Organization Stress


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Organization Stress

  1. 1. INTRODUCTION Industrial stress is recognized world-wide as a major challenge to workers’ health and the healthiness of their organizations. Workers who are stressed are also more likely to be unhealthy, poorly motivated, less productive and less safe at work. Their organizations are less likely to be successful in a competitive market. Stress can be brought about by pressures at home and at work. Employers cannot usually protect workers from stress arising outside of work, but they can protect them from stress that arises through work. Stress at work can be a real problem to the organization as well as for its workers. Good management and good work organization are the best forms of stress prevention. If employees are already stressed, their managers should be aware of it and know how to help. The goals of best practice objectives with regard to stress management are to prevent stress happening or, where employees are already experiencing stress, to prevent it from causing serious damage to their health or to the healthiness of their organization. In many countries, legislation obliges employers to take care of the health and safety of their workers. This duty is normally interpreted to include the management of stress-related hazards, work stress and mental as well as physical health outcomes. Employers would be well advised to familiarize themselves with the relevant law in their country. 1 | P a g e
  2. 2. What is Stress? The term “stress”, as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Selye had noted in numerous experiments that laboratory animals subjected to acute but different noxious physical and emotional stimuli (blaring light, deafening noise, extremes of heat or cold, perpetual frustration) all exhibited the same pathologic changes of stomach ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlargement of the adrenals. He later demonstrated that persistent stress could cause these animals to develop various diseases similar to those seen in humans, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, it was believed that most diseases were caused by specific but different pathogens. Tuberculosis was due to the tubercle bacillus, anthrax by the anthrax bacillus, syphilis by a spirochete, etc. What Selye proposed was just the opposite, namely that many different insults could cause the same disease, not only in animals, but in humans as well. Selye’s theories attracted considerable attention and stress soon became a popular buzzword that completely ignored Selye’s original definition. Some people used stress to refer to an overbearing or bad boss or some other unpleasant situation they were subjected to. For many, 2 | P a g e
  3. 3. stress was their reaction to this in the form of chest pain, heartburn, headache or palpitations. Others used stress to refer to what they perceived as the end result of these repeated responses, such as an ulcer or heart attack. Many scientists complained about this confusion and one physician concluded in a 1951 issue of the British Medical Journal that, “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.” Unfortunately, Selye was not aware that stress had been used for centuries in physics to explain elasticity, the property of a material that allows it to resume its original size and shape after having been compressed or stretched by an external force. As expressed in Hooke’s Law of 1658, the magnitude of an external force, or stress, produces a proportional amount of deformation, or strain, in a malleable metal. This created even more confusion when his research had to be translated into foreign languages. There was no suitable word or phrase that could convey what he meant, since he was really describing strain. In 1946, when he was asked to give an address at the prestigious Collège de France, the academicians responsible for maintaining the purity of the French language struggled with this problem for several days, and subsequently decided that a new word would have to be created. Apparently, the male chauvinists prevailed, and le stress was born, quickly followed by el stress, il stress, lo stress, der stress in other European languages, and similar neologisms in Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic. Stress is one of the very few words you will see preserved in English in these and other languages that do not use the Roman alphabet.Because it was apparent that most people viewed stress as some unpleasant threat, Selye subsequently had to create a new word, stressor, to distinguish stimulus from response. Stress was generally considered as being synonymous with distress and dictionaries defined it as “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension” or “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to 3 | P a g e
  4. 4. mobilize.” Thus, stress was put in a negative light and its positive effects ignored. However, stress can be helpful and good when it motivates people to accomplish more. As illustrated to the above, increased stress results in increased productivity – up to a point, after which things go rapidly downhill. However, that point or peak differs for each of us, so you need to be sensitive to the early warning symptoms and signs that suggest a stress overload is starting to push you over the hump. Such signals also differ for each of us and can be so subtle that they are often ignored until it is too late. Not infrequently, others are aware that you may be headed for trouble before you are. Any definition of stress should therefore also include good stress, or what Selye called eustress. For example, winning a race or election can be just as stressful as losing, or more so. A passionate kiss and contemplating what might follow is stressful, but hardly the same as having a root canal procedure. Selye struggled unsuccessfully all his life to find a satisfactory definition of stress. In attempting to extrapolate his animal studies to humans so that people would understand what he meant, he redefined stress as “The rate of wear and tear on the body”. This is actually a pretty good 4 | P a g e
