Work related stress and burnout turn into a more widespread problem everyday in the American workforce. Employees and employers face problems when dealing with this issue. One of the common definitions of stress is “Stress is an adaptive response, mediated by individual characteristics and or psychological process, that is a consequence of any external action, situation, or event that places special physical and or psychological demands upon a person” (www.jepson.gonzaga.edu) or Pressure, strain; a factor that tends to distort a body: a factor that induces bodily and mental tension (Webster Dictionary 2001). Stress is much more than just a fastidious situation. Stress basically is a responsive reaction of an individual to a particular situation. This is why stress is usually difficult to cope with because every person reacts differently to a certain situation.
Overwork, job insecurity, and other numerous factors have a negative effect on a person. Distress is produced, and an employees’ physiologically and psychologically deviates in his or her experiences in comparison to healthy functioning. Office jobs are among the high stress rated occupations, administrative support staff of: bookkeepers, administrative assistance and accounting clerks rank 48% to have a Neurotic reaction to stress. White collar workers have a 64% reaction to Neurotic stress (Bureau of Labor Statistic 1999). The reason seems to point towards the organization of work within the office, with employees having little control over their workloads. Positions such as data entry operators find themselves at the mercy of the computers since their salaries are paid according to their output. Heavy workloads and stress are also directly related as it is found that office staff and even policeman are usually overwhelmed by the large amount of paperwork, often unsuccessfully completed by the end of the business week. Paperwork carried over into the next week therefore becomes a common occurrence adding to the stress level of the employee.
Jobs of little status and little opportunity for job advancement are particularly more stressful since employees find that the organization does not value them as much. Women are more often found to be concentrated around jobs that entail characteristics, heavy workloads and low job status, compiled with the natural responsibilities to watch over the home and family; it is clear why stress is a greater problem to women than men. While mild stress can be beneficial to a person, providing stimulus and challenge. Stress becomes health threatening only when individuals feel unable to cope with the demands expected from them. Stress can be a powerful motivator to help us accomplish goals in life. It is also can truly be a killer of the body and the spirit when it comes in too big of doses. You need to know yourself inside and be aware of the stress level. You need to recognize that stress comes from both positive and negative events and regardless of the source stress accumulates (Dr. Joseph Trueblood Minister and CEO, February 2009)
Acute stress triggered by circumstances such as divorce and loss of employment can put people under intense pressure. Long term difficulties in their work situation or home life, such as unresolved family conflicts and loss of promotion opportunities can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress issues can burden people both psychologically, defined by symptom such as restlessness, loss of confidence, self esteem, depression, anxiety; as well as physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, heart disease, ulcers, hair loss sexual dysfunction (Stress Management May 4, 2009). Chronic stress not only leads to employees underperforming at the work place, it also increases absenteeism and accident rates (The True Cost Volume 11 1997). These facts point out those unnecessary pressures at work can not only be detrimental to the well being of an employee but also affects the company in a negative way.
Medical evidence discounts working at a terminal as a cause of headaches and eyestrain, although flickering screens or an inadequately lit office might lead to employees experiencing these symptoms. Even in the case of epilepsy, or a more rare form of the condition, photosensitive epilepsy, a flickering screen is most unlikely to trigger the onset of the illness itself. Research has also shown no relationship between monitor screens and miscarriages or other birth defects. Occupational stress though, has claimed to increase when employees work with terminals. Work carried out in poor conditions such as poor lighting, inadequate workspaces are some of the factors that can induce stress within the workplace. Computerization, which is suppose to enable routine task to be, performed with more efficiency and in theory, allow job descriptions to be widened has the complete opposite effect on employees, who find themselves expecting a greater increase load of mundane task. These employees who work with screens have to maintain a high level of concentration and often have little variety in their work and little say in decision making.
Changes in the organizations of work could minimize health problems, previously stated and the overall quality of the job. Environmental conditions that lead to stress are called stressors. Stressors can be any condition that places a physical or emotional demand on a person. A number of these stressors can be found in an organizational setting and face many employees on a daily basis. Good organizational habits are extremely important in the work environment; overall design of your work area should not be ignored in your quest for a happy job life ( Peralta, The Seattle Times 2008 January 2nd). There are three stressors that are particularly important in today’s workforce that should be identified and properly managed to maintain a healthy environment.
