Work Stress Essay Research Paper Work Stress10

Work Stress Essay, Research Paper 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

Work Stress Essay, Research Paper

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


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. Hypertension 2. Coronary thrombosis 3. Hay fever and other allergies 4.

Migraine headaches 5. Intense itching 6. Asthma 7. Peptic ulcers 8. Constipation

9. Rheumatoid arthritis10. Colitis11. Menstrual difficulties 12. Nervous

dyspepsia 13. Overactive thyroid gland 14. Skin disorders 15. 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


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


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 uneasiness 2. Irritability towards others 3. General sense of boredom

4. Recurring feelings of hopelessness in life 5. Anxiety regarding money 6.

Irrational fear of disease 7. Fear of death 8. Feelings of suppressed anger 9.

Withdrawn and isolated 10. Feelings of rejection by others (low self-esteem) 11.

Feelings of despair at failing as a parent 12. Feelings of dread toward an

approaching weekend 13. Reluctance to vacation14. Sense that problems cannot be

discussed with others 15. Short attention span 16. 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 reduce and

cope with stress is to incorporate into the company policies a positive and

specific intent on reducing undue stress. This would indicate that top

management is committed to such a stress reduction program. Furthermore, the

amendment to the policies should also include a recognition that this initiative

will benefit the achievement of other organizational goals by enhancing the

productivity of employees through lowered stress levels . After the inclusion

of the broad mission goal of reducing employee stress, management should draft

out plans which specifically lays out the provisions to accomplish that goal.

As earlier mentioned, there are many approaches to stress reduction, thus the

provisions should detail only the methods specific to the organization. For

example, they could specify that employees undergo periodic physical and

psychological examinations and personnel surveys to ascertain current stress

levels. Another alternative would be to provide personal counseling to

employees to identify undue stress levels and then to advise any corrective

measures for the individual. In any case, the most important beginning step is

a total reexamination and revision of company policies, plans, and procedures to

enhance employees’ own methods of coping with stress, and simultaneously,

promote an organizational climate which actively assists employees to minimize

their stress.

3.2 Fundamental Techniques to Employee Stress Reduction

One method management can employ to alleviate employee stress is to make them

fitter to deal with the everyday pressures of work . There are three basic

management techniques that would accomplish this goal. Managers should be clear

about their expectations of employees and clearly convey these expectations to

each person. Secondly, management should devise a performance-evaluation-

feedback system such that each employee would be aware of his / her performance

level based on the feedback received. Lastly, employees should be fully capable

of performing their job tasks. Stress arises when employees do not possess the

necessary skills to carry on with the work assigned to them. Therefore, job

training programs are essential to reducing anxiety and stress associated when

employees feel that they do not possess sufficient skills or knowledge to

perform the job that they were hired for.

3.2.1 Communicating Management’s Expectations

In an organization, it would appear that all employees have a clear

understanding of their roles they were hired for and the duties expected of them.

This assertion is often valid for employees working at the front line, such as

workers on an assembly line. Strict procedural guidelines dictates the tasks

and procedures each worker would assume. However, at higher levels in the

organizational hierarchy, an employee’s duties and responsibilities may not be

as apparent. A middle manager or team leader’s role could entail many different

responsibilities and duties such as managing, coordinating, leading, planning,

etc. Despite a detailed job description when the individual was hired, there

often exists a cloud of ambiguity as to what the position exactly encompasses

given the wide-ranging scope of the position . Work stress arises as a result

of this because employees would be distressed over uncertainty of the

sufficiency of their tasks in relevance to their position and role. Furthermore,

employees may not be clear as to the amount of work expected of him or her.

When employees do not know how much effort they should commit to their jobs in

order to satisfy their superior’s expectations, a certain level of employee work

stress would arise in that the individual would be constantly worried about the

adequacy of his / her level of effort. In essence, employees need to know

exactly the tasks expected of them and the level of effort to put into those


The issue here is essentially a communications problem between management and

employees. Management should communicate its expectations to employees whether

as a group or individually. Since increased communications is the primary

solution in this case, management should also promote a working environment

where employees are encouraged to voice their concerns, questions, etc. to their

respective superiors. Managers, themselves, should adapt a managing style that

is sensitive and responsive to employee stress. Communication of management

expectations can be achieved by analyzing each role in the organization to

clarify priorities and resolve conflict between roles. This approach would

first, clarify any ambiguity an employee may have about his / her position.

