Work-related stress is declining — but up to 80 percent of Americans still feel significant stress from their jobs. Is the answer empathy, integrity and “loyalty bridges”?
By John Salak
There’s good news on the stress front. The percentage of people suffering from work-related stress has probably declined over the last decade. The bad news is that anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of American workers still report significant stress from their jobs—and its gutting their health and costing the US economy more than $300 billion annually.
What’s causing the stress? Ultimately, no matter who is doing the reporting—the American Psychological Association or the American Institute of Stress—most of us are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress at work. The causes vary from job insecurity to wage concerns, feeling ignored or disenfranchised, being overworked, bullied by co-workers or suffering from mental abuse by bosses.
Recent research puts a lot of the stress-related problems—and their potential solutions—squarely on the shoulders of mid-level managers who interactive with workers and senior executives who hire these managers and establish their corporate cultures.
Changing workplace culture. The University of Exeter Business School, for example, reports that companies undoubtedly would benefit by hiring and developing managers who have empathy, integrity and are trustworthy because they would improve productivity.
Unfortunately, difficult and ineffective managers are only one issue contributing to work-related stress. The University of Zurich reports colleague relationships and interactions are also at the core of the problem, especially in highly competitive environments. These interactions are particularly critical depending on how colleagues respond when an employee is mistreated. Are they empathetic or do they response with schadenfreude, which occurs when one person’s problems advances another’s goals? An even greater danger looms in the workplace because schadenfreude can be contagious.
The university warns that dangers for acerbating stress and mental health issues abound in many workplaces because modern organizations are ripe for competition, envy, and intergroup tension. In these conditions, one employee’s loss is usually another’s gains, encouraging schadenfreude to thrive. What then? Employee mistreatment with all its health implications can become the norm.
What you can do to reduce stress. Employees in turn would benefit through the creation of loyalty bridges that would enhance their development and self-worth, reduce uncertainty and lessen stress. And less stress at the workplace means better health and contentment for employees when their home with friends and family.
The solution isn’t crystal clear but toxic environments need to be eliminated, corrected and avoided for organizational and employee health alike.