Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Should managers operate in a pressure free environment?

One of the overarching responsibilities of the manager is to “get the job done” and creating the environment in which this work can be done effectively and efficiently is crucial.

But should this environment be pressure free?

Pressure Free Environment - Capita Learning & Development
Pressure free management? 

“Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors” the African proverb tells us. Managers want skilful sailors (effective staff) on their team – but there is a major difference between the pressure of gentle swells and the stress of tidal waves.

It is important that managers understand the difference between pressure and stress.

There is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, and is often essential in a job. It can help individuals achieve goals and perform better.

Stress often describes both the events that are a source of pressure and the subjective feelings associated with external events and stimuli.

The Health & Safety Executive defines stress as: 'the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them'.

This makes a distinction between 'pressure', which can be a positive state if managed correctly, and 'stress' which can be detrimental to health.

Is pressure good?
There is a direct link between performance and the appropriate levels of pressure – too little pressure results in boredom, too much results in exhaustion. Pressure must be appropriate not only in terms of volume of work but also on its longevity.

It is natural to feel under pressure at times, because of life and work demands. If the pressure is unrelenting and there is no time for recovery, negative health effects can result.

Who has the responsibility for maintaining pressure at the appropriate level?

In 1936 Kurt Lewin advocated that Behaviour is a function of both the person and the environment -  B= f  (P/E)

This clearly states that behaviour can be influenced internally and externally – the individual manages their own internal state and the manager influences the external state. So both have a part to play in creating and maintaining pressure that makes that skilful sailor.

The management responsibility
Managers must create an environment in which their people can cope. Coping means balancing the demands and pressures placed on an individual by the job requirements with the skills and knowledge required by the capable individual within that job – so well-designed, organised and managed work is vital.
It is essential that managers have an active role in facilitating and supporting staff to do their job effectively and to contribute to the success of their team and the organisation. So within the context of that role, managers can ensure they establish the following:

  • Role – do people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles? Are jobs designed to avoid conflicting demands and are the expectation of the job role clear? 
  • Appropriate Demand - are the workload, work patterns, and the work environment appropriate?
  • Control -  how much empowerment do people have in taking responsibility for the way they do their work 
  • Support - what encouragement, support and resources are provided by the organisation, line managers and colleagues? Are people fully trained to undertake the demands of their job?
  • Relationships - is a positive working environment promoted to avoid conflict and deal with unacceptable behaviour, identify or respond to issues of concern promptly and seek constructive solutions? 
  • Changes - how are organisational changes managed and communicated - are people engaged in this process?
  • Feedback – are there regular opportunities for feedback on performance e.g. regular 'one to one' meetings and team meetings?

The Employees responsibility
It is essential that managers ensure their people play an active role in maintaining pressure at the appropriate level by encouraging them to:

  • maintain good communication with colleagues and line management structure 
  • engage in discussion about  performance and act on feedback 
  • raise issues of concern at an early stage and seek constructive support and solutions 
  • make use of the support and training resources available 
So, should managers operate in a pressure free environment?

No – managers should operate in a pressure controlled, pressure maintained and pressure appropriate environment.

Written by David Mathieson, a learning consultant at Capita Learning & Development.

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