SURVEY SAYS: Top Workplace Stressor

April 15, 2013 - We recently covered a survey that revealed low pay as the top workplace stressor among Americans.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, what is your top workplace stressor? Although a list of common workplace stressors was provided, the largest proportion of responding readers (25.5%) chose “other.”  However, the majority of the “other” responses were repeats, variations or more specific explanations of the listed items.  

“Other” responses included: 

  • People. 
  • The monotony 
  • Communications or lack thereof (cited by several readers) 
  • Low Pay 
  • special treatment of some and not other Employees by Management 
  • personnel problems 
  • Job loss and downsizing (cited by several readers) 
  • Not being able to get anything done due to lack of decision making at the top. 
  • All of the above except for the first one 
  • Pressures from home (despite good work-life balance) 
  • Other employee attendance issues (I am HR) 
  • Combative coworkers 
  • Boss and co-worker having an affair 
  • Damocles syndrome – why not?! (the definition I found of this said “a state of long-term uncertainty, stress or anxiety;” however, it was associated with patients and families of children treated for leukemia) 
  • constant law changes that are not helping plan participants, just making more busy work for plan sponsors 
  • My top stressor is having to nag my boss to do his job so he can get paid 3x more than me…. 
  • The main stressor had been my boss, she left a couple of weeks ago, so now it is the uncertainty of the dept structure that is the top stressor 
  • People who don’t get it….. 
  • unrealistic expectations and goals 
  • All of the above (except managing others) 


Slightly more than 19% of respondents said excessive workloads were their top stressor, followed by 15.3% who chose “my boss.” Six percent each indicated inadequate pay, annoying coworkers, managing other people and poor work-life balance were their top stressors, while 5% chose “lack of opportunity for advancement,” 4% selected “commuting to and from work,” and 2% said their top stressor is not liking what they do.  Only 4% of responding NewsDash readers reported they are not stressed at work.  

As for the verbatim comments… Wow, I really feel badly for some of our readers! While I asked for the top stressor, many folks had a very hard time just choosing one, and one comment in particular articulated very well how one stressor can lead to a host of other stressors. Several readers noted how outside forces—i.e. regulators, family members—can be workplace stressors. Remembering a SuperBowl commercial, one reader suggested we all buy Volkswagens to “get happy,” and another reader suggested we change the way we view our stressors. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “I like my job, I just wish there was a little less of it to like.”


Besides the stress from commuting, I also have to deal with excessive workload! 


It is strange how many micro-managers end up in top positions and we have two of them in our department. Working for and with them is like being between the proverbial rock and a hard place! Sigh.... 


The work is fine, it is people that cause stress 100% of the time. 


If there is a lack of communication between co-workers as well as up the chain of command, it is very difficult to judge whether or not all the hard work is 1) appreciated, 2) understood, and 3) we are in regulatory compliance. With respect to #3, if no one knows the policies, rules and regulations, ensuring compliance is very difficult if not impossible. 


The lack of support from my boss has recently sunk to a new low. And I have to pretend all is well. Talk about stress! 


Maybe we should all go buy Volkswagens so we can "get happy" (ya man!) 


It is a combination of excessive workload, meeting deadlines, lack of experienced help, inability to take time off without paying for it - both before & after - with more excessive work. I am just plain tired of it! 


The first one is a joke, right? We should be able to check off more than one. While managing others takes the top spot for me, a close second is the impending Pay or Play Penalty under PPACA. As a state government, our universities have a lot of employees who may soon qualify for subsidized health benefits. 


I've been employed here for over 25 years and it is pretty much like a long marriage - it has its ups and downs. I really like what I do and have great co-workers. It is the owners who can be stressful at times. 


From anyone I've ever spoken to, the top workplace stressor is having no control or say over what you do.

Verbatim (cont.)  

Unfortunately, there are several annoying, chatty coworkers who don't seem to have any work to do and continually stand up and "broadcast" every little thing going on in their personal lives to the entire area...I could write a book that would probably curl your hair with the personal items I know about everyone of their family members which are usually things I would never dream of sharing with anyone much less at work...there are days I literally blast music through my ear buds just so I don't have to listen to all of the crap...right now there are four different conversations going on that have absolutely nothing to do with work and have been going on most of the morning and it's nearly 10:30...aarrgh, just shoot me now! 


Yell out from their desks with mostly meaningless banter back and forth for a large part of the day. Makes it hard to absorb every new regulation, guideline, federal mandate and reporting requirement I'm obligated to follow. 


Some days I get so sick I have to go home and rest 


While a company goes through downsizing or shut-down processes, it's very stressful for those left behind to pick up the extra workload or complete the close-out. This includes the stress from watching co-workers lose their jobs, as well as knowing you will likely be next. 


