Monday, November 7, 2016

Research Finds Stressed Employees More Likely to Misbehave

The U.S. election process has clearly demonstrated one thing: People are upset, mad and worried.

While we may hope that this will all disappear once the election is over, managers shouldn't believe that workers will once again become jolly little employees, content with the cubicle world around them.

By ignoring these feelings that many workers have expressed, managers may miss the clues that can help them build a more engaged, productive workforce.

Specifically, a study shows that when employees are nervous and upset, they disengage and start misbehaving. Further, those employees who feel insecure about their jobs will take their unhappiness and turn to doing things like stealing supplies, fudging expense reports and gossiping about others.

The behavior can grow worse if the employee has a bad relationship with a boss and has other job prospects, researchers say.

"That extra psychological step to justify immoral behavior happens when these things converge," says Sue Ashford, professor of management and organizations at the Ross School of Business. "There's job insecurity, you have a bad boss, and you see other job prospects. It can make you feel like you're not valued and that's how the rationalizations start. An implicit contract you had with the organization is broken and things you wouldn't normally do can feel right."

Still, there are ways that managers can prevent employees from disengaging and moving into destructive behavior. Among the suggestions:

  • Listen. Managers need to engage employees in conversations and get them to open up about their concerns. Managers should let workers know they understand the stress.
  • Provide positive feedback. Great employees often don't need a lot of supervision, and managers can forget to provide a pat on the back. While problem employees often take up a majority of a manager's time, managers can't neglect great employees or they risk driving them away.
Managers need to remember that ignoring the stress that workers feel isn't just a personal problem that workers need to deal with. It has bottom-line consequences, as well. 

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