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Most leaders and senior managers find their jobs stressful, survey says

stressed woman

The cost-of-living crisis is the top cause of stress at work for people working in leadership and senior management roles, according to the findings of a new survey by HR software provider Ciphr.

A staggering 98% of the 265 leaders and senior managers polled found at least one aspect of their work stressful, while two-fifths (83%) are affected by three or more work-related stressors (the average, per person, is eight).

Yet, despite the obvious stress their work causes them, just 4% claim not to like their jobs.

Their biggest concerns – the things currently causing them the most stress and anxiety in their jobs – were identified as the cost-of-living crisis (30%), high inflation and rising prices (29%), and exhaustion or burnout (22%).

Other major stress triggers, for one in five (20%) survey respondents, include coping with the economic downturn and threat of recession, their workload and to-do lists, and unfinished work tasks. And around one in six reported being worried by employee retention and staff turnover issues (17%), rising interest rates (17%), business viability and profitability concerns (16%), and ongoing wage inflation (16%).

The top 20 causes of workplace stress for leaders and senior managers:

Commenting on the findings, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says: “Since the pandemic, and with the ongoing impact of the cost-of-living crisis, there has been a lot of focus on the importance of alleviating workplace stress and what employers can do to safeguard their employees’ mental health. But less is said, perhaps, about the huge pressures that people in senior management and leadership roles feel and how stress impacts them.

“The biggest stressors identified by the senior managers taking Ciphr’s survey can be grouped into three key themes, which orientate around workload, company performance, and their team. This is understandable, as it is expected, to a degree, that senior managers in any organisation will take on the ownership of those responsibilities in managing or leading an organisation. It shows they care, and that they care about the right things.

“It is, however, important for organisations to be really mindful of the influence that work has on an individual’s stress levels – especially if they are senior management or the CEO – as they may be less likely to discuss how they are feeling. The best way to support them is for organisations to work proactively with their senior managers to either help relieve those stresses, where possible, or give them tools and strategies to cope with those stresses in a more targeted and positive way.

“Stress, in general, doesn’t always need to be perceived as a negative – lots of people really thrive under stress and high-pressure situations – and produce some of their best work. But when high levels of stress cause anxiety, that’s when increased risks to the business can start presenting themselves, through ill health, higher turnover of senior managers, ineffective leadership, or poor performance. It’s definitely in an employer’s interest to understand how their managers are feeling and what they can do to help, if there’s a problem, before it impacts the wider business.”

Leaders and senior managers get the ‘Sunday scaries’ too

Ciphr’s survey also revealed that nearly one in two (47%) leaders and senior managers have felt stressed or anxious about their impending workweek – something often dubbed as getting the ‘Sunday scaries’, or ‘Sunday blues’, due to the intensity of some people’s feelings of anticipatory anxiety or dread before the start of a new week.

Of those 47%, nearly a third (29%) have experienced the Sunday scaries multiple times over the past year. For around one in eight (13%), the problem is more acute, with the Sunday scaries striking multiple times every month. And, for one in 20 (5%), it occurs every week.

Ciphr’s full survey results are available at

Ciphr polled 265 UK adults over the age of 25 that work in leadership and senior management roles. Nearly half (45%) of the individuals surveyed run or are employed by UK organisations with 1,001+ employees, two-fifths (41%) work at organisations with 251 to 1,000 employees, and one in seven (14%) at organisations with 101 to 250 employees.

More than 600 organisations use Ciphr’s integrated HR and people management solutions to help manage, retain and engage staff more effectively – while reducing the admin burden on busy HR teams.

For more information about Ciphr’s people management solutions, please visit

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