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CUSP™ Control Enablers

Summary of CUSP

Research and experience tells us that if you can:

  • Enable increased perception of control;
  • Reduce uncertainty, and the associated anxiety and insecurity;
  • Provide support, especially in highly pressurised or stressful situations;
  • Tackle sources of pressure (stressors) in your work area…
    ..then you will minimise the risk of stress-related illness and increase wellbeing and performance at work.

(C) Control Enablers

Enabling control is not about abdicating responsibility. It is not about adopting an ‘anything goes mentality. You are a manager. You still have to take tough decisions, and still have to manage poor performance. So enabling control is about encouraging people to take responsibility for their own performance while being clear about what is expected of them.

1. Delegation. In stress terms, delegation is a critical management skill because it enables control. It says ‘I trust you to get this done without me always looking over your shoulder. Good delegation will also reduce the pressure on you, as you wont have to micromanage. Ask yourself, and encourage others to ask you, difficult questions about letting go of control. Enabling control is not easy for many managers. It may make you feel very uncomfortable and vulnerable to start with, but stick with it and it will pay great dividends.

2. Enable control over the physical environment e.g. the look of the office, the use of plants, make workstations more attractive etc. This can have several benefits in addition to boosting perceptions of control:

  • More relaxed surroundings
  • Improved mood
  • Better air quality e.g. through use of plants
  • Improved overall working environment
  • New environment may contain ‘anchors to positive emotions and attitudes

3. Offer as much flexibility as you can over working arrangements. If staff can make choices that reflect their needs or lifestyle, this will reduce the risk in various ways:

  • Reduces stress risk attached to non-work pressures
  • Addresses commuting stressors
  • Enhances sense of control

4. Encourage people to be assertive with you (not passive, not aggressive), and be prepared to accept constructive criticism of you and your management style. View it as an opportunity to adapt your style to suit each individual. If people see that you respond well to assertive communication and to constructive criticism, they will feel as if they have more control. You will also stand a better chance of finding out how you cause them stress. The more you know about how they feel, the less the risk because you can respond more quickly thus reducing the risk of stress-related illness.

5. Involve people in decision making both at the individual level and at the team level. As a rule give as much control to your team members over decisions as you possibly can, and if you cannot involve people in the decision making process, explain clearly and unambiguously why that is the case (because that will reduce uncertainty). Explain the decisions you have taken.

6. Consult and involve people on decisions about workload. People often feel that they are overloaded because of the perception that it is not within their control. In fact, if people feel they have some control, they generally work harder, achieve more, and are more satisfied with the outcome.

7. Encourage staff to develop their own ‘microroutines, which work for them e.g. taking short breaks every 45 mins and a longer break every 90. Breaks are important, especially if people are under pressure. We all need recovery time to manage stress effectively. So encourage people to take control over this important aspect of their working life. People rarely abuse this. On the contrary, they value being trusted in this way, while manager-controlled breaks can be resented and a cause of dissatisfaction

8. Change will inevitably have an impact on perceptions of control, so take care to assess any risks to your team associated with the change and take special care to communicate clearly about what is happening as often as possible.

9. Taking people for granted undermines their sense of control. Try very hard not to do it, and encourage people within your team not to do it either.

10. The opposite of enabling control is an aggressive style of management. Bullying, aggressive styles of management take control away from people. It makes them fearful and causes them severe stress with very negative consequences for their health and wellbeing. If you receive any feedback that you are perceived as ‘aggressive’, take that feedback seriously and try sensitively to find out what has led to that perception. Talk it over with a mentor or someone at HR. You may need to consider some additional training or one-to-one coaching to improve your interpersonal skills. Again, try not to regard such perceptions as a personal attack. Rather, they are an opportunity to change your style and become a better manager.

Further Reading

If you found this article of interest you may like to read the other 4 articles in our series featuring this stress prevention framework for managers:

Business people at meeting



Managing Stress at Work: Introduction to the CUSP™ Framework for Managers



Chess Pawn



Managing Stress at Work: Uncertainty Reducers



Pressure gauge



Managing Stress at Work: Reducing Pressure



Providing support, Columns



Managing Stress at Work: Tips for Providing Support



You may also like to listen to our short 3 minute podcast introducing the CUSP™ stress prevention framework for managers:
Stress Management Training for Managers Podcast

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