The first group of stressors is called role related stressors and these stressors include conditions where employees have difficulty understanding and performing various roles in their life. The first type of role related stressors is called role conflict and this is when an employee may have received contradicting messages about how to perform their role or when organizational values conflict with personal values. For example you may have to entertain and be nice to clients that you do not like or get along with. As well in industries like pharmaceutical sales there are sometimes conflicting values when sales reps have to sell a product they do not believe in or entertain doctors just to get them to prescribe their products. The second type of role related stressor is called role ambiguity which is when employees are not confident or do not fully understand their job duties, performance expectation, level of authority or other job conditions. This is usually more common for employees that are entering new positions or new organizations and they are uncertain about their task and social expectations. The third type of role related stressor is called workload and this is when employees have too much to do in too little time and they work far too many hours in a day. Work overload can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle where different physical ailments like heart disease or high blood pressure can result from high workloads on a daily basis. Work under load is less common but can also occur and this is when employees do not receive enough work or responabilities and feel they are not making sufficient use of their full potential. The last type of stressor is called task control and this is when employees get stressed out because they do not have enough control over how and when they perform their tasks and the pace of work activity. A recent study reported that employees in production, dales and service jobs have higher stress because of their lack of work control (Bureau of Labor Statistics September Summary 1999). Overall role related stressors are very important to the current workforce because there are so many ways in which an employee’s role within an organization can lead to stress. Employee’s and organizations have to consider all of these different things when trying to eliminate or reduce workforce stress.
The second type of work related stressor that is important to the workforce is interpersonal stressors. These types of stressors include ineffective supervision, office politics and all types of conflict we may experience with fellow employees. Interpersonal stress can also come with work duties such as customer service operators who are often under a great deal of stress because they are dealing with customer complaints and unpleasant conversations constantly throughout the day. Interpersonal stressors can also be issues like sexual harassment (The True Cost 1997). Victims of sexual harassment experience a high level of stress because they have to endure tense relationships with co-workers as well as the stress that can occur while the incident is under investigation. Interpersonal stressors can also include incidents such as workplace violence. The highest number of incidents reported is from health-care workers or employees in social and community services (Bureau of Labor Statistics 1999). Individuals who experience workplace violence can have symptoms of severe distress after even on traumatic event and some victims will never be able to return to work.
The final stressor that employee’s have to deal with in the workforce today is called organizational stressors. These types of stressors can come in many forms and can involve any type of organizational changes. Downsizing is where the number of employees has to be reduced usually because of the financial situation of the organization and can be stressful not only for the employees being let go but also for the survivors that have to remain after co-workers have gone. Other forms of organization changes that can lead to stress are restructuring, privatization, and mergers that may lead to increased job insecurity, uncertain work demands and new interpersonal conflicts, which are all events that can lead to higher stress for employees. Various physical and emotional stimuli can be the causative agents for stress and affect the way we perform within our lives. Major life events such as the birth of a new baby to starting a new job, or minor events such as a parking ticket affect people differently. Genetically, we are all programmed differently for coping with, and controlling our stressors.
The amount of time we are subjected to certain stressors defines the two classifications of stress as acute or chronic. Acute stress is temporary in nature and can catalyze peak performance in some people. In small doses it is known as the “good” stress and can keep us alert and challenged. Physically our body releases large amounts of “stress fighting” hormones and we get into a “fight or flight” stance. Stress can trigger the body’s response to perceived threat or danger, the Fight or Flight response (Scott E. M.S. 2009 May 4th). During this reaction, certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, and changing various other autonomic nervous functions, giving the body a burst of energy and strength. Originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, it’s now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate, like in traffic or during a stressful day at work. When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response, but in our times of chronic stress, this often doesn’t happen enough, causing damage to the body. Psychologically, chronic stress interferes with the brain’s chemical transportation system. When this system is interrupted many physical and emotional symptoms will occur. Some examples are sleeplessness, fatigue, frequent headaches, and lack of concentration. All the examples lead to poor quality of work. To conclude, human performance is detrimentally affected by chronic stress and should be avoided. A sense of powerlessness leaves you helpless and hopeless. An employee who is told to perform another job without training feels powerless. He / she does not try to do anything about their predicament because they do not believe that anything can or will be done. Without the proper skills the assignment could not be done appropriately therefore leaving the employee with a feeling of defeat and afraid of losing their job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ research findings warn business that increasing job stress is responsible for an estimated annual cost of $10,000 per worker, #300 billion for the U.S. economy. Among the nation’s top executives, and estimated $10 to $20 billion is lost each year through absences, hospitalization, and early death, much of it a direct result of stress. The taboo of admitting t being stressed has been “outed.” Medical journals and organizations cite stress as the cause of 60 to 90% of illness, with job stresses a major contributor. Up to 75% of Americans say their jobs are very stressful, and 65% of are taking steps to control stress in their lives (Fact and Figures about Stress BLS 2002).
