Survey respondents whose line managers exert a command-and-control style of leadership are found to experience much higher levels of stress in the workplace, with 28% saying they often feel stressed at work compared to just 7% for those respondents whose managers are empowering with their leadership.

It is clear that these strict, dictatorial managers need a change of focus to reduce their pressure levels.

CMI Companion Sir Professor Cary Cooper, one of the lead authors of the report, advised employers that employing and training managers to have the optimum soft skills to interact and manage staff is vital.

He said. “The more socially skilled managers we have, the more they will recognise when people have unmanageable workloads, unrealistic deadlines or are showing signs of stress and currently we don’t have enough of them.”

Forgetting the power behind a smile

One of the major takeaways from the CMI Quality of Working Life research was the finding that happier staff are more productive and efficient, a crucial factor in propelling teams and organisations to growth and profits. But how can employers makes this happen?

Among the six tips the CMI study advised on boosting the happiness of your workers in the workplace, researchers concluded that managers should have the freedom, trust and autonomy to make their own decisions about how they work, be supported by processes that are structured to enable role autonomy and collaboration, and recognise values-based behaviour by rewarding it accordingly.

Keeping the phone switched on

The Quality of Working Life study also found that managers are working longer hours than ever before, the technological advancements and workaholic culture have seemingly led to the ‘always on’ culture dominating UK offices.

The vast majority (77%) of managers work for at least one additional hour each day, adding up to an extra 29 days over the course of a year – leaving them stressed and overworked.

Managers surveyed for the study report a link between working longer hours and suffering from increased headaches, irritability and insomnia, early symptoms of mental health problems and potential burnout.

Therefore, employers must give all staff the opportunity to switch off from the goings-on in the office, by taking on measures such as restricting remote access.

Overlooking the importance of culture

With managers spending so much time working, their personal lives and wellbeing are being somewhat neglected. Faced with an onslaught of work, many managers may be winning the workforce but are failing in their relationships, family life and health-wise.

But ultimately, an unfit and unhealthy workforce leads to more absenteeism, and less productivity.

By keeping staff healthy and not driving them to overwork, employers will see an improvement in the quality of their working life, as well as a boost to business performance.

London-based tech recruitment company Loopdynamic has made improving the general fitness of its 30 employees a vital part of its mission.

Designed to fit the demands of each staff member, employees are encouraged to include gym time in their working day by giving them a 90 minute lunch break – instead of the customary hour.

“When they get back, you can really tell the difference,” HR and operations manager Katy Garnell said. “When they’re making their calls they’re energised, which increases their productivity. It shows in their stats and KPIs we track. You can clearly see the productivity levels go up after lunch.”

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