credit: iStockphoto When I visit stations, as I often do, I am very aware of the “mood in the room.” Often, because I pose no threat, and because I’m a trained mental health clinician, I glean from conversation a lot of underlying issues that perhaps management doesn’t have time to pay attention to.
Aside from anything happening in their personal lives, station personnel are concerned about what’s happening with their jobs, their sources of income, the stress level of their bosses, who is going to get laid off next, and — if they’re in sales —how they are going to make their targets.
Leadership should understand that an attitude of “I don’t have time to worry about how my staff feels” will end up costing the company in the long run.
People who are stressed and depressed are more likely to call out sick, to be less productive and less creative. In the radio business, the ability to be productive and creative is a quintessential requirement.
Here is a great resource for tips on minding stress on the job: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/mind-your-stress-on-the-job.
LISTEN AND OBSERVE
If I were to propose a concept for your station to build a more effective team, it would be in the context of family therapy. When you consider the station as a family, there is a strong possibility that there are multiple dysfunctional aspects here. When I discussed my theories with several broadcast professionals, their response was unanimous: “Oh yeah, stations are very dysfunctional.”
In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you.” Family Therapy 101.
I’d first encourage all staff members, not just management, to take a look around.
Owners and general managers have no outlet to talk about their stress levels. They must present themselves as captains of the ship and are quite possibly faking it. When they leave the station, they may well experience emotional eating and drinking
These are high-pressure positions. Somehow, in some way, the stress of the job is going to take a toll on their health. Stress hormones result in weight gain, heart attack, memory loss and other health crises. It is imperative that people in such circumstances maintain a work/life balance.
As stations downsize and eliminate jobs, remaining staff struggle with added responsibilities; some feel overwhelmed and underqualified. There are ways that stations — at least those that wish to be productive and increase revenue, listenership and development —can take care of staff who remain, even if budgets are tight.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Radio people do not have the exclusive on struggling economically, feeling obsolete or having a sense of “trying to just hang in there until the economy turns.” In my private practice, I see it all the time.
I teach stress management skills to help clients cope. There are no quick fixes, but when you realize that you are in over your head stress-wise and that your quality of life is suffering, you will begin to seek ways to overcome it.
You might have that familiar excuse, “I don’t have time to take care of myself,” or one that I recently heard, “When the dust settles, then I’ll take a vacation or something.”
Be aware of your surroundings and circumstances. Take a breath; and acknowledge that your station staff is made up of human beings with lives outside of the station walls. You, too, are in that category.
There is no “cookie cutter” plan, because each company culture and circumstance is unique. But let me be clear: The dust will never settle unless you do something to settle it.
The author is CEO of Orchard Media Services Inc., a consultant specializing in FCC compliance for radio/TV. She is a graduate of the NAB Broadcast Leadership Training Program and a licensed marriage and family therapist, author, speaker, podcaster and professional development coach. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
She wrote in September about questions that a therapist would tell radio to think about when considering its relationship with audience. See radioworld.com, keyword Orchard, to find “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”