Being overworked and underpaid are stressing people out at work, reveals a shocking survey from the American Psychological Association. One-third of employees experience chronic work-related stress, and it’s worse for women than men.
27% of men feel underpaid, compared with 38% of women; while 30% of men and 32% of women say they don’t have enough opportunities for internal advancement. And in case you don’t like numbers, here’s a handy little companion graphic.
So what? Who hasn’t felt overworked, underappreciated, underpaid, stressed at work? Well, part of the problem is that chronic stress harms productivity, mental clarity, short term memory, decision making, and moods. And it seemingly affects women more so than men, though there is of course a question of whether men and women differ in how they report stress. Either way though, whether women have more stress or just report it more often, you’re going to have to deal with more bitching from your girlfriend. And if she’s less productive at work because she’s stressed, she’s just going to get more stressed. Lucky you.
According to the study, women’s stress is on the rise because more families are relying on women’s earnings. But, the article tells us that employed wives’ contributions to family earnings have hovered at around 47% for the last 4 years. So, that doesn’t really explain the recent rise in stress. Also problematic: only keeping track of “employed wives.” There are plenty of employed women whose families depend on their income that aren’t wives, past or present. The study also suggests that work-life balance is a particular struggle for these women. Guess all the “employed wives” aren’t splitting the chores with their “employed husbands.”
Presuming chronic stress at work is unavoidable, what can be done about it? The article has 0 solutions for men (whatever, dudes are less stressed anyway) and two for women. First are the clichés encouraging women to be more assertive, “give yourself a voice,” “speak up for yourself,” “stand up for behavior you see as unfair.” Well, that’s better than saying women can fix stress at work by talking to other women who are stressed at work, or by encouraging each other to be less stressed. Then again, pretty much anything is better than those. Except maybe a solution that could directly lead to more stress, such as, oh, I don’t know …speaking up, standing up for yourself more often, and engaging in other proactive ways of getting into more confrontations. Not that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself, but let’s not pretend doing so isn’t stressful.
The second solution comes implied, by way of several “success story” anecdotes of women who fixed their chronic work stress. They quit their jobs. Women who reduced their work stress through suicide were not interviewed for the story, though it’s presumable that they had the same level of work stress reduction.
So, if you’re a woman and you’re stressed at work, either “find your voice” or quit your job. And then hope stress doesn’t show up at your next job. Or just perpetually hunt for new jobs, so you can always quit when things get stressful. And if you can’t quit, well, uh, sorry bout ya.
This study is like every “problem with women in the law” piece that I’ve come to loathe so much. It identifies a problem, discusses it enough to have the appearance of depth with no real analytical insights, and then does little or nothing to suggest how to deal with the problem. Or, maybe I’m just one of those stressed women whose mental clarity has been compromised and I’m too moody to notice.
And since we don’t like to complain about something too much without providing a better solution than the non-solutions we’re complaining about, how about not trying to reinvent the wheel? Women are facing more stress at work largely because they’re at work more than they used to be and are finding work in increasingly stressful fields. They’re less likely to be stay-at-home moms, and there’s a better chance they’ll be the lawyer than the secretary than there used to be. So why not take a page from the playbook of the team that’s been dealing with work stress for a lot longer: men.
They don’t “find their voice,” and they don’t often quit. They have happy hours. Sometimes at noon.