How to support your stressed-out manager

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 29

While many employees are losing sleep these days worrying about their jobs, it’s a bit doubtful that they also are losing z’s fretting over how the boss is faring in these tough times.

Still, it may be time workers started giving some consideration to what a manager is going through.  Because as everyone knows, when a manager is stressed, that stress can often roll downhill and land directly on employees.

I recently interviewed Wayne Hochwarter, a Florida State University professor who spends a lot of time studying the workplace, and he said a recent study found that 55 percent of bosses have become more demanding of current workers and more than 70 percent of employees say the recession has increased stress levels at work.

“I’ve never been a big believer that we’ve got good managers, and now with this economy, they’ve lost whatever humanity they had,” Hochwarter says. “They know that they’ve got to meet goals or they start chopping heads. Managers really don’t know what to do during a time like this. We haven’t prepared them for anything like it.”

That’s why it’s important – for everyone’s sanity – that employees think about ways to help a manager get through these tough times. As most people have learned, when a manager is happy, it follows that employees will fare better as well.

Some suggestions for workers wanting to help a stressed boss:

Work smarter. I know, I know, you think you already have the workload of 12 people, but I’ll bet if you took a hard look at what you do you could come up with some better ways to get things done. Just because you took over someone else’s tasks doesn’t mean they make sense now, or can’t be streamlined in some way. Becoming efficient and more productive – and letting the boss know – will help reduce his worry about remaining competitive.

Understand his bottom line. Ask the boss about his key objectives and then figure out how to help him meet those objectives. Nothing is more frustrating for a manager than to feel people aren’t on the same page, and don’t care to be.

Realize that no offer is too small. Even taking a minor task off the boss’s plate gives a real lift to the spirits. Can you do some initial research? Make some phone calls? When managers feel isolated, it can hamper communication with workers. If you want to stay in the loop, help a manager feel you are on his team.

Ask how he’s doing. During these tough times, many managers are feeling a lot of personal anguish about what’s happening, and they need an encouraging word as well. Going out to lunch, sharing a funny story or just taking a minute to really listen can go a long way in reducing tension for the boss.


About the author: Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them,” named a top 10 notable business book by the New York Post. She is an award-winning journalist and a syndicated columnist for Gannett/ Her website and blog can be found at:


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.