During a particularly stressful project at work, a colleague gave me a tiny bottle of rum for moral support. The joke was that if it got too bad, I could always pour the rum into my Diet Coke as stress relief. The bottle stayed (discretely) in my office for nearly a decade until I returned it to the giver during a particularly rough patch for him.

I never opened the rum but it was comforting to know that it was there. The same principle applied with pain medicine after my periodontist’s handiwork and with a friend’s pain pills after surgery. Neither of us used more than one pill but it was reassuring to know that we had relief available.

Was it ever so bad that I felt I needed the rum or more drugs? No, but I was glad that I was the one deciding that. People are able to accept hardship when they believe they are able to set the limits of what is tolerable for them.

Whenever possible, give your team a relief valve over which they have jurisdiction. Unlock the thermostat and allow people to regulate the temperature. Provide spontaneous flex days when a mental health break is needed. Create an emergency fund that your staff can borrow from. Let people opt out or leave early without question when they’ve reached a breaking point.

Most people won’t gulp down all the pills in the bottle but the pain will feel less just because the medicine is available to them. Trust your staff enough to give them that control.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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