Poll: Workplace 'Miss Manners' Hard to Find These Days

September 26, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - If workers seem increasingly prone to throwing an office hissy fit, it could be because they're stressed out over the flood of bad news these days about the economy and world events, a new survey says.

A poll of American workers taken by The Marlin Company, a North Haven, Connecticut workplace communications consultant, found that 45% said their coworkers confess fear or anxiety about national or world events at least several times a week, while 33% said they’ve observed an increase in anxiety or stress-related physical ailments, such as headaches, colds or stomach problems. Just over a quarter, 27%, reported an increase in emotional problems, such as depression, insomnia, substance abuse, or family conflicts.

What is driving so many people close to the edge? Some 28% of respondents said the economy pushed their buttons, followed by family woes (27%), war/terrorism (24%) and job issues (15%).

“Interestingly, employees report that most of this stress is coming from outside of the workplace, but they bring it with them on the job regardless of the source,’ said Marlin President Frank Kenna III, in a statement. “Managers must find a way to deal with these outside factors if they want to have a smooth-running workplace.”

This pressure can play out in not-so-pleasant ways. According to the survey, more than four in 10 (42%) reported an increase in coworkers complaints in the last year, 33% reported that the water cooler gossip mongers were working overtime, nearly a third were showing more anger in the office, while 24% were just plain rude.

Clients are feeling it too, the survey found. Some 35% of workers said they noticed more stressed-out customers, 31% said they’re seeing more high-maintenance customers, while a quarter said they’re receiving more customer complaints.

Other results of the study included:

  • 54% said management is helping employees deal with stress. According to the study, where management helps, employees report fewer emotional and physical ailments, higher morale, fewer complaints, less gossip and lower stress levels.
  • 44% said it’s a source of irritation that people don’t follow the company attendance schedule.
  • 29% said they’re irritated about offensive jokes.
  • 27% said morale is lower than it was a year ago.
  • 30% said their own ambitions are less important now than 12 months ago.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive between May 22 and May 29, 2003 and covered 752 US workers. For more information, go to http://www.themarlinco.com/ .