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Essay: Managing stress within the Housing Authority

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  • Published: 14 October 2015*
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Stress is defined as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them’. This makes an important distinction between pressure, which can be a positive state if managed correctly, and stress which can be detrimental to health.”

The Housing Authority has a very extensive list of policies that recognise stress and have many procedures in stress support mechanisms but staff still complain and find it difficult and demotivating to work in the Housing Authority. There are various areas that need improvements.

Having family friendly policies is part of recognising stress. ”Family-friendly measures play an important role in enabling employees to balance work commitments with family responsibilities. With these policies in place, employees are safeguarded. This will potentially increase the retention of employees, resulting in continuity and improved productivity’. The following are example of family friendly policies which are applicable to all Housing Authority employees whether working full time or part time.

Parental leave is leave taken by parents with children under twelve of age when the child’s school holds an important event or in case of illness. Family medical leave is when an employee uses this paid leave up to four weeks to take care of family members with a long-term illness.

The management along with the human resources department plays a very important role in the policies and procedures related to workplace stress. The superior management proposed the idea to have the service of a psychologist in order for all staff to hold group sessions or individual sessions with her to help them deal with stress and possible conflicts. The customer care representatives deal with nearly hundred vulnerable and difficult (angry and aggressive) clients every day. Their everyday task is not easy to deal with, for example, it is not easy to have a homeless person in front of your desk requesting for a place to stay but all customer care representatives can do is listen and show empathy. This makes staff very stressed and the superior management is to give them the necessary support and training hence the psychologist service. The management obliges the staff to hold fortnightly sessions with the psychologist. The service of a psychologist is an example of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

The Housing Authority human resources department is very complex department. The department does not only recruit but also help employees with their work problems and this helps staff to communicate with this department and report any stress and conflict occurring in the Housing Authority. It thus gives the Housing Authority a better working environment.
The Housing Authority give a health insurance card to all employees which the employee him/herself or his/her immediate family may benefit regarding to health procedures. This policy will help employees with regards to health and feel more secure if something happens to them.
Conflict is defined as difference of wants, needs or expectations between individuals or teams. Conflict is natural in an organisation but the problem is how to deal with it and there are various types of conflicts and the earlier they are identified, the quicker they are to tackle and settle. In my organisation, conflicts can arise between staff or even managers.
On the opposite spectrum of stress, the Housing Authority is very good in recognising conflict and has a wide range of support mechanisms with this regard. The staff does not complain that there is any conflict and they also work well as a team.
In order to prevent conflict between staff, the Housing Authority has a clear policy regarding equality between staff as ”this policy tackles discrimination, promote equality and diversity in areas such as recruitment, training, management and pay’. Everyone in the Housing Authority is given equal treatment irrespective to the difference in gender, status, religion and sexual orientation. The Human Resources department within the Housing Authority abides by the procedures and deals with anyone who breaches the policy or has any concerns or complaints, whether these come from the staff or from clients.
In relation of the equality policy the Housing Authority have anti-harassment and bullying procedures as ”harassment and bullying should be regarded as a workplace health and safety matter, and therefore, should be treated seriously and responsibly.” Housing Authority ensures that the adequate resources are made available to promote respect and dignity in the workplace and to deal effectively with

complaints of harassment. The human resources department ensures that all employees and the management are aware of their responsibilities and if necessary harassment awareness training will be provided. ”Harassment and bullying disrupt equality and wellbeing at the workplace and can lead to serious consequences for employers, as well as employees. They can negatively affect people’s health, work performance and overall success’.
These policies help the organisation to have a better working environment where the staff can work together harmoniously. It also supports and encourages the staff to increase their contributions to the organisation through their skills and abilities without being afraid. It also promotes good healthy interpersonal relationships.
The Housing Authority recently joined with PAHRO which is the Public Administration Human Resources Office within the Office of the Prime Minister and it focuses on developing and sustaining its strategic role at the centre of the Human Resources management. They organise and maintain necessary data to the Housing Authority Human Resources management to keep them aware of new development regarding policies and procedures. This will keep both the organisation and staff happy and informed about any change in policies and procedures and thus will enable to have less conflict between staff and management.
It is not easy to avoid stress and conflict within an organisation but if the company as a whole tries to respect the staff and colleagues even if opinions differ and find common ground we might decrease the possibility of both stress and conflict within the organisation.
AC 2.1 Plan improvements to the identification and approach to dealing with workplace stress and conflict in own area of responsibility
Last year, with the help of the human resources department I planned to revise various policies and procedures by the end of 2014. My main concern was that my staff, especially at Customer Care, were feeling stressed with regards to long hours at work, excessive amount of pressures and tight deadlines. Housing Authority has given the amount of support that could with the help of the psychologist and some family friendly policies mentioned in AC 1.1 but I felt that was not enough for my staff and that something had to be done.
With regards to the constantly changing social needs and legislation, stress coping mechanisms shall differ throughout the years. Employees’ main concern is not only work but also family.

