Middle management job stress affects the health and well being of many of those holding management positions in the workplace. Recent research1 shows that those in middle management, especially supervisors, suffer from the highest levels of depression and anxiety.

Studies have revealed that those among the lower classes, working in the lower ranks at the job are more at risk for physical and mental illness. However, there is new evidence that shows that people in the middle socioeconomic ranks are at an even higher risk of developing internalizing disorders, like anxiety and depression. These people may be under a unique kind of pressure when it comes to their job responsibilities, when you compare them to employees in higher or even the lower ranks. Middle management job stress is what these people are dealing with.

In evaluating this theory, researchers analyzed data gathered on 21,859 full time employees who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol & Related Conditions of 2001-2002. This survey was nationally representative of the working adult population in the US aged 18 years and older. All respondents were interviewed face-to-face.

There were three different categories identified in the survey: self-employed business owners making more than $71,500 annually; managers and supervisors with executive, managerial, or administrative positions; and other workers having blue-collar occupations, including laborers and farmers.

In analyzing the data on 12-month and lifetime anxiety and depression, it was discovered that workers with jobs that fell in the middle socioeconomically, especially supervisors, were suffering from significantly more anxiety than workers in either higher or lower classes. In fact, supervisors, more than workers of lower ranking, had a higher chance of suffering from all stress related disorders. Their odds of having 12-month anxiety and/or depression, lifetime anxiety and/or depression were shown to be higher than the other groups.

Next in line came managers, who were shown to suffer from the next highest levels of all disorders when compared with workers of a lower rank. Their chances of having lifetime anxiety and/or depression were higher compared to their subordinates. Middle management job stress therefore was shown to be highest among managers and supervisors as a group.

When comparing supervisors with private sector business owners, supervisors had the most chance of suffering from 12-month depression and lifetime depression, and a far higher chance of having 12-month anxiety and lifetime anxiety. The findings from this study show how severe middle management stress is greater than the distress experienced by lower positions in the workforce hierarchy.

Apparently it is the dual role that middle managers play that causes the increased stress levels. Their job demands that they enforce workforce policies that they may have very little say in developing, while facing the resentment of their direct reports. This situation can easily cause middle management job stress, leading to anxiety and depression.

Middle managers are caught in a situation where they may even take abuse from their bosses, only to turn around and face hostility from their subordinates. On the other hand, workers in the lower ranks may believe that the stress they feel is coming from external things they have no control over, contributing to a sense of helplessness. Supervisors, however, are more likely to internalize the stress involved in their work, believing they have failed or are inadequate in managing their duties. Feelings of helplessness, failure and inadequacy all contribute to the development of depression and anxiety.

Those working in middle management who suffer from anxiety may make the problem worse by neglecting their health and well being. If someone in middle management is concerned about being fired and is working under extreme stress, they may spend more time at the office and less time taking care of themselves. Middle management job stress can result in self neglect and therefore contribute to problems at home and with family life. If you need help with management job stress, please give us a call!

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Prins, S. J., Bates, L. M., Keyes, K. M. and Muntaner, C. Anxious? Depressed? You might be suffering from capitalism: contradictory class locations and the prevalence of depression and anxiety in the USA. Sociology of Health & Illness. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12315