Does Your Employer Give You a Good Work-Life Balance?

With the economy’s downturn, companies have been forced to downsize and had to increase the workload of employees still on payroll. Technology and smart phones have also allowed employees to feel like they can’t “unplug” fully even during after-hours or on their days off. Factors like this are starting to blend people’s work and personal life into one. This issue has become highly noted among HR professionals because improper work-life balance has caused many people to become stressed, increased turn-over, and even caused employee’s work and home-life to suffer.

I have been guilty of working through lunch, taking work home with me over the weekend, late hours at the office, and working on holidays from home- all while being an hourly employee. Understandably, it sometimes is necessary when you have goals to meet, tight deadlines, or in my case, payroll that could not be put off. However, if workers continue this pattern it can start to take its toll on both the individual’s work performance and personal life. So why do we continue to do it?

Here are some of the top reasons employees provided when I asked them:

  • Fear that they will be terminated if they do not consistently display above-and-beyond hard work.
  • Feel that it is necessary to secure a spot for promotion when these roles are limited.
  • Do not want other workers to outshine them and make them seem like a bottom performer.
  • Technology and mobile devices make them feel like they need to give an instant response any time a phone call, text, or e-mail comes in.
  • They are given extra job duties to fill in for the individuals that were terminated/laid off and feel overwhelmed with work. They work long hours to try feel like they aren’t drowning.

I’ve had some of these similar feelings before in previous jobs. I also have witnessed other people going through this situation. Unfortunately, here are some of the effects that could occur if they keep working like this (I’ve witnessed it or co-workers have told me about it):

  • Strain on relationships: family, friends, children, and significant others.
  • Stress and depression due to not having time to unwind/relax.
  • Stress and depression due to not having time to do things the individual enjoys.
  • Anxiety about going to work and how much work will be waiting for them there.
  • In extreme cases: substance abuse has occurred to deal with stress.
  • In extreme cases: stress has caused individuals to do things that are uncharacteristic and self-destructive.
  • Feelings of resentment towards work, co-workers, and managers, which contributed to high absenteeism and turn-over.
  • Feelings of being overworked and unable to juggle life’s responsibilities.
  • Overwhelming feelings and stress affects work-performance and quality.

Unfortunately, some of these scenarios happen before an employee realizes that the lack of quality work-life balance is affecting them that much. If you are an employee feeling overworked, please review WebMD’s tips on finding a better work-life balance.  If you are an HR professional or manager, please be sure to pay attention to this to avoid any of the effects mentioned above. If you would like to find more information on companies that have the best work-life balance, please review the articles by CNN and Glassdoor. Your employees’ well-being is important!

Additional Links:

Work-Life Balance Worsened by Recession.

Recognizing Work-Life Balance Problems.

Photo Source.

 

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Micromanagement Kills Productivity

The other day I had posted a conversation on Ted.com and was delighted to get an interesting comment. This individual had mentioned that her ideal employer would be one that explains why we do certain processes. Also, another ideal quality would be an employer that does not micromanage. I was so glad that these things were brought up because it is a subject that my peers have passionately discussed in the past. Why do managers think that micromanaging is actually helping? In reality, it does more harm than good.

To start, I’m going to dive into this post by discussing the first part of this person’s comment: why the company exists and why do we do the procedures. Nothing is worse than being trained by someone who only shows you how to go through the motions but doesn’t give an explanation. It is important for employers to train in a way that allows employees to get a full understanding of why they do certain things and how it impacts the business. If all an employer does is train an employee how to do “A. B. and C.” and nothing further, then the employee’s thought process most likely will end there.

A good training program should almost be like a story. For example, a trainer should show an employee how to do “function A.” but also explain what that function’s purpose is and why it’s important to the company. Giving this background and additional information will allow employees to have a clearer picture and retain information easier. Additionally, giving employees those details can allow them to be innovative. If an employee truly understands why they do specific tasks, they may be able to figure out a better and more efficient way to get to the end result. Essentially, you’re allowing employees to have the knowledge and ability to take their job duties a step further.

Once the employees get the swing of things, managers need to learn how to loosen up on their micromanagement. It is perfectly OK to mentor them this way in the beginning since new hires are bound to make a few mistakes through the first few months, but managers need to eventually give them room to do their job without breathing down their necks. Micromanagers feel like they need to be in control of things because they believe that is the only way they can ensure results. Contrary to their belief, it actually kills productivity rather than helps.

These employees were hired for a reason: they are competent; they are educated; and they have experience. In other words, this isn’t their first rodeo. Once they learn the basics of how your company works, what the processes are, and what the expectations are, then they should be good go. If they are micromanaged after that point, it can cause a few issues:

• Employees will be distracted by constant monitoring.
• Employees will feel like they aren’t trusted by the employer.
• It will cause stress and frustration.
• It will limit employees’ feelings of empowerment, accountability, and responsibility.
• Micromanaged timelines may actually slow down efficient employees.
• Constant updates and status meetings will take time away from the actual task at hand.
• It will kill employees’ drives to be creative, innovative, and find better solutions.
• It will make employees question their abilities and limit their professional growth.
• It will make employees feel disrespected.
• And—it’ s just generally suffocating.

