Almost every workplace has been impacted by the recent recession. Layoffs and budget cuts are commonplace and employees are expected to perform at continually higher levels. While some workplace stress is normal and can even be healthy, excessive stress can impact your employees’ health and lead to lower productivity. Workplace stress can also be “contagious”, causing others to be pulled into negative environments.
Are your employees experiencing a dangerous level of stress? A good way to judge their stress levels is to note such things as:
-Impatience in situations
– A tendency to criticize or boss others
-Being unusually stung by negative feedback from others
-Demonstrating feelings of being “overloaded.”
Luckily there are some simple ways to ease the stress levels of your direct reports. Here are some things to try:
Discuss workloads with employees when you sense they have more to do than can be realistically accomplished. Let them know it is okay to ask for help or to renegotiate timelines.
A good sense of humor is important. Use this when working with others to lighten up the situation. Humor is a good way to lessen tension and allow people to relax a bit during stressful periods.
Recognize that striving for perfection can create stress and cause employees to be overly critical of themselves and others. Encouraging them to strive for excellence instead of perfection is much more healthy and productive.
Developing better listening skills is hard and it takes practice and courage. Like learning any new skill, it will seem cumbersome at first. The rewards of acquiring this new skill will be tremendous however, as you develop into a true leader.
Here are some easy tips to get you started:
Demonstrate that you are listening by restating what you hear:
Paraphrase your understanding of what is being communicated. Summarize the key points.
Establish eye contact and lean toward the person to communicate that you are actively listening.
Remember that effective listening includes asking questions.
When working with a group, you may find that your questions help others to discover better solutions that they may not have thought of otherwise.
Try to always ask clarifying questions before offering advice or voicing your opinion.
Slow everything down when you are trying to improve your listening skills.
As a leader, you are accustomed to moving quickly and reacting instantly to new information.
Slowing down your thought processes and responses will allow you to absorb important details and really connect with the other person.
If you disagree with what someone is saying, let the speaker finish before giving your opinion.
If you are really tempted to interrupt, count to four before you reply.
Although it will be difficult to change your current habits, effective listening allows you to truly connect with others, which will result in stronger working relationships.