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The Competitive Game of Retention & Stress Management

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Turnover has a phantom cost.

The perception of your decisions could be costing your business thousands.

The real cost of losing an employee is all encompassing for your company’s culture. The loss of a team member can cause grief, a lack of trust, and the need to manage the stress that others may feel as their team shrinks, but expectations to produce remain intact. The connection between cultural erosion and employee turnover wasn't as palpable prior to COVID-related furloughs and layoffs, but now families and individuals are fearful that they will be next to receive the news.

Thinking like this, whether real or perceived, has a dramatic effect on your business. Let’s talk about mitigating the damaging relationship between changes in retention and stress.

Humans are great at crafting stories and attaching emotions to them - even if they are not factual.

Our morning starts with traffic or a spilled cup of coffee, and as a result, we tell ourselves that “It must be a sign, today's meeting about my potential promotion isn’t going to go well.”

Our partner says, “Can we talk tonight?” and instantly we come up with 1,204 reasons why. Immediately we begin to prepare - feelings of guilt, panic, and fear set in as we begin building our defenses.

Or we may have employees that we need to remove from our business for valid reasons - performance, cultural fit, etc - only to find ourselves feeling the weight of drama and rumors spreading once we make the tough decision.

In many ways, these stressful stories exist at both the individual and corporate levels. Even when they are completely personal, we see that they can slowly eat away at business performance.

Retention and stress management are two areas of business operation that I didn’t learn about in school, and that aren’t discussed in the financial statements or review sessions. It doesn’t come up with the board. It doesn’t make it through the chopping block of executive meeting agendas.

Stress has consequences in your business

When your team is stressed, your company’s ability to deliver value and make an impact suffers, and therefore, so do profits.

Stress is unavoidable - especially in today’s heightened levels of uncertainty. We know teams are distracted thinking about their families, finances, and futures, and that is reducing our levels of productive hours on the job. We know that this level of uncertainty will recede, but in the meantime we have a responsibility to our teams to help them mitigate their stress.

What we don’t talk about enough as business owners, CEOs and HR managers is how much the stories and narratives of our decisions affect our team’s stress levels.

When your employees receive bad news, hear rumors, or learn of decisions at the executive level that trigger their storytelling mode, they may experience higher stress, or a rise in their cortisol levels. Cortisol is our body’s stress hormone. Cortisol stops functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation; including things like their assignments, pitches, product mock ups, or program management tasks.

It’s human. But it’s also important to recognize that our role in leadership does include management of these things.

Here are 4 meaningful steps you can take to assist your team in managing their stress on the job.

  1. When people are laid off, let go, or resign - share transparently, but without speaking poorly of the person or betraying any team member’s trust. Modeling vulnerability builds trust in your leadership and encourages to share when they need help.

    1. According to a Workplace Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Only 1 in 4 employees experiencing anxiety tell their employers.

  2. Make Team Building and Engagement activities a priority - It can be challenging in a virtual environment, but finding ways to build your team’s communication, trust, and comradery will increase their engagement, productivity, and retention.

    1. According to a survey of 620 leaders and 510 employees in small business, 37% reported that, beyond salary, “working with a great team around me” was the primary reason they stayed with a company.

  3. Invest in a Financial Wellness Program - money is the number one stressor of our team members, regardless of income level.

    1. According to MetLife’s 18th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), 52% of U.S. employees are most concerned with their financial health in the wake COVID-19, more than any other aspect of their well-being, including physical, mental and social health.

  4. Consider a Mental Health Day or Allowance - Stress is unavoidable, but offering them a single day in a quarter or a company-wide day of support may send the right message at the right time. Often what's needed most to resolve problems at home is just a little time. Emphasize that the wellbeing of their non-work lives is important to you.

Ultimately stress is unavoidable, but taking steps to manage it helps your team bounce back and stay focused under any circumstances, thereby increasing productivity and team performance.

Your business runs on people. Invest in what makes them feel whole, and they will carry your organization through turbulent times.


If we can serve you, we’d love the opportunity to share our hybrid Financial Wellness and Team Building platform and services with your employees.

Our work consists of team building financial workshops with vulnerability as the anchor, online financial education courses and financial tools to help your team build cohesion and reduce financial stress. This fully comprehensive set of offerings provides a balanced approach to the most pressing needs that present themselves in organizations that need higher retention.


Aaron Velky is the CEO & Co-Founder of Ortus Academy

If you would like to know more about our Employee Financial Wellness Programs, visit:


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