When I was recruiting, I used to hate it when I received a job order alert, and within a minute my manager was hounding me about filling the order. At that point, I had barely even got time to read the job requirements before she was down my back. (I often wondered if she had some sort of super power to read the e-mail and get to my desk that fast). Anyway, she started to come off hostile by doing this and employee morale went down tremendously. The stress from being micromanaged caused employees to be unhappy at work to the point where absenteeism and turnover became high. Without these employees present, the company lost a lot of business because there wasn’t enough manpower to keep them competitive.

If you want employees to be happy and engaged, then give them the freedom to do their work. They are capable professionals. The best thing a manager can do is to give employees clear goals and timelines then allow them to work on it without having their every move observed. Even without micromanaging, managers can still make themselves available to the employees if they have questions or need guidance. Perhaps this is a suggestion to keep both ends happy?

If you’re a micromanager, please try to loosen up the control a bit. Your employees will appreciate you for it and you may end up discovering that giving them the empowerment will allow them to be more productive. Giving them the “why” in their training can allow them to be exceptional employees without the need for hand-holding.

Links:
Ted.com
Forbes-How to Manage a Micromanager

Is Workplace Bullying Affecting your Performance?

Today’s topic references a discussion that I had posted to the LinkedIn:HR group a few months ago. The discussion asked HR professionals and employees to contribute stories of workplace bullying and also offer suggestions on how they have or would have handled it. The amount of feedback I’ve received is astounding and made me feel that it is a good subject to bring to light. This was especially true when I learned that some employees kept quiet about hostile situations that they were in. I originally chose HR as a degree because I wanted to be able to protect my employees. Hopefully, this information can bring a sense of awareness to victimized employees and help them learn what they can do to remedy this scenario.

First, I’m going to start this off with an example of workplace bullying that happened to a friend. I felt this was appropriate because a decent amount of individuals had similar stories:

My friend, Anna*, was recently working for a well known employer that had a great reputation. However, there was poor management at this particular branch. Over a course of a year, Anna would come to me extremely upset about things her manager had said to her. These things would range from criticizing her looks, talking down to her, inappropriately yelling at her (even outside of the office), and making offensive comments about her competency. I’ve worked with Anna before, so I was well aware that she was a respectable employee, a fast learner, and a self-starter. I urged Anna to talk to the Human Resources department about the hostile work environment, but she brushed it off saying she was being an emotional woman and didn’t want to rock the boat for no reason.

Within the first few months of her employment there, I started to see the bullying take a toll on her work performance and her personal life. These negative effects are also common in most cases of bullying and harassment:

• She had heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
• Insomnia from the stress ended up lowering her immune system, causing her to get sick often.
• She was absent more than normal.
• She lowered her productivity to avoid being publicly criticized in a hostile way.
• Her self-esteem hit an all time low which led to depression.
• Her husband found her to be inconsolable, which caused strain on their relationship.

After a year of this, she finally contacted the human resources department about this situation. She soon found out that several other employees were also being affected by this but were scared of losing their jobs, so they did not speak up. The HR professional stressed that Anna should have come to him sooner because they take this very seriously. Although the problem was taken care of soon after, the damage was already done. Anna and several other employees promptly left the company because they did not believe that the solution to fix the hostility issue would be permanent and did not want to deal with it if it wasn’t.

Anna’s case seemed to be very common. However, individuals also informed me of extreme cases in which the bullying led to depression that sometimes resulted in suicide. Besides the frequent or extreme cases of workplace bullying, there are also more subtle circumstances. Some examples of these are: constant criticism; regular referencing of an employee’s mistakes (especially in front of others, causing embarrassment); gossip; and even isolation.

Another important fact to keep in mind: workplace bullying also affects other employees besides the targeted individual. Because of this, workplace morale can be lowered by each situation co-workers witness. Lower morale can hinder productivity from these employees. If it isn’t handled, this can also lead to lack of trust in higher level of management. Employees could feel like their well-being is threatened. These feelings could result in high turnover.

Different HR professionals informed me of multiple ways they bring awareness to workplace bullying:

• Training for all levels employees on the subject.
• An online class that ends with a test to determine how well the employees understand.
• Emphasis on a bullying policy that is separate from their harassment policy.
• Partnership with an anonymous hot-line in which employees could call if they don’t feel comfortable directly speaking to a manager.

Employees must realize that if a manager isn’t stepping in to resolve this, it may be because they aren’t aware that it’s occurring. If you are an employee and feel like you are being bullied, be sure to keep a record of the incidences and speak to your manager or HR department as soon as possible. Your mental, physical, and emotional well-being is important. I am confident that your employer would want to keep you as healthy and happy as possible.

*Name changed for privacy.

Links with additional information on the topic:
Bullying Statistics
Forbes- 10 Signs You’re Being Bullied at Work
Forbes- Examples of Workplace Bullying