Your team feels overworked. Trust me on this one. I hear it all the time from front-line employees in all types of work settings.
Sometimes they tell me directly. Often it’s more indirect. For example, when doing stress management workshops, I usually talk about the importance of taking regular breaks. Oddly, my suggestion is typically met with laughter. Anyone want to guess why the idea of regular breaks has become a reliable laugh line?
I tell employees that their managers are programmed to keep asking for more. That’s just what they do. I also suggest that if those managers are unreasonable in their requests, it’s the employee’s job to respectfully raise the concern. My sense is that very few people are willing to follow my advice.
If you want to be an exceptional leader, start proactively checking in with individuals as you assign work to make sure you aren’t pushing too hard. While you might live to work, that doesn’t mean everyone else does too. And while pushing a bit is not a big deal, pushing hard over extended periods almost always creates serious problems such as errors, seething resentment, and turnover.
Here are some things you can say and do that will keep you from inadvertently pushing people past their limits.
- Pay attention to signs of stress and inquire about the causes when you notice it. Once discovered, work with employees to remedy the situation.
- Say the following, “I don’t always know when I’ve asked too much of you, so please let me know if I do.” This is a message worth repeating on a regular basis.
- When assigning a task you might ask, “Is this doable considering everything else that’s on your plate right now?”
- Communicate priorities daily, especially if they shift frequently. Let your staff know that as the priorities change, they should adjust the tasks you’ve given them to align with the current priority. Offer to help re-prioritize those to-do lists if team members aren’t clear about how to do so.
- In those (hopefully rare) instances when you know you are pushing people too hard, give people a chance to recuperate afterwards. Also make sure to show your appreciation for their extra effort, and make it clear that level of expectation was an exception and not the rule.
While employees are ultimately responsible for managing their own work level, many aren’t comfortable pushing back when too much is being asked of them. Help make it easier for them to speak up in order to head off future burn-out and morale problems.