I read an article by Dan Strakal called The Top Seven Causes Of Workplace Stress And Fifteen Ways To Get Rid Of Them. I found that the list is not very complete and that one very important item is missing from the list.
Here is Strakal’s list of the top seven causes of workplace stress:
1. Being out of sync with one’s career values
2. Consistently applying burn out skills rather than motivated skills
3. Being delegated responsibility without authority
4. Being expected to produce more work with fewer resources
5. Job and career uncertainty and insecurity
6. The pace of change
7. Balancing family and work obligations
I had two reactions to this list. First, as a project manager, I have found that most companies expect you to do #3 and #4 all the time. This is just part of the deal.
But the more interesting reaction to the list was the missing item – interpersonal conflict. In my experience, interpersonal conflict is the single biggest workplace stressor. If you reflect on what people complain about, I bet you would agree that people don’t tend to complain about the things on Strakal’s list; they complain about their idiot boss, that one annoying co-worker, or the incompetent person stuck on their project team. In fact, in nearly all of my workshops, I get all kinds of questions about how to work with "difficult people" and deal with conflict.
I believe that if you were to ask people about what stresses them out about work, they would be much more likely to cite interpersonal conflict and other forms of relationship breakdowns than the items on the list above. Many people have not learned effective skills for resolving workplace conflict so they simply shut down, withhold, or leave the organization. In fact, the number one reason that people give for quitting their jobs is not even on Strakal’s list. That reason is the relationship with their immediate manager.
I did like the suggestions provided by Strakal for getting rid of the stress. These focus on how people can empower themselves and change their situation; to not be victims to others. Great list!
- Am I bringing any of this on myself?
- Are there things I can be doing to improve the situation?
- Am I blaming someone or something else (my partner, my company, my children, traffic, etc.) for the degree of happiness I am attaining or not attaining in my life?
- Am I actually taking control of what I can control and accepting what I cannot control?
- Have I lulled myself into a false sense that my work and my non-work lives are beyond my capabilities to handle – am I copping out?
- Do I know what my career values and motivated skills are? If not, how can I find out?
- If I am unhappy with my work situation, what is my short-term action plan to transition to something better? Who controls this decision?
- What are my long-term career action plans?
- Am I being as time efficient as I can? Am I looking for ways to integrate tasks and projects?
- Am I focusing on what needs to get done so that I don’t have to take work home?
- Can I form a support group (possibly made up of trusted coworkers, friends, clergy, etc.) where I can safely share my concerns, vent my anger, and deal with non-productive emotions?
- Am I a Type-A workaholic? If so, can I admit it and ask for help?
- Do I use work as a convenient excuse to not deal with other facets of my life? (Primary relationship, self image, weight challenges, etc.)
- What would it take for me to turn off the TV two nights per week and do something more energetic or socially responsible?
- Are my tears and frustration at work really a symptom of something else going on in my life?
So what do you think? What are your top workplace stressors? What is your number 1 stressor? I’d love to hear about it.