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The Difference Between a Boss and Leader: Managing Year-end Stress

Human Resources

The final weeks of the year can be particularly demanding for businesses. For many decision makers, meeting deadlines, managing employee schedules amid time-off requests, and payroll and benefits planning – all during an often tense time of year – can create the perfect storm of stress. Stress can take a toll on you, and this can transfer to your team and possibly affect their productivity. This is also a time when the lines may blur between a boss and a leader.

Shannon Britton, Paychex HR generalist, shares her insights about common characteristics of bosses and leaders, and each of their approaches to year-end workplace stress.

Characteristics of leaders and bosses

A leader is often characterized as someone who gets to know their staff, knows what makes them tick, and understands what drives their success and causes stress. A leader often adapts to support each person to help them be successful.

On the other hand, the term "boss" can often carry disparaging implications. But businesses depend on these individuals to execute orders given by senior management, and make sure employees do their most productive work.

  • A boss might say, "Let me do this for you," while a leader may say, "Let me show you how to do this," and provide resources that can help employees get their work done.
  • A leader knows the difference between being supportive and micromanaging.
  • A leader is approachable, while a boss may be more inclined to sit behind their desk.
  • A leader knows when to let others take the lead when they are not the subject matter expert on a topic.
  • A leader inspires people to work hard and put out quality work.
  • A leader is a strong communicator and a model of the company's values.
year-end stress

What can leaders focus on during a stressful year-end?

  • Be open to receiving constructive criticism, and remain neutral and open.
  • Be an intentional listener, and timely in delivering feedback.
  • Be accountable and deliver on your commitments.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
  • Understand that you're not going to have all the answers, but know where to find them.

What about managing stress?

Workplace stress can happen any time of year, but the holidays can bring even more challenges. To help manage stress, consider the following:

  • Focus on work/life balance. Taking care of your responsibilities at home and work can be even harder if you haven't taken good care of yourself.
  • Leaders can benefit from using effective time management techniques during the work day, and disconnecting when the workday is over.
  • Consider scheduling time for a team outing away from work. It could be something as simple as a happy hour, dinner, or a simple lunch with your team. But make a rule of limiting "shop talk."
  • Learn how to ask for help. Asking for help when you're stressed or overwhelmed is a sign of strength. It's okay to rely on your team members and other leaders for support.

The keys to following Britton’s guidelines and recognizing the difference between a boss and a leader are awareness, assessment, and action. Take a moment to reflect on your day, tone, words, and actions. You know yourself best, but don't hesitate to ask for feedback from your team. Take steps to readjust if you need to. These all can help improve your approach to leadership, particularly around the stressful holiday season.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.