Abusive Boss? That’s Not Even Close to What Causes Most Workplace Stress

By Dan Kadlec

November 8, 2017

Financial stress saps productivity

Think of the barrels of ink that have been spilled just in the past few weeks on the sexual harassment scandals surrounding Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, a handful of lesser celebs and, well, no doubt I have missed a few. This is the story we can’t get enough of, right?

Powerful people abusing their position is as rotten as things get. These scoundrels deserve whatever befalls them. But do you know what ranks even higher—way higher—than an abusive boss in causing stress and high anxiety at work? Personal money problems and difficulty getting trustworthy answers.

Three of the top four things that give workers stress on the job are financial in nature, new research out of Canada shows. The fourth is health. Work life—everything from hating your job to how many vacation days you get (and, yes, that dreadful boss)—registers a distant sixth.

Can we spill a little ink this direction, please? That seems to be the question that officials are asking in Canada as the country digs into November financial literacy month (April is the designated month in the U.S.).

The leading causes of stress at work are household finances (45%), sticking to a budget (32%), health issues (32%), and unexpected expenses (31%), Sun Life Financial concluded in a report last year. Issues with a spouse came next, followed by…

• • •

…issues with the workplace.

These findings are part of a new report on financial wellness from the Conference Board of Canada. The people of Canada generally score well in financial literacy. Two in three adults is considered up to speed, vs. about one in three globally. Still, money concerns distract millions of Canadian workers and take a big toll on morale, productivity and profitability.

Canadians rank near the top, globally, for financial literacy

A quarter of Canadians say they have real financial problems and that recurring expenses and debt make it difficult to stick to a budget. This leads them to raid their retirement savings for day-to-day expenses. As a result, they say they are not adequately preparing for the day they leave their career.

No surprise, then, that a quarter of Canadians say that anxiety over their financial affairs leads them to be less engaged and less productive at work. One in 10 have missed at least one day of work in the past 12 months due to money problems, and one in 20 have missed at least five days, according to the report.

These data points echo around the globe. U.S. employers lose a collective $250 billion a year in wages paid to workers distracted by money problems, Mercer found. On average, employees in the U.S. spend 13 hours a month at work fretting about personal financial affairs. More than half of workers in the U.S. and the U.K. are stressed about money, and a third say it is a distraction that keeps from them doing their job well.

Most employees around the world say they want financial education at the office—and most employers see providing financial education as a valuable benefit for both the company and the employee. In the U.S., 55% of employers offer a financial wellness program and that figure is expected to rise, Aon Hewitt found.

This is also largely true in Canada, where 74% of employers say they have an obligation to provide financial wellness programs. Yet they have not made it a priority: only 20% have a formal financial wellness program in place, according to the Conference Board of Canada. This is a gap that must close—not just in Canada, but around the world.

More on workplace financial wellness:

Money Stress Costs Employers $250 Billion a Year

Why Nearly All Workers Want Financial Education at the Office

Why Companies Offer A Financial Wellness Program


Posted in Latest Research on November, 2017