Story: Melinda has hardly slept, it is 4:00 am and her heart is pounding. This has been happening more often and she does not know what to do.


As a midlevel manager for the past 3 years for Global Inc, a manufacturing company, Melinda has the respect of everyone she works with and has the reputation as a hard worker. She has been with the company for 17 years, rising through the ranks. She feels under undue pressure by her boss because she had some recent family issues and is asking for some consideration for flex time and the ability to work from home part time.


What’s going on? Her mom in her mid-seventies moved in with her due to health concerns six months ago. Melinda is becoming her mom’s primary care giver as she goes through chemo. Her children age 9, 11, and 14 have created the normal demands of children that age, with a myriad of activities. Her husband is an EMT with a rotating schedule of 4 days on and 3 days off. The off days are very helpful but, the 24 hours on for 4 days put the entire load on her.


Her boss is not giving her any leeway, is increasing her hours to cover portions of two shifts, and tells her the considerations requested are outside of company policies. She feels after all the time at this company she is not being treated as “it” not as an individual.


What you think is causing her to lose sleep and have a racing heart at 4:00 am? Stress! What are the primary sources?  Let’s list a few:

  • Primary care giver of an aging parent
  • Lack of empathy from supervisor
  • Work/life balance – kids, spouse’s hours, increased demands of the job
  • Inflexible work schedule
  • Increased hours


Her work coupled with her home life is having a negative impact on Melinda’s health. Uncommon? I don’t think so. Create a short list of your current stressors. How many of them of them are a result of work? Here is a better question: How many of your factors can be positively affected by your leaders at work?


Let’s be clear. Stress can be positive, particularly in short doses to motivate us and help us perform well. However, chronic stress has prolonged negative effects on the performance and health of employees. Studies over the years have clearly shown, leaders in the workplace have a significant impact on workers and their health. Here is some data:


From 1999 study by the National Institute of Safety and Health:

  • 40% of all workers see their jobs as very or extremely stressful
  • 75% of working adults believe there is more stress at work than a generation ago


From a 2016 Survey  by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health



  • Almost 50% of all working adults give their workplace only fair or poor ratings in its efforts to reduce their stress
  • A majority of workers in low-paying jobs, dangerous jobs, disabled workers, workers in medical and restaurant jobs, and people who work 50 or more hours per week say their job has a bad impact on their stress level
  • 43% of workers think that work has a negative impact on their stress level
  • 28% of workers think that work has a negative impact on their eating habits
  • 27% of respondents think that work has a negative impact on their sleeping habits


A recent study titled The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and the Mortality and Health Costs in the United States categorizes ten workplace stressors that affect employee health:

  • Layoffs and unemployment
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Shift work
  • Long working hours
  • Job insecurity
  • Work-family conflict
  • Low job control
  • High job demands
  • Low social support at work
  • Low organizational justice

If you believe the premise that stress contributes to poor health. The workplace is making people sick. Who is the “workplace”? The “workplace” can be defined as the policy, procedures, and other tools that make up managerial practices. If you are a leader the “workplace” is you.


When you think about Melinda and her situation, how many of those ten items can you check off that are affecting her? When you reflect on your situation how many can you check off?


Change your perspective and mentally put yourself in the seat of those that you lead. How many of those items do you think they would check off?


You have the ability to mitigate or reduce the stressors on your team. No matter the situation you can have a positive effect on “Low Social Support at Work”. If any of your workers/teammates/subordinates are stressed because they feel they are unsupported by the boss. You are the cause of that stressor.


Take inventory of your team and build a survey to see how you are doing. You are the only one who does not know the answer. If want to be effective you need real feedback you can act on.