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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jan 22, 2021

In the last of our replays, we look back to our 15th February 2020 episode titled A Leader’s Role in Removing Frustrations.

We're back next week with a brand new episode. I look forward to speaking with you then.


Aaarrgghhh! This week we look at the leader’s role in removing frustrations.





Hello and welcome to episode 66 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at a leader’s role in removing frustrations. 


When you think about the role of a leader, it’s easy to focus primarily on their ability to manage upside potential. That upside potential might include providing meaning and purpose, clarifying roles and expectations, and providing development opportunities. We tend to first focus on the leader’s ability to tap into the motivation of their people. Each of these areas are really important, however an equally important and often overlooked part of leadership is reducing the things that get in the way of performance. That includes removing frustrations and other barriers to success for individuals and teams. 


Let’s take IT as an example. As I work with a broad range of organisations it always amazes me the variety of IT setups people end up using ranging from cutting edge through to museum-grade antiques. Even when things look brilliant to me as an outsider, few people rave about their IT systems. However I’ve heard plenty of complaints about long boot up times, tricky remote login processes, slow response times, clunky data entry, and systems that don’t speak to one another. As the technology we use at home continues to leap forward, people have increasingly high expectations of the technology they interact with at work. And if the technology gets in the way of delivering work, it quickly impacts job satisfaction. In fact a study released just this month shows that workplace IT satisfaction accounts for 38 percent of the variance in job satisfaction. If IT is getting in the way for your people, there’s a high chance that it’s impacting the way they experience their job and the organisation.


Broader research on frustrations at work beyond just IT demonstrates a clear link to the risk of burnout. This is particularly the case when people see their frustrations impacting clients and customers. Recently I made a simple purchase of one item and watched as a great employee who had been really helpful wrestled with the point of sale system. While they remained professional, the frustration for them was real. What should have taken less than a minute stretched on for several minutes as more customers joined the queue. It’s easy to see how working with that system day after day would impact an otherwise motivated and engaged employee, particularly when that person cared about providing a great experience for customers.


And it’s not just about that employee - research also shows a link between frustrations and negative work behaviours such as aggression towards coworkers. What frustrates the individual ripples through the organisation. If people aren’t being civil to each other in your organisation, I can almost guarantee there are unresolved frustrations.


Research suggests there are three conditions that magnify the impact of frustrations: 

  1. When they don’t feel heard about the frustrations and their impacts
  2. When they don’t feel a sense of control over the frustrations
  3. When they feel isolated - like they’re the only ones having a problem


Leaders are the ones best positioned to help with these three conditions.


Here are a few tips when seeking to reduce and remove frustrations for your people:

  • Accept that frustrations are normal - there’s no such thing as a completely frustration-free work environment.
  • Recognise that frustrations can get in the way of both personal and organisational goals - while the frustration may be primarily impacting the person, it’s likely to be flowing through to team and organisational performance. 
  • All frustrations can be reduced - you may not be able to completely remove a frustration, but there are always creative ways of reducing the impact.
  • Provide an opportunity for people to discuss frustrations and be heard - start with your own people and simply ask them “What frustrations are getting in the way of you doing your job well?”
  • Allow people to connect with others - as you seek to remove frustrations it’s helpful to see how others are dealing with and working around the frustrations.
  • Equip people to continuously improve - give people the authority to make changes and improvements that will reduce frustrations for themselves and customers. 


Hopefully you found this episode helpful - if you did, remember to share it with others. I’ve listed the three references used in the show notes. Remember to head to the Leadership.Today website for other episodes, to connect via our monthly newsletter, and there’s even a link to follow me on the social media equivalent of a sensible family car - LinkedIn. Have a great week.




Lewandowski C. (2003) Organizational Factors Contributing to Worker Frustration: The Precursor to Burnout. 30 J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare 175 


Suzy Fox  Paul E. Spector (1999) A model of work frustration–aggression. Journal of Organizational Behaviour Volume 20, Issue 6


Wei Wang, Yi Wang, Yi Zhang, Jing Ma (2020) Spillover of workplace IT satisfaction onto job satisfaction: The roles of job fit and professional fit. International Journal of Information Management

Volume 50, February 2020, Pages 341-352