Leading is super easy – stress ball doesn’t fix management mistakes

Today, many solutions have been developed to support the mental health of employees, from stress management programs and psychological counseling to mental health days and yoga classes in the office. When used systematically, these measures really help to support the recovery of employees’ mental health and reduce stress. But isn’t that more like treating a broken bone with painkillers? We relieve employees of tension and stress, but they are soon back in the original work environment that was the real source of the problems. And after a while, the employee is stressed again.

Work related mental health problems are indicators of serious management problems

Employees’ mental health is a topical issue, which is why many solutions are offered to improve the mental health of employees. There are solutions from stress balls to various monitoring programs. All in order to ensure the recovery of employees’ mental health and to reduce stress. And there is a reason for that. Studies show that 20%-30% of employees under constant work stress are likely to develop depression which ends in burnout. According to another study, mental health problems cost US businesses about 1 trillion dollars a year. In result, the turnover of a manufacturing company can fall by around 5500 euros per employee a year. A person with mental health problems is 3.5 times more likely to use various substances to relieve stress.

Dealing with the mental health of employees is important, but have you thought about what all these interesting solutions and methods, from the stress ball to various applications, do? Yes, by squishing the stress ball, the state of tension can disappear, but after squishing you are back to the previous situation. If you have a broken bone, the doctor will hardly start treating the pain and swelling first. The pain and swelling can be eliminated by constant medication, but the fracture remains. In the worst case, the bone will grow back incorrectly, and then the consequences will be even worse. It’s much easier to get to the root cause and fix the broken bone and deal with it. Then the pain and swelling will soon disappear. It’s the same with the mental health of employees.

Let’s be fair, work-related mental health problems are caused by serious management issues. If people are tense, have stress and anxiety, then there is something wrong with the work organization. Of course I can remove stress and anxiety from the employees with the support of counseling. But they will go back to a work environment where nothing has changed, and after a while the employee is tense, stressed and anxious again.

Management problems that cause employees’ mental health problems
1. What are the main causes of mental health problems in the workplace?
  • high workload, unrealistic expectations and deadlines; 
  • fear of job loss and constant changes;
  • physically unhealthy work environment and conditions;
  • conflicts with coworkers or leaders;
  • unequal treatment and unfairness at work;
  • poor management, insufficient recognition and motivation; 
  • loneliness at work, lack of support; 
  • imbalance between work and personal life. 

These are all points that indicate a lack of leadership. High workload, unrealistic expectations and deadlines show that the manager is not in control of the situation and does not care about the employees. Fear of job loss and constant change is a clear indicator that information is not being communicated enough and employees are not being engaged. An unhealthy work environment is clearly the result of the actions of an indifferent and careless manager. Isn’t it the manager’s job to contribute to the prevention and resolution of conflicts? 

After all, the manager is the one who has to ensure adequate support for the employees and make sure that the employees get enough rest – a balance between work and private life. No stress ball or coach will help here. As folk wisdom says: “The fish starts to rot from the head!” If employees in an organization have serious mental health problems, the focus must be on the cause – changing the management culture. If an organization wants to ensure an environment that supports mental health, it must first establish a suitable management culture.

In reality, there are some indicators that, just by looking at it, give a hint that the organization has problems with the mental health of employees. It’s enough to take a look at the manager’s calendar, monitor meetings and some organizational activities. Let’s look at the sequence now. If there are no one-on-one meetings on the manager’s calendar, it is very likely that the manager is not aware of what is happening with the employees. Many managers say they don’t need one-on-one meetings because they can get the information they need elsewhere. But a one-on-one meeting shows how much the manager cares about the employee, how much the manager cares about what the employee does and feels. 

Trust, care, support, and recognition are some of the main prerequisites for preventing mental health problems. This is a meeting where the manager understands whether the employee can cope with his tasks, whether he needs support or even redistribution of tasks. 30 minutes is quite enough to reduce stress to a minimum and increase employee motivation and commitment. This time also provides an opportunity to identify conflicts and find solutions to them.

2.  Team work meetings

Another important factor is team work meetings. Follow them. I have personally experienced where a 1-hour meeting stretches to 2 hours, which in itself is already disrespectful to the employees. During this time, the manager mostly talks about his activities and complex work meetings. Managers might spend a large part of the second on topics that interest themselves. So it may happen that some employees only get 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to say something important, if that.

Such meetings show that managers only care about what certain employees do, which leads to unequal treatment. In addition, the manager does not focus on the activities of all employees, so some important decisions are not made in time, and the employee is stressed again.

3. 1:1 discussions

The third important activity is 1:1 discussions with employees. Look at its form and how it’s carried out. It gives a clear message as to how much the organization cares about supporting and developing employees. Many organizations make a point of holding 1:1 discussions, but in reality it’s a mere formality that is carried out and the results of which are not much cared for. In such a case, they could be omitted altogether, because carrying them out is time-consuming. 

Another important factor is conducting the development interview. Kristjan Kaskman himself has been to a development interview, where his main task was to answer the manager’s questions. He mostly limited himself to “yes” or “no” answers. There were also questions where the reason for the unfulfilled task had to be the manager’s undone work – not making a decision. In the end, further goals and training were written down, but they were neglected and not implemented, although I paid attention to it myself.

4. Organizing or rather not organizing job satisfaction surveys

The fourth sign of management problems is the organization, or rather the lack of organization, of job satisfaction surveys. It concerns the collection of information about both the work environment and the work culture of the organization. Many problems arise from there. If job satisfaction surveys aren’t done, these problems don’t come up for many managers because they don’t see them.

At this point, many organizations step on one rake – these studies are organized by themselves. Unfortunately, the issue here is primarily anonymity, because people are afraid to give honest answers. Honest answers can lead to reprisals. And so the problems keep getting worse. Therefore, if the organization does not organize job satisfaction surveys and their organization does not guarantee anonymity, then you should seriously ask yourself WHY?

In reality, there are many other small clues that the organization has leadership problems and that this is where employee mental health concerns begin. If an organization is serious about tackling mental health issues, it should first address the leaders. Understand the role and tasks of managers and review the management culture of the entire organization.

You could start with effective one-on-one meetings and development discussions and order a job satisfaction survey. A lot of important information comes from there, and Kristjan Kaskman has by himself used this information as a manager. Therefore, stress balls help when worries are present, but it is cheaper to prevent these worries.

Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level? If yes, then Kristjan Kaskman’s training masterclass in developmental conversations is just for you! Feel free to contact us and we will provide training according to your wishes!

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