Poor leadership and employee stress go hand in hand. The management staff of any business or organization is responsible for setting priorities for the staff, defining expectations, and generally making sure things run smoothly. If management is not fulfilling these responsibilities or is doing a poor job of fulfilling them, employee stress will be significantly higher.
Many managers are responsible for deciding on the direction their team will go. They choose which projects to focus on, and how fast they need to be done. Unfortunately, some managers have very limited project management skills. Some managers may focus on one project for a short time, and get their staff excited about the project and invested in it. Then suddenly the project manager changes his or her focus and abandons the first project, leaving it undone and staff members scrambling to get up to speed on the new task. This jumping around not only confuses employees, but is also a great way to make a business fail.
When projects are taken up and abandoned without warning, employees feel as though the work and time they've put into the abandoned project is not valued by their leadership team. After putting their best into one project, only to have it suddenly put on the back burner, staff members will begin to put less effort into their work. They strive to become less invested, since their direction could suddenly changed at any time. The standard of work slips, and soon the entire team is putting out substandard work.
Most employees perform best when their duties and responsibilities are clearly defined. This allows the staff to break their larger responsibilities into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks according to the larger goals put forth by management. The best management goals are ones that are quantifiable, sticking to concrete numbers or measurable benchmarks. For example, a good goal for a sales department would be to increase sales by 15 percent over the next quarter. A poor and vague goal would be to "do a good job."
Without clear standards of performance, an employee can't measure his or her individual success at work. This causes morale to suffer, and makes it very difficult for an employee to ask for a raise, pursue a promotion, or feel successful at his or her job. Also, without concrete guidelines, managers can discipline employees at will, leaving them without any idea of what they've specifically done wrong and how to correct it. Employees that are constantly in fear of being disciplined unjustly will have very high stress levels, and may be sick or absent from work more frequently.
Keep Things Running
In many offices and job sites, it's the responsibility of the management to take care of the details. This includes mundane tasks like paying the office's utilities, ordering supplies, or arranging for repair or replacement of broken equipment. Late payments of office bills can result in numerous phone calls and collections letters from the company that is owed, and handling these takes time away from employees' regular duties. In addition, if a manager is slow to get a broken copier repaired, employees may be unable to process important paperwork and complete required documentation.
It's also frustrating for employees when a manager depends on a staff person to keep things running, claiming that he or she doesn't understand the technology or simply doesn't have time to do the necessary tasks. Delegating is okay, but not if the manager is simply using a lower-paid employee to do his or her work.
Poor Leadership and Employee Stress
Poor leadership can increase employee stress in a variety of ways, and in many cases there isn't much an employee can do to improve the situation. He or she could possibly talk to the boss's boss, but in some companies this type of action may result in repercussions from the employee's direct supervisor. Poor leadership can be so stressful to other staff members that some may choose to find a job somewhere else, rather than subjecting themselves to the whims of a capricious management team.