From workplace stress to workplace wellness: an assessment of the health and well-being of local government Chief Executive Officers in WA

Local government administration Job stress Quality of work life Western Australia

Local government CEOs across the State of Western Australia are facing unprecedented levels of work-related stress. This report documents, their previously hidden afflictions. Using a multimethod approach to data collection, the authors employed inductive focus groups, abductive in-depth qualitative interviews and deductive quantitative survey research to shine an important light not only on the extent of their distress, but also on the relevant antecedents and effects.

Key findings:

  1. CEOs in Western Australia are suffering from psychosocial distress at nearly three times the national average of the general population.
  2. Their high levels of work-related stress exceeded those found in traditionally ‘dangerous’ professions like mining, construction, police and emergency services.
  3. Much of this stress is attributable to strained interpersonal relationships with elected members as well as hostile ratepayers/ ratepayers’ associations, with overt and subtle bullying, harassment and intimidation of CEOs and, in some instances, their families, evident in Shires, Towns and Cities across the State.
  4. Key protective factors include, but are not limited to: individual resilience, physical activity, job autonomy and social support networks.


  1. Mandatory training and development for elected members.
  2. Involvement of professional consultants in council decision-making.
  3. Increase opportunities for training and development of CEOs.
  4. Urgently afford CEOs the health and safety protections they deserve.
  5. Urgently reform the complaints procedures for ratepayers.
  6. Cut red tape.
  7. Interventions to improve elected member – CEO collaboration.
  8. Enhance CEO connectedness
  9. Increase resources to enable implementation of the above recommendations.


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