Hard Work and Efficient Management = Success? LO28367

From: Alan Cotterell (acotrel@cnl.com.au)
Date: 04/30/02


Replying to LO28356 --

Dear AM, never let anyone turn you into a robot. You might be interested
in the following:

WORKPLACE STRESS -- A MEASURE OF INEFFICIENCY ?

A manager who experiences a lot of sickiesí (lost time stress related
absences) amongst the employees he/she supervises, is probably
ineffective, and incompetent. The stress aspect of work can be greatly
exacerbated when managers are disorganised, or manipulative and
hypocritical in their dealings with people around them.

Research by Professor Michael Marmot (1) on health inequalities amongst
British public servants, found that the most highly stressed employees,
and those that suffered the most incidence of stress related illness
(heart disease and mental illness), were those with the least control over
their work situation.

In effect, while the image of the highly stressed executive or middle
manager, may be true in some instances, the most stressed persons are
those at the bottom of the management hierarchy.

There are two major aspects related to stress -- powerlessness and
control. The issue with workplace stress is democracy and control in the
workplace. A worker who has control over his/her work and is empowered to
make decisions related to it is generally less stressed than others.

In a stressful situation it helps to have issues (tasks) prioritised. In a
directive management situation, a worker may approach his/her reporting
manager with a task list and ask to have the tasks prioritised. Non
acceptance of items of equal priority is recommended -- a worker can only
do one task at any time.

A worker generally has only one supervisor, although work may be delegated
to him/her by others, this person is usually responsible for control of
the work situation. This fact may be denied by some managers, however a
worker may use this aspect to advantage in a stressful situation. The
middle manager is generally responsible, and accountable for managing his
subordinates work.

Many middle managers see the power game as being zero sum -- that is
empowering workers by giving them more control over their work situation
(allowing them to self-manage), as a loss of power on the part of the
manager. Mary Parker Follett (2) suggests the concept of power with rather
than power over. That is, an empowered worker acts synergistically with an
empowered manager, to the benefit of the organisation and themselves.

There is a paradox related to empowerment. It lies in the fact that
managers cannot actually empower subordinates. They can however make the
situation in the workplace such that workers can empower themselves.
ISO9000 based management systems can allow workers to self manage, if
clearly documented. Employee Share Ownership Programs can be a major
motivating influence, by giving employees some form of ownership of their
work. Problem solving through team based work groups (TQM), can give a
higher level of worker participation in decision making. Formalisation of
the staff suggestion scheme, within the management system, can give
workers an opportunity to have their concerns appropriately addressed, in
a way which can be controlled by the Chief Executive Officer.

A worker who is suffering stress related symptoms may not always recognise
them. Symptoms such as loss of weight, disturbed sleep patterns, emotional
upheaval, feelings of tightness in the chest, sensation of choking, high
heart rate, irritable bowel, giddiness and nausea, may not be recognised
as stress related, before the onset of serious mental illness and heart
disease.

It has been suggested that it is not appropriate to go fishing to combat
stress. This may be untrue. A worker who is regularly experiencing severe
symptoms (such as vomiting into the wash basin before going to work), may
benefit by taking the day off without notice, and going somewhere pleasant
(the beach etc.). If confrontation over this action occurs between the
worker and the manager, the worker can approach his/her doctor and ask for
a Workcover certificate. In Victoria, Australia such certificates are
investigated by the state government health and safety authority.

1. Bosma H, Marmot MG, Hemingway H, Nicholson AG, Brunner E, Stansfeld A.
Low job control and risk of coronary heart disease in Whitehall II
(prospective cohort) study. BMJ 1997;Volume 314:558-65

2. Mary Parker Follett -- Prophet of Management, A celebration of writings
from the 1920s. Peter F. Drucker, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Pauline Graham.

Alan Cotterell

16th October 2000

-- 

"Alan Cotterell" <acotrel@cnl.com.au>

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