Stress

What is Stress?
Stress is a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint or demand related to what he or she desires & for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain & important. Though, Stress is generally discussed in a negative context, it also has a positive value. It’s an opportunity when it offers potential gain.

Sources of stress
Environmental Factors: 1. Economic Uncertainty 2. Political Uncertainty 3. Technological Uncertainty Organizational Factors: 1. Task Demands 2. Role demands 3. Interpersonal Demands 4. Orgnl Structure 5. Orgnl Leadership Individual Factors: 1. Family Problems 2. Economic Problems 3. Personality

Consequences of Stress
Stress shows itself in a number of ways. This can be listed under 3 general categories: Physiological, psychological & Behavioral symptoms. 1. Physiological Symptoms: Researches show that stress can create changes in metabolism, loss of appetite, increased heart & breathing rates, increased blood pressure, headaches & induce heart attacks. Psychological symptoms: Stress can cause dissatisfaction. Job-related stress can cause job-related dissatisfaction which is the most common psychological effect of stress. This stress shows itself in various states like tension, anxiety, irritability, boredom & procrastination. Researches suggest that jobs that provide a low level of variety, significance, autonomy, feedback & identity to incumbents create stress & reduce satisfaction & involvement in the job.

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When people are placed in jobs in which there is lack of clarity about the incumbent’s duties, authority & responsibilities then both stress & dissatisfaction are increased. 3. Behavioral Symptoms: Behavior-related stress symptoms include changes in productivity, absence & turnover, as well as changes in eating habits, increased smoking or consumption of alcohol, restlessness & sleep disorders.

Managing Stress
High levels of stress or even low levels of stress sustained over long periods can lead to reduced employee performance & thus require action by Management. Stress can be managed both at individual level as well as at Organizational level. 1. Individual Approaches: An employee can take personal responsibility for reducing his stress level. Individual strategies which have been effective are: Implementing time-management techniques, increasing physical exercise, relaxation training & expanding the social support network. A well organized employee can accomplish twice as much as the person who is poorly organized. So an understanding & utilization of basic time-management principles can help individuals better cope with tensions created by job demands. Some of these time mgt principles are: (i) Making daily lists of activities to be accomplished; (ii) Prioritizing activities by importance & urgency;

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(iii) Scheduling activities according to the priorities set; (iv) Knowing your daily cycle & handling the most demanding parts of your job when you are most alert. Non competitive physical exercises such as aerobics, walking, jogging, swimming & riding a bicycle are highly recommended by physicians as they increase heart capacity & provide mental diversion from work pressures. Individuals can also reduce their tension through relaxation techniques such as meditation & hypnosis. The objective is to reach a state of deep relaxation in which one feels physically relaxed. Having friends, family or work colleagues to talk to provides an outlet when stress levels become excessive. Expanding social support network can be a means for tension reduction.

2. Organizational Approaches: Most of the organizational factors that cause stress are controlled by management. Thus, they can be modified or changed. Strategies that management can use for managing stress may include: Improved personnel selection & job placement, training, realistic goal setting, redesigning of jobs, increased employee involvement, improved organizational communication, offering employee sabbaticals (vacation) & establishment of corporate wellness programs. Since individuals differ in their response to stress situations. Thus, Selection & placement decisions should be done accordingly & similarly training can increase an individual’s self efficacy & thus lessen job strain. Individuals perform better when they have specific & challenging goals & receive feedback on how they are progressing towards these goals.

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Redesigning jobs to give employees more responsibility, more meaningful work, more autonomy & increased feedback can reduce stress as these factors give the employee greater control over work & lessen dependence on others. By giving employees a say in the decisions that directly affect their job performances, mgt can increase employee control & reduce the role stress. So managers should consider Increasing employee Involvement in decision making. Increasing formal orgnl communication with employees reduces uncertainty by lessening role ambiguity & role conflict and thus reducing stress in them. The sabbaticals- ranging in length from a few weeks to several months-allow employees to travel, relax or pursue personal projects that consume time beyond normal vacations.

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Thus these sabbaticals can revive & rejuvenate workers who might be headed for burnout. Organizationally supported Wellness Programs focus on the employees’ total physical & mental condition (Eg. Workshops to help people quit smoking, lose weight, control alcohol use, eat better etc.). Organizations, through these programs, facilitate employees to take personal responsibility for their health and ultimately organizations are significantly benefited by these programs.

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