Most leaders and senior managers find their jobs stressful, survey reveals

The cost-of-living crisis is the top cause of stress at work for people working in leadership and senior management roles, according to the findings of a new survey by HR software provider Ciphr. A staggering 98% of the 265 leaders and senior managers polled found at least one aspect of their work stressful, while two-fifths (83%) are affected by three or more work-related stressors (the average, per person, is eight). Yet, despite the obvious stress their work causes them, just 4% claim not to like their jobs.

Their biggest concerns – the things currently causing them the most stress and anxiety in their jobs – were identified as the cost-of-living crisis (30%), high inflation and rising prices (29%), and exhaustion or burnout (22%).

Other major stress triggers, for one in five (20%) survey respondents, include coping with the economic downturn and threat of recession, their workload and to-do lists, and unfinished work tasks. And around one in six reported being worried by employee retention and staff turnover issues (17%), rising interest rates (17%), business viability and profitability concerns (16%), and ongoing wage inflation (16%).

Some of the other common stressors cited by female leaders and senior managers include managing other people / the people I manage (19%, compared to 10% of male leaders and senior managers), long working hours (17 vs 11%), and the expectations of an ‘always on and always there’ culture (17% vs 10%). While male leaders and senior managers are more likely to report being stressed by unfinished work tasks (25%, compared to 14% of female respondents), productivity problems (18% vs 12%), and employee development (15% vs 10%).

The top 15 causes of workplace stress for leaders and senior managers:

                  Cost of living crisis (30% of senior managers)

                  High inflation and rising prices (29%)

                  Exhaustion / burnout (22%)

                  Economic downturn / recession (20%)

                  Workload and to-do lists (20%)

                  Unfinished work tasks (20%)

                  Employee retention and staff turnover (17%)

                  Rising interest rates (17%)

                  Business viability and profitability concerns (16%)

                  Wage inflation (16%)

                  Productivity problems (15%)

                  Pressure to perform well / expectations of others (15%)

                  Job security / losing my job (15%)

                  Growing the business / generating new revenue (15%)

                  Leadership responsibilities (14%)

                  Managing other people / the people I manage (14%)

                  Long working hours (14%)

                  Ongoing impact of Covid (14%)

Commenting on the findings, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says: “Since the pandemic, and with the ongoing impact of the cost-of-living crisis, there has been a lot of focus on the importance of alleviating workplace stress and what employers can do to safeguard their employees’ mental health. But less is said, perhaps, about the huge pressures that people in senior management and leadership roles feel and how stress impacts them.

“The biggest stressors identified by the senior managers taking Ciphr’s survey can be grouped into three key themes, which orientate around workload, company performance, and their team. This is understandable, as it is expected, to a degree, that senior managers in any organisation will take on the ownership of those responsibilities in managing or leading an organisation. It shows they care, and that they care about the right things.”

Ciphr’s survey also revealed that nearly one in two (47%) leaders and senior managers have felt stressed or anxious about their impending workweek – something often dubbed as getting the ‘Sunday scaries’, or ‘Sunday blues’, due to the intensity of some people’s feelings of anticipatory anxiety or dread before the start of a new week.

Of those 47%, nearly a third (29%) have experienced the Sunday scaries multiple times over the past year. For around one in eight (13%), the problem is more acute, with the Sunday scaries striking multiple times every month. And, for one in 20 (5%), it occurs every week.

Ciphr’s full survey results are available here.