Factors that can cause unwanted stress in the workplace

by Nov 5, 2014

There is no denying that the demands of the modern-day workplace puts stress on workers. Stress has a detrimental effect on the health of staff; it also has negative consequences for industry, as workdays are lost through absences, and production suffers.

There are many different causes for stress in the workplace. One of the main reasons is workers and staff feeling unable to cope with the demands made on them. Another reason for workplace stress is a lack of communication. Failure by managers to consult with workers leads to feelings of isolation and frustration, which are ingredients for stress.

Other factors that cause workplace stress include changes and organizational restructuring. Here, once again, the lack of consultation over the changes feeds feelings of frustration and isolation. Workers fearing for their futures, and whether their jobs will last, is another reason for stress in the working environment.

Another major cause of stress is workplace bullying. This is a serious issue and employers would do well to deal with it as soon as it arises. Bullying appears in various guises. It can include a member of the work team being ignored or excluded. Malicious gossip or spreading rumors about a particular worker is also bullying, as it is publicly humiliating to him or her.

Other forms of bullying, committed by workplace managers and superiors, include a worker being assigned tasks that he or she will not be able to achieve. A victim may also be assigned jobs that are meaningless, while constantly being demeaned for his or her efforts and thus placing him or her under increasing levels of stress.

That bullying is now taken seriously by businesses is exemplified by the fact that October is now “National Bullying Prevention Month.” With its own website, www.stopthatnow.org, the National Workplace Coalition brings together interested parties, such as legal experts, business consultants, employees and labor leaders in a bid to highlight and eventually eliminate the scourge of bullying in the workplace.

While the campaign against bullying is a positive move, more can be done, by both employers and employees alike to relieve the causes of stress in the workplace.

Behavior in the workplace should be civil between management and employees and among the workers themselves. Employers can also play their part in relieving stress by ensuring demands are reasonable and that employees can deal with their workloads. Workers should also be able to receive necessary support from both workplace colleagues and management. Importantly, staff should be able to understand the roles assigned to them and informed of any changes well in advance.

Unfortunately, stress and resulting depression can sometimes lead to workers turning to drugs and alcohol. Employers can be proactive and take steps toward helping staff with a process called oral fluid testing. This should be done privately, away from others in the workplace, and involves swabbing the mouth to detect the presence of drugs or narcotics in the body.

Collaboration between workers and employers and a change in workplace practices can serve to reduce both stress and bullying at work and will be beneficial to all.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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