High Workforce Stress Is Changing the Rules of Employee Management

What might this look like in a real-world setting? One example: Instead of saying “I’m taking the day off,” a team member might find a buddy and divide halves of the workdays to relieve some of the pressure.

Trusting that your team members will support one another once they’ve met their own needs is important. Our experience is that employees generally do reward organizations for supporting and trusting them.

Unrestricted vacation time, an increasingly common part of modern businesses’ menu of benefits, might seem to be a Pandora’s box, for example. But employees tend to be quite conscientious about when and how they use this benefit, and they coordinate with colleagues to make sure balls don’t drop in their absence.

An Encouraging Word

I’ve written this before, but an encouraging word to employees can go a long way toward creating a culture of well-being and supportive interdependence. Traditional management impulses tell leaders to dictate solutions, creating unnecessary friction and resentment. But it’s support, trust and clear communication about shared goals that can create exceptional outcomes. While it seems simple, many leaders struggle to move away from “telling people what to do” to encouraging them to take care of themselves.

One factor that frequently contributes to burnout is an emphasis on perfection. In traditional management frameworks, an insistence on perfection was considered a virtue. A team member who was sad or tired might be expected to just chug coffee, force negative emotions down and get into high gear.

A shift is occurring that acknowledges the reality that people are not machines, and that excellence levels will vary from day to day. The idea is to encourage team members to do the best they can on a particular day.

This kind of leadership requires an organization-wide culture that is comfortable with human emotion. Crying in the office or on a Zoom call? Absolutely. The doors should be open to all emotions, even so-called negative ones. Employees should learn to be kind and encouraging to themselves as an element of well-being to decrease team members’ stress.

COVID has hastened the evolution of management practices throughout the wealth management field. Amid the heightened stress, sickness and burnout, we’re seeing a shift in management culture. The best managers are now being measured on their empathy and encouragement of their team members to take care of themselves without judgment, and then help take care of their colleagues — as they model that behavior themselves.

The future of management is upon us, and business leaders must be ready to put aside traditional, top-down approaches. We’re in an era that requires empathy, encouragement and trust, and that can be uncomfortable, at first, for old-school leaders accustomed to granting or withholding money to motivate people.

We know that financial incentives take organizations only so far. That’s because, beyond a certain level of financial security, people prioritize deeper needs. A big one is the desire to contribute, within a group, to big accomplishments — such as helping clients retire and send their kids to college, or build a business to its full potential.

The problem of stress can also be an opportunity, a chance for business owners to think deeply about their management culture and make sure they’re on the right path. Thanks to the pandemic, there is no going back.

Angie Herbers is an independent consultant to the advisory industry. She can be reached at [email protected].

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