Managers Under Pressure: How HR Can Provide Support

9 Feb ‘24
4 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Lili Thoelen
Whether it’s leading hybrid teams, creating psychological safety or increasing productivity, the demands on managers have increased exponentially since the pandemic. And now alarm bells are ringing. Let’s explore why: 


A Gartner study indicates that 75% of HR managers observe their managers being overwhelmed by increasing tasks, with 73% noting their inability to lead through change.


These issues are critical, particularly for talent retention, highlighting the importance of HR support in facing these challenges. So, how can we assist managers and encourage mental wellbeing at work?


Addressing this involves equipping managers with the right tools for leadership and change management, alongside fostering an environment that supports mental well-being. This approach not only aids managers in handling their roles more effectively but also contributes to a positive workplace culture, enhancing overall productivity and job satisfaction.

Current challenges facing managers

The Gartner 2024 HR Priorities Survey, in which more than 500 HR managers from 40 countries and various industries took part, shows that managers are increasingly overwhelmed:


  • On average, managers have 51% more tasks than they can effectively manage.
  • Around 54% of managers suffer from work-related stress and fatigue.
  • 1 in 5 managers would prefer to relinquish personnel responsibility.


The above statistics naturally impact the relationship between managers and their team members. Only one in two team members believe their manager treats them empathetically and fairly. Therefore, it’s even more crucial that managers are equipped with the essential skills to lead modern, hybrid teams, contributing to the company’s success.


💡 Also interesting: Virtual Leadership: Promoting Well-being and Productivity in a Digital Workplace


Why a focus on mental well-being is essential 


Managers require leadership development approaches that extend beyond traditional skills to better navigate these challenges.


Echoed by the Gartner study, merely a quarter of managers believe that existing training programmes in their organisations make a difference. Moving forward, HR must weave elements of person-centred leadership into their training initiatives. Centred around authenticity, empathy, and adaptability, this approach is increasingly essential as mental well-being becomes recognised as a pivotal aspect of effective leadership.


How HR can support overstretched managers


As an HR department, how can you promote mental well-being within the organisation and thus support managers? Liliane Thoelen, psychologist at OpenUp, shares where you can start:


1. Promote an open corporate culture

A transparent corporate culture where psychological safety is prioritised is crucial in aiding both managers and employees. Feeling overwhelmed shouldn’t stigmatise seeking help from colleagues or HR as taboo or a sign of weakness. “Whether you’re leading a team or are a member of one, it’s vital to depend on and bolster each other,” stresses psychologist Liliane Thoelen. “Encourage managers to lead by example, display vulnerability, and proactively seek support.”

💡Tips for managers


How to create a psychologically safe working environment


  1. Take responsibility for your communication
  2. Have the courage to look at yourself critically
  3. Maintain a dialogue with your employees
  4. Open yourself up to other perspectives
  5. Be open and, at the same time, clear about your boundaries
  6. Ensure awareness and openness at all times
  7. Encourage your team to communicate openly
  8. Be a role model for others

2. Redefine expectations of management positions.


According to the Gartner study, the most successful companies have already acknowledged that management roles, as presently structured, are unmanageable. Consequently, they’ve begun redefining the expectations tied to these positions. Managers should encourage team members to engage with others for coaching and personal development, concentrating on their primary tasks. “Setting achievable targets and deadlines can also alleviate time pressure, providing extra buffer should tasks require more time,” the psychologist adds.


3. Emphasise the relevance of self-care


Managers are perpetually occupied with the needs of others. Are the employees content? Do they have all they need to excel in their roles? Frequently, managers neglect their well-being. Yet, you can only care for others if you’re in good shape. Self-care must always come first. As an HR team, it’s possible to continually remind managers of this importance and provide straightforward advice to help them prioritise tasks effectively.

💡Tip for managers


“Blocking out 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to go through your diary and establish a SMART daily objective (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) can be beneficial,” advises psychologist Liliane Thoelen. “Consider: Which three tasks are top priority today? What’s achievable? What can I delegate? Also, setting aside time at the day’s end to review what’s been accomplished, what remains, and scheduling it can help.”

4. Strengthen values such as empathy and resilience within the organisation.


Current global events significantly affect the mental well-being of all employees, including managers, underscoring the importance of their connection to the organisation and colleagues. Research indicates that employees who feel authentic at work are more productive, are more content, and are likely to remain with their employer longer. HR departments can foster this by continuously reinforcing the organisation’s values and hiring candidates who align professionally and personally with the organisation’s ethos.


5. Set up a peer group for managers


A peer group within the organisation can assist new managers in adapting to evolving demands. However, more seasoned managers also gain from this network: they can receive advice from peers and better manage the so-called loneliness at the top that accompanies changes within the hierarchy.

💡Tip for managers


OpenUp regularly offers group sessions on relevant topics for managers, such as having conversations with employees about mental well-being. Courses on topics such as the art of mindful feedback are ideal for self-directed learning at your own pace.

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