Stress Free People

7 Causes of Workplace Stress (and Easy Ways to Handle It)

Workplace stress may harm you. Too much workplace stress is bad news for employees. Workplace stress prevents them from delivering their best performance. They get tired easily. They fail to control their emotions. They start to hate their jobs.

Not everyone can manage stress. It is important to develop these skills.

If you are a leader, your mission is to identify the causes of workplace stress and help your co-workers find ways to manage it.

What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress is the physical and emotional response to workplace situations. Working with others and work assignments are the common stressors or causes of workplace stress. Work and people who bring joy, excitement, and meaning cause good stress. But not all work demands are perceived the same and people react differently.

Therefore, stress is often talked about for its harmful effects. When people experience good stress, they call it joy, success, and being in the zone. They don’t call it good stress although that’s what it is too.

Harmful physical and emotional responses can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. [mfn] Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety [/mfn] When work is too much for you, and you can’t handle it, it becomes bad stress.

As long as you are working, you will experience workplace stress. The good news is that you can develop stress management skills. You can learn how to master your stressors. You can even make some of your stressors disappear.

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Causes of Workplace Stress

To solve a problem, you need to identify it and know where it is coming from. Workplace stress comes from many directions. And the causes of stress differ from one person to another.

For example, some people get easily stressed with the prospect of presenting in a meeting. They worry for days about possible failures when presenting.

Others find it difficult to say no to any request either of a co-worker or the boss. They are overwhelmed. But they are not assertive enough to reject even unnecessary work.

Which of the following are causes of stress in your company?

1. Too much work demands, too little capability. When there is a mismatch between work demands and employee’s knowledge and abilities, people get easily stressed

Not all people are equal. There are those who get easily stressed by many “small” assignments. Sometimes, we fail to remember this.

Work demands and pressures are often caused by employees’ inability to get the job done.

If you cannot help employees to manage the demands of work, they will become less productive. When they are less productive, they get more stressed.

Stress is a monster for those who cannot manage it. Stress sucks their energy. It deflates their confidence.

2. Lack of control or choice. Or the perception that they don’t have any other choice. Filipinos have a word for stressful workplace: toxic!

Many feel that they don’t have control over their co-workers who are bullies and tsimosos (and tsimosas).

They don’t have control over supervisors who are always angry and managers who are perfectionist.

They hate the workplace, but since they have family to support they were left with “no choice” but stay. The workplace becomes a torture chamber.

Your organization must do something to address this problem before a stress management workshop to make your training program relevant.

3. Employees feel they have little or no support from the organization. It is survival of the fittest.

Workplace stress appears huge when employees do not feel supported. They isolate themselves and find “comfort” in over-eating and over-everything.

Mis-managed stress kills organizational productivity.

Mis-managed stress also destroys the team fabric of your organization. A yearly team building cannot undo the daily suffering of employees in unsupportive environment.

A stress management policy or a wellness program may help address the effect of mis-managed stress.

But I bet that only 1 in 100 of Filipino companies have stress management policy installed and observed.

4. Poor management causes more stress than anything. Managers face a lot of pressures every day. Some managers’ stress reduction strategy is to channel the pressure to their employees.

I know this is wrong.

But this is very, very common.

The problem with poor management has something to do with communication, leadership, and focus.

This is why managers must also become effective stress managers so they can help people whom they are leading.

Managers magnify workplace stress when they themselves become the stressors.

5. Job is boring and meaningless. They just do the same things every day. Yes, like robots.

But workplace professionals are human beings, not robots. They learn and produce better when they are together, when they are engaged, when they solve problems, and when they do what they do best.

In a stress management workshop, you can explore many ways of bringing workplace professionals to life.

You need to come up with effective engagement strategies.

6. Little or no training, and no employee development program. In short, no growth.

It is normal for workplace professionals to seek growth. Like trees, they need some sunshine. They need to grow on a good soil. They need water.

Because they are not robots. Oh, but even robots need some maintenance or upgrading to be continue being useful.

Every day, we get notified of new apps upgrade. We must also give employees constant skills upgrades.

As customers demand better service execution, we need to ensure that our employees can deliver them. Our inability to deliver demands for lack of skills often brings bad stress. It makes employees look incompetent. And being perceived as incompetent makes us feel bad about ourselves too.

7. Uncertain of professional’s role in your organization, conflicting duties within their roles, or inability to cope with being responsible for “other” people. A new manager or supervisor finds this most stressful.

I learned that some organizations do not provide enough onboarding time to employees.

I’ve coached supervisors who confessed they found it difficult to meet their bosses’ expectations because they are not clear about those expectations.

So ensure that new supervisors and managers get stress management training before you promote them to a new job. Remember, leadership roles require that they help people become high-performing and productive.

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