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Support: Dealing with Stress in the Workplace

Key Strategies for Reducing Frustration

According to the Hay Group Insight study The Frustrated Employee: Help Me Help You,” there are 10 steps, organized into four “Key Supports” that are effective in reducing employee frustration. The steps are especially effective when completed by the employee’s immediate manager or supervisor.

Key Support: Supervisor-to-Employee Performance Management

Clear evaluations: In his book, Effectively Managing Human Service Organizations, Ralph Brody observes that the supervisory relationship is much improved when the employee has ownership and understanding of the way that he or she is evaluated. Brody suggests that employees be involved in setting productivity goals and performance standards. Of course, some standards must be established for the sustainability of the organization. Therefore, it is extremely important for employees to know exactly what is expected of them—both standards that they set for themselves and standards that the organization must maintain. Additionally, it is helpful for the employee to know how performance against a task is evaluated—in other words, how the supervisor decides whether someone has done a good job.  

1)    Provide clarity regarding personal goals and objectives.
2)    Ensure that regular feedback is obtained  between supervisors and employees regarding performance. Let staff members know where they stand in terms of accomplishing goals. If they have made some wrong turns, explain    when and where they went off track.
3)    Give the employee challenging yet attainable goals.

Key Support: Empowerment to Explore and Use Skills and Talents

4)    Set up an environment of openness, in which management will listen to and act upon employees’ ideas and suggestions.
Receptiveness has a positive impact: Research conducted by Dr. Hannah Knudsen and colleagues at the University of Georgia’s Center for Research on Behavioral Health and Human Services Delivery confirms that receptiveness to employee suggestions has a positive impact upon employee burnout and turnover. Employees are less likely to be burned out and more likely to feel committed to their jobs if they believe that their employers: (1) support their ability to work creatively; (2) support employees in developing new ideas; (3) are receptive to ideas, regardless of who in the organization suggests them; and (4) encourage employees to suggest ideas. The researchers suggest that organizations interested in adopting new treatment practices should not attempt to do so by a top-down approach, instead encouraging front-line staff to be involved in evaluating the pros and cons of potential approaches, thus allowing them “ownership” of the new practice.

Give real authority: Dr. Hannah Knudsen and her colleagues, in the study “Retaining counseling staff at substance abuse treatment centers: effects of management practices” suggest that providing employees with authority to make decisions is effective only if the authority is real, meaning that it is not undermined by enforcing rules and by constantly exercising (or threatening to exercise) authority. Because the supervisor is ultimately responsible for the actions of supervisees, however, they suggest that the supervisor “contract” up front with the supervisee that he or she will share in the responsibility for the results of his or her decisions and allow the supervisee to decide whether or not he or she want decision-making authority and responsibility.

5)    Provide employees with the appropriate   
      authority to make decisions as they
      perform their jobs.
6)    Encourage and reward responsible risk taking.

Key Support: Resource

The importance of supporting employees in the behavioral health workforce is highlighted by research conducted by Charles Glisson at the University of Tennessee Children’s Mental Health Research Center. Research conducted in several settings has found that organizational culture has a significant impact on turnover, employee satisfaction, client satisfaction, and client outcomes. One of the important aspects of organizational culture is employees’ perception that they receive the support needed to do their jobs.
7)    Ensure that employees have the information, tools, equipment, supplies, and assistance they need to perform their jobs.

 Key Support: Training and Development

8)    Provide ongoing coaching and counseling from supervisors to address development needs.
  9)    Give consistent organizational support for training and development opportunities and encourage employees to use those opportunities.
10) Provide ample opportunities to learn new skills and refine.
Survey: BH staff and time off for professional development NCETA found that although 57% of Australian alcohol and other drug workers reported that their organizations provided access to professional development opportunities, 54% of workers indicated that there was no provision for backup to enable workers to attend training. Nearly 70% of workers in rural areas reported that backup staffing was not available. How would the American BH worker respond? It might be worthwhile to review your organization’s track record on not only offering professional development time, but helping staff find backup so they can attend trainings.

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