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The Real Cause of Stress at Work

causes of stress

Want to know what’s causing all your stress at work?

It’s probably unclear goals.


That’s the finding from a recent study done by (a website that provides workplace data). It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, an executive or customer support. Unclear goals won out over bad managers, difficult co-workers and commute for the biggest stressor. (Interestingly, long work hours was the lower than all those options).

One of the key points that I make about communication is that we need to communicate the strategy. Just because the people in the boardroom or the C-suite chose a direction doesn’t mean that the folks on the front line have what they need to implement.

How many times you have worked for a company that told you to do something a certain way and you dutifully comply. Then one day someone says, “Oh, we’re not doing it that way anymore.” They just didn’t tell you. I worked for a company that changed its social media policy without letting me know, even though I was a constant contributor.

So what’s the solution? First, you have to flatten out the communication pyramid. Don’t assume that the CEO’s message to the executive team that then gets passed on to senior leaders filtering through the managers (phew!) ultimately gets to the front line employees. Leaders at the top of the food chain need to make sure everyone understands not just the goals, but the strategy to meet them.

And if you’re one of those on the receiving end, ask questions. Assume that the goal isn’t be communicated properly and search for a way to understand the plan (without being obnoxious, of course).

You can’t eliminate all the stress in your organization, but making sure that everyone understands the goals will allow everyone to breathe a little easier.