Despite being a genuine problem for many workers in the UK, we shouldn't forget that concern over the delicate issue of stress is often abused by staff who simply wish to avoid their responsibilities
We all seem to be suffering from stress these days. Public sector workers seem to be more prone to it than those working for private companies. But in both, the incidence is high.
A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 38 per cent of NHS workers, 30 per cent of local government staff and 25 per cent of corporate employees find their work either 'stressful' or 'very stressful'.
But how much of this is more fiction than fact? When they take part in surveys, what do people mean when they say they are 'stressed'? Do they mean they are actually having to work for their living? What is wrong with that? Perhaps 'stress' is actually a by-product of many employees' expectations. What they really want is a boss who will give them an easy life.
I know of many under-performing companies that are regarded by their staff as 'good places to work'. This is simply because they have comfortable jobs and relaxed bosses.
A different management team is brought in - usually because of acquisition - and jobs are reorganised. New management controls are put in place, and employee performance targets are introduced. People have to start earning their wages. What is the outcome? Staff who complain of being bullied and harassed by their bosses and working in a culture of fear, falling ill with stress.
Much of this is plain nonsense. It is entirely a result of new managers having to abolish old working practices for the company to survive.
Of course, there is harassment and bullying in the workplace. And the direction of corporate change offers greater opportunities for this to happen.
The shift to decentralised and devolved operating structures allows those in charge to exercise almost total unfettered control over their staff. Still, the abuse of this autonomous authority is very much the exception rather than the rule. It doesn't account for the 30-plus per cent of workers who feel they are stressed in their jobs.
Perhaps a major contributory factor for the high