First-Line Managers Can Reduce Stress With Compassionate Management

By: Angela Fresne

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The impact of stress in the workplace has known consequences for both employers and employees alike. Rising healthcare costs, increased turnover, decreased productivity, anxiety, cardiac issues, irritability, and toxic work environments are just a few examples. Everyone feels the impact of stress at work in some way or form.

Then we have first-line managers, who manage over 80% of the workforce and are in a position to contribute to reducing at least some of that stress. But the harsh reality is that in managerial surveys, 45% to 60% of managers say they have not received formal management training.

[Related: What if You Don’t Want to be a Leader?]

There is urgency to equip our first-line managers with basic management training, but also with stress management techniques to manage their own stress and to help their employees to reduce their stress.

As a first-line manager, you don’t have to wait for your employer to pay for your training. It’s great when you can get it, but you can take your destiny in your own hands and learn management and stress management techniques, which will help you be more effective in managing yourself, your team, and the daily conflict that is a reality in most managers’ lives.

Taking a compassionate management approach is something anyone can do, regardless of the environment of the company they are in. For me, finding my way to compassionate management was critical to my well-being and self-esteem. I learned — through trial and error as well as through much education (both employer-provided and self-driven) — the critical importance of communication, collaboration, and cultivating the team members I was leading.

When you create an environment for your team where the team works together and shares ideas and experiences with active communication and collaboration, people feel heard and the level of engagement, participation, and motivation go up exponentially. When you add a focus on personal development to that recipe, employee satisfaction and motivation are boosted that much more.

[Related: Empathetic Leadership and its Path to the Power Table]

I have found that a lot of good management starts with self-awareness. It’s important to understand yourself and be aware of the impact you have on others. This is the first step to being able to put yourself in anyone’s shoes, which is an essential foundation of compassion.

Learning how stress works is a good way to start becoming more aware of the impact it’s having in your day-to-day work life, both on yourself and on your team. Automatic thinking, which often translates to negative thinking patterns, is a big culprit in increasing stress levels. Once you understand the cycle, it is possible to intervene and avoid letting potential emotional triggers lead you to stress-driven bad behavior.

Learning to communicate effectively — to adapt communication style to your audience, to be an active listener, and to understand how stress and high emotions impact communication — is also a foundational element for managers.

Creating an environment where communication is the norm and collaborationis part of the team’s DNA is not as hard as you may think, but it does take focus and effort. That’s where having a solid management system comes into play. So many managers have good intentions but don’t have a system in place to ensure that meet both short-term and long-term obligations.

Finally, if you don’t take care of your own career, it’s hard to help your employees to do the same. Learn how to create your career vision and career plan, and then share that with your team. In today’s environment of fast-paced change, keeping skills current is an ongoing task you can’t afford to ignore — for yourself or for your team.

In short, compassionate management is all about taking care of yourself, as well as taking care of your team. But that doesn’t mean only focusing on the good. It also means addressing attitude and performance issues and helping each individual to give the best of themselves to their job.

[Related: Make Your Team a Place People Want to Work]

Angela Fresne is a career and life coach. She is dedicated to helping people find more satisfaction in their lives.

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