How Stress Affects an Employee. The Story of Peter

The following story is fictional, however it has been based on a series of true stories within various businesses. It is just an example of how stress can affect a normally healthy, productive and valued employee.

Meet Peter

Peter is 32 years old and works full-time as a Business Development Executive for an IT company based in the City. He lives at home with his wife and two daughters and enjoys socialising with his friends at the local pub.

It takes Peter around an hour to get to and from work. Although his hours are 9-5, he often starts work at 8am and finishes late in order to give him more time to meet with potential clients, chase down leads and ultimately close business. This has an effect on his family life, however his wife understands and he makes up for it by taking his family out at weekends. Peter finds his job relatively stressful, however he enjoys his job and feels that he can cope. Peter performs well at work and because of this, his manager holds him in high regard.

In March, the company takes on a new Managing Director. The Managing Director believes that the business processes are too complicated and wishes to make the business simpler. He therefore orders a restructuring of the organisation which unfortunately will lead to redundancies. Peter is aware of this and although he believes that he will keep his job, there are still doubts at the back of his mind as to whether or not he will be made redundant. Peter now feels increased pressure as he is aware that he has a mortgage to pay and a family to support. He talks this through with his wife which helps.

During his work, Peter comes across a difficult client which he finds hard to deal with. Usually, he would discuss this with his colleagues but due to fear of seeming weak and incapable and with the fear of redundancy hanging over him, he keeps his problems to himself.

As it happens, Peter is not made redundant but instead is moved to a new office. This is hard for him as even though he was not in the office that often, he had made friends there, some of whom had now been made redundant. Having to commute to the new office adds 10 minutes each way to his journey so isn’t much of a problem for him.

When he arrives at his new place of work, he notices a lot of new faces; not that they were new to the company but rather that he had not yet come across them. Peter doesn’t feel very sociable so he politely introduces himself and then goes to sit at his desk, where he remains until lunchtime before attending a series of meetings.

The following day, Peter’s Manager asks to see him. Worry enters his mind; what was he going to say? Are there more redundancies due to take place that I wasn’t aware of? What will my wife say?

The Manager sits down with Peter and explains that due to the redundancies that have taken place, Peter will now have a slightly increased workload to ensure that the business continues to perform well. Peter realises that this will mean longer hours for him but he is happy to accept this.

His increased workload means that over the next couple of weeks, Peter begins to find it hard to relax. When he is not at work, he has thoughts whirling around in his mind of what he hasn’t done, what he needs to do over the next couple of days and how he is going to reach his targets. Peter also has trouble sleeping which means he is tired during the day and this has caused him to become withdrawn.

Peter’s manager notices his lack of co-operation with colleagues but doesn’t say anything as he believes that Peter must be having some issues at home.

Peter decides to go for a drink on his own after work to try and relax.

Peter feels worn out and has been suffering with headaches. Because of this, he is not as engaged with clients. His mind is elsewhere. This eventually leads to less business which causes him to work even longer including some Saturdays to try and make up for his poor performance and to reach his targets.

Peters increased drinking and working hours (especially on Saturdays which is usually family time) has had a negative effect on his family life. His relationship with his wife suffers thus increasing stress further.

On a Wednesday morning at 8:30am, Peter arrives at the office. His relationship with his wife isn’t the best and he hasn’t had much sleep. Peter has an important meeting in half an hour so he goes to print off the information that he needs. The printer is broken. Peter gets increasingly angry and begins to shout at and strike the printer with his hand.

Peter begins to get very hot and agitated. He begins to breathe more rapidly and his heart beats faster; like it is going to beat out of his chest. His palms become sweaty and he feels a weird tingling sensation in the tips of his fingers.

Someone else in the office approaches Peter and asks if he is okay. Peter replies, ‘I can’t breathe’ and runs outside for some fresh air.

They alert Peter’s Manager to what has happened. Peter gets his breath back and feels drained and exhausted. His Manager doesn’t think that Peter could cope with the meeting so orders him to cancel and then sends him home.

Can you spot the early warning signs of stress within this story?

What could Peter’s manager have done to prevent this?

What impact has this had on the organisation?

  1. Would you know how to prevent something like this from happening in your workplace?
  2. Would you know how to identify employees showing the early signs of stress?
  3. Would you know how to deal with this situation in the most effective way?

If the answer to any of the above questions is no or if you can relate to any of the issues that are present in Peter’s story, then we may be able to help you. You can contact us on 0121 270 2000 or email us at

You can also check out our mental health training for managers, mental health first aid, or one of our other mental health wellbeing at work training courses.

Katie attended the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy where she set up Altruist in 2013. Since then, Katie has won various awards including Birmingham Mail's Young Achiever of the Year 2017, New Entrepreneurs Foundation 'Future Face of Business' and Entrepreneurial Spark's 'Most Accelerated Business'. She has also been a finalist in nine other award categories and in 2014, Katie was invited to attend the prestigious 'Women of the Year Lunch' in honour of her work raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to mental health.

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