Friday, July 20, 2007

Ten (10) Biggest Causes of Workplace Stress

by Dale Collie

According to, Americans spent more

than $17 billion for anti-depressants and

anti-anxiety drugs in 2002, up 10% from the year

before and nearly 30% over a two year period.

The Institute for Management Excellence reports

that American industry spends more than $26

billion each year for medical bills and disability

payments with another $10 billion for executive's

lost workdays, hospitalization, and early death.

While these trends might be caused by some who are

simply intolerant to stressful situations, it

should also be recognized that properly managed

circumstances can reduce stress, maximize employee

productivity, and improve the living conditions of


Out of control stress also costs companies through

increased absenteeism, lack of enthusiasm for the

job, poor performance, and bad attitudes.

Improvements in each of these areas can bring

improved productivity and increased profits.

To find out what is most stressful to employees,

Bill Wilkerson, CEO of The Global Business and

Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental

Health, conducted a survey and reported the ten

top sources.

As you'll see, all ten of these stress causing

situations are related to leadership

communications. The names Wilkerson gave each of

these causes are in quotation marks.

10. "The treadmill syndrome"

Employees who consistently have too much or too

little to do creates a lot of stress. Some

employees are highly stressed because they simply

have too many responsibilities. Others work around

the clock, not necessarily on the clock, but

throughout the day and at home. These are

generally the employees who have too much to do

and too many responsibilities.

Solution: You can control stress caused by the

treadmill syndrome by making sure work is evenly

divided and properly prioritized. Sometimes you

can save money by hiring additional employees and

reducing the additional costs of excessive stress.

9. "Random interruptions"

Interruptions keep employees from getting their

work done - telephones, walk-in visits,

supervisor's demands.

Solution: You can control this type stress by

encouraging proper time management, delegation of

responsibilities, and clarification of


8. "Pervasive uncertainty" Uncertainty is created

by constant, unsatisfactorily explained or

unannounced change.

Solution: Keeping everyone well informed can

reduce stress and improve productivity. Take time

to meet with people and put the details in a

written memo so they can review the facts after

the emotions cool down.

7. "Mistrust, unfairness, and office politics"

These situations keep everyone on edge and

uncertain about the future. Management of trust

and fairness is just as important as any other

management tool. If people cannot trust

management, performance goes down. And, everyone

is affected if even one employee is treated


Solution: You have to make sure everyone is

treated fairly - in fact and in perception. Word

spreads quickly, and everyone sympathizes with the

"victim," as they see it. They feel they will be

treated the same way.

Unfairness can also be seen in management's

acceptance of those who thrive on office politics.

Solution: Do not reward office politics in any

way. Verbally reprimand those who are negative

about others or those who spread rumors. If their

statement isn't uplifting, don't let them make the

comment about others.

If you fail to take action, morale goes down and

stress goes up.

6. "Unclear policies and no sense of direction"

Lack of focus causes additional uncertainty and

undermines confidence in management.

Solution: Clear communication of policies and

company goals is required, and it must go beyond

the management level.

Not all middle managers are good at communicating

these important subjects, so top management must

communicate in a such a way that everyone is clear

on where the company is going and what company

policies are enforced.

Use memos, articles, personal meetings, small

groups, announcements and anything else that

reinforces your policy. Repetition is important.

Actions consistent with policy are more important

as the words.

5. "Career and job ambiguity"

If people are uncertain about their jobs and

careers, there is a feeling of helplessness and of

being out of control. This goes beyond the job

description and annual performance review.

Solution: People want to know that their job is

secure and know what is expected of them. Many

employees also want to know about career

progression and what they must do to advance.

Keep people informed of business situations,

threats, and obstacles that must be overcome.

They'll find out through the grape vine if you

don't tell them. There is no such thing as a

secret, so be right up front with everyone.

You don't want to be an alarmist, but these people

have families to take care of. Some of them are

applying for mortgages, loans, and other financial

commitments that they might not make if they are

as fully informed as you are.

4. "No feedback - good or bad."

People want to know how they are doing, and

whether they are meeting expectations. If you

don't communicate your thoughts on their

performance, they are stressed about how well they

are doing.

Solution: Daily or weekly confirmation can help

reduce stress significantly. Managers who wait

until year end to explain job performance are

about 51 weeks too late.

3. "No appreciation."

Failure to show appreciation for employee

participation generates stress that endangers

future efforts.

Solution: Daily, weekly, and monthly appreciation

will help reduce stress and increase profits.

2. "Lack of communications" Poor communication up

and down the chain of command leads to decreased

performance and increased stress.

Solution: Just as it is important to keep people

advised of company policies and changes they can

expect, management needs to listen to employees.

Improved communications up the chain of command

can give people a chance to pass along ideas,

suggestions, and complaints, reducing stress and

helping achieve more.

1. The greatest stressor in the workplace is "lack

of control."

Employees are highly stressed when they feel like

they have no control over their participation or

the outcome of their work.

Solution: Savvy managers know the value of

employee suggestions, comments, and input on the

business as they participate. Very few managers

know as much about the individual jobs as those

doing the work day after day.

Stress control is a leadership responsibility.

Those who ignore prevailing stress levels are

negligent in their duties. Grasping the concepts

and reducing stress one step at a time can have an

amazing impact on the bottom line and on the lives

of those who do the heavy work.

Subscribe to "Stress Management -

Timely Tips" at


Copyright 2005 - Dale Collie


Dale Collie - Professional Speaker & former

US Army Ranger, CEO, and University Professor.

Advising business leaders on corporate stress

control, improving productivity, and increasing

profits. Author of "Winning Under Fire:

Turn Stress into Success the US Army

Way" (McGraw-Hill)



  1. These are some really good tips! Thank you.

  2. ... [Trackback]...

    [...] Read More here: [...]...