How to avoid stress at work...?

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

I found this picture in the local rag this week - maybe you know the kind - small town musings from the neighbour around the corner, bringing us up to speed on who traveled where, what's happening at the library and who showed up at the latest community event.

First this picture made me laugh, which of course, was the intention. It's a lighthearted poke at the reality we face: work carries stress, and wouldn't it be nice to have the option of just avoiding it altogether??

I snapped a picture and used it as a fun intro to a workshop on workplace stress...and then this silly little picture just kept rolling around in my mind and would let go. I started reflecting on all that is wrong with our workplaces to make this funny.

It's funny because it's true.

And it's sad because it's true when it doesn't need to be!

The American Institute for Stress reports that 80% of American workers experience stress because of poor communication practices by their employers (source: In my world of building management effectiveness, I also know the following:

A recent study by says 58% of Managers don't receive any management training

The two statistics together are telling.

Could it be that there is a relationship between the quality of the world's Managers and the quality of the world's workplaces?

Yes. One thousand times YES.

Most Managers move into their roles because they are exceptional individual contributors - exceptional chemists or designers or mechanics. They make the move to the Management table and suddenly they're sitting in on meetings about financial results, or strategy, or performance reviews, trying to figure out how to get things done through their people and through their fellow managers.

This places a great deal of stress on our Managers. They're disoriented, overwhelmed, pulled in a different direction for every person they supervise and most of the time, struggling to figure out what's most important, right now.

When managers manage from a place of stress, they create a place of stress.

When managers work from a place of skill - of competence, confidence, and knowledge - they create a place of driven calm.

The problem of workplace stress - or at least a lot of it - can be solved by leveraging the talent of this one group of people.

Said another way, managers are the lynch-pin to your corporate culture.

A great deal of the workplace stress we experience comes from unclear expectations, poor communication (inconsistent or ineffective) and lack of clarity around whether we're succeeding or not. My most stressful work environments all lacked these three things from one person: my boss. I once ran a business that struggled to stay on the good side of bankruptcy. This was stressful...AND it was nothing compared to the stress of trying to work with a person who could not provide clear expectations, was inconsistent or ineffective in their communication, and could not define success.

When we set Managers up for success, everyone wins.

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