Can Managers Cause Stress in the Workplace?

It may come as no surprise that managers can have an impact on stress levels at work

Those who lead teams within organisations have an enormous impact on the wellbeing of employees. Management is a valuable skill that has its own set of sub-skills pertaining to time management, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and more. If managers are lacking in these skills and are failing to implement or endorse the best managerial practice, it can have a devastating impact on a business. Team performance, productivity, and ultimately, employee retention is greatly influenced by those in managerial positions.

According to the 2018 Investors in People (IIP) Job Exodus Survey, employee disengagement costs the UK economy £340 billion each year, with one in five people actively searching for opportunities and 49% of those workers citing poor management as the main reason for considering a new job. Furthermore, a Financial Times report concluded that UK management practices lag behind other leading economies and account for up to a third of the gap in productivity between companies and countries.

A skill of its own

Even though a significant amount of workplace stress is being caused by managers lacking in particular skills, a lot of organisations still don’t value management as a skill in its own right. There are many people getting promoted into management jobs just because they happened to be good at something else.

In reality, there’s a lot more to being a manager than telling people what to do. It requires a specific skillset – one that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. For not only must managers properly engage with employees, develop their talents and manage their demands, they need to be able to organise resources and activities around achieving higher-level business objectives. Furthermore, they must be flexible enough to allow for regular adjustment and monitoring of processes, in order to ensure a successful outcome. Add into the equation having to deal with the pre-existing bias that comes with being promoted internally or externally and you have a lot of requirements for one role.

Not surprisingly, it is an ongoing challenge for organisations to find people that possess all these necessary skills. However, given that a lot of managerial performance still lies within the individual’s control, managers can still learn different ways to get better at their job and minimise their contribution to workplace stress.

Effective management training

Much of the stress of those who work in the operational, functional areas of the organisation comes down to team leaders, supervisors and middle managers not being effectively trained. Training is not just about developing the skills of those with basic managerial talent, but ensuring that even the ones that can already engage a team have the skills ensure that stress is kept to a minimum and managed effectively.

However, such training can only be effective if the managers concerned are willing to be a work-in-progress. This means owning up to what they still lack in knowledge and identifying ways to gain further knowledge, skills and qualifications, all the while inviting regular feedback from others on their performance. Managers that are willing to work on their own personal and professional development are more likely to do the job to the best of their ability.

Understanding the bigger picture

Many managers try to implement local and operational plans without any proper understanding of the organisation’s business model. It’s important for them to gain the necessary business knowledge so that they can seamlessly implement operational plans around corporate strategies. Only by understanding the priorities and creating the necessary processes to achieve the bigger objectives, can they successfully manage a team.

Championing Talent

While maintaining positive and productive working relationships with the relevant people is key to being a good manager, it is also essential to know how to retain talent. Managers must make a point of celebrating their knowledge, skills and achievements within their team in order to give individuals a chance to progress – and in doing so, encourage long-term loyalty. Not only must they be willing to take ideas from teams and individuals to senior management and give credit to the originator but allow those people to identify improvements to existing processes so they feel valued in their role. Given that is highly likely that the ambitious and driven will want to advance in their careers, creativity and innovation must be encouraged at every turn.

Managing Change

If there’s one thing in life that’s inevitable, it’s change. However, if there is too much of it coming at employees within a short amount of time, it can cause unnecessary disruption, conflict and negative stress levels. That’s why managers must be as willing to respond to change as they are to implement it, so that organisational developments cause minimal stress. This can be done by assessing the impact of the proposed change and then informing the relevant individuals, all the while keeping them in the loop on developments. In the ever-changing world of business, communication is key.

Improving Health & Safety

So much of workplace stress comes down to the physical environment in which employees work. Whether it’s the temperature, personal space, air quality, or access to emergency exits, a manager must place a high priority on identifying, reporting and removing potential hazards that compromise the wellbeing of their team. This not only means assigning sufficient resources to the management of health and safety but communicating the policy to all relevant individuals and ensuring they are adequately trained to carry their responsibilities. Illness and accidents go hand in hand with stress.

Support Wellbeing

Managers can only fulfil their own potential if they work in an organisation that is committed to providing resources as part of a wider health and wellbeing strategy. Whether it’s through wellbeing workshops, seminars and one-on-one consultations, managers must have access to the physical or online resources they need to improve their own social, emotional and physical environment. Only by reducing their own workplace stress, can they reduce that of others, and properly support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of their team.


Concerns about the impact of mediocre managers on productivity and job satisfaction won’t be going away anytime soon. That’s all the more reason for organisations to find new and effective ways to raise managerial standards. Employee stress levels depend on it.