The Seven Rules For Reducing Workplace Tension

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Tension in the workplace can be a productivity killer.

According to Chuck Martin, who spoke at the recent WesCorp Future Forum conference here, there are seven rules that will help credit unions reduce tension and perform better.

"Work today is tougher than ever," Martin declared. "Pressure is increasing. People worry about budgets, deadlines and increasing demands, and they have a reduced workforce. The pace of CEO turnover is increasing at American companies."

All is not lost, but Martin, the CEO of Net Future Institute Research, said many companies focus on the wrong things. He recommends constantly letting employees know where they stand, and less obsession with the bottom line.

Rule 1 - Communicate Clearly

Research shows executives and subordinates have vastly different views of how well executives communicate, Martin explained. Executives believe they do a good job, but they don't get good report cards from the people they lead. People want more personal discussions, even though they have less time and personal discussions take longer than e-mail.

This is important, he said, because employees who feel "more connected" to management tend not to leave. "Executives need to both communicate and inform. Share the metrics- highlight how performance impacts strategy," he said. "Provide context for individuals by creating tangible rewards based on metrics."

Another communication element to keep in mind is the "50% Rule," which says 50% of executive communication with subordinates should be listening, not talking.

Rule 2 - Force the Hard/Tough Decisions

Businesses make small, medium and large decisions all the time, and they "can't look back," assessed Martin. Proper decision-making involves three steps: collect and consider the information available at the time, make the decision and communicate it, and move on. "Ducks follow the leader, eagles make the decisions, the ducks then follow," he said.

Rule 3 - Focus on Results

Work smarter and harder by managing expectations all the way, said Martin. Management should determine what, precisely, others are expecting, then communicate the status of working toward results. "Quantify: put a number on everything," he said.

There must be a payoff at the customer or member level, or where the "rubber hits the road," Martin continued. "Customers and members are demanding and expecting more. This is the world in which we live."

Rule 4 - Remain Flexible

Because people are stressed, management needs to be accommodating, said Martin.

"It is important to stop something. So many things get started, but things don't get stopped. This could be a project, a meeting, or a report that continues to be turned in even though it no longer is necessary. All these things take up time."

E-mail "is killing us," he said. By 2006, daily e-mail will top 60-billion items, with 40% of that unwanted. One-third of executives say 51%-75% of e-mail is unwanted.

Rule 5 - Prove Your Value to the Organization

There are many ways to do so, but good executives prove themselves all the time.

Rule 6 - Force Collaboration

Many credit unions are collaborating with partners-issuing Visa cards, selling automobiles. Martin said more CUs must learn to broaden their reach.

Rule 7 - Practice "Tough Management" Without Being a "Tough Guy"

Executives need to know the 40-hour workweek is gone, he advised. People are working longer hours, plus they often do work from home, "but not with more compensation," Martin pointed out.

"That's why management has to stop something-to give people some of that time back."

In addition, he said, executives need to take a vacation. Research shows many in upper management pile up time off, but don't cash in.

"People are entitled to it, so they should take a break," said Martin. "There are three myths of business: working more accomplishes more, a big project is required to achieve big results, and making the numbers drives success."

"None of these things are necessarily true," he added.

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