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Chapter 7

Stress & Well-Being at Work

What is Stress?
Stress - the unconscious preparation to fight or flee
that a person experiences when faced with any
Stressor - the person or event that triggers the stress
Distress - the adverse psychological, physical,
behavioral, and organizational consequences that
may arise as a result of stressful events
Strain - distress
4 Stress Approaches:
Homeostatic/Medical Approach
Homeostasis - a steady
state of bodily functioning
and equilibrium

External environmental
4 Stress Approaches: Cognitive
Appraisal Approach
• Individuals differ in their appraisal of events &
• What is stressful for one person is not for another
• Perception and cognitive appraisal determines
what is stressful
Problem-focused coping Emotion-focused coping
emphasizes managing the emphasizes managing
stressor your response
4 Stress Approaches: Person-
Environment Fit Approach
• No undue stress
Good person-environment fit: a
person’s skills & abilities math a
clearly defined, consistent set of
role expectations.

• Stress, strain, depression

occur when role expectations are
confusing and/or conflicting, or
when the person’s skills & abilities
do not meet the demands of the
social role
4 Stress Approaches:
Psychoanalytic Approach
Ego Ideal - the
embodiments of a
person’s perfect Self-image -
self how a person
sees oneself,
both positively
& negatively

= the difference
The Stress Response

•Blood redirected from the

skin & internal organs to
Release of brain and large muscles
Sympathetic •Increased alertness:
nervous system improved vision hearing, &
& the other sensory responses
endocrine •Release of glucose & fatty
(hormone) system acids for sustenance
into the
activated •Depression of immune
system, digestion, & similar
restorative processes
Stress Sources at Work
Work Demands
Task Demands Role Demands
Change & uncertainty Role conflict:
Lack of control  Interrole
Career progress  Intrarole
New technologies  Person-role
Work overload/underload Role ambiguity
Interpersonal Demands Physical Demands
Abrasive personalities Extreme environments
Sexual harassment Strenuous activities
Leadership styles Hazardous substances
Stress Sources at Work

NonWork Demands
Family Demands Personal Demands
Marital expectations Religious activities
Child-rearing/day care Self-improvement
arrangements tasks
Parental care Traumatic events
Stress Benefits and Costs

Benefits of Healthy, Normal Stress (Eustress)

Performance Health
Increased arousal Cardiovascular efficiency
Bursts of physical strength Enhanced focus in an
Costs of Distress
Individual Organizational
Psychological disorders Participation problems
Medical illnesses Performance decrements
Behavioral problems Compensation awards
Yerkes-Dodson Law
Performance arousal

Low Optimum High
(distress) (eustress) (distress)
Stress level

Boredom from Optimum Conditions Distress from

understimulation stress load perceived overstimulation
as stressful
Positive Stress/Negative Stress
• Stress response itself is neutral
• Some stressful activities (aerobic exercise, etc.)
can enhance a person’s ability to manage
stressful demands or situations
• Stress can provide a needed energy boost
• Negative stress results from
– a prolonged activation of the stress response
– mismanagement of the energy induced by the response
– unique personal vulnerabilities
Individual Stress

Work related psychological disorders

(depression, burnout,
psychosomatic disorders)
Organizational Stress

Participative problems - a cost associated with

absenteeism, tardiness, strikes & work
stoppages, & turnover
Performance decrement - a cost resulting from
poor quality or low quantity of production,
grievances, & unscheduled machine
downtime & repair
Compensation award - an organizational cost
resulting from court awards for job distress
Dealing with Stress

Achilles’ heel
phenomenon - a
person breaks down at
his or her weakest point
Are There Gender-Related

Sexual harassment
Early age fatal health problems
Long term disabling health problems
Type A Behavior Patterns
Type A Behavior Patterns -
a complex of personality
and behavior
– sense of time urgency
“hurry sickness”
– quest for numbers (of
– status insecurity
– aggression & hostility
expressed in response to
frustration & conflict
Personality Hardiness
Personality hardiness - a personality resistant to
distress & characterized by
– challenge (versus threat)
– commitment (versus alienation)
– control (versus powerlessness)
Transformational coping - a way of managing
stressful events by changing them into
subjectively less stressful events (versus
regressive coping - passive avoidance of events
by decreasing interaction with the environment)
Self-reliance - a healthy, secure, interdependent
pattern of behavior related to how people form and
maintain supportive attachments with others
Counterdependence - an unhealthy, insecure
pattern of behavior that leads to separation in
relationships with other people
Overdependence - an unhealthy, insecure pattern of
behavior that leads to preoccupied attempts to
achieve security through relationships.
Preventative Stress Management
Preventative stress management - an organi-
zational philosophy that holds that people &
organizations should take joint responsibility for
promoting health and preventing distress & strain
Primary prevention - designed to reduce, modify, or
eliminate the demand or stressor causing stress
– Secondary prevention - designed to alter or modify the
individual’s or the organizations’ response to a demand
or stressor
– Tertiary prevention - designed to heal individual or
organizational symptoms of distress & strain
Preventative Stress Maintenance
Organizational stressors Primary
• Task demands prevention
• Role demands Health risk factors
• Physical demands
• Interpersonal demands directed

Stress responses
prevention Asymptomatic
• Individual
response disease
• Organizational

Individual problems Tertiary
• Behavioral •Medical prevention Symptomatic
• Psychological symptom disease
Organizational costs
• Direct • Indirect costs
Source: J. D. Quick, R. S. Horn, and J. C. Quick, “Health Consequences of Stress,” Journal of Organizational Behavior Management 8, no. 2, figure 1 (Fall 1986): 21. Reprinted with permission of Haworth Press,
Inc., 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904. Copyright 1986.
Organizational Stress Prevention
• Focuses on people’s work demands
• Focuses on ways to reduce distress at work
• Most organizational prevention is primary
– job redesign
– goal setting
– role negotiation
– social support systems
Job Strain Model
Work load Unresolved
Low High

Self- (ill health)

determination job


B. Gardell, “Efficiency and Health Hazards in Mechanized Work,” in J. C. Quick, R.S. Bhagat, J. E. Dalton, and J. D. Quick, (eds.), Work
Stress: Health Care Systems in the Workplace. Copyright © 1987. Reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.,
Westport, CT.
Social Support at Work & Home
Organizational Family
Supervisor Spouse
Colleagues Children
Subordinates Parents
Clients In-laws

Individual Church
Professional Friends
Physicians Support groups
Business associations
From J. C. Quick J. D. Quick, D. L. Nelson and J. J. Hurrell,
Jr. in Preventive Stress Management in Organizations, 1997,
Social clubs
p. 198. Copyright© 1997 by The American Psychological
Association. Reprinted with permission. Athletic groups
Individual Preventive
Stress Management
Primary Prevention
Learned optimism: Alters the person’s internal self-talk & reduces
Time management: Improves planning & priortizes activities
Leisure time activities: Balance work & nonwork activities
Secondary Prevention
Physical exercise: Improves cardiovascular function & muscular
Relaxation training: Lowers all indicators of the stress response
Diet: Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease &
improves overall physical health
Tertiary Prevention
Opening up: Releases internalized traumas & emotional
Professional help: Provides information, emotional support, &
therapeutic guidance