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Follow these three steps to reduce stress at work and increase motivation for you and your personnel.

By Tom Moriarty
Published in Plant Services Magazine
May 28, 2020

I had a question from a work center supervisor who wanted to know how a leader can improve work-life balance for his team. The plant he works is in hot, loud, and dusty. The firm pays wages that are good, but there are nearby plants that offer more. This supervisor’s plant is in a constant struggle to attract, keep happy, and retain workers.

How can a leader improve the work-life balance for their team members? First, I define work-life balance as: “The level of personal satisfaction an individual feels with regard to the positive and negative effects of their job and how it affects their life on and off the job.”

There are definitely limits on what a manager or supervisor can do, but by doing our best to reduce stress at work we can improve work-life balance. My recommendation is to identify the issues (satisfiers and dissatisfiers), identify how you can address those issues, and then put a plan in place to improve them.

Identify the issues. The first thing you need to do is get to know your team members. Every person has different motivations. A productive leader will spend time talking with each person to understand what motivates and what demotivates that person. This should be done periodically because people’s motivations change over time, especially with key life events. Events like earning a certification or college degree, getting married or divorced, having kids, becoming more focused on retirement, etc.

Getting to know your team member’s motivations is one of the fundamental reasons for leader-to-team-member span of control. Organizational structures should be set up so a supervisor has between 8 and 12 team members. Senior managers and managers should have between 3 and 8 direct reports.

Satisfiers are things like meaningful and challenging work, recognition for accomplishments, feeling of achievement, increased responsibility, opportunities for advancement, and variety of work. Dissatisfiers are things like compensation, fringe benefits, job security, working conditions, policies and administrative practices, and interpersonal relationships.

Identify how you can address the issues. When you think about dissatisfiers and satisfiers, think about whether you can directly or indirectly affect each one. For example, you can directly affect dissatisfiers like working conditions, policies and administrative practices, and interpersonal relationships. You can indirectly affect dissatisfiers like compensation, fringe benefits, and job security. By helping the person obtain new skills and gain more value to the organization you can influence dissatisfiers indirectly.

Most of the job satisfiers are things that a leader can improve directly. By empowering team members to take on more responsibilities, they can provide meaningful work, challenging work, a feeling of achievement and increase the variety of work.

Put a plan in place. Generally speaking, you should first address the job dissatisfiers and address issues that affect the largest percentage of your team first. Dissatisfiers create more stress than satisfiers relieve. Address the things that affect the largest percentage of your team because it will have the biggest impact on the greatest number of people. Look across all the people in your work center and see if there are recurring themes. Are the work conditions poor for everyone? Are policies too onerous? Address those issues first. It will become obvious to your team that you have noticed the issues and are doing something about it.

Next, work with individual team members. Ask about the things are dissatisfying to them, and what satisfying things they would like to do. Create an individual plan for each person. Use these items as goals on performance evaluations. Make opportunities for them. Empower them.Interact with each person weekly; informally ask them how they are doing relative to the goals.

Improving how someone feels about their work will reduce stress at work and at home. Not everyone will want more responsibility, but everyone likes dissatisfiers to go down and satisfiers to go up. Go forth and do great things.

Get a copy of my book “The Productive Leadership System”, or contact me to learn about training, workshops, assessments, site visits or discussions.