I like my job, I just wish there was a little less of it to like. 


Micro-management and not being treated professionally. 


Stress is having a team workload of 250 hours a week split between 6, then 5, then 4 people with regulatory requirements increasing ... and knowing that the management levels above you are doing the same cuts with similar increasing workloads ... so everyone is stretched really thin, which raises risk concerns and opportunity for errors to occur. 


Pay doesn't even keep up with inflation due to impact of the poor economy on my employer 


Inconsistency as well as unreal expectations from senior management are the causes of excessive workload, lack of reward/recognition for one's efforts, bad bosses, etc. Refusal to staff properly (not excessively but properly) and rewarding incompetent, ineffective workers in some areas while ignoring hard workers that continually go above and beyond year in and year out but are denied bonuses (even though being in the program) or advancement, recognition with no explanation leads to dissatisfaction and stress. And, by the way, this eventually leads to poor results even though the worker may not want to do a bad job. I could go on but to what purpose.

Verbatim (cont.)  

I have worked for 40 years and now have the worst boss of my career. He hoards information and delights in doing clerical jobs all the while proclaiming how busy he is. He is the first boss who has not taught me anything positive. The only thing that I have learned is how not to act as a boss. 


Working in the same area as a loud, obnoxious woman who whistles, chews (snapping) gum and is constantly chit-chatting (rather than working) with another co-worker down the hall. Oh, and she has music playing on her computer for all of us to hear who are in close proximity. She has no sense of propriety. As a mother of three boys, I know "loud" and I understand the need for patience but this is situation is tiresome and definitely stressful. 


Excessive workload is my stressor. It causes a poor work-life balance and when I add up the hours I put in I realize my pay is inadequate. My coworkers can sometimes be annoying as they have time for Starbucks runs, checking social media from their iPhones and chatting with anyone who walks by. They believe that it takes a team to do even the simple tasks. When I get down in the dumps because they have no workplace stressors, I temporarily do not like what I do which causes more stress. (Even though I do like what I do, in fact, enjoy it!). Take away the excessive workload and there will be nothing to stress about! 


Hard to pick just one... 


Once upon a time I would have said my pay was my biggest stressor, but then I got transferred and wow. My boss and coworkers are the most negative people I have ever met. Working day in and day out with people determined to hate their lives really takes a toll. 


With technology today, we are never unplugged. 


I have a good work-life balance - but my husband thinks I should leave the office at 5 sharp! He's the stressor! 


I'm ready for retirement now but lack of opportunity for advancement was my stressor, which of course, also kept my salary down. 


Of course, on the other hand, if that does happen I guess I won't have any workplace stressors.... 


I get to pick just one?? I'm stressing over deciding between excessive workload and annoying coworkers, while you don't even have unethical, demanding, pushy, whiny, idiot customers on the list!

Verbatim (cont.)  

If you decide something is stressing you out, realize that there's nothing you can do about it except change the way YOU look at it. It is what it is; change YOUR view and you'll change the stress. 


The biggest stressor in my job as a consultant is the poor technology of my employer. From our recordkeeping system that is severely lacking to our participant and sponsor websites that look nice but offer the same functionality I saw at a previous employer 8 years ago, it is a constant struggle to keep clients, and participants, happy. Which, as a consultant, is about 45% of my job. 


Unfortunately, but too true, for nearly all of my stressors - I'm the lowest common denominator. 


Trying to do regular work and keeping plans compliant with whatever the latest law is that really doesn't have anything to do with keeping the plan healthy and employees happy is my biggest stress. 


a micro-managing boss 


If my boss would stop micromanaging me - I could get my work completed timely and accurately - She is such a Witch.... 


Expectations to know everything about everything is the norm. I feel like I'm just spread too thin trying to keep up, and I'm in constant fear or missing a deadline or something else equally important. It's craziness! The commute I have doesn't help, either, which adds to poor work-life balance. The survey question could have been, "choose all that apply." 


do more for less.... 


From downsizing my HR dept went from 7 to 3 in two years. The workload is very heavy and we fall further behind every month. 


I often work with people who don't have a clue, don't care and still have a job! Somehow they seem to keep bluffing their way thru. Management is so far removed from reality, they don't understand that we need more staff with knowledge and less "'ll get better"!! 


On the bright side, my experience is a great way to continue to drive home to my daughter how important it is that she pursue a good education along with her dreams. 


I inherited a person who seems to have simply survived the past downturns because someone else was always more worthy of not surviving. However, she's not very good, extremely slow moving, and not a fast thinker, so when needed to "step up" she simply doesn't have it in her. 


On any given day, any (perhaps) all of these apply. But the most consistent source of stress has to be "the boss." Cause when he (or she) isn't having a good day, nobody is.... 



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.
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