As the engineering Manager, you are responsible for recommending appropriate action to improve the employee performance. Compile a report for your senior management describing how you propose to best manage this problem with your staff: One of your best workers has been recurrently absent for an average of 2 days a week during the last month. She has cited work stress, which has been affecting her health and personal relationship.
A problem in employee performance has arisen and it demands a swift and decisive approach. There is specifically one worker, one of the very best in the department, who has been absent from her position on average two days a week for the last month. Senior management has to deal with the emergence and possibly an increase of work stress in our company. Below are several criteria and proposals in order to tackle and ultimately eliminate the problem.
We have to deal with work stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands” (Canadian Mental Health Association, April 2000).
Assuming the validity of the employee’s claims about bad health and problematic personal relationships due to work stress, the appearance of work stress should imply some disorder in the following:
- organisational structure and management methodology
- employees’ interpersonal relations
- tasks and workload assigned
A disorder in any or a combination of the above could in fact lead to her mental and even physical incapacity to work. It is important to make sure that line and senior management will commit to tackling this problem of work stress, as it is more reassuring to lower-level employees that their problems affect and concern higher ranking organisational staff.
At the same time, job satisfaction and a stress-free working environment in our department are vital for the improvement of management and overall output of work. Moreover, work stress can even have long-term negative impact on our organisation’s revenue, goodwill and repute (Pride, Hughes and Kapoor, 1996).
Initially we have to investigate the specific case of the female employee from various angles. A brief background check must be done to summarise the employee’s work history with the company, recapitulate her current skills, previous work experience and academic backdrop. It is also necessary to calculate her productivity before and after she was affected by work stress, examine whether there was a drop in that productivity and see how that further exacerbated her situation. Lastly we need to determine; what was the impact on the department’s overall performance during the last month.
1. Organisational structure and management methodology
We need to establish a responsive and direct communication channel between senior management and our employees. Our management style might need to be adjusted in order to accommodate employees’ problems and concerns with a rapid and precise response (Blake and Mouton, 1978). Employees should be given the appropriate level of participation in the decision-making process and be allowed to speak up and express their opinions about our management methodology. Employees’ quality of work should be assessed regularly and thus be praised or penalised accordingly. If the problem exacerbates, we might even need to make changes in the management hierarchy and chain of command in order to promote a more relaxed but effective communication process (Rummler and Brache, 1995). This should also come into effect when there are changes in the organisational structure and inform our staff on time.
2. Employees’ interpersonal relations
Another possible reason for the appearance of work stress could be some kind of conflict between members of staff. This is very likely as we have had complaints about work stress from only one worker. Such a negative interpersonal relationship could have arisen due to a conflict about the demands of the workload or general responsibilities. There might also be excessive or too little responsibility given to the worker compared to others in the same department (Goleman, 1999). If the specific worker is a member of a team, there might be problems of miscommunication, unequal allocation of work, clash of personalities or false expectations among the members. Such problems could also emerge between the worker and her superintendent or subordinates. Another possibility is harassment and bullying by other co-workers. In effect, I propose regular staff meetings in order to frequently monitor the performance of workers, pinpoint any irregular behaviour and interaction between them and take action against it. This could even result in the proposition of appropriate measures to tackle communication problems from the workers themselves. Several teambuilding activities could also encourage enhanced cooperation, foster stronger relationships and ultimately reduce work stress and boost productivity. In more sensitive cases (for example bullying, sexual harassment etc) it is imperative to begin with a one-to-one discussion with the specific worker in order to have a clearer view of her situation, before involving other workers into the case.
3. Tasks and workload assigned
Another proposal would be to investigate the amount of workload assigned to the specific worker. We should determine whether the tasks allocated to her are analogous to her abilities and current skills or experience. It is important to look into how much time and resources are provided by the company for her in order to complete her projects.
To a great extent, this is all related to the job satisfaction gained by the worker. She may find her workload overwhelming or even insufficient. Perhaps our worker has been expecting a promotion, or we have to examine whether she deserves a downgrading. This raises the other important issue of the amount of job security the worker feels and her expected career path within the company (Montana and Charnov, 1993). Excessive work stress can in fact appear when a worker has been expecting a faster pace of career development or when there is little variety in her tasks, low satisfaction or the work has become monotonous. Management should ensure that the work environment, hours worked, the nature and demands of the work are tolerable and do not cause any mental or physical agony to the worker. The work should become more varied, interesting, challenging, and leading to manageable, reasonable and measurable goals. All workers should become familiar with such changes and management should ask for further suggestions and proposals from our staff to create a more enjoyable but productive working environment. Furthermore, senior management could end up realising that an increase in salary, provision of extra benefits, perks and other motivational instruments should be employed.
4. Other Measures
As mentioned above, it is important to have an initial meeting with the specific worker to establish any particular problems she is facing and thus create a plan to enforce any selection of the proposals listed. Ideally it should be a one-to-one, confidential discussion with one line and one senior manager that she knows and would feel comfortable to discuss with. Such a meeting could also reveal why no other co-workers have shown sings of work-related stress. As a result, if management grants it appropriate, it could set up a focus group in order to gain insight from other co-workers on the specific case.
If this stress is indeed related to our workplace, additional measures could be employed to resolve the problem. It could be possible to offer the worker some days off in order for her to restore her health and perhaps resolve other issues in her personal life. Several professionals like psychologists or other doctors could also be called upon to respond to her problems. Senior management could involve health and safety professionals as well as human resources personnel in the discussion (Health and Safety Executive, 2007).
Senior management should immediately deal with the appearance of work stress in our company. The above proposals could provide a starting guideline for the creation of a management response to work stress. This response should be standardised for future reference. It can become an employee-oriented technique that ensures the good health and positive attitude of our staff to their work and colleagues. All techniques and stages of this plan to assist against stress should be known and easily accessible to all. Management should also single out additional areas within the work environment that could generate stress and take appropriate action.