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How to reduce employees’ stress

October 4, 2012

Tension and conflict at work can lead to stressed-out employees. And these anxious employees can add to costs and drain profits. Occasionally, an employee stressed at work will file a workers’ compensation claim and win. Here are some tips to lower on-the-job stress.

The way managers and supervisors deal with employees and conditions at work can cause employees so much stress that it creates a business risk. Workplace pressure can cause an employee to file — and in some cases win — a stress-related workers’ comp claim.

Example: A supervisor in a supermarket tells a cake decorator to “get the lead out and get your butt in high gear.” And he also reprimands her for leaving a cake out of the freezer. This kind of treatment from the supervisor continues for weeks. Finally, the cake decorator quits. She claims the supervisor caused her stress. She sues and wins workers’ comp.

Example: An employee is injured at work and is transferred to a job without heavy lifting. He starts coming in late and arguing with coworkers. His supervisor gives him several written warnings, one for sleeping on the job. This employee then complains of nervousness, anxiety and harassment. He’s hospitalized for five weeks. His psychiatrist warns that the “slightest hint of criticism” will cause the employee “to become extremely anxious and depressed.” The employee sues for Workers’ Comp, and also sues claiming discrimination because he wasn’t given “reasonable accommodation.”

Stress at work causes up to one-third of U.S. employees to consider quitting. Another one-third expect to “burn-out” on the job. So two of every three employees could at some time think about filing a stress-related Workers’ Comp claim.

Here’s what you can do to reduce the chances that stress will cause an employee to target your business for a workers’ comp claim and lawsuit:

  • Fine-tune your selection procedures to increase the chances you hire people who’ll find their work challenging and satisfying.
  • Orient and train your employees. People who know how to do well and what you expect of them will have less cause for stress.
  • In performance reviews, focus on what the employee is doing well, what the employee needs to do to change or improve and how the employee can change or improve.
  • Communicate openly and tactfully.
  • Listen to employees when they complain.
  • Check the workload. Sometimes employee complaints are legitimate.
  • Cultivate a culture of partnership with your employees. Encourage employee involvement. Invite their ideas, and use some of them.
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