Thursday, June 19, 2008

When You Need to Be "De-Slobbed"

Q. I am not an organized person. I forget things, lose things, and keep a sloppy desk. I am good at what I do, however, and I have climbed the organization ladder rapidly. Now I need to hire an assistant. How do I hire someone who I won’t drive crazy with my behavior?

A. It sounds like you are a creative spirit, but could use some skills and coaching in the how to organize yourself and delegate properly. After hiring your assistant, you at risk for leaping between the extremes of refusing to delegate tasks to delegating wildly, sloppily, and hastily. The employee you hire will be the most important person in your business life. Assuming you don’t make dramatic changes, he or she will have to be very good at running behind, scooping up the pieces, and making sure initiatives get implemented. This key person has to cheerfully accept all this responsibility and, often, may have to practically read your mind. This is okay if the employee you hire loves this role. Some do. Other’s love it, but become controlling and manipulative because the supervisor cedes too much authority without accountability. Making some key changes now will set the stage for a gratifying relationship with your new hire.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Supervisors: Job Strain versus Job Stress

Q. One of my employees has returned to work following a heart attack. Is there anything I can do to help him not have another one? This is a pretty high stress environment. Should I talk him into reducing his hours? I don’t want to him to collapse here.

A. Your employee should let you know if he needs any help from the organization to support his recovery, but you can also ask how best to support him. Almost all jobs include stress. Beyond stress, is something called "job strain." Job strain is high psychological demand from work pressure combined with little ability to control it. (Feeling trapped like a rat is a good way to describe it.) Some research has shown job strain as a factor in the recurrence of heart attacks. In Japan, the word "karoshi" means "death from work." It is a widely studied social concern. To reduce job strain on employees, try reducing psychological pressure of work demands. If possible, increase the employee's control and decision making over those work demands. What about the long hours? In some studies, long work hours alone were not associated with recurrent cardiovascular events, only job strain. (Journal of Occupational Health, No. 45, 2005.)