Are processes the problem? Why your staff are feeling stressed all the time

Freedom for work and decision making, authority to work independently, stop micromanagement, or people manipulation concept, businessman marionette, puppeteer use scissors to cut controlled strings. e

Employees like to know what they are doing, and how to perform their jobs well.

Documented process helps them to do that with confidence. When process is weak, inconsistent or largely absent, and too much is left to chance, it can have a detrimental effect on motivation because people are never quite sure how they are doing.

Our own research shows that 33 percent of employees have taken time off due to work-related stress and 42 percent have gone so far as to change jobs due to frustrations at work. These are alarmingly high numbers. When we started to drill down into what was going on behind the scenes, we discovered two seemingly contradictory forces at work. One was that people were not being given sufficient guidance on how to do their jobs well; the other was that managers were continuously chasing and checking up on employees, in effect micro-managing them. These two issues sit at opposite extremes of a spectrum. People don’t want to be dropped in it with no support, nor do they want to be micromanaged. The fact is most people want to sit somewhere in between and if they find themselves at those extremes they become unhappy.

33%

of employees have taken time off due to work-related stress

33%

of employees have taken time off due to work-related stress

42%

have changed jobs due to frustrations at work

42%

have changed jobs due to frustrations at work

Generally, people don’t leave employment for a better salary.

More usually it’s because they are being ground down where they are, feeling that their talents are not being put to good use or fully appreciated, and/or that their employer is not supporting them to be their best.

To excel and thrive, people need guidance and a clearly set-out process to follow. They need to understand the rules of play, the preferred approach; the desired outcomes and how best to achieve them. They need training – something to help them to do their job well, and parameters to guide them. Unless they understand what good looks like, they will have nothing to measure their own performance by. If someone is on the right track, it is helpful for them to understand and feel this so they can continue in the right direction and keep improving.

By giving people a process, as an employer or manager, you are supporting them to do a good job – by helping them understand exactly what’s expected of them, and how they can shine. Better still, once staff have clear guidelines to work from, they become more self-sufficient. That is, it is less necessary for managers or business owners to check up on them. Employees then feel trusted, empowered and engaged in their work, which continues to drive up performance – and so the cycle of positive motivation and mood becomes self-perpetuating.

Assuming employees can see the benefits of your processes, they will start to take ownership of them. This in turn invites a new level of trust and reassurance. People want to be able to deliver something they can be proud of, which means they are likely to proactively report any issues with the process. So, as a manager, you’re able to leave them to it. Before long, everything is running like clockwork, and the manager or business owner is free to focus on higher-level decision-making.

If process is implemented correctly, it should be possible to see status updates about how everything is going, removing the need for managers to keep chasing teams or individuals for updates – which in itself can cause stress (it was the third most common cause of employee demotivation in our research).

In a positive, process-enabled scenario, keeping key people in the loop should feel instinctive, because everyone desires – and wants to be seen to be working towards – the same outcome: success.

Alister EsamAbout the author

Alister Esam is an Innovator, Investor and CEO, and the author of The Dirty Word: The word that fills people with dread is the key to business freedom, out on 1st August.

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