Dr. Nicole Tschierske

Redefining Stress Management: A Proactive Approach for Lasting Change

Have you attempted to address the stress within your team, only to find that the solutions fell short of their promises? In my years of working with managers and leaders, I’ve observed various well-intentioned but ineffective approaches. Let’s delve into these ’solutions‘ and explore why they often miss the mark.

‚Solution‘ #1: Working Longer Hours

The notion that working longer hours can solve the problem is flawed. It only exacerbates exhaustion and burnout. High demands and stress levels rarely subside with this approach. A more practical approach is to prioritize, plan, and balance workloads to make them manageable. Push back on unrealistic deadlines and excessive workloads.

‚Solution‘ #2: Incentives for Motivation

Using extrinsic motivators like bonuses may offer short-term results but do not address the underlying attitudes and lasting commitment. A better approach is to tap into intrinsic motivators by recognizing individual and team contributions, demonstrating their impact on the organization’s success.

‚Solution‘ #3: Wellness Initiatives

Wellness newsletters, meditation, or exercise challenges can help to an extent but do not tackle the root causes of stress. These measures may feel tokenistic if the organization’s operations remain unchanged. A better approach involves addressing the root causes of exhaustion, stress, and burnout by reevaluating work processes.

‚Solution‘ #4: Reducing Workload

Assuming that a reduced workload will eliminate stress oversimplifies the issue. Stress arises from various factors. Instead of making assumptions, engage your staff to gain insights into the specific causes of stress, overwhelm, and exhaustion.

‚Solution‘ #5: Leader’s Role in Motivation

While leaders play a role in creating a motivating environment, team members must also learn the skills and mindset to self-motivate. Empower your team by providing the tools, opportunities, and accountability to manage stress and self-motivate effectively.

To effectively reduce stress and boost motivation, a two-pronged approach is essential. This approach is based on two decades of research by scientists Arnold Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti and is known as the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model. The good news is that it doesn’t require a major overhaul; instead, it involves small, realistic adjustments that can be implemented within your team to restructure work processes, significantly enhancing employee engagement, happiness, and productivity.

One common issue with many stress-reduction and engagement initiatives is their tendency to stop short, leading to temporary improvements that eventually regress. Implementing mindfulness and resilience training, for instance, may offer a temporary boost, taking employees from a low point to an improved state. However, without reengineering the way you work, sustainability remains elusive. Using the JD-R model as a guide, we have an actionable approach that fosters lasting, positive change. This method equips teams with the resources they need, improves work environments and processes, and drives high engagement.

In a separate article, we will explore how you can chart a tailored path for your team and organization by identifying and addressing stress factors (job demands) while enhancing motivation factors (job resources).

(This article is based on a chapter in Better Work: A Leader’s Guide to Creating Happier, Healthier, and More Productive Workplaces.)

Further Reading

Better Work Basics​