Work Stress 1.0 Introduction Throughout the eighties and into the nineties, work stress have continued to rise dramatically in organizations across North America. The eighties saw employees stressing out from working in a rapidly growing economy. During the nineties, beginning from the recession of 1992 till present day, employees are stressed by their own job insecurities in the face of massive downsizing and restructuring of organizations in order to be competitive on the global stage. Work stress is a very extensive topic ranging from research on the sources of stress, the effects of stress, to ways on managing and reducing stress. This report will focus first on the evidence for the harmful effects of stress at work, both mentally and physically.
The last section will briefly explain why management should be concerned with rising employee stress and will describe some actions management can take to alleviate work stress. 2.0 Harmful Effects of Stress Most research studies indicate a high correlation between stress and illness. According to authorities in the United States and Great Britain, as much as 70% of patients that are treated by general practitioners are suffering from symptoms originating from stress . Everyone experiences stress, however, each person responds to stress very differently. Their response is dependent on how each person reacts to stress emotionally, mentally, and physically.
There are, however, common effects of stress for most people on the physical and mental body. 2.1 Physical Effects The researcher Blyth in 1973 identified a list of diseases which have a fairly high causal relationships with stress. His evidence was obtained through interviews with medical experts, review of reports by the World Health Organization and consultations with the J.R. Geigy Pharmaceutical Company. The following is a list of some of the illnesses Blyth had identified : 1. Hypertension2.
Coronary thrombosis3. Hay fever and other allergies4. Migraine headaches5. Intense itching6. Asthma7.
Peptic ulcers8. Constipation 9. Rheumatoid arthritis10. Colitis11. Menstrual difficulties12. Nervous dyspepsia 13.
Overactive thyroid gland14. Skin disorders15. Diabetes mellitus16. Tuberculosis Research conducted by Woolfolk and Richardson in 1978 further confirmed Blyth’s list that hypertension, coronary disease, infections, and ulcers are highly related to the amount of prolonged stress an employee is subjected to. Evidence for a causal relationship between hypertension and stress was seen in a study of air traffic controllers.
The work stress is enormous for this occupation due to the high responsibility for the safety of others that people is this field must bear. This study noted that air traffic controllers experiences a hypertension rate approximately 5 times greater than other comparable occupational groups . Only in recent studies was stress linked to coronary disease. As the majority of heart attacks are caused by fatty substances adhering to the artery walls (arteriosclerosis), stress is a causal factor in that, at high levels, the amounts of the two fatty substances, cholesterol and triglycerides, in the blood steam are elevated. This is evidenced in one study of tax accountants. As the deadline for the annual tax filing drew nearer, cholesterol levels rose without decreasing until 2 months later. The situation here shows that cholesterol in the blood rises gradually with constant exposure to stress.
There is also strong evidence for the causal relationship between stress and infectious disease. Woolfolk was able to show that employees that are very fatigue (a symptom of stress) were more susceptible to infections. In his study conducted upon 24 woman during the flu season, every woman was administered a certain amount of flu virus into their blood stream. Woman in the group who were fatigued were administered a smaller dose than those who were not. Woolfolk found that the women who had just gone through very stressful experiences were more susceptible to the infection despite a very small dosage of the flu virus.
The other women who were not tired did not get infected even though they had considerably high dosages of flu virus in them . Lastly, evidence that ulcers are associated with high stress levels have been conclusively proven by Woolfolk. Ulcers occur when digestive juices burn a hole in the stomach lining. A person under stress or anxiety would stimulate the rapid secretion of digestive juices into the stomach. Thus, when a person is subjected to constant tension and frustration, he / she has a high likelihood that an ulcer would occur.
Evidence for this was provided by the study performed by Dr. Steward Wolf. He was able to monitor activities of a patient stomach, and where the patient responded to an emotional situation, he observed the excessive secretion of stomach acids. Woolfolk and Richardson further the studies by showing increased levels of stomach acids during high exposure to stress. 2.1 Psychological Effects Most organizations have recognize that stress can have an adverse effect on the efficiency of their employees.
In 1978, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) cited their study report that there are essentially three psychological reactions to consistently high stress levels: repression of emotion, displacement of anger, and isolation. Repression of emotions occur often in human service professionals such as policemen or accountants. Their roles demand that they suppress their emotions when interacting with clients. Thus, when the stress levels begin to rise as they deal with more and more clients, they would put up an even greater resistance to their own emotions . Over time, the professional may not be able to relax that emotional resistance. All their emotions would be masked and retained within themselves, resulting ultimately in mental and emotional disorders. In stressful times, employees are often displeased or angry with something. However, there are usually limited channels in which employees can express their views. Since opinions, views, and feelings cannot always be expressed to anyone to change the current situation, there would be an accumulation of anger and frustration within the individual.
Up to a certain point, the anger would be released, usually at the wrong person or time, such as colleagues, clients, or family members. This symptom has a tremendous impact on society because there is a potential that it may hurt others people. Take for example the US postal shootings over last few years. All of them were a result of accumulated anger and frustration of US postal workers where they eventually released all that pent-up anger at one time towards other colleagues. Moreover, many cases of spousal abuse, child abuse, alcohol abuse, dysfunctional families are a result of overstressed employees unable to diffuse or cope with the anger and frustration building up within them.
The 1978 IACP’s report stated that isolation is a common side-effect of working under tremendous stress. For many service practitioners, they are not always readily welcomed by the clients that they serve. A prime example would be policemen who are shunned often by the public. Over time, a feeling of isolation and rejection would envelop the person. The natural thing to do would be to withdraw from others who do not understand their plight, resulting in profound human loneliness .
The symptoms mentioned above are usually long-term effects. There are many other short term, psychological effects of stress that can be readily seen or felt. The following is by no means a definitive list of mental effects as it only illustrates some of the symptoms that could readily identified in a person under constant stress : 1. Constant feeling of uneasiness2. Irritability towards others3. General sense of boredom4.
Recurring feelings of hopelessness in life5. Anxiety regarding money6. Irrational fear of disease7. Fear of death8. Feelings of suppressed anger9.
Withdrawn and isolated 10. Feelings of rejection by others (low self-esteem)11. Feelings of despair at failing as a parent12. Feelings of dread toward an approaching weekend13. Reluctance to vacation14. Sense that problems cannot be discussed with others15. Short attention span16.
Claustrophobic 3.0 Management’s Role in Reducing Work Stress Employee stress can have an enormous impact to an organization in terms of cost. As many studies have shown, there is a high correlation between stress and job performance. At moderate levels, stress is beneficial in that it can cause individuals to perform their jobs better and attain higher job performance. However, at high levels, stress can decrease productivity instead. This is the case often seen in employees at many organizations . Furthermore, aside from costs associated with lost productivity, there are costs with respect to stress-related absenteeism and organizational medical expenses.
Specifically, these include costs of lost company time, increases in work-related accidents disrupting production, increases in health care costs and health insurance premiums, and most importantly, decreases in productivity . There are numerous methods that organizations could adopt to reduce undue stress in their employees. However, measures taken to counter this problem are usually tailored specifically for the particular organization. Therefore, this report has chosen two separate actions which are fundamental to most organizations that management can take. 3.1 Reduction of Employee Stress as an Organizational Policy The first step any organization should take to help its employees red …