Prevent absenteeism? Fight stress & tension in your organization

Do you see the kicking ducks in your organization? On the outside, everything seems to be going well, but beneath the surface people are struggling to keep their heads above water. Organizational expert Adrian Gostick and leadership expert Chestor Elton call this the ‘duck syndrome’. This kind of hidden tensions and stress can eventually lead to absenteeism. And you want to avoid that absence.

The urgency of this problem is apparent from these figures: in the first half of the year, absenteeism in the Netherlands had a stress-related cause for 21%. That is quite a lot. How do you combat that stress and tension in your organization to prevent or reduce absenteeism? Don’t worry… relax! 🙂 I share 5 tips.

1. Leader: Show you are fallible!

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton argue with their book ‘Stress at work‘ (affiliate) for a human approach in which psychological complaints as a result of tension and uncertainty are not only discussed, but are also effectively tackled with compassion. For their book they have conducted extensive research into success factors when working on stress prevention and stress management in various large and smaller organizations.

Leaders have an important role, as it turns out. The most important icebreaker is to show as a leader that you don’t always know, that you also make mistakes and that you don’t run away from them. In short: that you show your team that fallibility is human and that it is fine. This is a strong tool in this performance-oriented world that makes people prone to performance anxiety.

2. Goals are not sacred, healthy employees come first

It is difficult to be open about experiencing tension, uncertainty or fears. It can feel like failure. This can create additional tensions and make employees insecure about their job. In an effort not to show this vulnerability, they can work even harder. Unnoticed this goes a little further and further. They easily get stuck, because they feel that they have to keep performing. While no one knows that below the surface they are exhausted from the hard work, it compensates.

The moment you notice that there are tensions in people and in teams, it is important to take the pressure off and take the lead to take a step back. This sends a clear signal: that work is important, but that people’s well-being comes first. There is always room for flexibility to ensure that the balance is restored if the pressure is found to be too high. By making this a topic for discussion, it also becomes easier for people to approach their manager. This way, action can be taken earlier.

3. From conflict avoidance to healthy discussions

Many employees avoid uncomfortable situations and are reluctant to give honest feedback. Trust and openness are needed to break through this. As a leader, you can create this by establishing ground rules, encouraging everyone to speak up, de-escalating arguments, and asking team members to support their opinions with facts. Leaders should monitor progress through clear plans and timelines.

Leaders can support conflict-avoiding employees by coaching them in entering into difficult conversations:

  1. Approach the problem, the value and the solution
  2. Don’t procrastinate
  3. Limit yourself to the facts
  4. use your words,
  5. Assume positive intentions
  6. make a plan
  7. give and take
  8. Feel comfortable with the uncomfortable

4. Everyone belongs: be an ally

Fearing judgment from others, people may find it difficult to be themselves. This can cause tension and uncertainty and has an effect on their motivation and involvement. An antidote, according to Gostick and Elton, is to create a culture as managers in which people dare to be themselves. Then drastic jumps in performance can be achieved, because everyone can focus all their attention on work. They recommend that team leaders, regardless of whether they themselves belong to a traditional minority group, tell at least one story about concealing identity. Why? To show vulnerability and to make it negotiable.

5. Say thank you more often

Effectively thanking people for their efforts leads to progress in team performance and reduces stress levels. Recognition of achievements helps people become more confident. And it also acts as a reassurance. It also provides a firmer foundation for times when performance needs to be monitored.

What it brings you: the semicolon in the workplace

Why does it benefit you so much to get started with these themes in your organization? Here are the authors of ‘Stress at work‘ (affiliate) very clearly. When you remove feelings of tension from the taboo sphere, an appreciation for individualism arises, the unnecessary, harmful tension decreases and everyone who struggles with something is accepted with compassion.

Gostick and Elton continue: “The semicolon symbolizes ‘before’ and ‘after.’ (…). In the world before, talking about subjects like feelings of tension was taboo, it was too much effort to include and assist people who were not average in our circle, and prejudice and judgment were too common. In the next world, individualism is appreciated, the unnecessary tension is reduced and everyone who struggles with something is accepted with full acceptance.”

Do you have any additional tips to reduce the tension in your team or organization or to prevent absenteeism? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Frankwatching by

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