WebMD.com reports that “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually”.
There is a simple way that employers can reduce the stress levels of their employees, and it’s free. Show appreciation.
Here is a great example of how employee appreciation creates less stress at work:
In the mid-1960s my mother was employed as a clerk by “The House of Fabrics”, which was a large fabric chain. At that time all store managers were men. Yet these managers did not directly work with customers.
It wasn’t long before mom was offered the position of assistant manager. A few years later, about 50 miles south of where mom worked, a store manager retired. Mom was offered the unprecedented position of manger. However, mom never forgot her start and didn’t feel being a manager made her better than anyone else. Therefore, in addition to performing all the managerial duties, she continued to assist customers with their sewing projects. She really impressed the other employees. They had never worked with side by side with a store manager.
Mom understood the stress of being a single working mother and therefore created a special relationship with the other employees of the store, whom she would refer to as “her store family.” She also created an environment of joy. She wanted everyone to enjoy coming to work. To the many people mom worked with, she became their confidant/friend, adopted sister, or second mother. What was apparent is that the kinder mom was the harder everyone worked. This environment also attracted more clientele to the store.
In one of my college management classes we were introduced to an experiment in which we acted out the roles, which are oftentimes assigned to employees. The experiment had a profound effect on me and other class members. The class was divided into groups of 6 and following instructions were given:
- I am going to give each group a topic to discuss.
- I am going to place a hat on the head of each member.
- Each hat will have something written on it.
- During the discussion, the group must respond to each member’s input according to what is written on their hat.
- You will not know what is written on your hat.
Examples of what may have been written on the hat:
- “I am an expert, therefore believe and accept everything I say.”
- “I am a joker – laugh at everything I say.”
- “I don’t know what I am talking about. Ignore me as if I wasn’t speaking.”
- “I may know what I am talking about. Ask me more questions.”
- “When I speak, roll your eyes and look at the other members of the group.”
- “When I speak, criticize me.”
The experiment was 15 minutes. The result had a profound effect on each person. One member of my group was a Police Supervisor and she wore the hat that said, “I don’t know what I am talking about. Ignore me as if I wasn’t speaking.” It was uncomfortable to blatantly treat her so cruelly. At the end of the class she appeared quite shaken and said, “I have never been treated this way.” Next class she reported that she had been affected the entire week. I concluded that if 15 minutes psychological abuse has that much of an affect on a person then experiencing this treatment on a daily basis would be extremely stressful and most likely lead to illness.
I used mom’s philosophy and what I learned in the class experience in my own employment. I worked with a group of people that were not respected by higher management. However, I treated the group with respect, used my sense of humor, regularly thanked them, and acknowledge their talents. Again it became apparent that the kinder I was the harder the staff worked.
Oftentimes, economic conditions keep employees stuck in jobs that they dislike. In the case above, the work ethics and treatment of employees from a higher manager was very stressful. I am sorry to say that I did not respect him as a person. However, I made the decision to respect his position as manager. Focusing respect on his position gave me the freedom to be the best in my job and served to lower my stress level.
I am not advocating that all managers/supervisors be like my mom. In many cases being a close friend to someone you supervise may not be a good idea. However, the way managers/supervisors treat the people they work with is extremely important.
Treating people with respect, giving regular appreciation, and acknowledging talents can have a great impact on production and employee morale. To me, it is worth the effort.