The Huffington Post published an interesting article on employee engagement, and specifically as stress relates to disengagement, thus affecting an organization’s success.
According to the article, nearly 60% of employees experiencing high levels of stress are disengaged. As a leader, you know that if you have 60% of disengaged team members on a team, you have a problem.
To some degree, stress is a very personal matter. It can be caused by outside factors – family history, relationship issues, financial issues, and such. And it can be caused by internal factors – how we perceive different situations and environments.
As a leader, you cannot control an employee’s home environment, and you cannot fix their relationship issues. But you do have some level of control over what happens in the work environment and amongst the members of your team. To the degree that you are able to minimize stress in the workplace, you are able to create a culture of engagement, and therefore success.
How do you develop a culture of less stress…and therefore higher engagement?
- Hire for culture match first.
If your goal is to develop a positive team culture in your organization, be very judicious in hiring those who have a natural positive attitude. Everyone has good and bad days, but if someone is stuck in a proverbial “bad day” mindset, this could be a signal of future disengagement.
- Use strengths-based placement.
Stress and harmony are on opposite ends of the spectrum. In music, harmony is created when complementary notes are played in pleasant succession. They are not all the same note (that would be monotonous), but different notes played together well. When you create a strengths-based team, you create harmony. On such a team, each member brings different strengths to the table, but all contribute their best to the team and to its goals. On an individual basis, employees are happiest when they are working at least 70% of their time in their strengths zone. Often the cure for disengagement is a simple reassignment of duties to those within an employee’s strengths zone.
- Detect and deal with stress before it escalates.
There are times when stress will happen. Whether the cause is external or internal, encourage your team members to talk with you or with a trusted counselor. The objectivity can help the team member deal with the issue from a different perspective. If there are stresses in team relationships, deal with them before they escalate. If the stress is related to feelings of incompetency, offer your employee training or mentoring opportunities to help them grow into their new role. If the stress is related to over-work, discuss priorities or reassess the workload. As a leader, one of your main responsibilities is to detect stress and deal with it at the source – before it spreads to other members of the team.
- Encourage your team members.
Let’s face it, most employees want more than a paycheck. They want to do work that matters. If they are going to spend forty plus hours doing something each week, they want to know that it makes a difference in the world. To create a culture of less stress, you must practice the art of giving more recognition to your people.
- Create strengths-based environments.
In our DISC profiling and team strengths mapping sessions, we frequently uncover an overlooked and under-rated issue: environment. For example, if you have a highly analytical and very talented computer programmer, and you put him or her in an open office setting near the marketing group, your programmer will become stressed, disengaged, frustrated, and likely ineffective. There is the constant debate of open office settings and full collaboration versus cubicles and divided offices. The best advice for creating a strong team is to create environments that fit, based on strengths.
- Encourage dialog among team members.
Very often the source of stress and division is communication between team members who do not understand each other’s values and thought processes. In some settings, we have created strengths-identification sheets for each team member to post in their workspace. This helps team members communicate in ways that recognize the other team member’s strengths. In understanding each other’s differences, they learn to appreciate the varying perspectives. This reduces the level of stress in team communications, and creates a more successful outcome.
Are you, as a leader, creating a culture of stress…or success within your organization?