Being a family friendly workplace can make it possible for staff to balance easily family and work. Flexi time is a type of family friendly policy where staff or employees can choose when they work as long as they work their amount of hours stipulated by their role. Usually being forty hours for full timers and up to thirty hours for part timers. My staff at schemes and customer care can begin work at 6am till 7.30am. This time frame was chosen because customer care offices open for public at 8am.
Allowing staff to work from home is another type of family friendly policy. The employees in my area of responsibility have to work a minimum five hours at work in order to open customer care offices and while the remaining hours at home. Employees who decide to telework can easily balance their work with other demands in their lives and this may contribute to increased motivation at work thus raising more productivity and give out better service. ”Tele-working is an opportunity where both the employee and the Housing Authority can benefit. Housing Authority can retain employees who have the experience and keep benefiting from their input. Tele-working also enables individuals to combine their family responsibilities with their contribution to the work force. It is a win-win situation where the department’s output is maintained, and possibly improved, while the employee is supported in combining work and family responsibilities.”
The human resources also joined the customer care agents with an Employee Support Program being launched by the Government. ”This program is accessible to all employees across the public sector working with clients. The ESP aims to identify and respond to the needs of employees experiencing personal and emotional problems which are interfering with their work life balance. It is also designed to deal with difficulties related to work stress. The program works with a group of professionals that will provide confidential assessment and referral as well as short term support.”
In order to continue to have a conflict-free department I chose to plan team building activities throughout the year. ”Team-building activities can help team unity and decrease amount of conflict within teams. It will also promote communication and social interaction amongst the staff’. Team building sessions are being continuously done to help our department to be more successful and these were held between Schemes and Customer Care Section.
A contract between the Housing Authority and the Social Housing department was implemented. It was necessary to avoid unnecessary conflict between my staff within the department and also the other departments. The agreement was in detail which entailed the different scales and roles in the department as well as a detailed description of their responsibilities were defined as well. The contract also stated the salary for every scale. It will not only avoid conflict but will promote unity and promotes the necessary information one needs to know within the department.

The social housing department lacks of health and safety policies and procedures. Health and safety policies ensure staff working in a good environment. My staff concern is that the premises is not functional to their and clients’ needs. The customer care offices are very small in order to accommodate seven customer care representatives and their clients. The improvement targeted is changing the layout of the premises which intends to be more staff and customer friendly.
These improvements were taken in consideration from my staff comments and also complaints made with me and the human resources department. As a manager, my role is to identify the problem and try to resolve it in the best way possible, both for the staff and for the organisation. The organisation will eventually have more motivated employees and thus having a stress and conflict free environment for all the Authority employees.
AC 2.2 Implement improvements to the identification and approach to dealing with workplace stress and conflict in own area of responsibility.
The family-friendly policies planned in AC 2.1 were implemented in December 2014. First I discussed these newly policies with the Human Resources department to give me more information regarding this legislation. A week later, a meeting with the schemes and customer care supervisor was done in order to discuss the procedures and how the department will follow these polices. New rules and procedures were set and a face-to-face meeting with all the minor staff in my department was done. The meeting was used to discuss the newly set procedures and if anyone is interested to take part has to sign to a new agreement. Staff making use of these policies had to abide by the new rules and also give their respective supervisor how they were going to work the following two weeks. The supervisors had to make sure that everyone is following the rules and that there is enough available staff working in customer care. Every two months, me and the supervisors have to check that everyone is doing well with the newly implemented policies and the customer care offices are always open and have the necessary amount of staff to operate well. My duty along with the Human Resources department is to revise the policies according to every change in the national legislation.
In two weeks’ time I will make sure that my staff knows about the new launched Employee Support Program. This will be done through a meeting discussing its advantages and how they may be of benefit in the long term. I will be responsible for this program so my staff has to make sure to notify me about any problems arising due to stress or conflict. If the respective supervisors notice any stress or conflict has to acknowledge me so I can help the certain individual sign to this program.

