People are more scared of deadlines than they are of actually dying

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Moya Crockett

There’s are few worse feelings than knowing that you’re nowhere near on top of an impending work deadline. It’s that old Sunday-night-homework sensation with the volume turned up: a panicky fluttering heartbeat, a sinking feeling of dread in your stomach, and the sense that you are standing at the bottom of a cloud-capped mountain wearing flip-flops.

Inevitably, you end up running through all the possible outcomes if – as you strongly suspect will be the case – you don’t manage to get everything done on time. You’ll definitely get hauled over the coals by your boss; hey, you might even get fired! And from that hypothetical scenario, the terrible possibilities are virtually limitless.

But while few of us relish the stress of major deadlines, it’s still slightly startling to learn that most people find them more terrifying than the thought of actually dying.

According to new research, people are more scared by the thought of a high-pressured work project than they are of death.


Few things are more stressful than the final push before a big work deadline.

This macabre bit of office psychology was uncovered by CareerCast in their latest annual Stressful Jobs Reader Survey. The jobs site polled over 1,000 people, asking them to evaluate their own personal experiences with workplace stress.

They found that most people (30%) rated deadlines as their biggest source of anxiety, well over the proportion of respondents who were most alarmed at the thought of putting someone else’s life at risk (17%) or of dying themselves while at work (just 7%).

Perhaps surprisingly, the largest professional group who took part in the survey were healthcare professionals, who made up 36% of respondents. Even these people, who encounter the risk of endangering others’ lives more than most, said that they were more afraid of deadlines than of death.

Stress can be enough to force employees out of their chosen field altogether, according to the findings of the survey. Almost 59% of those who responded said they would leave their profession if they could.

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Human resources manager Tiffani Murray says that the most effective way of coping with deadline anxiety is not to procrastinate.

“The best way to deal with stress at work is to first acknowledge the stressful situation,” she says.

“Acting like it doesn't exist won't make your stress go away. If the issue is work related, try to figure out ways to remedy the problem.”

One remedy, she says, could be as straightforward as asking for help.

“With a demanding project find out if you can ease the burden by asking for additional resources to help with the project or by finding out where timelines can be relaxed to provide some relief,” she says.

“Many employers also have what they call ‘employee assistance programs.’ These are free services to employees where they can utilize resources like counsellors or support groups during stressful times.”

Want more advice and insights on coping with stress at work? Check out our Careers section.

Images: Rex Features, iStock


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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women's Editor at, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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