Whether it involves coworkers, subordinates, or managers, the No. 1 most stressful challenge in the workforce is dealing with other people. While it is easy to blame problems on “difficult people,” offering clear guidance and good communication can greatly reduce stress.
Often, people are not being intentionally difficult; they simply may not understand what you expect of them. Far too many managers fail to communicate clearly—or at all—and are then surprised when desired results aren’t delivered.
One of the most basic issues in any business is time scheduling. To avoid problems, ensure your employees know exactly what their schedules are, and when and where they should report. Be sure to document:
- Your process for schedule changes
- How to request time off
- Who is responsible for arranging cover for absent employees
The best method to document and implement time tracking is to use workforce management software. A strong system ensures management and employees are all on the same page.
At a minimum, a workforce management system must track employee time and attendance, and enable HR to interact with the workforce. More advanced enterprise solutions such as Advance Systems go beyond time and attendance, employee scheduling, and absence and HR management to provide mobile workforce management and interfacing with payroll packages.
Do the people you work with know exactly what they are expected to do–and just as importantly–how to do it? As a consultant and mentor, time and again I have seen that a failure to communicate clearly is at the core of most conflicts.
Providing one system where all communication is recorded can greatly reduce the failure to understand company processes. In “Tips for Better Collaboration as Your Staff Grows,” Drew Hendricks explains how using collaborative tools can improve communication.
Reaction to Stress
No matter how clearly you communicate, problems will arise. While we cannot prevent every problem, we can control how we react to them. “The Common Mental Habit that Creates a Negative Cascade of Stress Symptoms” explains it’s the habit of going over and over in our minds situations creating stress that keeps us from letting problems go.
Research indicates that people who experience chronic stress are those who “ruminate” on issues. According to the article, “some people are consistently burdened by the stress of past problems, to the point where it interferes with job performance and stiffens relations among co-workers and supervisors.”
Fortunately, it is possible to learn to set a time limit on how long to dwell on an issue, and then proactively focus on something else.
Just as we can learn to let stress go, it is possible to learn how to communicate better and more clearly. Success as a manager, team member, consultant, or business owner can be directly traced to clear communications.
Twenty-nine percent of business and consumer customers change vendors due to communication blunders.
The infographic “Understanding and Avoiding Communication Blunders” (shown below) provides survey results and details regarding various types of communication issues. The less your desire to review these, the more likely you need them.
For example, did you know it is never a good idea to deliver bad news via email because you cannot convey empathy and support? As painful as it may be, bad news should be delivered in person, or at least live using audio or video. Failure to allow other people to express their concerns and get their questions answered is a sure way to damage a relationship.
Avoiding Difficult Conversations
One of the most painful challenges of dealing with people is having a difficult conversation–especially if the person involved is prone to being less than polite.
It is natural to want to put off dealing with stressful situations, but avoiding only ends up creating more stress. It is better to get it over with and move on. Unless you are one of the rare few who have the luxury of not having to deal with difficult people, learning to get through a difficult situation as quickly as possible is essential to your mental well-being.
Cultural and Language Challenges
Communicating with others from the same country who speak the same language is difficult enough; imagine how much more likely miscommunication occurs if you’re interacting internationally.
Too many people assume that what is normal for them is normal everywhere else. That is definitely untrue. Harmless gestures and figures of speech in one country can be offensive in another.
When doing business with people from other cultures and countries, consider using a translator you can trust. Finding one, however, can be a challenge, so plan ahead and line up a backup translator in advance.
Communicate Clearly to Keep Stress Down
Failure to be clear about your expectations is a sure path to stressful communication. Always put everything in writing so there won’t be any confusion. If communicating clearly is a skill you lack, use a talented spokesperson as your mediator.