© Copyright 2005 Rogers Publishing Ltd. The following article first appeared in the July 2005 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.
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Stress in a workplace can build up when a company fails to address management issues, intervene in a toxic environment or set concrete goals. If you’re guilty of any of the following sins, you could have a stressed-out office.

1. The Treadmill Syndrome
Employees have too much or too little to do. Some have too many responsibilities and work around the clock, even when away from the workplace. Others fill their days with unproductive busy work, feeling the stress of knowing they could be more productive.

2. Pervasive uncertainty
Market conditions, company problems, unsatisfactorily explained and announced change, economic fluctuations, offshore job displacement, terrorist attacks, and market conditions all affect stress levels and productivity.

3. Lack of control
This represents the greatest stressor in the workplace because employees feel they have no control over their participation or the outcome of their work. Stress levels are reduced when employees are involved in setting the course of the organization, developing policies and strategies, and creating workplace expectations.

4. Mistrust, unfairness, and vicious office politics
This keeps everyone on edge and uncertain about the future. Poor morale and esprit de corps increase stress levels and consume energy that could otherwise be directed at job-related activities.

5. Career and job ambiguity
A feeling of helplessness and lack of control. “How can I succeed if I don’t know what’s expected of me or if my job here is uncertain?” Stress levels are affected by far-reaching market conditions, challenges by competitors, life-cycle of products, and societal influences, as well as vagueness within management.

6. Random interruptions
Telephones, walk-in visits, demands from supervisors. Goal setting and time management strategies can increase productivity and alleviate the stressfulness of incomplete projects.

7. No appreciation
A lack of recognition generates stress that endangers future efforts. Human nature requires that we demonstrate appreciation for jobs well done. Inadequate demonstration of appreciation results in lowered productivity.

8. Lack of communications
Having to go up and down the chain of command leads to decreased performance and increased stress. As with feedback, leaders sometimes misunderstand the adequacy and effectiveness of their own communications. There are dozens of ways to improve communications, and employees will usually tell you of shortcomings – but only if they are asked.

9. Unclear policies and no sense of direction in the company
This undermines confidence in management. Development of sound policies is the first step. Management must then keep these policies updated and follow through to ensure compliance throughout the ranks. Employees are easily stressed when it appears that management is out of touch.

10. No feedback—good or bad
A lack of feedback prevents people from knowing how they are doing and whether they are meeting expectations. Stress related to this issue is typically one of management’s misperception as to the amount, importance, and effectiveness of feedback to employees. Whatever the cause, employees are easily stressed by lack of communication in this area.