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Overcome the Top 10 Causes of Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is on the rise and it's costingcorporate America a fortune. Some estimate that80% of health care costs are stress related, andthese expenses go right to the bottom line.

According to, Americans spent morethan $17 billion for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs in 2002, up 10% from the year beforeand nearly 30% over a two year period.

The Institute for Management Excellence reportsthat American industry spends more than $26billion each year for medical bills and disabilitypayments with another $10 billion for executive'slost workdays, hospitalization, and early death.

In addition to these staggering figures, stresstakes its toll through the added costs of qualitycontrol, legal challenges, lost opportunities,poor performance, bad attitudes, and training.

We cannot do much about the skyrocketing costs ofmedical care and prescription drugs, but we cantake immediate action to control the top tencauses of stress as identified by The GlobalBusiness and Economic Roundtable on Addiction andMental Health.

The countdown is:

10. "Workload" ? Employees report that they areoften stressed when they have too little or toomuch to do. Managers need to divideresponsibilities and help employees prioritizework that must be done. Make sure you understandthe impact before shifting responsibilities. Takeinto account the cost of stress before youincrease anyone's workload or hire more people.

9. "Random interruptions" - Telephones, pagers,walk-in visits, and spontaneous demands fromsupervisors all contribute to increased stress.Time management, delegation of responsibilities,and clarification of expectations can reduce thesestressors. 8. "Pervasive uncertainty" ? Stresslevels increase rapidly when people are confrontedby new requirements and procedures. Keepingpeople informed controls stress and increasesproductivity. Put details in a memo so they canreview the facts following your explanations.

7. "Mistrust and unfairness" - These situationskeep everyone on edge, create bad attitudes, andlower productivity. It is important to keep anopen line of communication to avoidmisunderstanding and know what people are thinkingabout your decisions. Managers must consistentlybuild trust and give equal treatment - just do theright thing.

6. "Unclear policies and no sense of direction" -Lack of focus causes uncertainty and underminesconfidence in management. You need more than awell-written policy manual. Enforcement ofpolicies and clear communications are essential.

To make sure everyone gets the message, you canrepeat your explanation in a variety of ways ?repetition and feedback are important. Reinforcepolicies through memos, articles, bulletin boardpostings, personal meetings, and small groupdiscussions.

5. "Career and job ambiguity" - If people areuncertain about their jobs and careers, there is afeeling of helplessness and of being out ofcontrol. In addition to the trusted jobdescriptions and annual personnel reviews, peopleneed to understand a broad range of issues thataffect the company.

News of mergers, consolidations, plant closings,and restructuring contribute to a feeling ofhelplessness. Management must keep people informedabout situations that will affect their jobs, orthe rumor mill will add to an already stressfulsituation.

4. "No feedback - good or bad" ? People want toknow whether they are meeting expectations.Consistent, written and verbal, personalizedfeedback is required. Some people need moreattention than others, but everyone's performanceis enhanced if leaders frequently affirmindividual efforts.

3. "No appreciation" - Failure to showappreciation generates stress that endangersproductivity throughout the company. There aremany ways to demonstrate appreciation, but themost effective is a sincere comment about how muchthe person means to you and the company.

2. "Lack of communications" - Poor communicationleads to decreased performance and increasedstress. Management memos and announcements workwell for distributing information, but two-wayconversation improves communication and solicitsideas and suggestions while reducing stress andcomplaints.

1. "Lack of control" ? Workplace stress is at itsgreatest when employees have no say regardingthings that affect them. You can decreasesensitivity to all the other stressors and give asense of being in control by involving employeesin operating and administrative decisions andacting on their input. Frontline employees knowwhat they are talking about. Listening to whatthey have to say reduces stress and increasesproductivity.

Effective managers understand that stress controlis a leadership responsibility and give it just asmuch attention as any other management function.For those who want to explore stress controlfurther, a free 3-session e-course is available byemail request at

Grasping the concepts and reducing stress one stepat a time can have an amazing impact on yourbottom line --and on the lives of those who do theheavy work.

Dale Collie - professional speaker, formerUS Army Ranger, CEO, and a Fast Company top50 innovative leader. Author of "WinningUnder Fire." (McGraw-Hill)

© Athifea Distribution LLC - 2013