There must be reasonable job demands. Employers must provide training so that the employees learn the job before having them perform the task. Several overseas companies are using Reflexology treatments. This is an ancient form of therapy that is used to apply pressure to points on the feet to affect health. Some companies in the U.S. are looking into this type of treatment for their employees. “Another stress reduction method is to give people permission to acknowledge how stressed out they are. Too often healthcare workers feel that administration is not interested in and does not appreciate how difficult the health care work place has become. Maintaing the corporate “happy face” becomes an additional burden. Talking about stress and its triggers is an effective stress reliever that allows people to understand. Complaining without a focus on solutions will compound stress levels. To reduce stress staff needs to express themselves and then develop a solution”. “Organization changes may include efforts to ensure that workload is in line with workers capabilities and resources; to design stimulating, meaningful jobs; to define workers’ roles and responabilities clearly; to give workers opportunity to participate in decisions about their job; to improve communication; to provide opportunities for social interaction among workers; and to establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responabilites outside of work(Hamilton-McGinty Stress in the work Place Audio Book, no date given). Another method that employers could implement is to provide counseling for their staff. The employee should have the opportunity to have their own psychologist if they prefer, some methods of relaxation techniques such as deep breathing stretching, along with clearing your mind and muscle. These relaxation techniques are very helpful to remain calm in a bad situation.
The results for the research suggest that employees continue to be sick because of the high workloads and increased work hours. Employees’ continues to have a negative impact on their job performance due to the stress. Bosses are not taking it seriously and continue to increase, management does not listen. Organizations and agencies could decrease workplace stress by providing the proper training, communicating with the employees’ instead of commanding them. Recognizing when an employee is stressed out and offer assistance would alleviate some difficulties. It is this researchers belief that employees must stop being afraid and take a stand. If we do not then the workforce will continue to hurt. Another way to remove stressors in the workplace is to give employees more power so that they have more control over their work duties and environment. Organizations can minimize role related stressors by effectively selecting and placing employees in roles that adequately reflect employee competencies for the job requirements. Helping new employees enter their roles within a company can be achieved by giving employees a detailed description of their expected duties and roles within the company. Also having company outings such as baseball tournaments or golf tournaments can help improve the relationship of co-workers and help new employees fit in and feel a part of the organization.
Companies can reduce employee stress by ensuring that safety and noise risk are considered and met with appropriate circumstances as both of these events can lead to increased levels of stress for employees. Employees can also take an active role removing stressors from their workplace. If employees feel there is ambiguity in their job role they can seek out information that will help clarify the situation. If a particular job or expectation is too challenging to take on employees can break the task into smaller task that seem more realistic to meet. Employees can also request to be withdrawn from stressors by transferring to a position they feel is better suited to their abilities. As well as mentioned above employees often experience different levels of stress in the same situations so one option for managing stress may simply be changing perceptions of situations; for example strengthening self esteem and self efficacy may make job challenges not as threatening. Overall workplace stress is becoming a greater problem for many in the workforce today. There are a variety of different stressors that are role related, that come from interpersonal relationships, or that evolve from organizational changes that can lead to stress for employees. In order to properly accommodate these potential problems they need to first be identified and then solutions can be found to help resolve or reduce the amount of stress these conditions can result in for employees.
Rosie Hamilton-McGinty (Narrator), No date given, Stress in the Work Place [Audio Book]. Summerdale Publishers Ltd.
Peralta, J (2008, January 2). How to Rise Above Work Place Stress. The Seattle Times, pg 12
U.S. Department of Labor -Bureau of Labor Statistics (1999) Facts and Figures about Stress in the Workplace. Retrieved from
Batts, G (2010, February). Interviews with 25 Franklin United Methodist Community employees, of different ranking levels.
Scott, E. MS (2009, May 4th) Stress Management. Retrieved from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshelath/a/stress helath.htm?p=1
Employee Stress: The True Cost.(1997) Retrieved from, http://www.humannatureatwork.com/workplace-stress-lpf.htm
Stress Quiz- How Stressed Are You?(2009) Retrieved from http://www.arc.sbc.edu/streswuiz.htm1