Managing Smart: Four Tips to Achieving Results and Decreasing Stress When You’re Short Staffed

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 

Almost half of U.S. executives (49%) said that in the past six months, their organization has seen higher or much higher turnover than usual, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey. And with that comes increased vacancies and additional stress for your remaining staff. How can you still achieve results while not stressing out your short-staffed team?

1. Plan. Develop a plan for how your team will cover the heavier workload to come. Don’t wing it! Review each job responsibility prior to your exiting team member’s last day — if possible — and re-assign temporary duties to other team members.

2. Prioritize. Decide what’s most important to accomplish and what can be placed on the back-burner until your team is fully staffed. “Task prioritization is essential when you have a high workload and less support,” explained Dean Seddon, founder of Maverrik, a business growth and training company, in this Forbes article, “11 Tips for Managing Workflow With Limited Staff.” “It is very easy to burn your time on nonessential work or get lost in the detail of low-priority actions.”

3. Cross train. Train your employees so they can step in to perform multiple jobs during the time when you are short-staffed. This also provides an opportunity for those employees to learn a new skill.

4. Communicate. Jane Scudder, certified leadership, personal development and career growth coach, says in this FairyGodBoss article, “Understaffed? Here’s How to Deal with One of the Most Stressful Situations for a Manager” that she encourages her clients to open the communication lines when teams are understaffed. “This cannot be lip service,” she explained. “To make it real, the leader must address that she also feels the pressure and is not loving this situation. The leader must establish that this is not an ideal work environment that can and should be talked about. The leader must actually believe this approach and commit to it. If you’re not ready to do that, don’t make this statement yet, but rather work on how you can really offer this to your team.”

5. Clarify. Scudder also recommends clarifying that this workload is not the new normal or, if it is, that you work with your leadership to make it more sustainable. “Otherwise, your team may dwindle to only you or become full of burnt out, resentful former top performers,” she said.

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