Employers can help workers bust stress by encouraging them to tell their line managers what they think of them, according to psychologists.
The research, which was jointly sponsored by the Health and Safety Executive, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Investors in People, found that companies that enable their employees to rate their boss’s management ability were less stressed which, in turn, made them happier and healthier.
Emma Donaldson-Feilder, one of the occupational psychologists at consultancy Affinity Health at Work, which undertook the study said: "Stress is a significant cause of sickness absence and this puts pressure on those left behind to run the business, creating a cycle of uncomfortable pressure, with costs to the individual and the company."
The consequences of such stress were pervasive, she added when presenting the findings at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology’s Annual Conference. People suffering from it can experience psychological systems such as anxiety and depression, physiological symptoms such as palpitations or raised blood pressure and cognitive symptoms such as reduced mental capacity.
The study focused on the relationship between employees and line managers as it is most commonly cited as the most stressful. Some 150 managers were asked to rate their own management skills, before being split into two groups. One group received feedback from a group of about 500 staff in total and relevant training based on that feedback, while a second group did not.
Those managers that received feedback were found more likely to change their management style and to become more effective leaders in key areas. These areas included being able to better manage their emotions, demonstrating more integrity, managing team members more empathetically and managing conflict more successfully.
Affinity has developed guidance to help line managers reduce stress in the workplace, which can be downloaded from the CIPD website.