Secondly, it effectively eliminates the stress from not knowing what or how

much to do. Informing employees of their role expectations is only the

beginning to reducing stress levels . Employee also require feedback from their

performance measures.

3.2.2 Providing Feedback to Employees

Once role expectations are known, employees require feedback on their

performance to determine whether those expectations are met. In the absence of

feedback, employees would be worrying if their current levels of effort are

satisfying the expectations of them. A state of ambiguity would arise again,

resulting in increased stress levels.

A systematic approach in providing periodical performance feedback to all

employees in the organization is required. One common approach adopted by many

companies are staff and staff-development schemes. They entail a periodical

one-on-one interview between managers and each of his / her subordinates.

During the interview, the manager would inform the employee of his / her

performance relative to previously set standards (ie. expectations). The

employee would be encouraged to provide his / her concerns regarding the

performance evaluation. Any problems and / or requests for assistance would be

communicated to the manager at this point. To conclude the interview, the

employee would set attainable future goals to improve or maintain the current

performance level.

Royal Bank is a strong advocate of staff-development schemes. Employees meet

with their managers once every four months to discuss the employees’ performance

to-date. The interview process is characterized by the supportive and

encouraging roles every manager adopts towards their subordinates. Unlike many

other appraisal interviews, managers do not only focus and highlight employee

weaknesses. When certain deficiencies in performance are discussed, managers

recognize that negative feedback is uncomfortable to both parties and can also

be counter-productive. Thus, they usually identify areas for improvement to

employees in a very supportive approach. The objective is to rectify the

deficiency by motivating the employee to change, rather than imposing additional

stress on him / her by merely pointing the weakness(s) out.

3.1.3 Job Training Programs

Job training programs provide employees with a broader knowledge and skills

enabling them to better handle the expectations from their roles. Employee

stress is often caused by the lack of skills or knowledge to meet designated

objectives and goals. These programs usually take on two forms – knowledge-

based development and skills-based development. Knowledge-based development

programs usually involve a conference or seminar where the aim is to broaden

the attendees’ knowledge of a certain topic such as infomatics seminar briefing

employees on the latest networking technologies. The knowledge gained from such

programs may or may not be utilized in the everyday job routines of employees.

Alternatively, skill-based development programs focus on training employees to

become more proficient in the use of certain behaviours such as assertiveness

training. While job training programs can reduce work stress, there are

essentially three conditions to its success . First, the job training must be

required by the employee. No benefit would be derived if an employee is trained

for something that is not relevant to the work he / she performs everyday.

Secondly, management must discourage any perception by employees that training

programs are a form of reward or punishment, or else the entire purpose of the

training initiative would be lost. Finally, preparation is required to benefit

fully from the program.

4.0 Conclusion

Work stress places a very high toll on both employees and employers. An

employee subjected to high levels of stress could experience both physical and

mental side-effects. Physical side effects such as hypertension, coronary

disease, infections, ulcers could greatly decrease the lifespan of the person.

The psychological effects such as repressed emotions, anger, and isolation have

a direct negative impact on organizational productivity. Thus, organizations

have a great responsibility in reducing the stress of their employees, and in

general be concerned about their well-being.

There are numerous methods to counter the stress problem. The report has cited

only the basics which are applicable to most organizations. The first step for

management is to set out the intention to reduce employee stress in as an

organizational goal. Provisions detailing the organization’s planned approach

should be drafted.

Informing employees of management’s expectations is one method to reduce a large

portion of the anxiety employees may have about their jobs. Secondly,

management must provide subordinates feedback on their performance. Management

should also provide job training for all employees to enable them to better

perform their jobs and reduce the stress associated with the feeling of

inadequacy to perform one’s duties.


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