stress in the workplace

Why I say no to stress in the workplace, and encourage you to.

Stress in the workplace is a thing and comes in various shapes and sizes. It can be felt through deadlines, demands, orders and alterations. And it can be reflected in performance, measurements, KPI’s and targets. Nothing new here right? Well, yes and no.

What is new here is that stress in the workplace has been identified, measured, and called out as one of the leading factors in, and precursors for, a negative shift in a person’s mental wellbeing. And what is also new, is workplaces are being held accountable for it. If your workplace wants to say no to the existence of stress and overwhelm amongst its people, it’s going to hurt them.


I’ve been at the helm of some high-stress businesses. Front line managing large teams of people is not easy. Factor in the workplace demands of an industry that’s driven by high-expectations, and only a fool would say that stressed-out people don’t need to be cared for or compassionately managed. I know a fool like that, and recently mounted a protest against them.

I’ll spare the long-winded details. One of the directors I report to insists on creating workplace chaos by inserting themselves into far too many aspects of their operation. This creates a mish-mash of priorities, disorganisation amongst workers, and half-arsed attempts at getting things done. This director is also quite over-bearing, to the point where the staff feel too intimidated to speak up or say no.


This director doesn’t believe their business has a problem with stress in the workplace. They also don’t believe they’re part of the cause. They believe the problem is their people. By way of this they’re sending a message to everyone who works for them. They only care about output and results. ‘Who’ works for them and where their stress levels are it, is much lower down their list.

And so, after this person pushed my button one time too many, I felt compelled to say no. I took the day off from working for that business. I looked after myself instead.

I came home and calmed down, then made an appointment with my GP just to check in. I went for a slow walk around my local shops. Another slow walk around my local park. I looked up at the clear blue sky and took it all in. After a light lunch I grabbed a book, a rug, and a bottle of water and went and lay on the grass of that local park. For three hours, I chilled and relaxed. It felt glorious to say no.

And what’s also funny, is how the universe drops hints the size of H-bombs on us sometimes. The book I was reading was Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’. And one of the big lightbulb phrases I read was this.

Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they’re not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, then they’ll motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever is left.



But here’s the thing. Nothing will change at the workplace I protested unless discussions are had, words are agreed upon, and actions are taken. Otherwise the point of my ‘say no’ moment will be lost. I cannot just walk away from this, not without trying first. And whilst I want to make sure I encourage you to have your own form of ‘say no’ moments in protest against stress in the workplace, remember you’ll need to back it up.

If the people you work for, or the business you’re employed in, doesn’t believe the state of its peoples’ mental well-being is important, say no to that. If you’ve made a genuine effort to seek the help and support of your peers or your superiors in reducing stress in the workplace, and had little response, say no to that. Send a message that gets the attention of those who need it, but don’t say no to continuing to fight for change.

Too often in the work I do, the clients I work with, I hear something similar to “not my problem”. Stress in the workplace is EVERYBODY’S problem, because everyone in some way is affected by it. By all means take a day off to calm down and recharge. But I want to urge you become part of creating a solution.

Once we can say to ourselves we cared enough about those around us, and tried to reduce stress in the workplace, can we then say no to our employer.

Keep Trying.

There’s one last thing to note about stress in the workplace and mental wellbeing. Take away the business, the employee employer references, even the word workplace. What we’re left with is people. The moment we stop ignoring the people around us, is the moment we start to show we care. And when other people see we care, they begin to care too.

Your mental wellbeing deserves to be cared for, but it starts with you. You’re not alone though, so encourage others around you to say no to unnecessary stress and overwhelm. Instead, say yes to becoming part of the solution.