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Stress in the Workplace

• 46% of workers find job to be extremely

• Cost of stress related disorders is estimated
to be $150 billion a year
• Stress related disorders comprise 14% of
workers’ compensation cases
Stress – What is it?
• Stress – physiological and psychological
responses to events in the environment
– Eustress: good stress
– Distress: bad stress
• Physiological Effects
– Alarm: preparation of body for fight or flight
– Resistance: maintain state of elevated preparation
– Exhaustion: when demands exceed body’s
Stress – More Background
• Where does stress come from?
– Major life events?
– Daily hassles: frequency, intensity, duration
• Job satisfaction and stress – those who
enjoy work suffer less impact from stressful
Individual Differences in Coping
• Social Support
• Job Skill – the more skilled at job, the less
• Physical Health – good health leads to
reduced impact of stress
• Type A/Type B Personality – Type A
personality reflected by competitiveness,
inflated sense of time urgency, hostility
Type A Personality
• Hostility component of Type A personality
is linked to heart disease
• Type A individuals, in essence, create more
stress for themselves
• Type B individuals rarely have heart attacks
before the age of 70
More Individual Differences
• Job Complexity – increased complexity
leads to heart disease in Type A individuals.
But, complexity also is linked to job
• Locus of Control – internal locus of control
is linked to reduced impact of stress
• Negative Affectivity – linked to neuroticism
from the Big 5. A tendency to focus on the
negative aspects of life. Linked to high
levels of stress
Individual Differences: Hardiness
• Reflects a resistance to stress: elements include :
– Sense of commitment to family and work
– A perceived sense of control
– A view of change as normal and challenging
Even More Individual Differences
• Organization-based Self Esteem – our
assessment of our adequacy and worth with
regard to our place in the employing
organization (job specific self esteem)
• Gender Differences – female managers face
more stressors than do male managers (e.g.,
role conflict, discrimination, harassment)
Stress and Type of Occupation
• Clerical and blue collar workers suffer the
most stress due to a relative lack of control
• Most stressful professions include: laborer,
secretary, clinical lab. technician, nurse,
first-line supervisor, restaurant server,
machine operator, farm worker, miner
• One of the least stressful professions is
college professor – yeah!!
Work-Family Conflicts
• Greater role conflict for women – primary
responsibility for family life falls on woman
– Family with 3 kids, average work week for females
is 90 hours, for males it is 70 hours
• Bad work days tend to carry over into family
life – tendency is stronger for women.
– Sadly, positive states do not carry over
Work-Family Conflict, Continued
• Workers report that jobs interfere with
family life more than vice versa
• Companies can help reduce stress with
flexible schedules and supportive
supervisors – more helpful than child care
• Despite these problems, women with paying
jobs are psychological and physically
healthier than full-time homemakers
Causes of Stress in the Workplace
• Work overload
– Quantitative: too much to do in too short a time
– Qualitative: work that is too difficult
– Quantitative has increased in recent years due
to downsizing
• Work underload – work that is too simple or
insufficient to fill one’s time
• Both of these impact stress and health,
appears that a moderate amount of stress is
Causes of Stress - Continued
• Organizational Change – if not hardy,
change causes stress in individuals. Can be
reduced by including employees in planning
• Role Ambiguity – unstructured or poorly
defined job responsibilities (expected
standards, methods, schedules)
• Role Conflict – conflict between job
demands and employee’s personal standards
• Delay action for no “good” reason
• Suggestions for controlling:
– Calculate the cost of procrastination: e.g., reduce
chance of promotion
– Worst in, first out principle: tackle worst task first
– Break task into manageable chunks
– Make a commitment to other people: “I’ll give it to
you on Friday/by lunch
– Remove mind clutter: eliminate trivial items from to
do list
– Fill your schedule – provides stimulation you had
been receiving by working up to deadlines
Effects of Stress in the Workplace
• Mass psychogenic illness – also known as
assembly line hysteria. Isolation and
• Burn out – results from overwork.
– Emotional Exhaustion
– Depersonalization
– Reduced sense of personal accomplishment
– Quantity of work may stay the same, but the
quality declines, depression, apathy, irritability,
and boredom may occur
• “Addiction” to work because of anxiety and
insecurity or because of a genuine liking for
the job
• Healthy, work enthusiasts – usually have jobs
with autonomy and variety, appropriate skills
for job, and supportive families
• Unhealthy, workaholics – Compulsive, driven
to perform job tasks. Often negatively impact
Treating Stress in the Workplace
• Organizational Techniques
– Provide sufficient support for change
– Provide sense of control through participation
– Clearly define employee roles
– Eliminate work over and under load
– EAPs for stress reduction (teach coping strategies)
– Provide opportunity for social support (formal or
Individual Techniques for Stress
• Exercise
• Relaxation Training
• Biofeedback
• Behavior Modification