Managing Stress and Staff Morale in an Unrelenting Year

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Very few companies will make it out of 2020 unscathed.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small business employment dropped by more than 17% since a state of emergency was issued in March. Payrolls overall are more than 11 million jobs below their pre-pandemic level according to a September New York Times article.

This doesn’t begin to address the personal stresses Americans are experiencing: unpredictable child care, supervising online learning, huge financial swings and more.

If you’re a business owner looking at the upcoming holidays with nothing but fumes, we’ve got some tips to help.

SET THE TONE with your behavior instead of mandating fake positivity to employees.

Alicia Grandey, an organizational psychologist at Penn State, cautions that it’s incredibly difficult to impose positivity from the top and actually exert a positive effect. “When anything feels forced or externally controlled,” she states, “it doesn’t tend to be as beneficial as when it’s coming from the self.” Your most effective tool is leading by example. Showing interest in your employees’ lives outside of work goes a long way to create a welcoming environment.

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS to manage your response to stressful situations.

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully aware of what we’re thinking and experiencing without being overly reactive or judgmental.

In an article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Hugo J. E. M. Alberts and his co-authors found that for those working in emotionally demanding jobs, mindfulness promotes job satisfaction and helps prevent burnout from emotional exhaustion. There are plenty of free online resources to get you started.

COOPERATIVE CONFLICT is key to keep things on track.

No matter how much we may wish for it, every workplace eventually has conflict. What really makes a difference is how you approach it. Cooperative conflict is grounded in searching for a win/win solution. Instead of trying to defeat each other, both parties join together to attack the problem with the goal of a positive mutual outcome. What’s not to love?

HOLDING SPACE when team members need it most.

Similar to mindfulness, holding space is giving someone else the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with the intent only to listen and empathize without “fixing” or weighing in your opinion.

Providing your staff space to be heard without judgement can be a powerful tool to work through challenging experiences with your staff in a healthy way.

THINK AHEAD for this unusual holiday season.

Maybe your restaurant is open at 50% capacity, or you’ve altered your store hours to adapt to fewer in-store shoppers. It’s likely your normal holidays plan will need changes, too. Your employees are likely worrying about how any changes will affect them, so be transparent and communicate in advance whenever possible to keep from unnecessary speculation.