Why Your Employees Are Stressed
Nidhi has been working for a multi-national company for last 7 years. She is a senior marketing executive with a fairly high salary package. Her daily routine is set. She enters office at 9 am, works the entire first half without moving from her desk. Has her lunch at sharp 1 pm. Gets back to work at 1.45pm. She doesn’t smoke but takes a tea break at 4 pm. Back by 4.15pm, she winds up all her tasks at 7.30pm. On a good day she might even leave office at 6 pm. She had joined the company as a trainee and soon was promoted from a trainee to a junior manager and then to a senior manager quite fast because of her creativity and commitment.
But of late, Nidhi’s productivity and quality of work was deteriorating. The CEO noticed that Nidhi’s annual appraisal rating had suddenly dropped too. In fact, the CEO was looking at giving Nidhi another promotion and was curious to find out what could possibly be wrong with a high potential employee like Nidhi.
What came to light was quite astonishing. Nidhi openly expressed her frustration towards constant monitoring and that too due to access of technology.
Could technology have an adverse impact on our workplaces?
Over the past decade communication has revolutionised. Access to apps have made it easier for us to communicate with large groups at one time. Even to communicate with large number of groups at one time. 3G/4G enabled phones have made access to internet/emails/social media platforms a 24X7 phenomenon. There is now a window for companies to services their clients on a real time basis. And the list of pros can be long. But what has this done to our workplaces? Ever thought about what impact does all of this have over your employees?
Unconsciously our workplaces have transformed into a perennial work allocation and status update machine. Managers convey critical work-related information over commination apps. They often assume or rather expect that all employees must have access to these apps at all times, and that any and every information will be read and acted upon. Information is often conveyed via multiple channels of communication – delegation via email or WhatsApp, New idea via Facebook messages or tagged in a tweet, new business leads in-boxed on LinkedIn, etc.
That’s not it, these channels of communication also become a medium for following up on previously allocated work. At time even a medium for reprimanding an employee, directly or indirectly. It’s not surprising then that Nidhi (in the above case) felt overburdened and lost his self-confidence.
Technology has given us many advantages but it has also given us subtle challenges, and one of them is the unstated pressure of deadlines.
But deadlines boost productivity, doesn’t it? It sure does. Just like every other good thing, having an excess of deadlines can do more harm than good. In other words, it’s not the deadline itself, it is the large number of tasks that are assigned in succession that build the pressure of deadlines on the employees.
Let’s see some numbers
A survey from CareerCast found that around 71% of the respondents were going through a stress that they scored 7 on a scale of 10 where one being the least and 10 being the most stressful. Deadlines were the leading cause of this with around 30% employees agreeing to it. About 84% of the employees agreed to be spending close to about 40% of their work time under stress.
Reasons why too many deadlines are not ideal:
• Too many last minute ‘urgent’ tasks
• Uncertainty of task completion
• Inability to prioritise
• Lack of measuring parameters
• Intrusive, dictatorial approach
• Impacts employee morale
Due to its dynamic and customer-first approach, almost all companies in India have their employees work under a relatively flexible job description. Irrespective of what the JD says, there’s always a clause of being obligated to do ‘all other things that the company might ask of them from time to time’. This makes implementation of every deadlines extremely difficult.
So then there shouldn’t be any deadlines?
Of course not! Deadlines are important and that’s what drives the work towards better productivity and efficiency of employees. However, you need to understand the importance of setting the right deadline.
Deadlines can be broadly divided into internal, external and self-imposed. The deadlines you get from your clients come under ‘external’ deadlines. These usually trigger a series of ‘internal’ deadlines in your company. The internal deadlines can be qualitative and/or quantitative depending on the project. The third type of deadline is when an employee has ‘self-imposed’ a deadline so as to get the task done effectively. While the first and the third type are not much in your control, it’s the second type of deadline, internal deadlines, which affect you and your company in a major way.
With so much on everyone’s plate, the immediate reaction to an ‘external deadline’ is ‘real time delegation of work’ enabled via technology. Once the manager has communicated the task, his/her job is done. But very often this real time allocation does not take into consideration the tasks that are already on the table for the employee. Clearly the allocator of the task and the employee are not on the same page here. This lag or rather the uncoordinated delegation can put undue pressure on your employees and could lead to them missing the internal deadlines.
Instead of that, here are a few things that you can try and implement at your office to increase efficiency:
• Set realistic goals and milestones for independent projects
• Avoid using phone apps for formal work-related communication
• Use only official channels for all work-related communication; ideally choose one channel of communication (for example: official email)
• Rely on the age-old method of discussing weekly job status reports with your teams
• Buy your team members some time from your clients
• Rely on well-drafted SOPs
• Sensitise employees about effective time management through training
• Prioritise work at your desk first before delegating it to your subordinate
In a nutshell
As a CEO, you need to make conscious efforts on knowing what kind of deadlines are given by your managers and those in leadership positions.
Too many deadlines may look like you are getting many things done but they can backfire if your employees are unable to meet them. Deadlines and delegation are highly corelated. And not everyone has the skill to delegate with ease. Working with your second line of leadership on various aspects of people management, particularly delegation, especially on the use of technology for delegation will not only improve productivity but also reduces the attrition rate of the company.
At Yellow Spark, we help our clients understand their team dynamics and work towards offering a custom-made solution to improve their productivity. For a personalised solution for your business, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer, and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.