Five Things with Troy Smith
If you’re trying to manage employees during the current coronavirus pandemic, you want to aim for on-the-job consistency. Troy Smith is an assistant professor of management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business. His research suggests during stressful times, consistency heightens performance and well-being. Find out more in this episode of Faculty 101: Five Things with Troy Smith.
Show notes: Learn more about Troy Smith ›› business.unl.edu/people/tsmith
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Welcome to Sales Corp
[00:00:02.460]Industries' first Zoom call.
[00:00:04.860]A skid on "Saturday Night Live" is an example
[00:00:07.420]of the new world many employees are living in.
[00:00:10.790]On the call today, we got Brian from sales.
[00:00:14.550]Man, so good to see everybody, at a safe distance that is.
[00:00:22.230]Restaurants are opening up, with socially distant tables,
[00:00:25.700]and waitstaff wearing masks.
[00:00:28.110]This is the business world in the age of COVID-19.
[00:00:35.010]As managers re-invent the workplace,
[00:00:37.280]how can they help employees deal with the new reality?
[00:00:41.170]That's the question we asked Troy Smith,
[00:00:43.520]an assistant professor of management
[00:00:45.260]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, college of business.
[00:00:48.670]This is faculty 101, five things
[00:00:51.600]about stress and productivity.
[00:00:58.140]When the world shut down because of the global pandemic,
[00:01:01.110]Troy Smith began to work and teach from home.
[00:01:04.410]And occasionally, help with homework.
[00:01:07.080]I helped two of my daughters with their math homework
[00:01:09.190]and their different forms of homework.
[00:01:10.690]Smith and his wife have five children,
[00:01:12.770]and like other parents,
[00:01:13.890]spent the quarantine juggling responsibilities.
[00:01:16.850]He says many employees have had to redesign their work
[00:01:20.070]and home lives.
[00:01:21.350]Now we're having a lot more blending together
[00:01:23.500]of our lives, of the different domains within our lives,
[00:01:26.850]and that's gonna cause a lot of frustration and challenges.
[00:01:32.610]Smith's research into stress and productivity
[00:01:34.970]can help managers and employees
[00:01:36.720]better navigate the workplace.
[00:01:38.580]In the study, Smith and his colleagues collected survey data
[00:01:41.810]from employees of different restaurants,
[00:01:43.880]about factors like stress level, anxiety, and performance.
[00:01:49.790]The study also collected information from surveys
[00:01:52.720]of employees and supervisors of the university.
[00:01:55.670]Here's what researchers found.
[00:01:59.310]Number one, stress can be good, but consistency is key.
[00:02:04.330]Challenge stressors are responsibilities or tasks
[00:02:07.540]that help employees grow in their jobs, meet their goals,
[00:02:11.160]and feel good about what they're doing.
[00:02:13.540]If they have consistent levels of challenge stressors,
[00:02:16.320]they're able to anticipate the stress
[00:02:18.324]they're going to have in weeks to come,
[00:02:20.720]and as a result, they can actually cope better
[00:02:22.610]with that anticipated stress.
[00:02:24.860]And we actually find that the overall stress
[00:02:26.670]that they do experience drops,
[00:02:28.470]and then performance is also able to increase
[00:02:30.830]because they can anticipate the stress.
[00:02:34.000]Number two, hindrance stressors,
[00:02:36.190]such as inconsistent demands
[00:02:38.020]or constantly changing policies
[00:02:40.210]get in the way of effective performance.
[00:02:42.750]They're gonna be less attentive,
[00:02:44.610]they'll have much more anxiety
[00:02:45.940]and they're not gonna perform as well across time
[00:02:48.190]if you're always fluctuating,
[00:02:49.550]but if you can gradually ramp it up
[00:02:51.080]so that there's not these fluctuations,
[00:02:52.510]you're gonna see greater performance.
[00:02:54.940]Number three, COVID-19 may be the ultimate
[00:02:58.510]hindrance stressor, but managers can help.
[00:03:01.630]And I think that's gonna be one of the challenges we see
[00:03:03.640]with COVID, is that the coordination of tasks
[00:03:06.910]to make sure that people are consistently staying occupied.
[00:03:10.620]It's not that we want to like overburden them.
[00:03:12.540]I'm not advocating that we give, you know,
[00:03:14.230]existential amounts of challenge stressors all the time,
[00:03:17.010]because I do think that there's gonna be
[00:03:18.560]a curvilinear effect where that could be a bad thing,
[00:03:21.020]but we also wanna make sure that we're not fluctuating
[00:03:23.400]in extremely high levels from week to week
[00:03:26.990]or from one period to the next,
[00:03:29.300]because at that point, that's when we find the anxiety
[00:03:32.520]and the low attentiveness,
[00:03:33.650]and ultimately the lack of ability
[00:03:36.210]to anticipate the stress that would be potentially there.
[00:03:39.800]Number four, effective managers can pave the way
[00:03:43.120]for employees as the workplace changes.
[00:03:46.320]One piece of advice, is allow the employee
[00:03:48.470]to provide deadlines to the employer, to the boss.
[00:03:53.750]So if it's possible.
[00:03:55.010]I understand that there are gonna be times
[00:03:56.200]where that's not possible,
[00:03:57.033]but if the employee can say, "Hey, this is when I believe
[00:03:59.727]"I can get it done."
[00:04:00.820]Then it's a lot easier for them to take ownership into it,
[00:04:04.270]and take into account these other variables
[00:04:06.730]that are not gonna be necessarily known by the supervisor.
[00:04:10.180]And so at that point, it would help a lot
[00:04:12.580]with managing those employees that may have family issues
[00:04:15.760]at home that are completely unknown,
[00:04:17.870]and then those things can be taken into account
[00:04:20.090]and that employee is likely to be more motivated
[00:04:21.880]that way too.
[00:04:22.713]What I would advocate is just to be as patient as you can,
[00:04:25.600]but at the same time, encourage your employees
[00:04:27.540]to be able to make those changes,
[00:04:30.330]but be transparent about it as much as you can.
[00:04:32.360]There's a lot of research that shows
[00:04:34.040]that if you can give information
[00:04:35.670]about why you're doing things to your employees,
[00:04:38.880]then they are far more likely to accept
[00:04:41.320]what you're providing them,
[00:04:42.440]and where possible, ask them for their guidance,
[00:04:45.210]and ask them for their suggestions.
[00:04:48.760]And number five, some businesses may never return
[00:04:52.660]to the office.
[00:04:53.606]And that means more research is needed.
[00:04:56.470]I think that there's gonna be a lot more research
[00:04:58.010]that can be done on virtualness.
[00:05:00.310]So previously, there is some research on that,
[00:05:03.050]but a lot more will be grown on the idea of,
[00:05:05.890]how do you effectively work in a digital team
[00:05:09.640]versus an in-person team?
[00:05:11.660]And when might that be effective versus ineffective?
[00:05:14.910]At a time of stress, consistency can help employees
[00:05:18.100]survive and thrive.
[00:05:23.790]That's five things with Troy Smith.
[00:05:28.910]Faculty 101 is produced
[00:05:30.680]by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
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