An HR Leader’s Guide For Minimizing Stress


It should be understood that a company’s culture evolves directly from the management actions (strategies, plans, decisions, styles, day-to-day interactions, etc.) of the CEO and top line management executives (not just their words) that are in support of the company’s business strategy. If these management actions are inconsistent with any stress-related company culture item, employees will quickly determine that it is a sham. In the end, if the CEO and top line management executives do not strictly adhere to all of the items in the company culture statement; it is doomed. Equally important, the lack of such adherence can lead to creating stress for individual employees and members of critically-important teams.

Here are some critical culture items that relate to stress.

  1. In the category of management style, regarding the use of participative management and having an open door policy, failure to practice these can lead to stress.
  2. In the category of management style, regarding the use of providing agreed-upon job skills training, failure to implement this can lead to stress.
  3. In the category of management style, regarding the use of a promotion-from-within policy, failure to utilize this can lead to stress.
  4. In the category of interpersonal skills/core values, regarding the use of being innovative and team-oriented, failure to practice these can lead to stress.
  5. In the category of interpersonal skills/core values, regarding the use of honesty and personal integrity, failure to practice these can lead to stress.
  6. In all categories, management’s failure to be able to cite two or three actual company examples of how each culture item has been put into practice can lead to stress.


When employees have a stress-related problem, they should be encouraged, not discouraged, to fully utilize any appropriate benefit, such as medical insurance, employee assistance, disability or workers compensation.

  1. Possess, at a minimum, a competitive amount of emotional health and disability insurance coverage.
  2. Provide coverage for the use of internal or external health and wellness programs, especially those that are directly related to the primary cost drivers of the company’s medical claims.
  3. Since every employee’s benefit needs are different, if practical, utilize a “smorgasbord of benefits” approach in which each employee can select whichever benefits are appropriate for his/her personal life situation within a company-provided overall cost.


A recent survey by ComPsych, an EAP provider, identified three main causes for stress: workload (46%), people-related issues (28%) and work-life balance (20%). Therefore, here are some major company policies, programs, and practices that directly relate to each of these three areas which can provide employees with some form of proactive help.


Before discussing these measures, it is important to fully understand several aspects of stress. As with any major job duty and/or at the start of an important team project, management should not overreact to any initial signs of stress, as many times these are normal indications of apprehension when the complexity of the problem is apparent but the solution is not. Similarly, it is important to recognize that the following measures are intended to help employees who are feeling episodic stress from their job or team project in comparison to those who are experiencing chronic stress almost all the time. The latter employee should be strongly encouraged to seek outside medical and/or behavioral help from a qualified professional.

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  1. Offer a highly reputable employee assistance program on stress reduction.
  2. On any important team project involving a critical business issue, place an HR staff member on the team to observe any team member’s potentially negative reaction to stress.
  3. Publish stress-related information on the company’s intranet or portal, especially regarding how to avoid, minimize or manage it.
  4. Train supervisors and managers how to observe and deal with signs of employee stress, such as apathy, anxiety, depression, unusual illness, excessive absence or tardiness, etc.
  5. Offer time management training and information to help employees manage their own time more effectively.
  6. Offer proactive, confidential counseling services to help employees to better cope with stress.
  7. Train professional HR staff members to recognize stress and the many different ways to avoid and deal with it.
  8. Recognize that simply giving a stressed-out employee taking some time off from the job can have a very favorable effect.
  9. Remove any relatively unimportant policy or procedural matters that hinder the work effort and thereby create stress. [/message] [su_spacer]


With today’s emphasis on innovation and increased productivity at most companies in which the employees are being asked to do more with less, increased employee stress and burn-out is a natural by-product that HR organizations must effectively manage through its policies, programs, benefits, and practices. Currently, there are mountains of stress-specific information and services already available regarding how to avoid, minimize and manage stress. Hopefully, this proactive guide will serve as a checklist for HR organizations as they try to fulfill their responsibility of minimizing the effects of stress on its employees as much as reasonably possible.

Jack Bucalo
Jack Bucalo
JACK has led the Global HR function for a Fortune 500 and 1000 international company and several other large international companies. With four years of line experience complementing his HR experience, he believes that the CHRO or HR Leader should play a more direct role in helping the CEO to achieve the company's business objectives and strategic goals, while effectively implementing its administrative duties. In doing so successfully, the CHRO or HR Leader can become an equal business partner with his/her line management peers while becoming more directly involved in the company's operational mainstream, rather than being just an administrative afterthought. As a pragmatic practitioner, Jack publishes detailed and actionable articles on a wide variety on critically-important HR issues on BIZCATALYST 360°. He is also on the advisory board for other web sites. Jack's over 20 years of executive-level HR experience for which he was responsible for company, executive and Board-related matters, form the basis for most of viewpoints.


  1. I really appreciate the proactive approach you took to illustrate the importance of how stress impacts our workforce Jack. While we can look forward to expecting some degree of maturity in those who work for us, we also must realize that they are human. We all are. None of us are exempt to the aftermath of stress…. and preventative maintenance, coupled by a supportive system is key.

    Two thumbs up Jack, two thumbs up!



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