Entrepreneurship HR & Staffing

5 Ways You Might Be Stressing Out Your Staff

Evan Goodman
Written by Evan Goodman

Stress in the workplace is extremely common and it’s a big problem. For a business, employee stress results in low productivity, high turnover rates and low engagement. More importantly, consistently high stress levels are making your employees sick. According to Sunsuper, one of Australia’s largest super funds, 68% of Australian workers feel out of control and 54% feel stressed, at least every week, and job stress is more strongly associated with health issues than financial or family problems.

Chronic stress has a major effect on both mental and physical health. Common stress-related symptoms include digestive problems, headaches, weight gain, and anxiety. Long-term exposure to stress – and this is not pleasant reading – can even lead to depression, high blood pressure, and eventually heart disease. Stress-related illness means more days lost each year to sick time, medial ‘out of pocket’ costs, workers compensation claims, and serious danger to the long-term health of your employees.

As it turns out, the biggest source of stress for workers isn’t the size of their paychecks. A 2018 survey, conducted by Korn Ferry, cited the boss as the number one stressor in the workplace.  Last year Australian Employee insight report found workload pressure (34%) was the biggest cause of stress, followed by personal issues people have with their colleagues (16%). Managers cause employee stress for different reasons. However, some characteristics are listed over and over again as stressors. If you’re guilty of these five management behaviours, you might be making your employees seriously ill.


It’s hard to draw a specific line where a boss (manager/owner) gets too controlling, but employees agree; an overly controlling manager is a big problem. As a boss, it’s your job to make sure employees do their jobs. However, you have a micromanagement issue when you make rules for every moment of the day or feel like you have to watch as each job gets completed.

Managers are often stressed because of work overload, but lose a sense of where their job should end, and someone else’s begins. If you feel like you’re losing control when you delegate tasks, you’re probably a micromanager. Your employees want you to trust them to do the job that you hired them for. Providing clear instructions and stepping back to allow employees to complete a job is often rewarded with better production and increased success.

Overly Critical

Anyone who is waiting for the next put-down from upper-management is understandably stressed. A critical boss makes employees feel underappreciated, leading to a serious dip in company morale. If you live by the old saying “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself,” you might need to consider whether your employees are really the problem.

A successful company isn’t made by management alone. Reliable workers are an important part of the puzzle. If you think a paycheck is compensation enough for a job well done, you’ll be a manager with workers who simply build time to earn that check. Investigate the way you compliment your employees. Do you always find a weak spot to criticise? Try a new tactic by picking out what employees have done well and only offer criticism when it’s truly necessary. Not surprisingly, your employees will be able to focus on a job better when they aren’t always worrying about pleasing the boss.


Clear communication is vital for any relationship. Communication in the workplace shouldn’t be limited to a list of instructions and complaints. Whether it’s about job security or assignment details, uncertainty is a common work stressor. Managers who fail to have real conversations with their employees end up with an “us versus them” culture which destroys engagement and morale. Besides, it’s impossible for employees to understand your expectations if you don’t make them clear.

Many managers assume that relationships with employees will lead to a loss of authority. However, the opposite is usually true. If you’re the type of manager who puts up barriers, start over with a meeting to encourage new ideas. Really get to know your employees and adopt an open-door policy that will allow workers to talk to you when they’re most comfortable.


Everyone’s had a personal experience with a selfish boss. You know the ones; they blame others for their mistakes, have no morals, or belittle employees. If you think your job is more important than someone else’s or throw a lower level employee under the bus when a problem comes to light, you’re undoubtedly creating stress for your workers.

As a manager, it’s your job to guide the actions of your employees. When mistakes are made, it’s necessary to assess how your guidance could have prevented the situation. The best leaders put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. This example shows employees how to handle problems as they arise and allows everyone to focus on the job that needs to be done. Every position within a company works together to meet a final goal. Managers who place the company’s goals ahead of their own position often see higher success rates and lower employee turnover.


Stress is contagious. A manager who is always stressed is often anxious, tired, and angry. This tension is passed straight down to employees. A manager who treats every situation as an emergency has workers who are continually in fight or flight mode. If you don’t handle stress well, it’s time to learn how your attitude is damaging the health of your employees.

Managers are often stressed because of lack of experience, heavy workloads, and long hours. As continued stress affects your sleep, health, and personal life; the cycle only gets worse. Learning how to deal with your own stress will improve your physical health and help build positive working relationships. Begin by opening communication channels with employees. Task delegation is an important management skill that will alleviate stress for everyone in the workplace. Learning how to share the load will not only decrease your excess task load, it will empower your employees to become more productive and successful while building company relationships.

Manager behaviour makes an important impact on company culture and employee satisfaction. Creating working relationships is a sign of strength that will build a company culture of communication, and this  leads to success.


  1. stress.org/workplace-stress
  2. https://www.medianet.com.au/releases/167135/
  3. kornferry.com/institute/workplace-stress-motivation
  4. 2017/07/17/537750774/is-your-boss-too-controlling-many-employees-clash-with-micromanagers
  5. forbes/sites/victorlipman/2017/06/07/if-your-boss-shows-these-4-signs-head-for-the-hills/#44fde78c3699
  6. mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-200460307
  7. inc.com/john-brandon/bad-boss-traits-ranked-in-order-of-what-makes-peop.html

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About the author

Evan Goodman

Evan Goodman

Over the past 30 years, Evan Goodman | Business Coach has founded numerous ‘start-ups’, built them into successful businesses and gone on to sell them. He has experienced and overcome most of the common challenges faced by business owners and leaders and understands the pressure and stresses that running a business can cause.

He also recognises the value and importance of getting sound advice and support when faced by these common challenges and of being prepared to openly discuss issues with a coach or mentor.

Since building up his last business into a national company, and selling it in 2009, Evan focusses on coaching SME business owners on how to become business leaders. He has a Masters of Business Coaching degree UOW; creating a unique blend of experience, expertise and coaching best practice for his clients.

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