Causes of Workplace Stress

1. Long hours and increased demands. The average American works forty-six hours per

week. [3] Much of this is due to increased technology and expectations that employees will be available

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to answer e-mail on weekends and evenings. As a result of this added work time, employees find less

time to engage in leisure and household activities such as grocery shopping and cleaning.

2. Being treated unfairly. Workplace issues such as harassment and bullying can cause people to feel stress at work. Additional issues

such as feeling overlooked for promotions can also cause workplace stress. In extreme cases,

perceived workplace unfairness can result in violence. For example, Matthew Beck shot and killed

four supervisors in a Connecticut lottery office because he felt he had been unfairly overlooked for a

promotion. [4] Many organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs that can offer services, such as

counseling, to help deal with workplace stress and other personal issues.

3. Little or no acknowledgment or reward. People can feel stress when they do not feel they are

being recognized for the work they do. This kind of workplace stress can cause people to become

withdrawn, unmotivated, or unfocused on being productive for the organization. This type of behavior

can also materialize at home with people experiencing this stress being more irritable, cranky, and

moody. At work, these feelings can negatively affect our ability to relate to our coworkers and


4. Lack of control. Micromanagement refers to excessive control of work details by a supervisor. For

example, a micromanager might tell an employee specific tasks should be worked on in a given day

and give specific instructions on how those tasks should be accomplished. This type of situation can

create stress, as the employee feels he or she has little control of their own work.

5. Lack of job security. In the last quarter of 2011 (October, November, December), 266,971

employees were subjected to mass company layoffs, [5]and for obvious reasons, this creates stress

upon the workers who had to leave and for those workers who stay. Those workers who have been laid

off may experience financial hardship, and the workers who haven’t been laid off may need to perform

extra work and can suffer from physiological issues even if their jobs were not eliminated. This

phenomenon is called layoff survivor syndrome. [6] Many of the stressors caused by layoffs can include

increased workloads, increased anxiety, and lower morale.

6. Office politics. Dealing with difficult coworkers or supervisors and different personalities (Chapter

9 “Handle Conflict and Negotiation”) and communication styles (Chapter 4 “Communicate

Effectively”) can create stress at work. Conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings are common

in today’s workplace, especially with the use of technology. All of these factors, which we call office

politics, can create stress, which results in lost sleep, productivity, and motivation—obviously

affecting our ability to relate to others.