Workplace Stress Levels Are Higher. How Can Managers Help?

Alex Pollock
August 12, 2020
Workplace stress and managerial considerations
In October 2018, Korn Ferry conducted a survey of nearly 2,000 professionals and reported that 66% found workplace stress levels are higher than 5 years ago1. 76% of respondents reported that stress at work has had a negative effect on their personal relationships and 66% say they have lost sleep due to work stress. 16% say they have had to leave a job due to stress. 35% express that their manager is their biggest source of stress at work and 80% say that a change in leadership, such as a new direct manager, impacts their stress levels.

No surprise that stress depresses motivation and employee engagement. In extreme cases, stress can lead to emotional, physical and mental exhaustion — a state of burnout. You likely can relate to this situation personally or have seen a friend or colleague struggle. In March 2020, Gallup reported that 76% of employees experience burnout at least sometimes2. I can imagine that the current COVID-19 global pandemic is elevating employee stress levels even more.

We must therefore be diligent and take whatever steps we can to identify and reduce workplace stress. The filtering down of corporate messages like "We will do more with less" to combat economic hardship does little to calm and reassure employees who already are fully aware of the storm clouds.

The recent Gallup research reveals 5 managerial behaviors that correlate most highly with employee burnout:
  • unfair treatment at work
  • unmanageable workload
  • unclear communication from managers
  • lack of manager support
  • unreasonable time pressure
While I recognize that the perceptions of employees and managers may be different, I think these topics are great fodder for valuable discussion to ensure the communication channels are unobstructed. I am also well aware that everything is possible for those that don't need to do it. Just as managers hold the key to increasing employee engagement, they also hold — in the same keychain — the key to reducing workplace stress.

  1. Workplace Stress Continues to Mount (November 2018):
  2. Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth (March 2020):

About the Author

Alex Pollock
Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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