It seems like every other day there’s a new survey or research study that shows – again – how stressed-out American workers are, at all levels of career; both men and women. This latest report, by Harris Interactive for Everest College, finds that about 83% of workers report feeling stressed by their jobs. It’s a number that keeps rising, and the usual sources are multiple: pay, too much to handle with too few resources; troublesome co-workers, and work-life balance issues. These are valid sources of stress, but I think these periodic surveys fail to tap into more pervasive, underlying sources of stress and conflict at work: boredom; lack of mesh between the person’s skills and the role; an unhealthy, unsupportive management culture; outright abusive, arrogant and narcissistic bosses, and so forth. I’ve written about some of these issues in previous posts, and plan to address some new versions of these underlying sources of conflict and stress in some future essays.
The current survey was summarized in a Forbes article, by Susan Adams. She writes:
Some 83% of American workers say they feel stressed out by their jobs, up from 73% a year ago, according to a new study by Harris Interactive for Everest College. The No. 1 reason workers feel stressed, according to the survey: low pay. This is the third year of the survey and the third year that less- than-adequate paychecks were the top stressor for workers. The study was conducted by phone among 1,000 adults between Feb. 21 and March 3.
While pay was the biggest source of stress last year, the percentage of workers who pegged it at No. 1 rose this year, from 11% to 14%. This year unreasonable workload also ranked as a top stressor, with 14% saying they had too much to do, up from 9% last year. Annoying coworkers and commuting tied for the next-most-stressful parts of the job, at 11%. The next-worst stressor was working in a job that was not the person’s chosen career (8%), poor work-life balance (7%), lack of opportunity for advancement (6%) and fear of being fired (4%).
The study also looked at what stressed workers of different education levels. For those with a high school diploma or less, low pay ranked as the top stressor (18%), followed by annoying coworkers (14%). College grads ranked unreasonable workload as the No. 1 stressor (17%), followed by their commute (12%).
Predictably, people with different income levels found different aspects of their job stressful. For those earning less than $35,000, 26% said that their top stressor was low pay, followed by 11% who said they were most stressed because their job was not in their chosen field and 10% who said there was no chance to move up in their careers. Among the highest earners, with a household income of $100,000 a year, 16% said an unreasonable workload was their biggest problem. An equal percentage said their commute stressed them out the most.
The survey did uncover some happy workers, like the 18% of workers making $100,000 or more who said nothing at work stresses them. But that number is down from last year when 37% of that group said they were stress-free. Among lower-wage workers this year, only 9% said they felt stress-free on the job.