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An Elephant in the Room

There’s an Elephant in the room and I think it’s stressed…

As managers we learn to appreciate the diverse qualities amongst members of our teams, we know when to offer support and guidance to an individual who appears to be behaving out of character today and what form that support should take. Almost everyone has experienced a day at work when a colleague has had a bad day and their reactions have infected the atmosphere temporarily, but what happens when that individuals negative attitudes and emotions regularly seem to make everyone else’s day that much worse?

Stress has a habit of creeping up on us; signs include no longer finding enjoyment in areas of the job, becoming cynical or bitter about the job, experiencing problems in relationships with colleagues, friends or family, as a result of the conflicts of with the job. Other symptoms to watch out for are asking to go home early on a regular basis, increased absence, looking physically exhausted …or burnt out.

In the UK 70 million working days are lost every year due to mental ill health, with 10 million working days directly caused by work-related problems, and because stress is a taboo subject, there is it large as life like an elephant in the room, we allow it to go on because we are afraid to confront it or we approach it using the wrong strategy

Stress Management Competencies

Subordinates perceive managers have greater control over stressful events than they do. They perceive the organization’s demands through their manager’s demands, so, if the boss is having a bad day, is stressed out and feeling down, subordinates may be prone to the same feelings. Awareness of the effects of personal stress on your management style is essential to creating a consistent environment and to avoid causing undue stress for subordinates. As an employer, you are also required by law to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities and take action to control that risk.


The HSE (http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm) have produced a set of management competencies which describe six areas of work that can lead to stress if not properly managed:

Demands – includes workload, work patterns and the work environment.

Control – how much say a person has in the way they do their work.

Support –   includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.

Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles

Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

Relationships – promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.


Here is an opportunity to address the elephant in the room and assess whether any of the areas above may represent a development need for you.  The stress management competency indicator tool (http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/mcit.htm) provides you with the opportunity to reflect on your own behaviour and management style in terms of how effective you are at preventing and reducing stress in your staff.

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