June 29, 2020

In the movie Horrible Bosses, Nick Hendricks and Dale Arbus abhor their sly, obnoxious supervisors who have been making their lives a living hell, and hire a murder consultant to help them devise a homicidal plan. Dave Harken (Nick’s boss) entices Nick with the prospect of promotion but awards it to himself, while Dale finds himself being enmeshed in sexual blackmail with his female boss Dr Julia Harris. Eventually, Harken gets arrested for killing someone and Harris gets counter-blackmailed by Dale and is forced into giving all her employees better working conditions. Although this is fictitious, and thankfully most bosses in real life are not that extreme to the point where employees harbour lethal thoughts, that doesn’t mean that they are entirely flawless. 

Generally, leaders do have the best intentions for their employees, however, there may be times when they may push them to achieve unrealistic KPIs or work them into the ground in the name of growth. Burnout and disengagement are clear signs that you need to pay more attention to the emotional welfare of your staff. It’s time to be more aware of your actions. Here are four things you may be doing to cause your employees unnecessary stress.

Too Much Emphasis on Productivity

Avoid prioritising productivity above everything else, because your employees should be your top concern. Happy employees are generally more productive, but when they’re dissatisfied with their jobs, greater absenteeism occurs in the workplace. This can cause a shortage of manpower and exasperation to arise when others are forced to cover for their colleagues constantly. Plus negativity can spread like wildfire internally, even to clients. Also, sometimes in a bid to increase productivity, we may mistakenly confuse quantity for quality. Ultimately, it is not about the number of hours they are putting in, but the kind of work they are producing. 

Setting Unrealistic Targets

Most employees, especially those working in the sales industry, face intense pressure to surpass or at least hit their monthly targets. And some fear losing their jobs if they don’t perform. However, there is a difference between realistic and unattainable goals. If you expect your employees to deliver the impossible, this could brew resentment from being overworked and eventually lead to a burnout. While it’s normal to have high standards, they shouldn’t be unreasonable. For example, a newbie won’t be able to perform on the same level as a senior staff in the first month. Give them time to learn the ropes, and having the patience to allow things to progress naturally can set you up for greater success in the long run—more haste less speed. 

Letting Your Emotions Lead

Being too emotional can be counterproductive in the workplace. If you find yourself being easily incensed or offended by the slightest thing, over time that can put a strain on your team. They may avoid telling you about work problems and go behind your back. Be conscious of your emotional triggers and reflect on why you are reacting the way you are. The last thing you want is to create a walking-on-eggshells environment where it becomes mentally exhausting for your staff to always be on high alert. You want them to be able to communicate openly and honestly about sensitive issues or the difficulties they may face. Champion a system of open communication and feedback to build trust and improve employee engagement. A conducive workplace motivates staff to speak up and give constructive advice for the betterment of the company.


As a boss, your team looks to you for guidance and leadership. Understandably, there are times when you are overwhelmed, but you can’t be indecisive during high-pressure situations when you need all hands on deck. Decide on a course of action and stick to it—being wishy-washy doesn’t inspire confidence and can cause employees to feel stressed when they are surrounded by uncertainty. 

Additionally, when you keep oscillating from one end to the other, that can cause confusion and frustration for your employees who have to second-guess your intentions. Being capricious can also make your team question your capabilities and result in them jumping ship. Whenever in doubt, take a cue from Theodore Roosevelt. “In any moment of decision,” he said, “the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” Make a decision, stand your ground and people will respect you for it.