The staff in the Social Housing will also benefit by having an agreement set by the Housing Authority. I will make sure that everyone in the social housing department has a copy and it will be sent through email. Any policies or program launched for my department will be added in this contract together with procedure following the policies. Any new employee working for my department will also receive a printed copy of this contract in the respective year. The contract should be revised according to need the change of policies and necessary changes in the department. I will make sure that it will be revised at least every two years.
Health and safety policies and procedures are to be handled straight away by me because as a manager my main concern is the health of the staff under my responsibility. The schemes and customer care offices should be changed in layout according to their working needs. The schemes can be in an open plan layout as they have to work together in the processing of the applications accepted by the customer care. The supervisor has to have a designated area to supervise his staff. On the other hand the customer care offices should be in a different layout. Customer care has to be divided into three offices. The first area should be the waiting room where the receptionist can greet the clients coming in the housing authority. The waiting area and customer care offices has to be easily accessible to wheelchair clients. The customer care waiting room must accommodate at least ten persons in the room, so chairs must be considered in the implementation. The customer care main office has to be divided into six stations with a desk and a partition in order to ensure the employee safety and ensures data protection amongst clients in the same room at the same time. This will allow the safety of employees in customer care handling cash when accepting the applications. Customer care representatives have the responsibility to respond incoming calls. A small board room was changed into a small call centre room where three other customer care agents can respond to incoming calls. This will interrupt less the clients coming in the Housing Authority and also help the customer care respond to the call in a quieter environment. My staff will be less stressed with regards to their safety and work in a better environment. A health and safety officer will be appointed internally from the Schemes section to make sure that the social housing offices are safe and best way possible for anyone’s health. The health and safety officer will have external training with regarding to this area. The health and safety officer will also risk assess the place once a year and inform me with the necessary needs.
Team building activities should be held twice a year and these either can be held outdoors or indoors in the archive room depending on the activity done with the activities involving all of my staff. The activity will be conducted by an external company and I must ensure that all my employees participate in the activity. The employees will be notified with regarding about the activity one month prior the event.

Quarterly staff meetings will also be held and the purpose of these will be to discuss any issues related to workplace stress. Through these meetings, the staff gets more motivated and will feel more comfortable to talk and discuss what is really worrying them. Although, this would be very time consuming, it can really be worth doing these meetings.
AC 2.3 Critically evaluate own ability to identify and deal with workplace stress and conflict effectively in own area of responsibility
It is not always easy to recognise and identify stress in others but one should begin to identify him/herself first. I have a very stressful job at Housing Authority. This includes being responsible for about thirty employees, tight deadlines and unrealistic time frames. Being the Social Housing manager is not easy but I try to make it a positive challenge for me every day. I always ensure that I have a good relationship with my colleagues and staff. This will render my day more positive and creates a better working environment. In order to prevent being stressed, I always try to focus on the annoying and unwanted tasks in the morning so it will get out of the way. As well as prioritising my work according to staff or work needs. When I feel that am stressed out, I become very tired, unable to concentrate and a change in mood. To mitigate this, I try to seek help from the psychologist service every three weeks to prevent burnout and also go for small five minute breaks when feeling stressed.
Stress can occur to anyone especially my staff dealing with clients. Working in Customer care especially the one in Housing Authority is not easy to deal with. I try to observe my staff’s nonverbal communication the most because it’s the most to show when stressed, for example a change of behaviour and even a change in personal appearance. Recently, a staff of mine in the schemes section got two verbal warnings within a month with regards to his performance at work. I knew this employee well and asked him to have an individual meeting with him. I told him that upon knowing him very well, he is not that person that comes late to work and tried to help him open up to me. It resulted that he was very stressed at work due to high amount of deadlines. Therefore, I consulted with him and helped him in delegating his work to his colleagues. I always make sure to have an open door policy for my staff when feeling the need to talk and clear any misunderstandings. I try to ensure that when dealing with staff I listen effectively and help in every way possible.
I would like enhance my communication skills in relation to stress. Being observant as a manager may lessen stress because I would recognise immediately the staff member that is stressed or involved in a conflict. It is also difficult to talk to someone who is stressed and must need the necessary skill to talk through it. People may

