Work Stress Management
Work stress is common among employees who work in the environment that is demanding. The need to perform complex tasks within strict deadlines as well as close supervision of a manager or a supervisor can cause an employee feel stressed. Job roles and coworker relationships also contribute to work stress that people experience in their jobs. Additionally, family responsibilities and rising standards of living make people chuckle between different jobs while working for long hours. These and several other reasons contribute to development of stress, which can be detrimental to the work output of employees. However, knowing how to manage stress is an important factor to ensure that employees continue to function well even in times of stress. Work stress management is thus a skill that every employee should have since people do not know when exactly they will be subjected to work stress in their job. This paper discusses effects of work stress and ways in which stress can be managed.
According to Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (2010), stress is the feeling that results from a situation when a person, a structure, or a system is influenced by forces, which interfere with its balancing mechanism. Work stress, therefore, means that a person experiences harmful negative emotions, which result from the conflict or pressure on the employee. Stress may also result from lack of control that an employee has over the situation related to meeting work-related requirements. In essence, work stress is a manifestation that the employee lacks the ability to meet high demands of the job. Therefore, such employees feel helpless in the situation, which calls for their attention.
Work Stress Signs and Symptoms
People who are experiencing stress in their workplace always show signs and symptoms that are caused by the condition. However, it is important to note that not all forms of stress are bad. There is a positive side of stress as well. For instance, positive stress acts as a motivational factor for people to perform their work assignment within the stipulated time. As such, they wake up in the morning motivated by the stress to accomplish a certain task in their workplace.
Signs and symptoms of work stress include insufficient sleep, abnormal drinking, feelings of depression, anxiety, nervous strain, and regular bursts of anger, which probably result from feelings of unfairness or mistreatment at work. These signs can be divided into physiological, mental, and behavioral symptoms and can be noticed either by a colleague at work or a psychologist. Physiological symptoms include increased blood pressure and, therefore, increased metabolism. This is because the heart beats faster increasing respiratory rate in the body. In addition, there can be intestinal movement, which may lead to indigestion, poor or failed response to stimuli, and reduced levels of protein synthesis in the body system. Similarly, people who are stressed develop localized inflammation characterized by feelings of pain, red eyes, and swelling among others. They may also develop stomach ache due to increased acids in the intestines.
On the other hand, mental symptoms include inability to concentrate, anger, anxiety, and worsening of memory. Similarly, such people experience lack of ability to concentrate attention or to stay alert because of reduced levels of perception. They also become less effective in their thinking capacity, which makes them unable to solve problems they used to solve. This can in turn increase their stress levels. Furthermore, mental symptoms such as reduced learning capability and resistance to change are also evident in people, who are subjected to stress at their workplace. Another consequence for mental health is that stress can cause one to be easily distracted due to reduced levels of attention.
Behavioral symptoms and changes of work stress include reduced or distracted sleep, which can lead to a sleep disorder and habit change. For instance, some people would become reserved and avoid situation that would require them to socialize with other people. Others may resort to undesirable behaviors like drinking excessively, using drugs, and becoming unfriendly and defensive in their actions. They may always be angry at everything and show exaggerated reactions to events in their family and work life. Some become anxious and sad about something without any reason.
Causes and Reasons of Work Stress
Work stress is related to the nature of the person. That is, some people are more sensitive to work stress than others. Clearly, some people are born with a personality that predisposes them to higher or lower levels of tolerance to pressure. This is seen in the fact that a job that is causing stress to one person may not affect another person. However, industrial organization psychologists have identified a couple of other factors that are capable of causing stress. These include factors that are unique to the job, career development, the role at work, and interpersonal relationships among others. There are two types of personality defined by psychologists and experts: type A and type B.
It is evident that people respond differently to a problem or a stressor at work. Type A personalities are hardworking, persistent, and like to get actively involved in work for long hours. They work overtime without breaks and usually come to the workplace earlier than anyone else. They insist on accomplishing a particular type of work even if it is evident that they do not have the capacity to carry on with the task. In the process, they tend to overwork. Mostly, such people become consumed in anxiety, hopelessness, resentment, and normally have increased heart beat rate when they are stressed (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2010).
On the other hand, type B personalities differ from type A in that they seem to have the “I don’t care” attitude. This type of people work steadily and always seem to be enjoying whatever they are doing, regardless of whether things are good or bad. As such, type B personalities do not care much if any problem arises and, therefore, are hard to be unsettled by stress. Additionally, they are creative and, most of the time, come up with new ideas and concepts. They are problem solvers and critical thinkers at the place of work. Furthermore, type B personalities experience lower stress levels than type A.
