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How to Handle the Stress of Being a Manager

BY
Camille Rutherford
November 11, 2021

If you have been in management for a while, you will agree that people management is not a walk in the park. If not handled well, it can cause stress or even depression.

Given the enormity of the problem, stress handling techniques are crucial in management training, mentoring, leadership coaching, and executive coaching.

Despite extensive knowledge of the problem and stress alleviating techniques, managers worldwide report high levels of stress, which undermines personal goals and organizational leadership.

What is Work-place related stress?

The World health organization (WHO) defines Workplace stress as the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and challenge their ability to cope.

A manager explaining a flowchart drawn on the whiteboard

How Stress Affects Managerial Performance:

1. Stress Leads to Poor Decision-Making

Stress leads to poor decision-making as the brain is rewired to be reactionary under pressure. NASA managers famously approved the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger despite the advice of engineers to the contrary.

The failure led to the deaths of seven astronauts, grounded the space shuttle fleet, and severely dented the image of America’s space industry.

 The loss of Challenger is a stark reminder of how stress can lead to poor decision-making.

Workplace stress is often due to a combination of difficult situations at work, leading to the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that Controls; motivation, fear, and mood. When released, it can significantly lower cognitive function leading to lower thought clarity.

2. Stress Increases Mistakes

Managers under stress can make mistakes due to rash decision-making, arguing, overthinking, and uncontrolled emotions.

Stress leads to rash decisions since managers in that state of mind cannot process or analyze the full range of available options. Big decisions made in a state of stress can negatively impact team members or the organization later.

3. Stress Can Result in Needless Arguments

It is no secret that you are more likely to start arguing with other people when stressed.

Arguments are a negative leadership trait that should be avoided at all costs. A good leader knows that opinions vary and the best way to lead is to listen to what other people have to say.

Managers are human, and so, they are prone to uncontrolled emotions. Stress can result in an outburst of negative emotions, which could be detrimental to leadership performance.

4. Stress Results in High Staff Turnover

Staff retention is one of the challenges of managing any organization or company. Stress within a company will push out the most talented team members and direct company-wide performance deterioration.

Information about stressful workplaces is widely available, so recruiting new talent will be difficult. It further compounds the problem of staff turnover and makes a difficult situation even worse.

5. Stress Leads to Poor Workplace Relationships

Managers often have a love/hate relationship with team members. Stress tips the scales of the connection to the negative state.

Poor workplace relationships will hinder teamwork, elevate anxiety, and cause unnecessary drama in the workplace

6. Stress Leads to Poor Health.

The human body evolved to handle a bit of stress every day; however, constant stress adds to a significant cumulative impact. The human body reacts to daily stress by increasing blood pressure, metabolism, and heart rate. These changes are meant to make your body more effective in stressful situations.

While this sounds good, additional stress leads to the production of cortisol. This hormone is an immune-suppressant, and it makes you more susceptible to illnesses such as colds.

A manager explaining a flowchart drawn on the whiteboard

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How to handle stress as a manager?

Knowing the effects of stress on management performance, it is only prudent to find solutions to the problem at hand.

Everyone handles stress differently, but here are some simple ways to handle the stress of being a manager:

1. Eat Well and Exercise

Eating well and exercising sounds like a cliché, but there’s a reason why everyone recommends it so much.

A healthy diet builds a solid foundation to resist the effect of a stressful environment.

For instance, nutrients such as omega-3, vitamin E, and polyphenols from healthy food will improve blood flow in the body. In addition to this, healthy eating also delivers essential nutrients to the body that will enhance brain function and improve physical fitness.

Exercise helps with stress management in several ways. First, exercise induces the production of endorphins in the human body. Endorphins are what cause the feel-good sensation in the human body. It is sometimes known as runner’s high due to its association with aerobic activity.

Secondly, exercise helps the body counteract the effects of stress. Exercise helps reduce weight gain, increases blood flow, and helps the body deal with other stress products.

Finally, exercise helps with self-confidence, relaxation and mitigates the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

2. Seek Help

It is often said that no matter what you are going through, there’s someone else going through the same thing. This fact typically results in a variety of ways to deal with problems.

Sharing your management burden with others will help with stress relief. You can consult a professional to find a healthy and long-term solution to stressful problems.

Professionals such as therapists and counselors have developed a variety of methods to help people. These professionals can also help diagnose mental health problems such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the appropriate treatment path for such afflictions.

3. Identify Stress Triggers and Seek Out Techniques to Counteract Stress

Part of handling stress is knowing what triggers anxiety within the workplace and how to deal with said triggers.

Some examples of stress triggers include:

  • Pressure of deadlines
  • Upcoming changes in leadership
  • Lack of control over situations
  • Poor work environment
  • Unpredictable life events
  • Social situations

Once you identify your stress triggers, you can work on techniques to alleviate stress. Here are some examples of stress-relieving techniques:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Music
  • Exercise
  • Timeouts
  • Drinking tea

4. Reject Perfectionism

Management perfectionism is typically viewed as a positive trait that increases leadership quality; however, it could lead to strategies and behaviors that lead to stress.

  • Perfectionism leads to stress in the following ways:
  • A manager cannot perform a task unless it can be done in a perfect way
  • Ignoring the process and only focus on the end product
  • Viewing tasks as incomplete unless they meet personal standards
  • Delaying functions until they can be done perfectly
  • Taking excessive amounts of time and extraordinary effort to complete a task that should not take long to complete

 Adopting a positive balance of personal standards and professional standards will help you deal with stress as a manager.

5. Practice Self-Care

Taking good care of yourself is crucial in all aspects of life, not just when dealing with stress. 

Proper self-care varies from one individual to another, but it mainly involves doing things you enjoy and taking care of your body. This lets you maintain optimum physical, emotional, and mental health. 

You can practice self-care by maintaining good body hygiene, trying out new hobbies, and finding ways to relax. 

6. Embrace the Support of Friends, Family Members, and Mentors

Humans are social creatures and the relationships we develop could be avenues to express our inner fears.

Friends, family members, and mentors, ideally with no connection to your workplace, can provide emotional solace without compromising your standing as a manager. 

Embracing their support could help alleviate the stress of being a manager without incurring the additional cost of professional help. 

7. Reframe Situations

Turbulent events such as natural disasters or poor team performances could cloud your vision and elevate stress levels for a manager. 

Reframing situations in a positive light could be a crucial tool to help a manager deal with stress. 

For instance, a manager at a struggling startup could choose to view their position through the promise of a better world instead of technical problems at hand. This mindset will help the manager rise above adversity and maintain a positive mental picture of the situation at hand. 

8. Celebrate Small Victories

As a manager, it is inevitable that you will run into problems that take months or years to deal with. 

Such problems can drain one’s energy and elevate stress levels. It is therefore important to create short-term projects which can be completed in a few days or weeks. 

These projects will create a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem for the manager and other team members. 

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A manager plays a vital role in a team. Management is an art and science that must be blended well to deliver the right results. Managing leadership expectations and people can often result in stress that needs to be addressed before things get out of hand. For managers looking to better position themselves in handling workplace-induced stress, Highrise has a tailor-made solution for you.