by CIO Staff

Stress at Work

Mar 20, 20063 mins

Not surprisingly, four-fifths of executives and managers are stressed, with a third saying they are highly stressed. And the stress does not appear to be going away, based on a recent survey of senior executives and managers nationwide as well as a similar survey conducted two years ago by NFI Research.

“Stress is now greater than I can remember, in my 30 years of work history,” said one survey respondent.

“The 40-hour work week is a myth for most managers,” said another respondent. “It is expected that we work 50 to 60 hours to get the job done and a large number of things still don’t get completed because of unrealistic expectations. We are still human beings who can only do so much in a day.”

Almost a third of survey respondents cited number of hours worked as a cause of stress while more than a third cited expectations as a cause.

“The biggest cause of stress is the unrealistic expectations in the volume of work that is expected,” said one manager. “The second is the amount of time that is expected. Not that long ago, extra time at the office would get you ahead; now extra time is needed just to keep your head.”

Said another: “One of the main stresses we all feel is too much to do and declining resources needed to get the job done. Fewer employees means more responsibility and less time to focus on any one thing. We must learn to manage ourselves better and teach staff to do the same.”

The top causes of stress for the majority of executives and managers are, in order: deadlines, interruptions, conflicting responsibilities, expectations and e-mail overload.

Several respondents cited internal workplace issues, such as management issues and office politics, as stress causes.

“One of the major stressors is the excruciatingly slow planning, communication and execution of strategy by top management,” said one manager.

“Regular stress is good, it keeps you on edge,” said another. “However, bureaucratic stress is very difficult to deal with. It exists between the towers if they are allowed to continue.”

Said another: “New management is moving fast to straighten out past problems, which causes more stress because of reduced cost and expense. The new objectives are in direct contrast to each other, which gives us a pay-me-now or pay-me-now and also pay-me-later situation.”

“The vast majority of my stress comes from the gamesmanship of my peers,” said another manager. “Too often, serving our customers comes after serving our own desire for power, recognition or simply job avoidance.”

Some also said their cause of stress is essentially self-imposed.

“To be honest, much of the stress I experience is due to my taking on more projects and responsibilities, believing that they can be done and on time,” said one respondent. “And they almost always are, but with extra effort and time. But I seem to thrive on it.”

A certain amount of stress at work can keep people energized and focused on critical tasks. However, with the current stress levels, more executives and managers might find themselves too pressured to keep sight of what really matters, and that is not likely to be good for business.