Sources of Work Stress
Work stress emanates from a number of sources. As observed by Robert & Kenneth (1990), the source might either be the personality of the worker or the environment in which the person is working. Personality related sources include family problems or family exposure to work related conflicts. Environment related sources of stress include conflicting supervision or lack of supervision, coworker conflicts, threats to personal safety, all forms of harassment, and absence of special systems in the work place to channel complaints. Failure to respond to complaints by an employee can also make them stressed. Some people are stressed by overwhelming workloads or even lack of it, while others are stressed because of lack of work tasks they can do or the fear of becoming redundant in their workplace.
Additionally, Martin (2010) notes thatthere are three main causes of stress in workplace. These are job demands, working environment, and interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Job demands can include overloading or under loading, meaningless or complex jobs, and the need to make autonomous decisions at the workplace, where consultation and advice are not available. This is mostly common whenever one’s decision turns out a failure and the whole team blames one person for this. Job demands also encompass working for long hours without recognition or appreciation, especially where abilities of the employee do not match job demands. Working in a noisy stench environment and, on the contrary, in an isolated office can also cause stress.
Work environment can affect the stress level of an employee in a number of ways. For instance, if duties and roles are not clearly defined and delegated, they can lead to conflicting job demands. Ambiguity of the roles and lack of clarity of responsibilities can also cause stress to the employee. Therefore, the expectations should be defined so that employees could know in advance what is expected from them. Similarly, supervision by several managers and supervisors who give different instruction can make an employee stressed.
Interpersonal relationships are important in ensuring that an employee gets necessary support from the colleagues in the place of work. Communication should also be enhanced between management and the employee to ensure smooth operation of the business. If relationships between employees and the management are poor, there will be a lot of stress because communication will not be effective. This will result in lack of motivation and encouragement for the employees. Poor relationships in the workplace can be a source of harassment, intimidation, and false accusations between employees or between the management and the employee.
Additionally, under-promotion and over-promotion together with limited availability of career development opportunities to an employee can be a contributing factor to overall stress level. Some employees may experience job dissatisfaction because there are no opportunities for them to advance in their careers or may because promotions are not forthcoming (Hillebrandt, 2008). Moreover, some workers become stressed because their job security is not guaranteed, especially when they are working on contracts, or the organization they are working for is facing difficulties and shows signs of retrenching some of its employees. In addition, organizational structure, especially the one that does not allow employees to participate in decision-making even in matters that directly concern them, can become a burden to employees hence a source of stress.
Positive and Negative Effects of Work Stress
Work stress is, perhaps, one of the things that employees cannot avoid completely. Somehow, people find themselves in situations that are beyond their control, yet they are supposed to control it. Therefore, it is important to understand the effects of work stress so that people could get to manage stress when it is necessary to avoid the impact of devastating events on the workplace. In fact, some employees have been reported to have committed suicide when they were under stress at their placesof work. Thus, there is a need to understand both positive and negative effects of stress.
Positive Effects of Work Stress
Work stress can be important in enhancing the way employees perform their work. According to Hillebrandt (2008), people who are positively anxious about performing a role become committed to the task and can become creative problem solvers. Work development and accomplishment become a reality even in tasks that were previously perceived as difficult and boring. It is through stress that some people find courage to perform a duty that was considered undoable. Similarly, stress can help employees to attract management’s attention and offer a solution to the problem that would have otherwise led to suicide.
During stressful time, the body releases chemicals that help to boost one’s alertness and body immune system. In addition, stress encourages personal growth, change, adaption, and fight for justice and, therefore, can lead to improvement in one’s quality of life. Stress may also stimulate the brain to function creatively by challenging conditions that are causing it.
Negative Effects of Work Stress
Negative effects of stress in workplace surpass the positive ones because stress can cause psychological and physiological complications in the body. Besides, stress can lead to low work output and even death. Physiologically, stress causes headaches, heart problems, indigestion that includes constipations and diarrhea, breathing disorders including asthma, and bone and muscle problems. Additionally, stress can cause grinding of teeth, clenched jaws, chest pain, increased perspiration, fatigue, insomnia, and frequent illnesses. In the workplace, stress leads to poor relationships with the management and coworkers, poor communication, and misjudgment by employees. Stressed people can also cause accidents in workplaces. This can be costly to the organization. Furthermore, stressed workers cannot attend to clients, which negatively affects the reputation of the organization.
Psychologically, stress can lead to depression, abnormal exhaustion, fatigue, and sadness in the work place. Stressed workers lose interest in the duties assigned to them and may hold back production or cause accidents in the workplace. Other psychological effects of stress include anxiety, which can affect eating habits and thus influence the health of the person. Stress affects person’s mood, making him/her hypersensitive and apathetic to life. It also leads to feelings of hopelessness and lowers the level of self-confidence and motivation that are crucial for survival.
