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Posted: April 05, 2010

Get more done for less

First -- deal with stress

Bob Dodge

Just as we go through the emotional cycles of anger, denial, bargaining and acceptance when our loved ones have brain disorders, employees go through these same emotions when they are asked to make significant changes or have stressful work environments. Think about the effects of layoffs, reorganizations, new processes and new applications.

These sources of stress can cause people to resist making the required changes. Stress also affects employees' daily work, customer loyalty and your earnings. Our attitudes and beliefs affect our behavior. Why does this stress occur and what can be done about it?

There are two major sources of work stress today. Business leaders are pressed to "Do More for Less for More" (M4L4M) in this age of scarcity. It is hard to disagree that businesses must get more done with less these days, and to some extent, grow the business with what they have. Business leaders need to get very creative about becoming more efficient, and in spite of productivity tools and improved processes, they are still very dependent on not only keeping the good people, but helping them to "Do More for Less for More" as well.

The second source of stress is a bit more disturbing. Workers have become disenchanted rather than engaged and energized in their jobs. Apparently, this has been going on for far longer than the past 18 months.

In early January, CBS News reported on The Conference Board's survey findings on work satisfaction. In a nutshell:

  • Only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work -- the lowest level recorded in 22 years of this survey.
  • Only 51 percent of people find their jobs interesting
  • Of the under 25's, 64 percent of workers say they're unhappy at work.

Worker dissatisfaction and stress have been on the rise for more than two decades. Dissatisfied workers can affect productivity and could lead to very costly turnover issues for businesses.
Right Management, an HR Consultancy, conducted a survey last year and found that people leave for many reasons, including:

  • Ineffective leadership (25 percent);
  • Poor relationship with manager (22 percent);
  • Contributions to the company were not valued (21 percent);

How does a business leader get more done with the people they have if the people feel this way? Are leadership and management even aware of these feelings? Do they know why their people feel this way? Do they know how to take action, and are they effective? If not, wouldn't this cause more stress?

How can you minimize this stress?

So, how do you get more done for less? Several suggestions come to mind.

Prioritize what you do and focus on only the critical and urgent. Communicate your revised priorities in ways that are effective for the employees.

Get the waste out of your processes, to improve quality and customer satisfaction. Involve your employees, not only to get their ownership; they know where the problems are.

Become better at leading and managing change. Leaders must be consistently visible and passionate about their change, while being good listeners. Change managers discover the resistance and mitigate it.

If you perform customer satisfaction surveys and employee opinion surveys, make sure you take actions to improve the source of the stress. This begs the point that you determine the source of stress is before you try to fix it.

If you are committed to discovering how employees think and communicate, and to taking actions to improve employee and customer loyalty and productivity, your employees will feel better about their ability to "Do More for Less for More."

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Bob Dodge is senior partner of The Alternative Board - Denver West. He helps organizations improve customer loyalty and employee engagement, coaches leaders in leading changes, consults with organizations to manage changes and is a popular speaker and writer. He can be contacted at 303-550-0101 or His website is  




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Readers Respond

Bob - As you say often, getting manager's and executive's attention is complicated. What you point out in this read worthy article is to discover and maintain a continuing communication between the lowers and the uppers. This used to be referenced as managing by wandering around (MBWA). Convert out of touch to in touch by recognizing that stress reduction can be implemented by paying attention to it. Thanks Bob! By Richard Oppenheim on 2010 04 14
Good stuff as always from you, Bob. In my experience, the problem starts because the leadership and management are not engaged. If they don't have passion, who else is going to hop out of bed Monday morning ready to take on what scares them. If leaders and managers don't have purpose / know why they exist, the team will not get the autonomy that inspires creativity. Even those that do get that autonomy often scale back because - who cares. Those who do care leave and start their own company. Too many people are not happy, yet scared to do what truly makes them happy. Those who live on the leading edge or learning use stress differently and tend to have less trouble hiring and retaining engaged leaders and managers. Find those people. Bob - show 'em how it's done! By David Sandusky on 2010 04 06
Bob, I suspect one of your points rings true more than any other and that is with ones value to the organization. Those that go the extra mile, quietly and effectively are usually those that are overlooked. I see over and over again, the inept and largley unqualified promoted, leaving those in the bottom rungs of the food chain without options or a voice. One thing you didn't mention; but, seems to be a condition inside the Beltway (DC) is the amazing lack of integrity and honesty in middle management. That is a hard element to ignore and still enjoy a positive attitude. By Shannon McDowell on 2010 04 06
Bob--you identify that employee engagement is a challenge in these times and you are spot on. Some of it has to do with generational changes, some with unclear vision of a company and some because leaders are stressed and are thinking of themseleves first. I have seen, however, some firms that still have charged up employees-- regardless of their age--because of good leadership, even in tough times. By Todd Ordal on 2010 04 05
You are right on the money, Bob. The most effective leaders are the ones who give their employees the impression that they are calm during a crisis. Clearly communicating priorities, improving the broken business processes that drive employees nuts, and acting on the suggestions of employees are absolutely key to providing that sense of calm. That in turn lessens the stress for both management and employees, giving the business the best chance for growth. By Chris Thomas on 2010 04 05

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