It is unspoken knowledge that the modern Organisation is continually looking for more cost-effective ways to function and minimise their output expenditure. In a tough Economic climate, as these organisations look to “do more, with less,” staff often take the brunt of the stressful workload. Managers of these teams then find themselves in a difficult situation… stuck between a demanding and usually inflexible Organisation and Overworked and Burnt-out staff.
To add to this Management pressure, as of 2012 Australian Managers are obliged to address their employees’ stress levels, as they can now be held personally liable for the psychological welfare of their staff (See “Management Pressure”). So how are Organisations responding to these regulations? A conveniently named “Resilience Training” – Which, when scrutinised, is the Training of employed individuals to cope with the mental and physical stresses of their workplace.
“(Resilience Training) is a very worrying trend because it puts the responsibility back onto the individual… The implication with resilience is that (the organisation) knows this bad stuff is going to happen to you as a consequence of their system, so they make you responsible for the extent to which it affects you” (Caponecchia, 2012). In other words, the Organisation cannot or will not change its Organisational Culture to accommodate their overworked and stressed team, instead, the responsibility falls on the individual to “stress less.”
What does stress COST?
It goes without saying that a moderate amount of stress is often positive for the individual and Organisation; it makes you more productive, goal-focused and outcome driven. However, stress becomes negative when the demands on your team exceed their personal resources to cope. This negative stress results in changes to the bottom line in terms of performance, including; absenteeism, injury, performance issues, conflicts and other Human Resource issues.
A report by health and safety agency Safe Work Australia, found that overwork and stress costs Australia $30 Billion a year. While an Econtech report in 2007 found that stress related absenteeism directly cost Australian Employers $10.1 Billion annually. These huge figures and yet the price tag does not include the hidden costs of recruitment and reskilling from employee turnover.
So what can a manager do when caught in this predicament? With mounting pressure to meet Organisational Requirements, while at the same time being liable for their team’s psychological wellbeing in the workplace, we start to see a clear power struggle. This struggle is very real… in extreme circumstances where managers have made a decision that negatively impacted on the health and safety of their team, the individual has been fined $600,000 and is faced with five years imprisonment.
The most effective way to manage stress is at the organisational level – Overloaded staff can be given more Resources and Time. However, many workplaces are shrinking and often the resources offered cannot be changed and are even getting tighter in use.
It’s a tough position… but managers are realising they cannot necessarily do anything about organisational resources and objectives. However, individual managers are also realising that they want their team to last the distance and that they need to accommodate this.
... Stay Tuned for Part II of this Exploration on Workplace Stress & Resilience for “How to Manage your Team in Times of Stress”