To sum up, stress takes away people’s ability to survive in a working environment and makes them feel that the world is ending. This kind of feeling can make people commit suicide or cause serious problems in workplace or family. Stress can make people become mad and develop insanity that can be permanent in their lives (Kinder, Hughes & Cooper, 2008).
Behavioral Symptoms and Changes
Workplace stress can lead to change in behavior. Some people can start using drugs or drinking excessively. Stress also leads to isolation from colleagues and family because stressed people avoid others around. It can also lead to overeating or loss of appetite. It can also cause responsibility abdication, poor job performance in the workplace, forgetfulness, and poor maintenance of personal hygiene. Stressed people are also known to change religious practices and may cause one to join cultic practices that can affect family and employees relationship. It may also cause impatience, tendency to argue, and procrastination, when job and duties are regularly put off to be done in the future. Organizationally, stress can lead to dismissal from work and in this way affect one’s income.
Effects of Work Stress on Performance of the Organization
Work stress has many effects on the rate at which the organization is able to perform. For instance, work stress affects the amount of work that an employee can do in a day. This is because they may be spending a lot of time worrying about their problems. Stress can lead to accidents that result from poor judgment. Stress also affects communication in the way that people cannot communicate well with their work mates and even clients that they are supposed to serve.
In addition, stress can make one to report to work late or even not show up to work without permission. It also strains relationships between employees and the management as well as among employees themselves. Work stress can also make one lose control over calculations that can be costly to the organization they are working for. Undone jobs, incomplete works, and shoddy work become often when an employee is stressed up. It can lead to fights and arguments in a department, in this way causing wastage of time. Furthermore, stress can lead to dismissal from work of employees, when the management realizes that they are not working properly (Kinder, Hughes & Cooper, 2008).
Organizations, whose employees are stressed out, are more likely to produce lower work output. Such an organization may lose customers because of poor services and indifference of employees. It will also spend a lot of time trying to solve disputes that arise between employees. The organization will also suffer reduced annual returns because of the losses that employees make. It may also be required to spend money on new hiring after stressed employees are dismissed. Communication in the organization will also be affected and may culminate into serious problems such as accidents, lost items, or undone work. Moreover, the organization may spend heavily on health insurances because many employees will be affected and the organization will be forced to cover their medical expenses. Finally, the organization may lose customers to its competitors because of the poor services that its employees provide.
Strategies for Handling Work Stress
Knowing how to handle stress in the workplace is important because it will ensure that problems discussed above are avoided. The organization should provide a mechanism through which employees get to refresh their minds in an open and relaxed environment. Creating an environment in which people can share their work related problems will provide a chance for them to find a solution to their problems. Employees should also identify better channels through which they can share their problems and find appropriate assistance.
Personal Strategy to Reduce Work Stress
The first initiative to reduce work stress should definitely be personal. Once an employee realizes that he experiences stress, he should seek advice from professionals elsewhere or within the organization, since most organizations have counselors or at least support this service on a regular basis. Additionally, stressed employees should opt for medication and relaxation. They can take a 1-month leave so that they can recuperate at home before coming back to work.
Alternatively, they should engage in sporting activities that are organized by their employers. Such opportunity can be used to share their problems and seek advice from their fellow colleagues. They should also be encouraged to form friendships with their colleagues, with whom they can freely share their problems with the purpose to find solutions. Moreover, they can consider changing their jobs if it helps to relieve them from stress. Above all, it is important that employees always seek advice from their counselors, family members, and friends.
Organizational Strategy to Reduce Work Stress
Friedman (1996) suggests that organizations should have a strategy to help their workers to relieve stress. This is because contemporary work environments are full of stressors, some of which may not be explicit to the management. Having a strategy to address the problem of stress will ensure that all employees are monitored and counseled regularly to prevent them from suffering from stress. Such strategy can include regular job redesigning to help employees avoid routine duties that can contribute to the building of stress.
Similarly, the organization can embrace a friendly management style, where all employees are consulted on decisions that will affect their work before they are implemented. This will make them feel like they are a part of the organization and, therefore, motivate them to work harder with those changes.
Furthermore, the organization should develop flexible work programs, where employees are relieved from their duties occasionally as well as organize motivational retreats such as picnics or departmental parties, where staff members get to interact with one another personally. The organization can also encourage learning of new skills by organizing seminars and conferences (Friedman, 1996). Those employees who attend such events can present reports to the departmental members who do not attend so that they could learn. This strategy can increase confidence that employees have in the management and even in their colleagues (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2010).
In conclusion, any organization should ensure that work is delegated according to skills and experiences that each employee has. In essence, job description should be followed to avoid assigning people jobs that they feel are beyond their abilities. The organization should also discourage any form of harassment among employees and encourage each employee to maximize their potential. Finally, it is beneficial for organizations to create free working environment to enable their employees to freely share problems that affect them.