8 Common Workplace Stressors and How to Handle Them

By Siamak Farah

September 30, 2013

Most businesses have great security systems in place to protect their “property.” Small businesses place cameras on-premise while larger businesses have gates, security guards, and electronic entry cards. Yet, the real thief responsible for more than $200 billion annual loss in US businesses is lurking within.

That bandit is none other than stress in the workplace. Many are unaware of their stress, and others feel they simply can’t do anything about it.  In reality, the do-nothing attitude is causing loss of productivity, unhealthy workplace relationships, costly employee turnovers, absenteeism and increased healthcare costs. A simple examination of your business can eliminate or highly reduce this silent productivity killer.

It behooves us to look at why people get stressed in general. While blanket statements like “poor working conditions create stress” are agreed upon by all, these statements may mislead us in looking for the right answer, or when trying to ask the right questions, such as: “Google’s workplace is quite enviable, but does that mean that Google employees have no stress?”

Let’s explore stress factors common amongst most people, whether in the workplace or life.

1. Lack of time or perceived lack of time

When you drive to the airport to have dinner at a nice restaurant close by, you don’t have any stress. Drive to the same airport knowing that if you are not there in 50 minutes you will miss your flight, and you will have an amazingly stressful ride and may arrive at the airport with stubs where your nails previously were.

2. Too many open folders

Regardless of whether you are a good multi-tasker or not, working on too many things at the same time is stressful. Since our intuition is to accomplish projects and do them well, a portion of our mind is occupied with that laundry list of things to do which will in turn cause stress.  If too many tasks are forced upon us, that stress is mixed with resentment and the results are substantially worse.

3. Lack of Clarity / Tentative Status / Indecision

This truth is as old as our instinct: people need to know where they stand. They like to clearly know what is expected of them and what their status is.  Indecision, or worse yet - flipped/flopped decisions, lead to uncertainty. Uncertainty is the lifeline of stress.

4. Lack of Knowledge

People get stressed out when they don’t have the right expertise to deal with the situation. I remember the first time I attempted to do my own tax return. While most people told me that it’s a walk in the park, I was completely stressed by it. I quickly realized that I didn't have the knowledge for this and I delegated to an expert. The stress disappeared instantly. For the past 30 years, someone else has been preparing my taxes and the money I pay is peanuts compared to the stress I would have gone through.

5. Change

There are a small group of people that get bored easily. That boredom causes stress for them and they crave change. However, for the majority of people, it’s the change that causes stress. Changing jobs, cities, houses, significant others, schools.... When you are younger, it's the fear of the unknown that is the culprit, and when you are older, it’s the effort it takes to re-familiarize yourself with something new that stresses you out. This is why our grandparents get stressed with computers, and we get stressed playing our kids' video games.

6. Worrying about events that have not happened yet.

The world is filled with worst-case scenario people. This mentality makes you stressed about something that may or may not happen. Why waste brain cells?

7. Lack of Control

Perhaps the most common reason for stress in the workplace is lack of control. People feel that they either don’t have control over a situation, or they are not allowed to apply their solution to the problem at hand.

Applying a solution or creating a workaround translates to you doing something about the problem as opposed to just stressing about it. Your job as a manager is to consult with your team both to gauge their comfort level, and also to openly ask for solutions they may have. It’s the people who are closer to the problem that often have the best solution. A CEO of a company may make big decisions, but the janitor is much more capable than that CEO to decide how do deal with the day-to-day emptying of the trash cans.

8. Physical Health / Relationships

When people don’t feel good about themselves, they get stressed. When they get stressed, many seek instant gratification. Some go shop, eat high-calorie “upper” foods, drink, smoke, etc. Needless to say, these acts of instant gratification not only don’t reduce stress, they compound it. As a manager, you may feel that the personal well-being of your employees is none of your business. However, in fact, most employees spend most of their waking hours at work and their personal status not only affects their work, but also the entire company’s performance.

Different things stress different people. This is perhaps why many people have given up on stress management and have relegated this monster to a fact of life. However, being aware of the most common stress-causing factors will not only allow you to be proactive in reducing stress in your workplace, it will also help you grow as a leader.

Remember, someone robbing you should not be considered business as usual. Take action today to identify and resolve sources of stress within your company.

Siamak Farah is the CEO of InfoStreetInfoStreet is a Cloud app provider that offers SkyDesktop, a free patent-pending Cloud Desktop; SkyAppMarket, an app marketplace where a business can choose from the best Cloud apps in the market; and SkySingleSignOn, a federated login solution and network management tool. Together they provide all the files and applications a company needs to run their business in the Cloud. 

By Siamak Farah

September 30, 2013