Causes of Workplace Stress
Reducing the causes of workplace stress can improve your bottom line. Accurately measuring the impact of stress on profitability is difficult. There are direct and indirect costs such as increased sick days, loss of productivity, damage to equipment, loss of talent/skills, increases in health insurance, higher administrative and recruitment costs.
The American Institute of Stress estimates chronic stress costs more than $300 billion a year in the US. For many people, organizations are increasingly stressful.
Causes of Workplace Stress – Leadership Practices
- Unclear goals, a lack of specific measurable objectives and ambiguous expectations, can make it difficult to complete tasks and fulfill responsibilities. This can make new projects difficult – where do you start?
- Unclear expectations and organizational priorities
- Lack of clarity about basis for evaluation and promotion
- Lack of warning about changes. Constant change is bad enough, without being kept in the dark about it.
- Lack of information, resources or support needed to do good work.
- Lack of time flexibility, can lead to a great deal of pressure to juggle other responsibilities and goals.
- Failure to meet needs for recognition, learning and success.
- Lack of flexibility on how to go about day-to-day tasks. Micro management is unnecessary and counter productive. Many workers experience little control over the work they do.
- Lack of meaningful participation opportunities
- Lack of appreciation
- Conflicting demands from supervisors.
- Lack of clarity about lines of authority
- Arbitrary and artificial deadlines – too many tasks in too little time
- Being given responsibility for things over which you have no control. Such as the behavior or problems of others
- A lack of meaningful feedback undermines feelings of accomplishment and the ability to improve. This can create a culture of doubt and low confidence.
- Being closed to feedback about concerns, problems and conflicts – too often, feedback only goes down without mechanisms for it to go upwards.
- Using negative feedback and criticism to “motivate” people
- Not giving credit or acknowledgment for contributions and results
Other Causes of Workplace Stress
- Politics, status and dominance games cannot only undermine the goals of the organization, but the human need to create, achieve and improve.
- Many organizations mistakenly believe internal competition is motivating. This generates a culture of mistrust
- Lack of perceived fairness
Connection and Communication
- Poor communication skills overall
- Alienation and isolation is stressful. We can be surrounded by people and yet have no meaningful connection with them. When we treat each other like parts of the production process, we detach ourselves from them. Feeling connected increases your life span and quality of life.
- Dealing with angry or difficult employees or the public without necessary skills
- Poor relationships with peers, subordinates or bosses
Speed of Change
- Competitive conditions means for many, the workload is increasing, without additional resources. They can also create pressure to do new tasks without sufficient training and support. Deadlines and resources get tighter
- Constant interruption can make it impossible to get into a flow state (a great stress balancer). Technology is largely responsible for this modern day stressor.
- We have never had so much information available. Yet our filtering, categorizing and prioritizing skills lag far behind. What do we pay attention to? What is important, urgent and /or irrelevant?
- According to statistics, (1) workplace bullying has affected nearly half of all American workers as a target or witness. Some 80% of the bullies are bosses. Being unfairly treated, humiliated or undermined can cause extreme stress as well as negative effects on health
- One of the hidden causes of workplace stress is a lack of challenge. Boredom is just as stressful as overwhelming challenges. Positive stress, also called eustress keeps our brains and bodies youthful and flexible.
- An increasingly competitive, job market forces many highly educated workers to take whatever job is available, leading to underutilization of abilities.
- Lack of meaningful participation and engagement can lead to boredom, disconnection and mindlessness. Boredom can be extremely stressful.