become down or even worse when talking to them regarding stress. I also would improve my delegating skills. Delegating work properly will reduce stress both for myself and others.
According to Thomas, K.W., and R.H. Kilmann there are five main conflict management styles. When taking the test I concluded that I am more of the collaborating style. People having a collaborative style like myself try to meet the needs of all people involved and try to merge the insights from people with a different perspective. This style is useful when I need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group, or when the situation is too important to be compromised. This will acknowledge that everyone is important to the situation, creates a mutual trust, maintaining positive relationships and build stronger commitments. On the other hand it is very time consuming when a solution is needed urgently. Recently, the technical department and me (the social housing) had a conflict in regards a subsidy one must get in order to have a something fixed in the applicant’s house. The amount given by the technical department was very low and very unreasonable for the applicant. I arranged a meeting with the technical manager and discussed the subsidy given. Together we collaborated and came up with a new sum of subsidy. If I approached the technical manager in the wrong style the applicant would have had the same amount.
There is no good or bad conflict management style. It all depends on the situation and also the type of people dealing with.
The competing style is often used by an authoritarian leader and usually used when fast decision is needed or time frame is limited. Manager using the competing style are viewed as being assertive and uncooperative with others. It means standing up and defending a position believed to be correct. I use this style when there is a form of bullying taking place and employees is doing something wrong.
The accommodating style is the complete opposite of competing thus states unassertiveness and being cooperative. This approach is effective when the other person in conflict has a better answer for the problem or more knowledgeable. It allows the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting my own. It is s a quick way to resolve the conflict without straining the relationship with the other party. An example includes when my superior (chief executive officer) ordered me to process a file urgently. The file in question was not considered urgent in my opinion but i accommodated my superior in order to eliminate any disputes or have any conflict.
Another form of conflict style is Avoiding. Managers adopting this style do not pay attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it thus making them

unassertive and uncooperative. Avoiding should be used in situation where there is a clear advantage to waiting to resolve the conflict. This type of conflict style does not help anyone in conflict reach their goals. However, this works well when the issue is trivial or when the manager has no chance of winning. I used this conflict style recently when a staff of mine asked for a raise . I to this day completely avoid this situation since I am no responsible for their wage and the superior management will soon open new vacancies with a better wage.
The Compromising style is when attempting to resolve a conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties, but no one is completely satisfied. When dealing with moderately important issues, compromising can often lead to quick solutions. This is the lose-lose scenario where neither person in conflict nor the manager really achieve what they want. This requires a moderate level of assertiveness and cooperation. An example includes having a deadline with the technical manager in order to us process the application. It usually takes my staff to process it in six months and they asked us to finish it in three months. In the end we reached to a conclusion of finishing the application in four months. No one really got what they want but in the end a deadline was compromised.
In order to avoid conflict within a team or individually one must not be partial or engaging in favoritism which will eventually leads to taking sides, one must not generalise and end up to a conclusion on his own. In order to prevent future conflict I must always explain my goals and targets, coach the people effectively and abide by the established procedures. This will eventually create a good healthy environment and gives more value to the employees in order to work effectively as a team.
I would like to involve my staff more in my plans and goals as communication is vital to help meet my goals which are the Housing Authority mission statement. I will negotiate more and consult my staff when needed. This will help bring empowerment to the staff making them more motivated and less stress at work thus will lead to less conflict between parties or individuals. This will benefit them as the organisation grows stronger and being effective.

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