Woman at her desk dealing with stress at work.

Today is National Stress Awareness day, so in today’s blog we’ll be highlighting some of the top stressors at work. In addition to identifying these causes of work stress, we’ll also explain how you can address them. While positive stress can be a motivating force, these causes of stress damage work quality and work ethic. They’re in no specific order, but all can be detrimental to a professional career.

1. Unrealistic Deadlines/Expectations

Starting off our list is unrealistic deadlines and expectations. When there is a disconnect between what is possible and what is expected, it can cause high stress. There is only so much one employee is capable of, and being held to an impossible standard isn’t good for anyone. This type of situation can be extremely stressful for a worker. Typically, it is the worker who is blamed, instead of examining if the deadlines or expectations need to be adjusted.

Solution

It’s possible that no one knows that the expectations are impossible to reach, or that deadlines are too tight. Communicating those concerns with a superior could help to address the problem. Ideally, this should be brought up before it becomes a problem. If you wait until after the deadlines is missed, it may just seem like an excuse. Raise your concerns early, and then if you fail to meet objectives or a deadline, have an open discussion about what needs to change for next time.

2. No Advancement Opportunities

Excited to find a job and work your way up only to find out there are no chances to advance? It can incredibly frustrating and stressful, especially if you were looking for a company to stay and grow with. It can also be challenging if your job responsibilities are fairly basic, or if you were looking to make more money down the road. Knowing day in and day out that no matter how hard you work you won’t move up can certainly cause stress.

Solution

Instead of looking at ‘advancement’ in terms of a new job title or position, sit down with your supervisor and ask if you can take on any more responsibilities. This would allow you to take on some more complex duties and continue to learn more. If you are hoping specifically for a promotion or raise, you may be out of options at that place of employment. If they tell you there is no chance, it’s not worth the stress- start looking for a new job that will allow you some upward mobility. Just keep in mind, taking on some new responsibilities will make you more marketable!

3. Conflict

There are many reasons conflict can happen in the workplace. Conflict typically happens as a result of a company having a ‘blame culture’. In this environment, everyone is afraid of punishment, so nobody will admit it when they make a mistake. Instead, workers blame each others instead of learning from their mistakes. This breeds hostility and contributes to a toxic culture. Hostility at work can make simple tasks stressful to complete.

Solution

If there is constantly conflict in your place of work, it is usually indicative of a larger problem. Attempting to resolve these conflicts through HR is usually the best approach. However, if they keep recurring it may require change on a higher level. Some industries are intrinsically competitive, which means conflict is almost impossible to avoid. If this is the case, and the stress is to much to handle, you may want to consider a new field, or shifting around your role at the company.

4. Too Much/Too Little Work

You may think that having too little work wouldn’t be stressful, but it can be incredibly so. Not having work means a lot of downtime with nothing to do. Days drag on and it can be stressful feeling unfulfilled. On the other hand, being overwhelmed with an impossible amount of work can be stressful, and cause other problems. Staying late or working extra hours can cut into personal time, which is a problem we’ll address when talking about the next stress factor. Whether you have too much or too little work, your workload should be balanced out.

Solution

It may not be what you want to hear, but the best solution for both situations is an honest conversation with your boss. The conversation about having too little work should be fairly simple. Let your boss know you don’t feel challenged enough, and think you have more to offer the company if there is any other way you can help. Just don’t be surprised if you suddenly have a lot more to do!

Telling your boss you have too much work isn’t a conversation that will come as easily. However, it will be for the best. As long as you are an otherwise dependable worker, it’s okay to go to your boss and tell them you are feeling overwhelmed. Just let them know what you believe can help, and reinforce that you want to be at your best.

5. Work/Life Balance

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 35% of employees would change jobs if it allowed them to work off site full time and 51% would leave for flextime. Work/life balance is very clearly important to many professionals in the workforce. When the balance starts to shift in favor of work, it can be incredibly stressful to try and cope. Long hours, busy seasons, and too much travel are all examples that may tip the scales.

Solution

Before admitting defeat, try the simple approach of optimizing your time at work. Set goals for every day, and block out time for specific tasks. If you constantly get set back by e-mail, learn how to optimize your time spent with it. Instead of looking at your big intimidating projects as a whole, break them down into more accomplishable goals. Also, make sure you take a break every once in a while. Too many employees refuse to step away from their work when overwhelmed. Typically this hurts rather than helping. Stepping away allows you to come back with a fresh mind instead of getting burnt out.

6. Poor Management

Bad bosses come in many different forms. Mean, unappreciative, controlling, manipulative, etc. Unfortunately sometimes the people in control don’t have the best of approaches or traits. It can easily make every day stressful, especially if they interact with you often. It’s also possible that managers who are high up the chain don’t manage down well. However, today we’ll just explain what you can do when your immediate boss is bad news.

