This week's blog is a departure from the technical discussions regarding compliance issues. This week we share some tips on coping with stress and getting the most out of your new year's goal setting for your staff.
Helping Employees to Be Less Stressed
There are a number of reasons why employees can become stressed, including workload, lack of control over the process of decision making, inefficient time management, uncertain performance expectations, and a failure to take holidays or set clear boundaries between work and home.
Managers can assist their employees deal with stress in a number of ways. One of the most important things managers can do is simply to pay attention to staff members and see if they seem agitated, anxious or overwhelmed, and if there have been any changes in their overall behavior and demeanor. If an employee seems continually more stressed than normal, it is a good idea to have a chat and see how you may be able to help.
Employees may also need to be guided on understanding priorities and how to reassess their to-do lists, as well as available assistance and workable methods to get the job done. It is important that managers be willing to work side-by-side with staff members in order to complete vital tasks.
Be Flexible When Setting Goals with Employees
The goalposts don’t move in football, but goals at work can
change at any time. Because part of your job as a manager is to set goals for your employees, you know that flexibility is important. But at the same time, you shouldn’t move the goalposts without a good rationale. When considering whether to make adjustments, ask yourself these questions:
• Are goals set too far down the road? Many managers set yearly or semi-annual performance goals with employees. If you find yourself having to shift goals more often, you may need to review your process and set objectives on a more frequent schedule to avoid the confusion that can come with changing priorities.
• Does everyone understand your organization’s strategy? Goals should be clearly aligned with what your company wants to achieve. Before signing off, be sure they’re relevant and appropriate to your organization’s objectives, so you don’t have to change course unnecessarily.
• Are you writing goals effectively? Vague or unclear goals waste time and effort for everyone. One common framework for goals is the SMART test: They should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
• Is open communication encouraged? If employees are afraid to ask questions, they may accept goals that conflict with their knowledge of what’s possible. You shouldn’t impose goals on people without some input and feedback from them. That way, you’ll both be confident of the outcome.
• Maintain Your Credibility When Managing People
Being a manager means you can’t always worry about whether employees like you. Paradoxically, making tough—but necessary—decisions usually creates a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. Follow these guidelines:
• Set expectations and stick to them. You can’t afford to back away from what has to be done. Be sure the organization’s standards are realistic even if they’re challenging and resist the temptation to compromise in the face of resistance.
• Don’t pass the buck. Blaming unpopular decisions on other managers erodes your authority. Take responsibility for what has to be done, even if you don’t personally like it.
• Negotiate with caution. Flexibility is good, but don’t bend your standards out of shape. You may have to make trade-offs to get a certain project done, for example, but don’t lose sight of your organization’s objectives and values.
• Keep objectives in plain sight. Goals should be clear and immediate. If they’re vague or too long-term, even the best employees may look for loopholes or procrastinate instead of committing themselves fully.
• Establish and enforce consequences. Employees should know what will happen if they don’t meet your performance standards. More important, they need to believe you’ll carry through on those consequences. Don’t become a tyrant but don’t back down on issues that affect your organization’s reputation and bottom line.
Put these tips to work for you and see if you and your staff feel less stress at this stressful time of year.