Managing people working under pressure – survey results

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) recently announced the results of its four-year research project into how managers need to behave to prevent and manage stress at work amongst their staff. Their findings are not surprising but it is good to have it confirmed that key management skills are:
• treating people with respect
• communicating job objectives clearly
• involving staff in wider objectives
• talking one-to-one
• managing conflict

The psychologist Eric Berne (founder of Transactional Analysis), proposed that people have a need for:

Structure
Stimulation and
Recognition (which he called Strokes)

in life in general and at work. It’s a simple formula which is reflected in the management behaviours identified by the CIPD study. I use it as a basis for developing new managers, and helping them to identify how they can help staff to feel motivated to work effectively and go the extra mile, not just prevent stress. In 21st century terms, we are talking about “engagement”.

Structure means being clear about job roles, boundaries and objectives, reporting lines and career paths. It doesn’t require complicated competency frameworks; it does require managers to be able to be informative and descriptive and to co-create understanding with their staff about the requirements of the job.

Stimulation can mean many different things and will reflect different people’s values and interests. For some it will be pride in doing a good job, following a well-known work routine with expertise; for others it will be challenge and variety; good relationships with manager and colleagues; developing skills; using strengths.

Recognition includes being paid, but pay doesn’t engage the emotions in the same way as praise for good work and a working atmosphere that respects people for who they are as well as what they do. More in depth research has found that a warm “Thank you” from a manager or a team lunch to celebrate a job well done are more effective forms of recognition than an “Employee of the Year” award which is too impersonal and comes too late.

The term “engagement” which has now become the way to describe a mixture of motivation, loyalty and good performance reflects the real recognition that performance is not just about what people do, but what they feel at work. The management relationship is key to that engagement, and thinking about boosting provision of Structure, Stimulation and Recognition can make all the difference to that relationship.

Valerie Fawcett

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