Four Ways Bosses Cause Stress in the Workplace

I am currently working with someone that is having a “boss” problem.” I thought it might be appropriate to replay this post from several years ago.

Bosses are most often the causes of employee stress and not the workload.
Bosses are most often the causes of employee stress and not the workload.

We always talk about problem employees and how to solve those issues. We don’t spend as much time talking about problem bosses unless they are violating some law such as sexual harassment. Sometimes, however, the boss can be a problem for themselves and their employees.
Bosses get frustrated with employees
According to writer and professional coach Lindsey Broder, bosses often are the cause of many of the problems for which they blame their employees. She said these occur in four areas, which include:

  1. They don’t identify what is important to them for the employee. Many bosses assume their employee is a mindreader. The assume the employee knows what to do and how to do it and thus never tell them. I ran into this one time. I was calling on a prospect and talking about the high turnover they had in accounting. They had been through four accountants in less than a year. Their complaint was that “they didn’t know the system.” I asked them if they meant the people did not know accounting? They said they knew accounting but didn’t know the accounting system. I asked if they had ever bothered to tell these people what the company system was. Their response was “No, we expect them to know it already.” I was stunned. Unfortunately I was unable to convince them they needed to tell their accountant what they wanted.
  2. They don’t set expectations. In HR we deal with a lot. Many bosses just don’t really tell people what they want them to achieve. There are no measurements for success. As the old saying goes “if you don’t know where you are going how do you know when you have gotten there?”
  3. They don’t hold their employess accountable and often themselves either. No accountability means things don’t get done. Accountability needs to be stated and public. If you don’t hold and employee accountable then you should not be surprised with no results. Not telling  employees what they are responsible for always reminds me of the “double secret probation” comment of the dean in the movie Animal House.
  4. They don’t give feedback. Quite often an employee knows when they have done something wrong, but not always. How can they if they have never had any feedback? Without feedback how do you know if you have done anything right either. So a good boss knows the importance of feedback.

Working on these four areas will improve things for the boss and in all likelihood will improve things for employees too.
Bosses cause stress
Many people think that an employee’s workload causes them stress. A recent Danish study however discovered that it is not an employee’s workload but rather their bosses’ behavior that causes them stress. An employee’s lack of a sense of justice, not being treated right by the boss is what causes employees to be stressed. Those things talked about above, lack of expectations and lack of feedback are more likely to cause the stress rather than the work being done.
Better bosses make for better workers
In my consulting and teaching I make it clear how important it is to have well trained supervisors and managers. This goes for owners as well. Without training on how to deal with people effectively they are more likely to be the problem than they are the solution.

6 thoughts on “Four Ways Bosses Cause Stress in the Workplace”

  1. The whole mind reading thing goes both ways. In many situations, especially in the tech world, employees often having skills that managers don’t and see issues that managers don’t, but don’t raise them, because they think managers should obviously know all the issues.

  2. It all seems to stem from the similarity of a US workplace and a US public education system. Workers and students are treated as children or underlings. The boss or teacher is the ‘authority’ and must be worshiped or else the worker faces consequence.
    Lead by example, with clear vision, and mutual value and expectations – then you possibly have a well performing organization.

  3. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.
    Your web site offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful
    to you.

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest