Topic Mental Health Awareness

How to Handle Managers that Stress Out Your Employees

How to Handle Managers that Stress Out Your Employees

Stress works great when you need a short-term boost in productivity. However, in the long run, stress has destructive consequences for employers and employees alike. Studies show that 76% of employees lose up to one hour of productivity daily due to stress. 

There’s no debate: when leaders consistently induce stress, overall productivity suffers. So does retention. 

Recent surveys demonstrate that eight out of ten people are likely to quit when they face poor manager behavior. If one or more managers in your company are causing these issues, you need to address them quickly. Otherwise, you could lose your top talent. 

Let’s take a closer look at what can be done. 

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How Do Managers Inadvertently Stress Out Employees? 

Leaders rarely stress employees out on purpose. Usually, this effect is a result of accidental behavior. What may seem normal to a manager could be highly nerve-racking for an employee.  

Here are just a few ways managers can cause distress. 


Negative Words  

Employees tend to pay significant attention to the way a manager speaks. They often catch even the most minor intonation changes. Employees tend to overthink negative words and stress out when a manager uses them (e.g., terrible, horrible problematic, challenging). 

Erratic Behavior 

Employees prefer stability and predictability in their managers. When the leader acts erratically and spontaneously, it forces employees to be on their toes all day. This leads to continuous stress. 

Emotional Volatility 

Highly emotional people are fun at parties and on YouTube. However, when they keep showing strong emotions to their employees, the results are counterproductive. People want leaders to exhibit calmness and stability. Low emotional intelligence maximizes the existing stress. 

Excessive Pessimism  

While a healthy dose of pessimism is vital to making educated business decisions, it can play a negative role during stressful moments in the company. Employees look to leaders for assurance. The manager’s pessimism could encourage churn if the situation is already bad. 

Ignoring the Team’s Emotions  

If the leader can’t see and analyze the emotional atmosphere at work, they could worsen it. A skilled manager should be able to look past performance and productivity to see what the team members are experiencing. 

High stress levels must be mitigated immediately, even if the current productivity might suffer.   

What should leaders do about stressful middle management?  

If you are noting high levels of stress in the company (e.g., worrisome employee feedback, frequent sick days, tension between employees, etc.), you may need to observe how your middle management acts. If you think they may be the cause, taking action is imperative. 

Be Self Reflective  

While managers set the tone for employees, you do the same for the management. In most cases, management follows the leader’s example because it can be hard to determine what’s right for the company. 

Are you using negative words, acting erratically, or being overly emotional? Managers could be picking up on that behavior and experiencing stress. This, in turn, leads to stress-inducing actions from their end.   


Provide Feedback 

Don’t rush to punish managers for their behavior. Many of them are unaware of their actions' effect on the employees. Punishment can just increase the distress level.   

Consider talking to your managers first. Sometimes, the advice to be self-reflective and lead by example can work. As soon as managers see the problem, they can start solving it. 

Encourage Feedback 

Your manager’s behavior is likely to have a reason. From problems at home to misunderstandings with the top management, middle managers may be inadvertently trying to relieve their own stress by being pessimistic and emotional toward employees. 

The majority of people aren’t disagreeable on purpose. Find out what might be behind your manager’s actions. Simply ask. An anonymous survey could work well. If your behavior stresses your managers out, they aren’t likely to talk about it directly. 

Offer Training  

Some managers may not have sufficient experience to manage the workforce properly while keeping the team’s emotional needs in mind. You could arrange training to hone their management skills.  

Taking stress prevention or stress management courses is also possible. If you work with a professional employer organization (PEO), it can arrange them as part of the workplace safety strategy. Meanwhile, OSHA offers free stress management courses for employees. 

Encourage the Establishment of Boundaries  

If your manager struggles to reduce emotional volatility, but you aren’t ready to look for a replacement, you can encourage employees to establish emotional boundaries. By setting emotional boundaries right, employees can reduce the effect the manager’s erratic actions are having on them. 

Teach employees to communicate with the manager, express their worries, and ask for feedback. Additionally, they can learn to stop unacceptable behavior the moment it occurs by using the right words. For example, “I want to hear what you have to say, but I can’t accept this tone.” 

This type of training and advice can greatly benefit the overall workplace environment while helping employees feel empowered. 

Leaders Set the Tone  

Since your managers set the tone for how the company functions, monitoring their behavior is imperative. You need to take action when middle management induces high stress levels without knowing about it. 

By speaking with the managers, providing relevant training, and empowering employees to deal with this behavior, you increase productivity, improve engagement, and enhance the workplace environment.  

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Please note that the information presented above is not intended to be specific, technical, or professional advice. Our aim is to educate and provide insight into relevant topics.