It’s stressful at the top

A stressed manager can negatively affect workers

It’s not only the worker bees who feel the strain at work, according to a recent study.

The managerial and executive stress report by employee assistance firm WarrenShepell found 35 per cent of supervisors and managers reported high levels of stress. The study looked at the EAP use of more than 168,000 Canadian workers and managers between 2003 and 2005.

“The common attitude is that people at the top are not supposed to have problems that impact their performance or that of other employees," said Rod Phillips, president and CEO of WarrenShepell. "But the truth is that they're not infallible; they're affected by the same daily hassles and struggles as everyone else.”

More than one third of female managers, 38 per cent, and 39 per cent of managers over the age of 50 reported higher-than-average levels of stress.

The study also found that 20 per cent of supervisors and manager accessed EAP for marital/relationship problems, which is higher than the average of 17 per cent for regular workers.

Managers often work long hours at the office, from 55 to 60 hours a week, according to the study. These long hours, combined with high level of responsibility can make it difficult for managers to maintain good work-life balance.

When a manager is stressed, it can negatively affect workers, said Phillips.

"Given the scope of influence and impact management has on any organization, it's important to recognize and deal with managerial stress before it negatively impacts the entire organization,” he said. “Today nearly one in five employees may be adversely affected by the personal difficulties of their supervisor or manager, and this only accounts for employees in direct contact with these managers."

To help organizations help these managers, WarrenShepell has the following suggestions:

• Performing a work analysis that reviews workload, workflow processes and manager/direct report ratios to ensure a manageable set of expectations and responsibilities.

• Reviewing the management selection processes to ensure the most appropriate people are in the positions of highest influence.

• Providing management with the opportunity to participate in on-going training and education, both internally and externally in order to offer access to new tools and approaches to their responsibilities.

• Encouraging management to participate in employee surveys so that organizations can identify and address any challenges unique to this group.

• Giving management feedback from all levels of the organization, providing them with different viewpoints on issues.

• Partnering with an outside organization that can provide executive and managerial coaching services as well as health and performance research to support management.

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