It's all the boss's fault, say stressed workers

Managers are taking the blame for rising stress levels - and this could be bad news in the longer term.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The nation’s workers are more stressed than they were a year ago, according to Investors in People, which found that 38% of employees it surveyed had seen their stress levels crank up in the past 12 months. This may not seem like a big surprise, given the endless stream of disasters that have befallen UK plc in recent times, with many people now having to work twice as hard just to tread water (and often for dwindling returns). You could even say it’s more surprising that 62% of people aren’t any more stressed than they were when the sailing was comparatively plain.

However, the more alarming point is that management's reaction (or lack of it) seems to be making the problem worse: only 29% of employees felt their bosses were doing anything about the rise in stress. Of course, it’s hardly a simple task. Stress is a tricky thing to manage, especially at a time when there are plenty of more tangible fires that need putting out – from balancing the books and managing debts, to hounding clients to pay on time and making redundancies.

But as Investors in People points out, a failure to address the issue of rising stress now may have very real repercussions on long-term productivity. Especially when the implication is that bosses just aren’t up to the task. Some 43% of those surveyed said that their stress levels were made worse by a lack of confidence in management, while a mere 12% thought their bosses had adapted well to the effects of the downturn. None of which bodes well for when things eventually pick up.

It may seem hard to fit in, but remembering that human touch now may prove valuable in the longer run. One solution may be to set up a mentoring system. Investors in People found that older workers are finding everything less stressful than their younger counterparts – possibly because they’ve been through it all before. Only 32% of over-55s reported an increase in stress, compared with 41% of 35- to 44-year-olds, and 45% of 45- to 54-year-olds. Get them to share their wisdom of their experiences and it may be valuable for everyone. Not least the management.

In today's bulletin:

Nationwide reports signs of life in the housing market
Illegal downloads cost UK £120bn a year, says Government
Entrepreneur optimism: a thing of the past?
It's all the boss's fault, say stressed workers
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