Biggest source of employee stress is not knowing what bosses want

davanti counselling confused employee

Unclear expectations from managers can create stress among workers (pic courtesy of iosphere/freedigitalphotos.net)

Never mind heavy workloads, long hours or annoying colleagues. The greatest source of stress for employees is having bosses who aren’t clear about their expectations.

Nearly a third (31%) of employees in a survey carried out by US employee assistance firm ComPsych said lack of clear direction from supervisors was the primary source of their stress. Second (20%) came confusion or conflict between colleagues or departments. Belief that workload would intensify was the third stressor (18%) and fourth was uncertainty about the future stability of the organisation (15%).

Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, Founder, Chairman and CEO of ComPsych, said: “Change has become a constant for many workplaces, whether in the US or globally. Employees are telling us that much of the disequilibrium around change is coming from managers.” He added that employees are increasingly asking for training around resiliency in the workplace.

I agree that change can be stressful, as you just don’t know what it will mean for you. When your stability becomes threatened it can trigger a survival response (like fight, flight or freeze) and you can become stressed. It can be a terrifying time not knowing what lies in store for you, and you can end up with anxious days and sleepless nights fretting over what will unfold. It can put you in a place of second guessing what your boss might want – not knowing if you’re right or wrong – which can leave you feeling deskilled and fearful.

The unknown can also bring up feelings of powerlessness, like being a child again. Hard though it may be, the antidote to this is to step into your adult state and take steps to feel as though you are taking charge of something at work. That may be asking for a meeting with your boss to clarify what is required of you, no matter how hard that might seem. Your stress levels will thank you for it, though.

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