Job Quality Indicators » Work Environment

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Stress and Workplace Relationships

Given how much time we spend at work, being employed in an environment where you get along with your co-workers and supervisors is very important. As you may recall, our indicator It’s More Than The Money showed that three quarters of employed Canadians said that they felt it was very important that they be treated with respect, 70 percent said that good communication was essential, and 64 percent said that they wanted to work with friendly and helpful people. However, when asked about what people actually experienced at work, 15 percent reported a major discrepancy between how they would like to be treated and how they actually were treated, and 14 percent reported that workplace communication needed improving.

 

Roughly One in Seven Stressed About Poor Interpersonal Relations at Work

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

As the chart shows, 15 percent of employed Canadians reported that poor interpersonal relations in their workplace had been a source of stress or excess worry for them at some point during 2000. While these figures cannot be directly compared to those presented in the introduction because they asked different question and come from a different source, they nevertheless paint a similar picture of the workplace (both surveys are after all nationally representative) – that is, interpersonal relations at work are important and, while the majority of working Canadians do not report having major problems in this respect, it nevertheless remains the case that poor interpersonal relations in the workplace is a source of excess worry or stress for about one in seven workers.

Men and women were equally likely to say that poor interpersonal workplace relations were a source of stress or worry. At 17 percent, those between the ages of 25 and 34 and between 35 and 44 were slightly more likely to report that poor interpersonal relations at work caused them stress, but on the whole the differences across age groups are small. The exception is workers aged 55 or more; only 11 percent of this group reported being stressed or worried because of poor interpersonal relations at work. This may reflect the experience and maturity of this group, characteristics that may lead them to avoid conflict at work or to simply not let it be a source of worry.

 

By Employment Type

The Self-Employed Less Stressed About Interpersonal Work Relations

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

Not surprisingly, those who were self employed were less likely to report that poor interpersonal relations at work had been an issue at some point during the year. The difference was especially marked in the case of women, with those who were self-employed being only half as likely as employed women to report experiencing excess worry or stress as a result of poor interpersonal relations at work. Self-employed women were also somewhat less likely than self-employed men to report this problem.

 

By Industry

Employees Most Stressed About Interpersonal Work Relations in Transportation and Utilities Industry

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

With respect to industry, those employed in transportation and utilities and in public administration were twice as likely as those in construction and agriculture forestry and gas to report that poor interpersonal relations at work were a source of excess worry or stress at some point during the year.

Often, those employed in public administration work in larger workplaces, and as our indicator on Trust noted, those who worked in larger firms (100+ employees) were more likely to say that they did not trust their supervisor, perhaps a reflection of the more collegial work environments that often characterize smaller workplaces. Also, the public sector and the highly regulated transportation and utilities industries went through a period of significant downsizing, privatization of some services and widescale restructuring in the 1990s. These kinds of changes can increase tensions in the workplace and disrupt relationships among co-workers and with supervisors.

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