Managing Stress at Work: Tips for Providing Support
This extract is taken from our training on stress management for managers course.
(S) Providing Support
Support acts as a buffer against stress. As with the other elements of CUSP (a framework for managing stress at work), support is important from a proactive and reactive point of view. If people feel supported generally, that will help prevent stress. It doesn’t necessarily mean that people will use support structures, but the fact that they are there and people know that they are there quite simply helps from a stress point of view. Likewise if your team members feel supported by you and perceive you as being supportive, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will always come to you for support. The important thing is that they feel supported.
- Encourage staff to come to you if they need to talk anything through. Make sure staff know when they can come to see you. If you can’t have a totally “open door” policy, find a way to let staff know when your door (metaphorical or real) is open and when you would rather not be disturbed. Avoid being so booked up with meetings and other appointments that you are never available to your staff.
- Meet with your staff on a one-to-one basis. We talk more about the importance of one-to-one’s for identifying stress later. Providing a regular confidential “space” for staff to talk through work issues with you is also a key mechanism for ensuring that staff feel supported by you. One-to-one’s are also an important way for you to understand what other support your staff members need.
- Listen. If staff want to talk about things, listening to what they have to say is key to providing support (in fact, it may be more important than helping them practically). If you dismiss people’s concerns or don’t take the time to understand what they are saying, they will not feel supported and you are unlikely to know what other support you should be providing.
- Give practical support and advice where appropriate. Helping staff understand things, advising them and providing them with coaching or mentoring will all build their sense of being supported by you. Beware stepping in and providing advice when it is not needed or doing things for staff that they could learn by doing themselves, as this can reduce perceived control (see above).
- Hold regular team meetings. Use team meetings as a way of ensuring two-way communication between you and your staff and between team members. Make sure that team meetings are interesting and involve input from all those present. Don’t be afraid of discussing sources of pressure openly at team meetings. Such discussions will help in a number of ways. Firstly, members of your team will feel listened to. Secondly, you will gain an appreciation of how pressured people are feeling. Thirdly, you will become clearer about potential causes of stress for your team.
- Encourage your staff to support one another. Fostering a supportive team atmosphere is key to ensuring that your staff feel supported, not just by you, but by their peers. Set an example of respect and good treatment and help your staff to follow it. Help resolve any conflicts that arise between team members in a sensitive, fair and supportive way.
- Give staff the opportunity to ask questions. Whether in team meetings, one-to-one’s, informally or by other means, make sure that staff have a chance to ask you questions.
- Avoid blame. Everyone makes mistakes. If anything goes wrong, look first to remedy any problems and then for learning points. Don’t look to allocate blame. This does not mean avoiding managing poor performance. If one member of your team is performing poorly, that will be stressful for the rest of the team, so the poor performer must be helped to improve their performance.
- Ensure that staff get the training and development they need to do their job well. This may be about you or other colleagues providing on-the-job development or about more formal training and development activities. Either way, you need to understand what the development needs of your staff are and ensure that those needs are met (including supporting staff in the transfer of skills learnt in training into the workplace). This is particularly important if a person’s job has changed in any way.
- Make sure staff know about all available support structures. If your organization has an Employee Assistance Programme or other counseling service, make sure your staff know how to access it and what support it provides. Make sure that staff also understand what other support structures are available to them, for example occupational health advice, access to advice and support from Human Resources and anything else available through the organization or through the local community.
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:
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