Senior managers under more stress than their teams realise, survey reveals
A new survey by HR software provider Ciphr has revealed that the cost-of-living crisis, high inflation and rising prices, and burnout are the biggest causes of stress at work for senior managers.
The survey polled 265 people in senior management and leadership roles at medium and large businesses in the UK. The respondents were asked what issues were causing them the biggest concern or most stress in their job. They were also asked whether they ever felt stressed or anxious before starting a new work week – also known as the ‘Sunday scaries’ or ‘Sunday blues’.
With 47% of the respondents saying that their job is causing them to suffer the ‘Sunday scaries’, it would appear that many senior managers are more overwhelmed by on-the-job stress than their colleagues and direct reports realise.
Of the 47% who admitted to dreading Mondays, 29% said they had experienced this feeling multiple times over the past year. A further 13% said the ‘Sunday scaries’ struck multiple times every month. For 5%, this experience happens every week.
Only 22% of the senior managers claimed not to have experienced the ‘Sunday blues’ while working at their current job or organisation.
The results also revealed that the bigger the workforce size, the greater the occurrence of the ‘Sunday scaries’, with senior leaders at bigger enterprises being more than twice as likely to experience the ‘Sunday scaries’ multiple times a month than those at SMEs (24% vs. 11%).
Survey results suggest that challenges relating to remote employment – and reduced social interaction exacerbate the stress of 18% of senior managers at remote-first organisations. However, with senior managers who have more in-person time in their role, the number falls to 10%.
Even if people don’t experience the ‘Sunday scaries’, they may still be stressed. Ciphr’s research found that 98% of people in senior management and leadership roles – regardless of whether they suffer from the ‘Sunday scaries’ or not feel stressed by at least one thing at work. Eighty-three percent could name three or more work-related stressors.
Interestingly, despite the stress, only 4% of senior managers said that they don’t like their jobs.
The top 15 causes of workplace stress for senior managers:
- Cost of living crisis (30% of senior managers)
- High inflation and rising prices (29%)
- Exhaustion/burnout (22%)
- Economic downturn (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%)
Some common stressors noticeably affect the senior managers that frequently experience the ‘Sunday scaries’ compared to those who don’t:
- Burnout (27% compared to 18%)
- Pressure to perform well (20% compared to 10%)
- Fear of losing their job (20% compared to 10%)
- Long working hours (19% compared to 9%)
- Their boss (16% compared to 7%)
- Conflicts at work (15% compared to 8%)
Claire Williams, Chief People Officer at Ciphr, commented: “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.
“It is, however, important for organisations to be really mindful of the influence that work has on an individual’s stress levels – especially if they are senior management or the CEO – as they may be less likely to discuss how they are feeling. The best way to support them is for organisations to work proactively with their senior managers to either help relieve those stresses, where possible, or give them tools and strategies to cope with those stresses in a more targeted and positive way.
“Stress, in general, doesn’t always need to be perceived as a negative – lots of people really thrive under stress and high-pressure situations – and produce some of their best work. But when high levels of stress cause anxiety or the Sunday scaries, that’s when increased risks to the business can start presenting themselves, through ill health, higher turnover of senior managers, ineffective leadership, or poor performance. It’s definitely in an employer’s interest to understand how their managers are feeling and what they can do to help, if there’s a problem, before it impacts the wider business.”
The full results are available at https://www.ciphr.com/causes-of-stress-at-work-2023-survey-results.