Maybe a “stress-free office” is a bit of a misnomer, because let’s be honest: if we totally eliminated stress in any and all forms, nothing would get done because we’d lose our sense of urgency. But too much stress has a lot – no, really, a lot – of negative effects, not just on work performance but on health and quality of life in general.
Here at Journyx, one of our philosophical tenets is “don’t make things more stressful than required.” Stress due to personal conflict or something as trivial as an unnecessarily strict dress code lowers performance and generally has a negative effect on company culture. We want our company to be a fun place to work.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t require high quality results from your employees. You should absolutely expect high performance. But it’s another thing entirely to stress out over a small mistake (or even a perceived mistake) that has no actual negative effect on, well, anything at all.
So what’s the right balance between a healthy amount of stress and too much?
Many people operate under the idea that negative feedback is simply a part of management, and it is, but it also isn’t. Unfortunately, oftentimes a manager leaves an employee alone until they do something wrong. Then the employee gets negative feedback and tries to improve based on that negative feedback, without ever having a clear idea of what they are doing well.
As an engineer, it’s really just my nature to be more negative. That’s just how my brain works – I see all the problems remaining to be solved and want them to be fixed as soon as possible. It’s a natural instinct. As managers, we often just assume that our employees and team members know that the other work they do is great; it’s just that we want these other three things fixed, as well. (Of course, we don’t necessarily feel the same way when we are on the receiving end of the feedback!)
Research shows that the number one motivator of employees isn’t cash, isn’t promotions – nope, it’s personalized, immediate recognition of good work from managers. You know, getting a “thank you” here and a “great job” there. And really – how much time does that take out of our day? As long as the employee actually is doing a good job and isn’t phoning it in, why not? Consider this: even though we try to keep employees motivated with cash and bonuses, it turns out that positive reinforcement actually stimulates the same neural pathways as receiving money.
It’s a win-win: You can motivate your employees better and cut costs! (Just kidding, don’t take away your employees’ bonuses.)
So, how do you apply this to your management style?
Here are a few pointers:
- Make sure you’re not using the “Leave Alone/Zap” management style described earlier (term coined by Ken Blanchard). Do your employees, or even just your other team members, only hear from you when they’ve done something wrong?
- When it comes to positive reinforcement, an immediate response from you is best. Don’t have employees wait until the end of the year to find out all the good stuff they’ve done, because chances are either they’ll have forgotten or you will (not exactly ideal for keeping people motivated!)
- Keep your positive feedback sincere and specific. You don’t have to go on and on – but make sure they know what you liked about their work.
Managing is certainly an ever-evolving art seeing as how everyone is different and no two people will respond exactly the same way. But minimizing stress and maximizing positivity is a great place to start. What tips do you have for making the workplace more pleasant?