Examples of stress in the workplace

In this guide, we will see some Examples of stress in the workplace.

We will also talk about top stressors in the workplace, what work-related stress means, how is stress caused and some additional things to consider when talking about stress in the workplace.

Examples of stress in the workplace

There are numerous examples of stress in the workplace.

For instance, let’s imagine we have an employee named Mary who is always the first to arrive at work and the last to leave.

As soon as Mary sits in her chair, there is a pile of folders and documents that she needs to work on during her work schedule.

However, when Mary is about to go home she realizes she needs to stay doing overtime to finish her work, and yet she doesn’t get to finish all of it.

Mary follows this routine every single day, which reduces her sleep time to half. 

Another example is Charles, which always says yes to his boss and colleagues when they need an extra hand with their work.

This means Charles doesn’t get to finish on time, having to take home some of his work.

When he is at home, he does everything he can to finish before midnight but he has to dedicate some time to his wife and kids.

This makes Charles feel angry and irritable because he is still not able to finish and on top, doesn’t have much time to spend with his family.

You may be able to relate to any (or both) of the scenarios we have mentioned.

For both, work becomes their number one priority and when trying to meet the demands there is a disruption of the balance between work and their personal life.

As an employee who suffers from stress, you should be aware of work-related stress rights.

Top stressors in the workplace

After seeing some examples, we can talk specifically about the potential stressors you may encounter at work.

According to a study conducted by the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive, here are some of the stressors an employee can be exposed to.

Teamwork 

Organizations tend to encourage teamwork but sometimes it can become a nightmare for some employees, why?

There always seems to be one colleague who has minimum to no contact with the work that needs to be done avoiding taking responsibility and letting others do their part. Sounds familiar?

Maybe you experienced something similar during high school years and even college.

Teamwork is supposed to be about effective communication and cooperation between the team members and “Quality teamwork can actually reduce stress, while subpar teamwork creates stress for the employee left to perform the bulk of the work.”

Subsequently, when the opposite occurs, meaning a lack of communication and cooperation then there is no balance and team members tend to get stress and anxious about meeting their deadline.

Supervision

A good supervisor has the ability to see the potential in the employees who are in their charge and ultimately develop such potential.

However, an ineffective manager by displaying lack of support, clear instructions, or guidance can actually cause real strain for employees.

However, micro-management can also be detrimental for employees since they can think and believe they are incompetent, not good enough, or lacking job skills.

This can make them feel frustrated and constantly fear they might lose their job at any moment.

Workload 

As we have seen in our examples, “High workloads that veer from the level of being reasonable given the amount of time or skill an employee has can create stress. Employees who are overworked suffer from feelings of overload and frustration, and may try to work more hours or take work home to compensate. That can create problems in the employee’s home life (study.com).”

However, if the workload is minimum employees may feel “useless” or underappreciated by lacking the skills to have more workload and responsibilities.

Challenge

If you feel your job is too easy or there are no real challenges, you will lose motivation and you will most likely get bored.

This could happen when there is an employee whose job duties do not match their qualifications or skills.

On the contrary, if an employee is constantly over-challenged, they may feel “unfit” for the role and frustrated by not being able to live up to the expectations.

This is why a balance is needed so employees can feel they are learning while also growing professionally. 

Fairness

You may be familiar with the situation where you had a colleague that was your manager’s favorite, always getting the best job assignments or being recognized just for breathing while your work goes unrecognized Feeling undermined or less than someone else can be very frustrating and stressful because you feel there is nothing you can really do to make your manager’s treatment fair to all.

You could try to address the situation with your manager but you have to be very careful and being as assertive as possible.

If there is no change, then you can try to talk to your HR department or whoever is in charge.

What is work-related stress?

According to the WHO, work-related stress is “ is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.” 

Moreover, stress can occur due to a variety of work-related situations such as having a lack of support from colleagues or management, having heavy workloads, setting unrealistic expectations over tight deadlines, among others.

We need to differentiate between feeling pressure and being stressed.

Although pressure is not considered “bad” in its nature since it can actually keep employees alert and motivated towards achieving a goal, excessive or overwhelming pressure can actually lead to feeling stressed.

This can be detrimental to an employee’s performance and motivation.

If you suffer from work stress, least stressful jobs (UK) are the best for you.

How is stress caused?

We know that stress can be experienced differently among individuals, but we are also aware it depends on the proper functioning of two protective mechanisms:

  • The “Alarm reaction” mechanism: when we are exposed to a potential threat or harmful situation our bodies immediately react increasing our physiological activity. This results in muscle tension, heart palpitations, increased breathing rate, etc. Meaning, we are prepared to either fight the threat or run away from it. However, nowadays situations such as a verbally abusive colleague is enough to set our alarm. Here, our ‘fight or flight’ response is not adaptative or adequate. The resulting response and our inability to deal with expressing our emotions assertively will make the difference between reading the situation as stressful or a communication problem.
  • The “Adaptation” mechanism: this mechanism is the one that allows us to stop responding when we have learned that certain stimuli in the environment no longer possess the property of being harmful or threatening. For example, you may have felt scared and even frightened when you heard the fire alarm at work for the first time. Your body reacts to it as with any threatening situation, preparing you to ‘fight or flight’. However, after a few drills, you got used to the sound and your body learned it is not harmful or threatening.

Subsequently, “Stress is experienced when either of these mechanisms is not functioning properly or when we find it difficult to switch appropriately from one to another. This forms the basis of individual approaches to stress management (Michie, 2002)”.

Causes of stress at work

According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress:

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Relationships
  • Role
  • Change

For example, employees may say that they (hse.gov.uk):

  • are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs
  • are unable to control the way they do their work
  • don’t receive enough information and support
  • are having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied
  • don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
  • are not engaged when a business is undergoing change

Why is this blog about Examples of stress in the workplace important?

Stress is classed as a “silent killer”, we may not see it but it is there and can potentially cause a lot of harm to our health and well being if we don’t pay attention to it or implement any strategies to manage it effectively.

We need to be aware of the potential stressors that contribute to our increased levels of stress, just make sure to try to identify them so you can work on reducing their impact.

Moreover, it is important to let your employer know so they may implement some adjustments in your workplace that you and colleagues can benefit from.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Examples of stress in the workplace

What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress can be considered as the “harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands (ccohs.ca)”

What are the signs of stress in the workplace?

The signs of stress in the workplace include headaches, fatigue, recurrent absence due to colds, muscle tension and pain, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, loss or change of appetite, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, among others.

How can employers reduce stress in the workplace?

Employers can reduce stress in the workplace by encouraging their employees to do physical activity, offer employees an extra break, having a room where employees can relax, show they are valuable, and make them feel supported.

What are the 6 sources of stress?

Common causes or sources of stress can be:

Excessive fear.
Lack of opportunities.
Low salaries.
Bullying. 
Harassment.
Lack of support.

What are 5 emotional signs of stress?

Emotional signs of stress may include feeling depressed or anxious, irritability, anger, losing motivation, troubles sleeping or sleeping too much, constant or excessive worry, problems with the memory or concentrating, making bad decisions, among others.

References 

Who.int: “Stress at the workplace”

Study.com: “Examples of Stressors in the Workplace”

Michie S. (2020) CAUSES AND MANAGEMENT OF STRESS AT WORK. Occupational and Environmental Medicine Vol. 59:67-72

Hse.gov.uk: “Causes of stress at work”

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