How is Secondhand Stress Impacting Your Team's Effectiveness? - Dignify
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How is Secondhand Stress Impacting Your Team’s Effectiveness?

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - Joe Kiedinger

A shared lack of motivation, a sense of anxiety or general tension can seriously impact productivity across an entire department or even an entire company. If you’re in a leadership position, it’s essential to stay on top of your team’s stress levels.

Is one team member’s attitude affecting the entire group? Is your team in a panic most days?

Secondhand Stress is a unique phenomenon. Usually, we think of our own life’s circumstances causing us stress, but for those who are empathetic by nature, they can feel the mental and physical effects of others’ stress as well.

How to uncover your team’s Secondhand Stress

The power of a one-on-one conversation is unrivaled. So many leaders that I’ve worked with over the years say, “Oh, I check in with my people daily!” What they really mean is they walk past their employees’ desks or station on the factory line and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” to which the employee usually says, “Good!” We call that “leadership by walking around.” It’s not actually checking in with someone. Just dropping by unannounced for a few seconds doesn’t count.

What you need to do is have regular, scheduled Dignify Check-Ins and/or one-on-ones with an agenda. This gives your employee time to prepare their thoughts and gives you a more accurate look at what’s really going on. I like to include topics like these in the Dignify Meetings tool before one-on-ones:

  1. Good news
  2. Recent wins
  3. What does the leader need to know?
  4. What does the employee need to know? 
  5. Challenges
  6. Follow-ups
  7. Last 10%

The “last 10%” is one of the most crucial topics to cover. Here’s what it is. It’s an opportunity for the employee to share anything on their mind that they need clarity on or feel uncomfortable about. It needs to be presented in a psychologically safe environment. That means, the employee can say anything that’s weighing on them without risk of reprisal. It will remain private between the leader and employee. If you really want to get honest feedback from your team, you need to ask this question and receive it openly without defensiveness.

How to remedy Secondhand Stress in a team

Start by creating awareness within the team by educating them on Secondhand Stress. Forward this blog or a related article to get started! Then, remind, remind, remind in team meetings.

Once your team has awareness of Secondhand Stress, add a custom question to the Dignify Meetings tool to remind you to touch base on it in one-on-ones.  You might ask, “On a scale of 1-5, how impacted are you by the stress of others on the team?” Also, “Are there any specific situations that are repeatedly causing you stress?” Follow up with the same questions each month and refer back to the previous month’s answers to keep tabs on it.

You can have a remarkable effect on your team’s stress levels. If you want everyone working at the peak of efficiency, this is a great topic to unpack with your team members to set them up for success. 


ACTION PLAN: Are you a Dignify subscriber? Add a custom question or two to the meetings tool now!Not a subscriber? Learn more about Dignify here.

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