Industry Blogs

Ignoring Stress in the Workplace Puts Your Mission in Peril

February 26, 2013
Industry Blogs | 3 minute read

A common misconception of people without experience working in the non-profit sector is that non-profit organizations are low stress or even no-stress environments. The fact is that work-related stress can and does arise in for-profit as well as non-profit organizations.

Non-profit leaders should consider ways to reduce employee stress and prevent burnout as part of an overall commitment to risk management. By taking a proactive approach, you’re not only building a healthier work force, but also reducing the probability of stress related insurance claims.

ProSight Specialty invited Melanie Herman, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center to comment on the consequences of stress and share her recommendations for managing stress in the workplace. “Unmanaged stress can impact productivity, morale, teamwork and a non-profit’s ability to deliver its mission to the clients and communities that depend on it,” she explained. Melanie’s tips for managing workplace stress include:

  • Be realistic. When positions are eliminated due to funding cuts, don’t assume that existing team members will be able to “pick up the slack” without any impact on work quality, timeliness or other factors. Take a closer look at the eliminated position and reassign only the functions and tasks that are absolutely essential.
  • Consider program cuts. One of the hardest things for any nonprofit is to terminate a program or service. Yet there are myriad reasons why, in some cases, programs must be discontinued. Resist the temptation to make any of your programs so sacred that they are exempt from consideration when it’s time to “do less with less.”
  • Prop your door wide open. A common mistake by supervisors is to tout an open door policy while making it difficult for direct reports to cross the threshold. When supervisors appear stressed and frustrated, staff won’t be inclined to share their own worries and concerns. Great leaders manage stress in the workplace by making sure that every employee or volunteer feels valued and at ease sharing their concerns about workloads, deadlines or external pressures.
  • Let your team know that meetings and conversations are a good thing. Many employees continue to view meetings as a waste of time. Encourage participation in small and large team meetings and convey the message that everyone’s contribution is valued and needed. And when stress levels are high, encourage teams to meet more frequently. Employees who feel connected and informed are less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Non-profit employees bring passion and enthusiasm to the organizations they serve. These strengths deserve an equal commitment by managers to understanding and managing stress so dedicated employees can shine while they bring a non-profit mission to life.  For more information, contact the Nonprofit Risk Management Center at or call (202) 785-3891.