Stress is out of fashion

Stress like the public sector is not fashionable but that doesn't mean it's no longer present. Whether you regard it as bad for business that over stressed managers make bad decisions or  you take your duty of welfare to your employees seriously, stress is an issue for organisations. You would anticipate that job insecurity, over ambitious efficiency targets and  the difficulty of delivering budget cuts whilst improving performance would be stressful. You would expect that reducing management posts to save money and therefore extending individuals breadth of responsibility to areas they have no experience of would make managers uncomfortable and anxious. Make any senior manager over reliant on the expertise and willingness to share information of their managers and you make them feel vulnerable. Put this in the context of a blame culture where the media and politicians want some one well paid and  high up to be "held accountable" and you can see why their might be a lot of stress around. Not that you will find senior managers admitting to feeling stressed even if they recognised it in themselves and most don't until after the critical event. 

Stress of course is not restricted to senior management, high levels of absenteeism across the organisation or high staff turn over may be an indication of high stress levels as might a rise in conflicts between individuals in the same team, a growing intolerance of staff from other ( partner) agencies or an unofficial culture of operating to suit the convenience of staff rather than the needs of customers/patients/ service users/ tenants or residents.

Staff surveys which reveal large numbers of staff feel over whelmed and under valued are a clear warning sign as is the tendency to "upward manage". This is the  practice of avoiding making decision and thus being held accountable by asking your line manager what to do. The opposite of using your initiative, avoiding taking responsibility for unpopular decisions and constantly covering your back. The classic example being the ACE, arse covering email, which clog up senior managers in boxes. Usually sent following a pep talk from senior management for managers to get on with what they are paid to do resulting in emails "just to let you know". Of course it's too late for you to do anything as the action has already been taken but the individual has side stepped any responsibility if things goes wrong by saying, "well I did tell you ". 

Clearly their are a lot of over stressed people around in (LAs, Hospital,schools, social services, HA's) but we don't talk about it like we did pre austerity because we know what's causing it and we know there is nothing we can do about it. 
 
Blair McPherson www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 

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