Stress and burnout - Pexels

Despite having more pay and social status than people below their position, managers are more likely to be stressed, angry, sad and lonely than other employees.

These findings form part of Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workplace: 2024 Report‘. Gallup is a global analytics and advisory firm which has more than 85 years of data collection experience.

This study examined the state of employee mental health and well-being at the global level. In addition, it examined economic and policy-related factors associated with employee well-being, and manager-related factors for engagement at work and thriving in life.

The study was conducted through follow-up interviews with respondents from across the globe to expand on their experiences.

In the report, Gallup notes that while managers were found to be more engaged in their work and are more thriving (30 per cent and 40 per cent respectively), on a daily basis they experience higher levels of negative emotions.

This was particularly felt in terms of anger as 24 per cent of managers experience the emotion on a daily basis, five per cent more than non-managers (19 per cent).

A similar percentage difference was noted in terms of sadness, with 24 per cent of them expressing feeling this emotion in comparison with 21 per cent of other workers. In addition, 39 per cent of managers expressed daily worrying, three per cent less than non-managers.

On the other hand, daily loneliness and stress were felt almost equally by managers and employees with only a one per cent divide.

Moreover, 20 per cent of employees felt lonely in comparison to 21 per cent of managers.

In general, stress was the most common emotion felt on a daily basis by managers and other employees with 41 per cent and 40 per cent of respondents highlighting this, respectively.

Conversely, managers were found to be thriving and more well engaged in their work. Gallup defines employee engagement as the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace.

It attributes these findings to factors like having their opinions count, feeling connected to their organisation and having manager peers they can rely on for support.

Despite this, it might still not be enough for the managers as they were also more likely to be looking to leave their current job (56 per cent).

Based on these findings, Gallup highlights that any initiative to address employee mental health and well-being should recognise that “managers are not immune to suffering.”

Furthermore, it emphasised that in some cases, managers “need the most support.”

Aside from the importance of safeguarding mental health, the study notes that when a manager is engaged at work, non-managers are more likely to be engaged. This is significant as an effective manager motivates team members, “moving them from indifferent to inspired.”

In a 2024 meta-analysis, “the largest study of its kind” encompassing data from over 183,000 business units across 53 industries and 90 countries, engaged managers and employees set a chain reaction that will benefit the organisation.

High-engagement teams show increased productivity, profitability, and sales compared to teams with low engagement.

Well-being levels drop among young employees

In 2023, employee well-being declined globally, Gallup notes.

Gallup’s well-being item measures an overall life evaluation by combining present and self-reflection. The decline was further amplified by workers under the age of 35.

Nonetheless, Gallup emphasises that the gap in happiness between the younger and older generations goes beyond the office walls.

“This year’s World Happiness report found that people born before 1965 have life evaluations about one-quarter of a point higher than those born after 1980,” Gallup shared.

Here, Gallup urges leaders to keep an eye on the divergence in young workers’ life evaluation as the difference in perspective is “unlikely to be a product only of life stage.”

“A decade ago, younger workers had consistently higher life evaluations than older workers,” Gallup added.  

Yoga, mindfulness

‘The problem can’t be solved with a yoga mat; it requires action from management

Commenting on the figures, Gallup CEO Jon Clifton shares that the overall decline in worker well-being is a concern and that leaders “know workplace stress is a problem.”

“A quarter of leaders feel burned out often or always, and two-thirds feel it at least sometimes. Many are trying to address it, but often in ineffective ways,” he remarked.

Mr Clifton highlights that popular ‘solutions’, such as well-being apps or stress management training, are proven by research to benefit these issues and can sometimes lead to harm.

He recognises that while these aren’t the problem, when bad management uses them as a fix, “it can make things worse.”

“It’s understandable when you consider that a major cause of workplace stress is not having the materials you need to do your job effectively. That problem can’t be solved with a yoga mat, it requires action from the management,” he concluded.

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