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bad management and stress
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Bad management and stress

Friday, 6 November 2009

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said in a recent report that the cost of work related mental illness was £28 billion - a quarter of the UK's total sick bill, and that bad management was the single biggest cause of problems. The report went on to identify two critical areas of effect - absenteeism and “presenteeism” - where people come into work but don’t actually add any value to the organisation whilst there.

These effects seem to be exacerbated by the current recession, as people are reported to be staying in jobs that they don’t really enjoy, and are not really committed to, because they re concerned about their limited potential to find another one.

NICE highlighted a couple of areas where bad management can have these effects on staff, and in this blog, I’ll cover those off and add a few more of my own.

Training and mentoring

Obviously, this area is very close to our heart at trainingreality. We know, from our experience and feedback from our clients, that staff who’ve been invested in by going on a great training course feel more positive, more motivated, and more supportive of their employer than they were before (see here).

We’ll also be very honest, and admit that in the 12 month period to July/August this year, we have seen a reduction in our business, as existing clients have cut training budgets, and new clients are reluctant to spend money that they didn’t used to spend.

The reality is though, that, at times like these, the businesses that will survive and thrive, and that will emerge from the economic downturn stronger and better than ever before, with fewer competitors around, will be the ones who realise that it is their people who make the difference, and that they really had better get the very best out of them.

Not giving positive feedback

A classic area this, and one that doesn’t seem to want to go away. At a simple level, I think most would agree that giving positive feedback is a great thing to do, both for the recipient and for the person giving it. But, if it is as simple as that, why doesn’t it happen, or work the way it should?

Firstly, it might be given, but given in the wrong way. We use Myers Briggs (MBTI) a lot to look at how people differ in their approach to giving and receiving positive feedback, and there is one vital part that jumps out every time:

If you are giving someone positive feedback, do it in a way that works for them, not for you!

Some people prefer infrequent, results-based feedback; others regular support for their efforts. Some want grand public announcements; for others, it’s a quiet word in their ear.

Secondly, it can be simply forgotten about. In pressured environments, it tends to be the problems that get the focus, and we rush from one short-term action to the next, putting out the fires. Praise is a longer-term thing - it might not have immediate bottom-line effects, but it undoubtedly will in the longer term. Praise tends to fall into the “important, not urgent” box, and so can be left unattended too long.

Thirdly, not giving praise, but focussing on negative feedback (or “constructive criticism” as it is sometimes called by those who’ve read the management-speak textbooks) can be a power-play - avoiding praise to ensure people don’t get too big for their boots, and criticising to prove just how insightful and clever you really are. We all know though, don’t we, that the truly insightful and clever people would never fall into this trap...

Not allowing working flexibility

We are, I think, getting rather better at offering flexibility to employees in many organisations, but this is still far from universally the case. there needs to be two factors working in harmony to ensure that this works properly:

1) The employee needs to be committed to the business, and therefore willing to do their all to ensure its success; and

2) The employer needs to be committed to the employee, because they know their business is nothing without them.

A balance needs to be struck between these without the other, and someone will (more than likely) end up being exploited. Both working together though can create a wonderful, increasing, and contagious harmony.

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