Managing Stress in the Workplace: 6 Questions for Managers

September 2, 2015

managing stress

Stress can cost time, money, and energy. Estimates for the annual cost of stress in U.S. organizations range as high as $300 billion. As a manager, how well do you help reduce stress in the workplace? Do you unnecessarily increase stress in the workplace? Here are six questions every manager should ponder.

  1. Do I inadvertently support stress-inducing norms? Every workplace has formal and informal rules. Some informal rules or norms become well established even though they may be dysfunctional. Do employees work long hours beyond what is really necessary? How long is the workday really? Is time off for vacations encouraged or seen as behavior of those less loyal?
  1. Do I consider the potential negative impact of my behaviors on others? Some managers behave inconsistently such that employees are not sure what to expect. A manager gives instructions on Monday, changes them on Wednesday, and changes them again on Friday. Others assign work to be done at the last minute and expect immediate results.
  1. How do I provide information to my employees? Often managers tell employees what employees need to know but not necessarily what employees want to know. They may not need to know the context of a decision but where that context can be provided, it may be helpful. It is also good to avoid surprises. As soon as possible, stop rumors, especially those that may have a negative impact.
  1. Am I really a good listener or do I just think that I am? I am continually surprised by the number of managers who think they are great listeners but aren’t. Can you actively listen? What is going on in your mind when someone is talking with you? Are you thinking about answers to questions or formulating questions, or are you truly listening to the words, emotions, and body language of the other. Worse yet, are you multi-tasking, for example, working on your computer? One key to helping employees manage workplace stress is recognizing it. Actively listening helps.
  1. Do I support my employees? Easy to answer “sure” but do you? How easy is it for employees to come to you with requests or questions? How often do you ask, “Is there anything where you need my help?” Do you know your direct reports well enough to know what rewards they value the most? Can you identify recent actions on your part that demonstrate you support your people?
  1. Am I a good role model? The leader sets the example. Do you stay in the office until your boss is gone? Do you manage your stress? Do you take time to exercise? Do you meditate, do yoga, or engage in other activities that reduce your stress? Do you encourage use of any company policies that encourage wellness?

Stress impacts the bottom-line through health care costs and lost productivity. Assess your impact on stress in the workplace and adjust as best you can.

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About The Author

John Ballard PhD is is the author of Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations. A Professor of Management at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, he has over 20 years of consulting and managerial experience. Connect with John at, www.facebook/johnballardphd, and on twitter @johnballardphd.


  1. avatar

    […] have indicated that more than half of the U.S. workforce is burned out and at a breaking point. Workplace stress not only decreases productivity, it increases absenteeism, illness, healthcare expenditures, and […]

  2. avatar

    I find this stress write up very useful to me I neglect stress till it hits me the reason been I see it as a temporary exhaustion when rested would regain my performance strength back having been able to try to answer the stress related questions I can conceive some solutions like exercise and overtime avoidance when necessary to be on alert in doing my daily life and carrer management obligatory duties

  3. avatar

    The action to reduce stress in workplace is far from theory which is published in the books .
    May we go to practical experience.

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