For many, overbearing managers can be a prime source of stress in the workplace. But taking on a leadership role isn't necessarily a walk in the park either. Moving up in the office can mean more complex tasks, more responsibilities, and more pressure to meet deadlines and performance goals—all while keeping track of other employees. These factors, however, aren't the only cause for managerial stress. In fact, according to a new study conducted by the BI Norwegian Business School and published in journal ScienceNordic, the relationship managers have with their employees can play a significant role in the amount of stress and anxiety they experience at work.

What Causes Stress For Managers?

Researchers recruited over 2900 Norwegian managers in order to analyze and assess their experiences in the workplace. They focused on four key stress factors: time pressures and workload, emotional strain, role stress at work (meaning conflict between the demands of their bosses and their employees) and conflict between work and personal life.

The study gathered the following information:

  • Over 60% of managers reported time pressures and/or heavy workloads.
  • Less than 5% noted time pressure at work as a rare occurrence.
  • Five out of 100 managers said they experience role stress.
  • 11% reported conflict between work and personal life.

Researchers also found that managers who experience more freedom in their work environment report less work pressure and emotional strain. On the other hand, unpredictability and constant change within the unit that they manage were discovered to be crucial factors in increasing workload and stress.

Why Relationships between Managers and Employees Matter

"The best thing a manager can do to prevent work stress is to develop good relationships with the employees at work," explains Astrid M. Richardsen, professor at BI Norwegian Business School and co-conductor of the study, pointing to an interesting conclusion found by the research: managers reported significantly less stress when they have good relationships with their employees.

Richardsen hypothesizes that these good-natured relationships allow managers to trust their employees, encouraging more delegation of tasks. With responsibilities spread out between other members of the team, less weight falls on the manager's shoulders.

Based on their study, researchers put together a series of tips on reducing stress at work. They advise managers to help develop employees' skills, manage time efficiently, and establish relationships for support when workload and time pressures get to be too much to handle.

Date of original publication: .

Updated on November 10, 2015 .


Recommended For You


Audun Farbrot. Less stress when work relationships are good. ScienceNordic, July 2014. DOI:

Astrid Richardsen. Stig Berge Matthiesen. I førersetet, men stresset? Om arbeidsbelastning og stress blant norske ledere. I R. Rønning, W. Brochs- Haukedal, L. Glasø, & S. B. Matthiesen (red.). Livet som leder. Lederundersøkelsen 3.0 (s.125-150). Fagbokforlaget: Bergen.