The CEO Poll: Under pressure

Canadian business leaders share their on-the-job stresses.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Ever wonder what keeps your boss up at night? COMPAS Inc. endeavoured to answer that question, polling 126 leaders of Canadian businesses about what stresses them out.

Workplace stress is fairly widespread. According to Statistics Canada, one-third of women and 29% of men reported feeling quite a bit or extremely stressed most days at work. For the CEOs in the COMPAS survey, meeting revenue targets caused the most stress, followed by staffing concerns and the need to keep costs down. Planning through the current economic downturn also ranked highly.

The survey found that the workplace causes far more headaches for the respondents than do their families or personal finances. Forty CEOs (or 32%) classified the workplace as “very stressful,” versus only 13 each who said the same for the family and personal finance matters.

The CEOs were also asked to recount the single most stressful event of their careers. Many of the responses had to do with employees — firing them mostly, and dealing with incompetent and destructive behaviour. Financial problems were also common, such as struggling with near bankruptcies. Angry shareholders were further cause for concern.

“Stress is a perception,” wrote one CEO. “It is how it is managed that determines its impact.”

It pays to remember that during the kind of day described by another respondent. “The most stressful day started with a project engineer who was out of his league, but was persistent and unfriendly and there was a lot of money involved,” wrote the CEO. “My next stop was our lawyers’ office to resolve a dispute in which we were owed $100,000 and the client had no intention of paying. When I finally got back to my office, I was informed that one of my employees had been badly injured and the Ministry of Labour was doing an investigation.” Yeah, that’ll keep you up at night.