Finance News & Insights

5 common ways bosses stress out employees

Every company strives for a low-stress workplace, but what happens when the boss is the cause of everyone’s stress?

Here are five of the most common ways that bosses stress out employees:

  1. Setting unrealistic goals for employees. Every employer wants to set the bar high, but demanding too much can discourage — rather than encourage — your employees.
    What works better: If you have an extremely difficult project that you need your staff to achieve, try breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable parts.
  2. Us vs. them talk. To keep employees on their side, some managers will remove themselves from controversial decisions.
    Example: When a managers say, “I fought tooth-and-nail to get you that raise, but you know HR has the final say.” Creating this Us. vs. Them mentality can backfire in many ways — setting departments against one another, and undermining a manager’s leadership capabilities.
  3. Playing favorites. Managers who allow certain poor performers to slide or turn a blind eye to some staffers’ bad habits can have a detrimental effect on good employees.
  4. Jumping to conclusions. Whether intentional or not, managers who tell their staff how they should feel or react in certain situations can effectively stress or anger much more than the actual situation.
    Best bet: Allow employees to talk, react and come up with their own solutions to the problem at hand.
  5. Poor listening. Nothing sets off employees more than a manager who doesn’t listen to his or her employees. Feeling like the boss has no interest in his or her employees’ thoughts and opinions creates an extremely high stress environment.

Are we missing any stressors? Feel free to leave them in our comments section.

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  • The other one I see is the boss trying to be a friend. It’s like your mom or dad trying to be your friend. They’re your friend as long as everything goes good, but when you do something or say something your parents disagree with, they become parents again. Same with the boss. You cannot be a friend with your subordinates. Someone is always going to feel left out or the boss has to turn back into the boss at certain times. You have to keep that division there. You can certainly be friendly with the people you supervise but you can never be a friend.

  • Another stressful boss is one who cannot make a decision – sits on information for days/weeks/months and nothing is ever concluded or done.

  • Pattie

    How about bosses that don’t take the time (or don’t have the time) to meet with you or even reply to your emails. Those are the type who don’t want to give up authority(won’t allow you to make decisions), but don’t allow you to do your job by ignoring your inquiries. Guess who looks like the bad guy in those situations? Outsiders think you are not doing your job and you can’t let on that you are waiting for your boss to reply and/or make a decision. Either way, it has a negative affect on the company and your stress level.

  • Alex

    Expounding on Dona’s post…nothing ever gets decided at the time, but 3 or 6 months later, guess what? A directive comes out based on your suggestion or idea, but of course now it’s the boss’, and no credit is offered where due. Then there’s the taskmaster, who gives you the hairy eye for the 5 or 10 minutes at the water cooler Monday morning, after you worked six days the previous week. It’s like being treated like a child! If you didn’t think I could get the work done and make some decisions, why did you hire me in the first place! And amen to No. 3 regarding preferential treatment – especially when it so obviously is doled out to the employee(s) who happen to belong to the same religion as the boss. Oh, and pun intended there.

  • What about the boss who automatically assume you don’t “like” another employee or subcontractor just because you are bringing something to their attention, which ironically is your job.

  • Jafo

    What about the micromanagers? They are so involved with what you are doing, it is like two people constantly working on the same project. Or, if you are left alone to work it, they change everything about it once you are done, again, two people working on the same thing.

  • Nancy

    How about a boss who makes a change in procedures and when it doesnt work out the way they plan, they “dont remember saying to do it that way”, so they dont look bad and you take the blame for it.

  • Jafo, I have that boss. I am the office manager and accountant where I work. My boss is the owner. He worries when we don’t get money in like he wants, so he starts barking orders for me to get him all the past due invoices so he can start throwing his weight around. It used to bother me, but now I don’t worry about it. I am competent in my job. If I wasn’t, I shouldn’t be here. If he wants to stress out and worry about one more thing, there’s nothing I can do to stop him. So I have learned just to let him go and let him do what he wants.

    Nancy, my boss does that also. What one employee did was he would write down everything the boss told him to do or how to do something. He would get the boss to sign off on what he just said. Whenever it didn’t turn out the way the boss expected and tried to blame this guy, he would whip out the piece of paper and remind the boss exactly who told him to do it.

  • BB

    Credit/glory grabbers. Managers that give upper management the impression they were the only contributor to a project loose the respect of their people. Give your employees credit for their contribution to a project.

    Managers clearly only interesting in getting their next promotion. They skate along all year until the last quarter before performance review. Then they want to make everyone crazy trying to get all the projects done that have been sitting idle on the manager’s plate all year.