More With Less is Causing Unrealistic Expectations

In a February 3, 2015 article in the Globe and Mail entitled “How Canadian employers are tackling the terrain where office culture, productivity and mental health intersects”, it points out how employers are dealing with the mental health issues arising from stress at work.

It struck me that while some employers may be taking action to deal with the mental health issues being created because of work, they aren’t doing very much to tackle one of the root causes of mental health issues.

Since the recession of the mid 90’s it has become an accepted and expected culture in the workplace that says, “Do more with less”; this is often presented as a reasonable and doable objective. It supposes that there is always more room for increased production with a continuous reduction in resources. This mantra has established management expectations that are not always realistic. When you add the demand through technology to be available for work 24/7 through smart phone and e-mails, is it any wonder that employees are breaking down under all that stress?

To support my point, in the same article it quoted the results of a survey of employees that asked how they felt about their workplace. The top four points made were:

  1. Cannot manage the workload
  2. Expectations from management are too demanding
  3. Lack of trust
  4. Negative culture

The first two points deal directly with my contention that the culture of doing more with less has created unrealistic expectations. The third and fourth points are a direct result of the first two.

When a hard working employee genuinely explains the difficulties with meeting the expectations and often only gets the response from supervisors that says ‘do the best you can’ leaving the full responsibility for the success and failure on the shoulders of the employee; it is inevitable that trust will suffer. Once trust diminishes, work becomes more stressful and draining leading to a negative workplace culture.

It is my view that the more with less culture, without any consideration for the mental capacity to manage the demand that is prevalent in most organizations, is doing a lot of harm. We should be addressing the issue of reasonable management expectations as an important step to reducing stress and the resultant mental health issues.

Sound human resources practices can lead to stress free workplaces.

At Pesce & Associates Inc. we possess considerable expertise in the areas of building a healthy workplace and creating a culture of trust. Any of our consultants would be happy to assist you. Please visit our website for more information on Pesce & Associates and the services we provide.


Angelo M Pesce CHRL, CMC

Principal Consultant