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Stress in the workplace can be relative, suggests Deloitte study

  • Survey of more than 23,000 professionals finds only 29 percent report they are often or always stressed; some Business Chemistry® types report experiencing significantly more stress than others
  • Eighty-two percent of respondents say making a workplace error is stressful; errors are the top stressor across all Business Chemistry types

New York, August 23, 2016—The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience team recently completed a survey asking more than 23,000 professionals about their stress levels at work and found statistically significant variation in how respondents react to workplace stressors. Overall, the majority of respondents reported modest levels of stress. Fourteen percent reported being stressed only rarely and 57 percent reported being stressed sometimes, while 26 percent reported being stressed often, and 3 percent reported being always stressed.

Responses to stress questions were correlated with respondent’s patterns of behaviors and preferences based on Business Chemistry®, a system designed to facilitate stronger relationships and better teamwork in the workplace. There are four primary Business Chemistry types, which highlight both similarities and differences in working styles.

Making an error topped the list of workplace stressors, with 82 percent of respondents indicating errors caused stress. Other types of situations experienced as stressful by respondents included:

  • A challenging workload, with long hours or juggling of multiple responsibilities (52 percent)
  • Moments of conflict, like getting reprimanded or delivering a difficult message (52 percent) 
  • Situations that create urgency, like critical projects or time pressure (46 percent)
  • Face-to-face interactions, like delivering a presentation or meeting a new stakeholder (45 percent)

Across Business Chemistry types, Guardians, who strive for certainty and stability, and Integrators, who value connection, were more likely to find all situations more stressful than Pioneers, who seek possibilities and love to explore and Drivers, who love a challenge.

The survey indicates that workplace stress is relative and not everyone experiences stress in the same way or to the same degree. Much likely depends on that person’s working style and preferences. For example, while an urgent assignment might go against a Guardian’s preference for deliberate and methodical decision making, it may energize a Driver who tolerates risk and favors a brisk work pace. For leaders, understanding what motivates workers can help resolve workplace conflicts, empower staff and lead to better results as a team.

- Kim Christfort, managing director, Deloitte LLP, and national managing director of Deloitte’s Greenhouse Experience team

There were also differences in stress levels between the more inward- and outward-focused Business Chemistry subtypes. Guardians, Dreamers (a subtype of Integrator) and Scientists (a subtype of Driver) tend to be more reserved, introspective and deliberate. They also report significantly higher stress levels. Pioneers, Teamers (a subtype of Integrator), and Commanders (a subtype of Driver) are generally more outgoing, energetic and adaptable, and also report significantly less stress.

Organizations and teams may want to pay special attention to their inward-focused team members to understand what might be done to reduce stress levels. Inward-focused types may bring particular strengths that can add value to a team—like conscientiousness, strong listening skills and detail-focus. Their tendency to be sensitive to others’ experiences and reactions can help improve team collaboration and performance, but they are often the most stressed—and overlooked—members of the team.

- Suzanne Vickberg, PhD, senior manager, Deloitte LLP, and applied insights lead, Deloitte’s Greenhouse Experience team

When a second sample of more than 17,000 professionals was asked about their effectiveness under stress, the majority of Drivers and Pioneers reported they are most effective when moderately or very stressed (61 percent and 59 percent, respectively). In comparison, fewer Integrators and Guardians reported they were most effective at these stress levels (51 percent and 50 percent, respectively).

Respondents in the second sample were also asked about their coping strategies for dealing with stress. The responses, from most popular to least, were:

  • Action strategies, like diving right in and tackling the issue head on (83 percent)
  • Cognitive coping strategies, like stepping back and thinking through possibilities (79 percent)
  • Groundwork, like getting organized or seeking further information (78 percent)
  • Interpersonal coping strategies including talking with someone and bouncing ideas (47 percent) 
  • Taking timeout to do something else, like socializing or exercising (46 percent

Read more about the study and the methodology.

About Business Chemistry
Since its inception, Business Chemistry has been shared with more than 155,000 professionals in 80 countries. Deloitte offers several tools to help teams and organizations learn about Business Chemistry, including Biz Chem 20 Questions, a tool that helps one create a hunch about someone else’s type. The Business Chemistry Blog, written by the Business Chemistry team, showcases how teams and relationships fuel our work with timely topics and unique insights.

About Deloitte’s Greenhouse Experience Team
Deloitte’s Greenhouse experience team specializes in experiential problem-solving, and continues to advance this focus through tailored research, tools and designed experiences. Its physical spaces, the US Deloitte Greenhouse™ facilities, are part of a growing global network of flexible environments designed to help clients and Deloitte professionals cultivate and nurture new ideas and solutions. In addition to the US, Deloitte Greenhouse™ spaces are located in Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited member firms in Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, Southeast Asia (Singapore) and the UK, as well as at Deloitte University Europe, the Middle East and Africa (DU EMEA). Several additional Greenhouses are set to open in the coming months.

About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to deliver measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to make their most challenging business decisions with confidence, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

Media contact

Grace Pai-Leonard
Public Relations
+1 973 602 5906

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