Toxic Workplaces Literally Kill People

Workplace stress kills 120,000 people a year in the U.S.

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I am calling it SUKVID—Stress & Unhappiness KILLS disease—the SUK Virus.  In 2019, 120,000 people died, and it was directly connected to work-related stress.  Health insurance companies pay an average of $190 Billion a year for stress-related illness and injuries (American Institute of Stress, 2019).  It gets worse with unhappy employees costing U.S. businesses over $550 billion a year (Harvard Business).

As a consultant and coach, I marvel at how a leader will create a jam-packed 3 day itinerary—forcing employees to put in 10 hour days on top of their commute time and then throw in a mere 3-hour team-building activity at the end of a 10 hour workday and thinks that is going to solve their problem of team unity, effective communication and productivity.  That same leader wonders why the workplace has a SUK-Y vibe.

There is a true disconnect between hard skills and soft skills with the latter being an afterthought for interpersonal relationships, powerful teaming, communication and healthy conflict resolution skill-building.  Why is that?  Leaders are missing the boat drastically and buyer beware—Harvard Business is recommending that companies hire new bosses.  Creating positive and flourishing relationships at work takes both hard and soft skill initiatives to lead positive change in the workplace.  Unhappy and stressed employees are not working optimally and that negatively affects all aspects of the business impacting the bottom line which is often the biggest concern—profitability.

According to the American Institute of Stress (2019), the numbers are staggering and yet it fails to rise to the level of an epidemic such as the recent strain of the coronavirus.

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress.
  • Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day.
  • Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance.
  • Depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs.
  • Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.

What about a Quarantine for Negative Bosses?

Can you imagine if we quarantined all the negative bosses and managers and didn’t release them until they changed it up from negative to positive?  Sort of like when Dolly Parton hogtied her boss to the chair in 9-5 movie back in 1980.   She didn’t release him until he agreed to make positive changes within himself and in the workplace.  What will it take for employers to pay attention to this epidemic and give it the hard skill attention and energy that it deserves?

What can YOU do if your workplace doesn’t change?

  1. Self-Assess your stress levels—this starts with personal self-care.
  2. Stop bringing work home with you.
  3. Stop leaving your paid time off on the table or rolling it over.
  4. Stop engaging in the gossip and “venting” sessions around the water cooler.  Be fearless and try to turn the conversation to more solution-focused options.
  5. Learn and practice ways to bring more positivity into your workspace.  Change starts with you—yes, I went there—cliché I know—still true.
  6. Share information, like this article to your bosses or those in power.  Leave it anonymously. 
  7. Speak to your human resource manager.  They are there to help.
  8. Create as many positive experiences as possible outside of work in your personal life.
  9. Worst case scenario and when possible, polish up that resume and seek out a workplace that cares about the well-being of their employees.  Easier said than done?  YES!  I didn’t say any of this would be easy.  Change is difficult and sometimes our life depends on it. With the right support, you can do it!

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