Top 5 Causes of Work Stress And How To Manage Them

Top 5 Causes of Work Stress And How To Manage Them
a man dealing with work stress

Are you feeling more stressed than usual during your workday? Are your employees reaching their boiling points? No matter which side of the workforce stress lies on, it can create an unpleasant environment for everyone.

While it might be impossible to avoid every ounce of stress while on the job, there’s a problem when it starts taking over aspects of your work and life. Here are the top five causes of work stress, as well as some advice on how to manage them.

5 Causes of Work Stress


The Job Itself

man using his laptop while sitting down on a couch

The first step is to examine your job. You might just have an increased workload that is becoming tough to handle, or you may be overworked with longer than usual hours.​

These are often common causes of work stress, but they also happen to be temporary.

On the flipside of that coin, you might find yourself or your employees stressed if the workload isn’t challenging enough. Human beings crave a challenge, and their work will ultimately suffer if they feel as though their potential isn’t being met on the job.

Other causes might include:

  • A lack of advancement opportunities
  • Low wages for the work being done
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • An inability to cope with the demands of the job
  • Or have very little control over how the work is carried out

Any of these may be a sign that it’s time to find another career path, but it never hurts to talk to your coworkers or manager about these issues first. Assess what the causes of your work stress are, then ask for the opposite. If you’re a manager, then talking with your employees about the root of their stress can help you create a better, more productive working environment through minor changes.


A Higher-Up

higher up

Most people complain about their bosses, but some people have a toxic relationship with their next-in-command. This stressor is easier to identify, but it isn’t always as simple to get to the root of why you can’t stand your boss.

Some find their bosses intimidating, worrying about pleasing them to keep their position. Others might notice that their manager has poor communication skills, treats employees disrespectfully, or that they have an incompatible managing style with another manager. Finally, many workers feel increased levels of stress when a manager has inconsistent expectations.

This can be a tough stressor to eliminate, but the best course of action is to thwart any problems before they escalate. Openly communicating your issues to your manager in a calm discussion, explaining the reasons you feel stressed. If nothing changes, or you receive backlash, then you’ll need to talk to their higher up.


Conflict with Others

problematic woman staring into her laptop monitor

Other conflicts take place between co-workers for a variety of reasons. Most issues can be traced to poor communication or a lack of collaboration. Once again, the best thing you can do is eliminate a problem before it spirals out of control.

Take steps to work together as a team with your coworkers, not in competition with them. Keep things from escalating further by trying to see their side of the argument and keeping the goal of compromise in mind as you talk with one another to resolve the issue at hand.

For managers, taking care of these problems as quickly as possible is crucial to the success of your business. You might want to include conflict resolution as part of orientation for new employees or hold a meeting for your current workers with team building exercises. Providing time for employees to have informal discussions and creating a minimally competitive can help as well.



plans A, b and c

When significant changes take place, people often find adapting to them is more stressful than they first thought. The same is true for a long series of minor changes. This is unavoidable in the workplace, with stressors including:

  • New duties
  • New management
  • Changes to the structure of your organization
  • New procedures or ways of performing tasks
  • A change in workplace culture or environment
  • Changing benefits or employee perks

If these types of changes are sudden or implemented poorly, you can bet that the majority of your coworkers are going to panic. Employees and managers alike might fear how these changes will affect their job and personal lives.

The best way to implement change is to involve everyone affected by it. Companies can gather feedback to help them make new aspects of the job have less of an impact on their workers. Fostering open dialogue helps to reduce suspicions, allows employees to understand why changes are being made fully.



man pointing finger

If you’ve gone through this list and haven’t identified your stressor yet, then the problem might be you. That is, your stress is more than likely stemming from factors in your life outside of work. Maybe you’re struggling financially at the moment, or have debts creating a dark cloud over your head.

You might find yourself working long hours, which severely affects your social relationship and ability to do the things you love. Maybe you’re having problems with family, a personal relationship, or are struggling to take care of your children. Diet, exercise, and sleep schedule can all play a part as well.

Numerous aspects of everyone’s lives can quickly turn into a source of stress, and managing them isn’t always an easy task as many can be outside of your control. What you can do, however, is seek out professional help for each of these different factors before they manifest as work stress.

If you’re feeling overworked and are unable to pay attention to other vital areas of your life, talk to your boss about making your schedule more flexible. Explain your situation to them, detailing the areas of your life that are falling by the wayside. Then, create boundaries to ensure you have enough time for your other obligations in the future.

A financial planning consultant can help see you through a tough few months, creating a plan to avoid similar situations later on. They can also help you create a plan to become debt free. Ask if your company offers any support benefits for financial planning. You might be surprised.

Eating healthy, exercising, and following a healthy sleep schedule are all excellent ways to manage your stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You may also want to undergo stress management training or incorporate a meditative practice like yoga into your daily routine. Together, these can work wonders on your current outlook and mood.

Finally, you might want to consider a therapist if your relationships are on the fritz. Whether it’s family, a significant other, or a close friend, a therapist can help you sort through your issues in a healthy, positive way.

Stressed or Burnt Out?

Plenty of individuals find themselves burnt out at work from time to time, but what’s the difference between that and work stress? The five main causes above all fall under the category of stressors, which are ultimately inevitable in life. You can learn to manage them healthily, but they will pop up from time to time no matter what you do to prevent them.

People become burnt out when their stress becomes too much to bear, and they can no longer cope with its causes and effects. This unhealthy state can severely impact every area of your life but can be avoided if you learn to manage your stress before it spirals out of control.

lady biting her pencil while looking at her laptop

How to Tell When You’re Stressed Out

Identifying stress is the first step to resolving it. However, it isn’t always easy to tell when work stress is getting the better of you until it’s too late. Instead of waiting until you lash out from worked up nerves, look for these tell-tale signs.

After asking yourself those questions, you should be able to identify whether or not you are under too much stress. Answering yes to a few of those is normal, but when you experience multiple symptoms that affect your day to day routine, stress is officially a problem.

Long-term, repetitive periods of excess stress can lead to severe issues inside of your body. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression are all linked to increased levels of stress. That’s why learning to manage your stress sooner than later is vital to a more positive work environment and a healthier you.

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