Right now, there’s a good chance one of your top employees is unhappy. They’re struggling to make it through the workday without snapping, filled with frustration and resentment for the company and its leadership team. They’re returning home each evening to unload all the gritty details to their spouse who, undoubtedly, begins urging them to look for another job. Eventually, they’ll agree and begin sending out their resume, interviewing and working with recruiters.
It’s only a matter of time before a competitor offers them a better opportunity. And bam! Just like that, you’ve lost another key player.
There are a number of reasons why a formerly satisfied team member becomes unhappy with their job. And while some of these reasons are personal and beyond your control, there are many ways you may be perpetuating undue stress. To make matters worse, a 2014 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found stress is contagious.
Workplace stress is an epidemic, but it can be stopped. Here are a few ways business leaders are stressing out their employees, and how you can nip it in the bud to foster employee satisfaction and authentic productivity.
1. A Lack of Transparency
As a leader, you make dozens of decisions every day. These decisions range in importance and often you may feel they’re irrelevant to your employees’ day-to-day duties. But letting your teams know what’s happening behind the scenes will fuel engagement, and help employees feel more committed to your company’s overarching goals. When you keep everything behind closed doors, you run the risk of your team members feeling unimportant or disconnected. A brief monthly or quarterly all-hands meeting can do wonders for inspiring engagement.
2. No Career Trajectory
Does every employee at your company know what’s on the horizon as far as raises and promotions? If not, that’s a problem. Not having a clearly defined career trajectory can make employees feel dispensable. Similarly, not knowing why they haven’t been promoted or given a raise will help them improve upon their areas of opportunity and grow as a professional.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
Goals are important, and it’s great to shoot for the stars. After all, some of the greatest business minds of our time realized their dreams by achieving things others deemed impossible. But remember: While your employees support your dreams, they’re also here to earn a living. Constantly setting unrealistic objectives will only make them feel defeated—especially if they rely on hitting goals for monetary compensation.
4. Uncomfortable Office Space
When it comes to an ideal office environment, it’s not just about fancy standing desks and free coffee. Overcrowding, continuously occupied conference rooms and a lack of private space threaten productivity and frustrate your employees much more than not having unlimited snacks and a ping pong table. By using space management technology and room reservation software, you can ensure space is being used efficiently and avoid friction.
The average American professional spends 204 hours commuting per year. And for those with schedules that require them to commute during peak rush hour times, it can be much worse. But studies show it isn’t just annoying—traffic is bad for your health. By offering your employees the opportunity to work from home even once or twice a week, you can help them preserve their vehicles and their mental health.
6. Too Many Meetings
“Woohoo! It’s time for my third meeting of the day!” Said no employee, ever. Employees hate meetings for good reasons: They’re disruptive, unproductive and at least 50 percent of meetings are a waste of time. But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate them altogether. Instead, only hold meetings when they are absolutely necessary, and only include employees essential to the discussion. Also, provide clear agendas and set hard end-times to keep everyone on track.
7. Harsh Consequences for Mistakes
No one is perfect. To err is human, and often it’s in the mistakes where the learning and magic happen. Disciplining employees for making inconsequential mistakes will thwart creativity and innovation. Setting parameters is important for keeping your teams on track, but don’t let employees live in fear of being fired for not getting everything right on the first try.
8. Restricting Hours
Forcing all employees into a 9-to-5 mold can be dangerous. Your early birds will be more efficient during the morning hours, but your night owls will do their best work after dark—and forcing one into the other’s box can mean lower quality output. If your business model allows, provide employees the opportunity to work flex hours. So long as projects are completed on time and meets standards, it shouldn’t matter how employees break up their time.
9. Never Giving Them the Floor
From voicing concerns to offering feedback, your employees are a gold mine of valuable information. Make sure they have a safe space to say their piece. This could be accomplished by holding open office hours when employees can schedule time with you or regularly sending out anonymous surveys. Just be sure to show your teams you’re listening and putting this information to use, or they’re unlikely to buy in.
A certain amount of stress is expected in an office environment. After all, it can be a powerful motivator. But too much workplace stress can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. Help your employees find their happy medium and you’ll see return in the form of better quality work, improved attitudes and increased productivity.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.