Solution

A good first step is trying to pinpoint why exactly it is that your boss and you aren’t working well together. Is it a lack of communication? Do they misunderstand your role or you theirs? If possible, sit down and have a one on one discussion with your manager. Consider how you can help them meet their goals and objectives, and form a better work flow. Typically having this conversation will help find some common ground that may help the relationship. Unfortunately if this continues, you don’t have many options. You could try to go to HR, but your boss may find this out. You could also request a transfer if your company is big enough, but this runs the same risk. If you truly can’t tolerate your boss despite all attempts, your best bet is to simply move on and find a new job.

7. Bad Communication

There are a few common communication problems that occur in workplaces.

  • Things are constantly changed by management, and not communicated down the chain to employees.
  • Management doesn’t communicate well with the subordinates.
  • There is a general lack of communication throughout the organization.

While they may cause different work problems, they all stem from a communication problem. Not knowing what is going on (no matter the topic) can cause confusion and mistakes.

Solution

When it comes to actually solving the problem, this can be a tough one to address. In most cases, the best solution is having a sit down discussion with your manager(s) and coworker(s) where there is common miscommunication. Have a discussion to pinpoint why these lapses in communication occur. It also may be worthwhile to schedule discussion time, where any changes or updates can be communicated. If you are having trouble getting traction to the problem by yourself, consider involving others. For example, if management isn’t communicating well, ask your coworkers if they are having a similar problem, and then approach a manager together. You will have a much better change at getting the issue addressed as a group.

8. High Turnover

Some workplaces just can’t seem to hang on to employees for a sustained period of time. Whatever the reasons, if it seems like your place of employment has a revolving door for their employees, it can be stressful. Constantly having to onboard and train new employees only to lose them generates a lot of stress. Managers are stressed from the constant strain on the budget to bring in new employees, and the employees who do stick around are stressed from the inconsistency of the staff. Working on a project with a team can be extremely trying if half of that team may not be there next week.

Solution

The problem with high turnover is that it’s ultimately something that needs to be fixed by management. The reasons people consistently leave a company are mostly factors controlled by higher ups. If you are a manager, there are a few things you can do to lower turnover.

  • When conducting interviews, explain the job requirements in depth.
  • Constantly review the compensation and benefits you offer employees, and keep them competitive to the market.
  • Have discussions with employees to understand their needs and work to meet them.
  • Create a positive work environment that is enjoyable to work in.

Many of the other stress inducing factors mentioned above and below can cause employees to leave. Do your best to avoid those types of situations from occurring. On the other hand, if you are an employee, there isn’t much you can do. The reason turnover is likely so high is because management continues to do nothing about the problem. Other employees realize the futility of staying, and move on to better opportunities. In most cases of high turnover, our best move is to get out as well.

9. Poor Compensation/Benefits

Poor compensation and benefits can be tough to deal with. It can be incredibly stressful when struggling to make ends meet, or trying to figure out health coverage. When compensation packages aren’t where employees want them to be, it undermines hard work, and kills morale. If you’re unhappy with your compensation package, there are a few things you can do to address the problem.

Solution

One of the best ways to address this directly is asking for a raise. However, asking for that raise needs to be in the right situation. A great time to do it is doing a performance review, or employee evaluation. If you constantly hit your marks and go above and beyond, it will be hard for a manager to turn you down. Be confident going into the conversation, and know your value as an employee. Make sure you are prepared to explain your qualifications, and what you have done to provide value. On the other hand, if benefits are the issue, you may want to approach your manager and ask about any other options. Since you started working there, the company may have begun to offer different packages, so it’s worth asking about!

10. Physical Work Environment

Sometimes, the problem is a lot more straightforward. Does your physical work environment stress you out? For instance, maybe you work in an open office and can barely hear yourself think? Or, maybe your building is kept too hot, and you sweat at work everyday? Many workplaces have problems like these that affect employee morale simply from a physical standpoint. Working conditions are very important, and need to be addressed.

Solution

All too often, the biggest problem with these types of issues is that management doesn’t know about them. Workers complaining to each other won’t fix the problem, although it probably happens often. Instead, consider approaching a manager along with anyone else who has a problem. Typically, managers care about having an environment their employees are comfortable to work in. A good manager will work to find a solution to that issue.

In terms of the examples above, maybe a manager would purchase noise cancelling headphones, or move that employee’s desk so they are in a quieter space. In the instance of a work environment that runs hot, perhaps the manager could talk to the building owner (if rented) and suggest a change to the programmed temperature. These solutions are often easy ones, but they have to be brought up to be addressed!

Between everything in your personal and work life, things can get stressful. We hope this blog has helped you brainstorm some ideas to address stress at work! There are many different factors that can bring about work stress, and we’ve tried to address the most common ones here. If you have another work stressor that you would like to share, feel free to let us know in the comments below!