Ray Braithwaite’s tips on reducing workplace stress

Freelance trainer Ray Braithwaite (right) offers tips for managers on reducing workplace...

Quality in practice… the latest guidance on MANAGING STRESS

Freelance trainer Ray Braithwaite offers tips for managers on reducing workplace stress

Managing work-related stress is an issue managers must take seriously, especially because stress levels are predicted to rise following the current financial crisis. Here are some ideas based on the work of the Health and Safety Executive.


High and challenging workloads; long working hours; constant pressure; frequent organisational changes and unacceptable levels of abuse combined with a decline in the level of respect towards the profession appear to be some of the main attributes of social work today. Managers should limit caseloads and hours; ensure a positive workplace culture; establish a zero tolerance policy on abuse towards staff; and put up a “good news” notice board in reception area.


In some organisations it is not uncommon for staff to receive little or only task-focused supervision. This places unacceptable burdens on individuals and could lead to resentment and team dysfunction. Managers should ensure reflective supervision takes place regularly; establish a buddy system especially for new workers; start an e-mail buddy system (someone to get rid of junk mail when the person is on holiday); have regular team meetings – incorporate some annual away days/training events; and finally, celebrate success.


A bullying culture is one where staff feel unable to appropriately challenge decisions; where individuals are afraid to express an opinion which may differ from the organisational one; where staff feel coerced into going along with situations they know to be dubious or even harmful; where people are constantly fearful of making mistakes. Managers should ensure that people talk openly about their perceptions; make sure you are not the bullying manager; look at your policies in this area – in particular a “dignity at work” policy can be very helpful; ensure that criticism is constructive, and praise more than you criticise.


A small degree of control can generate huge satisfaction, whereas little or no control often leads to feelings of dissatisfaction and hostility. In supervision, talk about the elements of control individuals have to complete the different aspects of the work. Try not to micro-manage – encourage individuals to do it “their way” and supervise and support accordingly.


In a hierarchical system, top-down imposed change is not uncommon. This frequently leaves staff feeling resentful and under-valued. Talk openly about change in team meetings and encourage staff to become involved in the process of managing the change.

Ray Braithwaite is a freelance trainer in managing aggression, bullying and stress at work and the author of Stress at Work and How to Manage It – a Manager’s Guide (Pavilion)

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