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Many partners lack the skills to prevent stress in staff

Free online tool launched to develop key managerial competencies

9 July 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

A free online stress management tool has been launched to help equip managers with the skills to manage positively and prevent stress in their staff. 

Developed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Health and Safety Executive, the Preventing Stress tool is designed to hold up a mirror to managers so that they understand how their behaviour impacts upon the people they manage. 

The tool includes learning materials to help managers improve their management style. It details four managerial competencies, with examples of positive and negative behaviours in 12 sub-themes. 

The tool has been launched in response to CIPD research findings that stress is the number one cause of long-term sickness. The research also found that poor management is one of the top causes of work-related stress.

While high levels of stress have always existed in law firms, Dr David Crawford says that attitudes are changing towards the traditional long hours culture, pressure on home life and challenging billing targets.

“In many firms, this has traditionally been seen as a rite of passage. If you are tough enough to survive, you have earned the right to move up the next rung towards partnership. But times are changing: people are less prepared to endure such punishing regimes and the potential costs of work-related stress in return for career advancement,” he says.

Crawford notes that junior fee-earners have reported higher levels of stress than partners. “They feel overworked, undervalued and less empowered than partners. They are also at a different stage in their lives and are more likely to be taking on a mortgage and starting a family. Consequently, they are more financially stretched, with career and earning prospects still uncertain.”

However, this does not mean that partners are immune to stress. Indeed, changes in the nature of being a partner – where technical legal skills are no longer enough – and the pressure to commoditise legal services have combined to create overwhelming new pressures on partners.

“Several factors can lead to work-related stress – an inability to cope with the firm’s performance demands, insufficient control over the way work is undertaken, lack of support from the firm both generally and when partners are finding it difficult to cope, and poor or conflicting relationships at work,” says Nick Jarrett-Kerr.

“The impact of change can also cause stress, particularly where partners do not understand the reason for any proposed changes or where they receive little help and support during the change process.”

For further information, see Ticking stress bomb and Striking partners out.

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