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Stress in the Workplace: Some Causes and Cures

Many years ago, a business owner asked me to intervene when his company lost several employees in a row, costing time, money and the ability to respond to customer demands. His appeal was driven by worry and stress; if the employee drain continued, he didn’t know how his company would survive.

Through exit interviews and some research, I found out about three typical cases, showing that the toxic effects of stress reached from the support staff through management to the business owner. In Case 1, a newly hired secretary met her boss for the first time on her first day of work. The boss explained her job responsibilities. She went to lunch and never returned. In Case 2, the company’s most dedicated exempt employee worked upwards of 90 hours a week to finish a project. About two weeks before the project would end, the employee stopped showing up for work. It took the company a month to find him resting at his parents’ home. He was happy to hand over information on the now long-delayed project, but refused to return. In Case 3, a manager shared some ideas at a meeting where she was the only female. The ideas were uniformly shot down. At the next meeting, a male manager presented the same ideas as his own and they were uniformly accepted. As soon as she landed a new job, she quit.

Facing the stress of unexpected job responsibilities, overwork and lack of respect, all of these employees chose to leave. The company wasted time and money on replacements, was unable to meet deadlines and lost some of its most creative people. Stress in the workplace environment was killing the company. Under my guidance, the company implemented changes in three areas right away:

1. Interviews: Hiding important facts from new (or current) employees always leads to stress. To prevent a recurrence of Case 1, prospective employees now meet their future bosses and are given a written description of their duties during the interview, as developed by HR Compliance 101. They must sign the job description as part of the hiring process, to ensure that everyone is clear about the job requirements.
2. Management training: Managers should be aware when employees are overextending themselves. Case 2 could have been prevented if someone had assigned an additional employee to the project or insisted that the “dedicated” employee take a break. HR Compliance 101 organized management meetings and changed the manager’s job description to clarify the company’s policy about overtime and emphasize the need to communicate with employees.
3. Handbook and diversity training: Allowing discrimination is not only stressful, it is also illegal and could lead to fines and lawsuits. To address Case 3, HR Compliance 101 developed a company handbook to ensure fair treatment of all employees and helped the company institute diversity training.

While the causes of stress in your company may be different, HR Compliance 101 has guided so many companies in so many industries that we have—or can find—a solution that works for you and for your company. Contact us today for a healthier, less stressful workplace environment.

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