Archive for the ‘Stress Management’ Category
Only 10 years ago the idea that so much of our communication would be conducted without the benefit of voice or visual. We pick up, and decode, an enormous amount of contextual information from non-verbal cues. It pays to remember that without those subtle bits of extra information, we could get the message badly wrong.
So, here are a few more thoughts on the etiquette of communication in the electronic age:
If you’re sending a message, remember:
- Nobody can tell that you’re juggling 3 telephones, an incoming delivery and fielding questions from team members – at the same time as you try to respond to that critically urgent email.
- possible solution: either take time out to collect your thoughts in a quiet place before you respond to the email, or at the very least, bear in mind that the recipient can’t see that your day is chaotic when they read it.
- The delete button is only one key-stroke away. If you’re discourteous, dismissive or downright rude – your email may hit the trash with just one click!
- If you wouldn’t say it to someone in person. Don’t put it in your email
- How much information is too much? In-person communication allows you to read whether someone ‘gets it’ by their subtle signs – a slight nod, or a befuddled expression. Without these signs, the question of whether there are gaps in your message isn’t quite as easy to answer.
- Its a fine balance to get right – too much information and it just doesn’t get read. Too little and the reader is left wondering how you got from A to X. No matter how much detail you decide to include, use very clear layout. Good old-fashioned bullet points work. And ask the reader to come back to you if they not sure about anything.
- They say couples should never go to sleep angry with each other.
Perhaps this rule should be adapted for the 21st century: Never send an
email in anger. There’s a very good chance you’ll regret it.
- I’ve learned the hard way that whenever there’s a mail to write on a touchy subject, the best policy is to write it, store it in the draft folder overnight, and re-read it in the morning before you send it. It really does pay to do this.
If you’re receiving the message:
- Make allowance for the fact that the writer may have been interrupted, distracted or otherwise having a challenging day. If they are a bit abrupt, remember that not everyone has the gift of flowing prose. That may just be their style, or they may have responded in a rush.
- If you receive a really offensively rude communication, sometimes the best policy is to simply delete it and then ignore it. And move on.
- If you receive incomplete or unclear information in an email, first re-read it to make sure you’ve not just been skim-reading. Then, if you’re still not certain, ask for clarification on specific points. The more specific you can be, the easier it will be for the writer to give you concise, precise information to fill in the gaps.
- If you receive an angry mail – don’t respond immediately. Anger is sometimes a response to feeling out of control or insecure. If you can work out the trigger, you may be able to send a re-assuring response to de-stress the situation. Even if this isn’t the case, a considered response will at least be less inflammatory.
Like many people, I was surprised to hear that we still need such a thing as an International Stress Awareness Day – isn’t every day stress awareness day?
But of course, the TUC’s data about the extent to which stress affects UK businesses is no laughing matter. In fact, as PersonnelToday.com reports, sources agree that it is the biggest issue currently facing UK business. One surprising fact is that the larger the organisation, the greater the impact of workplace stress on both its employees’, and its financial, health. In organisations with under 50 staff, 58% of safety reps listed stress as their top concern; in organisations with more than 1,000 employees, however, that number jumps to 67%. That’s a potential concern for our clients, who are large companies, often with thousands of employees.
Companies are waking up to the fact that stress affects their bottom line, and indeed, that they have legal obligations under health and safety laws to consider in relation to workplace stress. Each new case of stress leads to an average of 29 days off work, and according to government figures workplace stress costs UK business an estimated £3.7 billion a year. That’s 10 per cent of the UK’s GNP. And surprisingly, as Mind reports, fewer than 10% of companies have an official policy to address the problem. However, smart companies are doing something about it. Stress is a preventable problem. Companies are recognising that the solution is to improve management skills and communication techniques in order to reduce stress levels and maximise productivity.
In most cases, we’ve found that managers who seek feedback on their performance reduce stress in the workplace more effectively than those who don’t. Our most successful clients embed a culture of continuous, constructive feedback in their management training, which leads to a sense of shared responsibility between staff and management.
The link between investing in people and increased growth can be quantified as I mentioned when I discussed the concept of joined-up performance management. When organisations implement development programmes, there is a double hit on the positive side: the tools that fight stress also maximise profits and reduce absenteeism – but they also deliver less tangible results, like a healthier, happier workforce. These benefits help managers create greater clarity and manage expectations in their communications processes, which fosters a more robust, ‘can-do’ culture in the organisation as a whole. Our clients find that the benefits far outweigh the price tag of the development programme – and help them be less stressed-out by Stress Awareness Day!