Identifying Stress as a Manager

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Recognizing the symptoms of stress in employees is an important function of a manager. In this lesson, you'll learn more about how to identify stress and some common stress-related symptoms.

Signs of Stress

Things have been tense at work lately, and it appears everyone is handling the situation differently. Donna is having recurring headaches while Alyssa is missing a lot of extra days. Danny is struggling with concentration issues and Owen is having major mood swings.

Managers must look for signs of stress in employees.
stress, identifying, symptoms, workplace, employee

Though each employee is manifesting the signs differently, it's clear that each of these workers is struggling with some of the physical, behavioral and psychological signs of stress.

For management, that means fine-tuning your senses and paying attention to the signs that can range from the more obvious (decreased productivity and work quality) to the more subtle such as impatience and loss of appetite. In this lesson, you'll learn more about how managers can learn to identify stress in their employees and what some of the most common signs of stress are.

Recognizing Stress

Identifying stress in the workplace starts, first and foremost, with a simple observation. This requires training for managers to be able to recognize how stress might show itself in employees. In order to know what to look for, managers must also understand who their employees are. For example, if Donna has recently started having a lot of headaches (when she previously didn't), it may be safe to presume she is having a physical reaction to stress.

Listen to what employees are saying. Sometimes workers will acknowledge their own struggle with stress if you simply give them the opportunity to talk. If they feel comfortable, an employee might approach you to talk. If you think they are dealing with stress but won't open up, you can try scheduling a private counseling or coaching session to talk through any issues.

Stress may also present itself the form of formal reports your business keeps. This is especially true for physical manifestations of stress that might result in reported sickness and excessive absences. It could also be ''hidden'' in performance reviews where a typically productive and motivated employee's work is suffering.


Recognizing stress also means that managers understand exactly what types of symptoms stressed employees may exhibit. It would be easy if the signs were the same in all employees, but it's not quite that simple.

Let's take a look at some common symptoms of stress by category.


Behavioral symptoms show up in how employees act at work and how they interact in social settings.

Behavioral symptoms of stress
Being irritable with co-workers
Avoiding contact with others
Increased aggression
More fidgeting
More accident-prone
Changes in appetite or sleep
Self-medicating with alcohol, tobacco or drugs
Struggling with personal relationships outside the office
Being more difficult with colleagues


The psychological symptoms of stress can show up in an employee's mental or emotional well-being.

Psychological symptoms of stress
Feelings of anxiety or depression
Poor self-worth or self-esteem
Inability to concentrate
Lapses in memory
Feelings of confusion or disorientation
Negative thoughts
Poor planning or execution

Physiological Symptoms

Where psychological symptoms show themselves in emotional or mental capacities, physiological symptoms show up in an employee's physical well-being.

Physiological symptoms of stress
Indigestion or heartburn
Nausea and stomach problems
Increased blood pressure
Poor sleep patterns and fatigue
Unexplained aches and pains

Workplace vs. Non-Workplace Stress

One last note on stress in the workplace: Sometimes it's not the workplace that's to blame for an employee's stress and sometimes it is. Being able to see the difference between the two is necessary to deal with stress when it presents itself.

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