  5. 5. description of biological aging so it is not surprising that increased stress can accelerate many aspects of the aging process. In his later years, when asked to define stress, he told reporters, “Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.” As noted, stress is difficult to define because it is so different for each of us. A good example is afforded by observing passengers on a steep roller coaster ride. Some are hunched down in the back seats, eyes shut, jaws clenched and white knuckled with an iron grip on the retaining bar. They can’t wait for the ride in the torture chamber to end so they can get back on solid ground and scamper away. But up front are the wide-eyed thrill seekers, yelling and relishing each steep plunge who race to get on the very next ride. And in between you may find a few with an air of nonchalance that borders on boredom. So, was the roller coaster ride stressful? The roller coaster analogy is useful in explaining why the same stressor can differ so much for each of us. What distinguished the passengers in the back from those up front was the sense of control they had over the event. While neither group had any more or less control their perceptions and expectations were quite different. Many times we create our own stress because of faulty perceptions you can learn to correct. You can teach people to move from the back of the roller coaster to the front, and, as Eleanor Roosevelt noted, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. While everyone can’t agree on a definition of stress, all of our experimental and clinical research confirms that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful – and that’s what stress is all about. 5 | P a g e
  6. 6. Symptoms of Stress Some of the symptoms of stress are: 6 | P a g e
  7. 7. Types of Stress Stress management can be complicated and confusing because there are different types of stress--acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress -- each with its own characteristics, symptoms, duration, and treatment approaches. Let's look at each one. Acute Stress Acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. A fast run down a challenging ski slope, for example, is exhilarating early in the day. That same ski run late in the day is taxing and wearing. Skiing beyond your limits can lead to falls and broken bones. By the same token, overdoing on short-term stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, upset stomach, and other symptoms. Fortunately, acute stress symptoms are recognized by most people. It's a laundry list of what has gone awry in their lives: the auto accident that crumpled the car fender, the loss of an 7 | P a g e
  8. 8. important contract, a deadline they're rushing to meet, their child's occasional problems at school, and so on. Because it is short term, acute stress doesn't have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress. The most common symptoms are: • emotional distress--some combination of anger or irritability, anxiety, and depression, the three stress emotions; • muscular problems including tension headache, back pain, jaw pain, and the muscular tensions that lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems; • stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome; • transient over arousal leads to elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, migraine headaches, cold hands or feet, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Acute stress can crop up in anyone's life, and it is highly treatable and manageable. Episodic Acute Stress There are those, however, who suffer acute stress frequently, whose lives are so disordered that they are studies in chaos and crisis. They're always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong, it does. They take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and can't organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures clamoring for their attention. They seem perpetually in the clutches of acute stress. It is common for people with acute stress reactions to be over aroused, short-tempered, irritable, anxious, and tense. Often, they describe themselves as having "a lot of nervous energy." Always in a hurry, they tend to be abrupt, and sometimes their irritability comes 8 | P a g e
  9. 9. across as hostility. Interpersonal relationships deteriorate rapidly when others respond with real hostility. The work becomes a very stressful place for them. The cardiac prone, "Type A" personality described by cardiologists, Meter Friedman and Ray Rosenman, is similar to an extreme case of episodic acute stress. Type A's have an "excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency." In addition there is a "free-floating, but well-rationalized form of hostility, and almost always a deep-seated insecurity." Such personality characteristics would seem to create frequent episodes of acute stress for the Type A individual. Friedman and Rosenman found Type A's to be much more likely to develop coronary heat disease than Type B's, who show an opposite pattern of behavior. Another form of episodic acute stress comes from ceaseless worry. "Worry warts" see disaster around every corner and pessimistically forecast catastrophe in every situation. The world is a dangerous, unrewarding, punitive place where something awful is always about to happen. These "awfulizers" also tend to be over aroused and tense, but are more anxious and depressed than angry and hostile. The symptoms of episodic acute stress are the symptoms of extended over arousal: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. Treating episodic acute stress requires intervention on a number of levels, generally requiring professional help, which may take many months. Often, lifestyle and personality issues are so ingrained and habitual with these individuals that they see nothing wrong with the way they conduct their lives. They blame their woes on other people and external events. Frequently, they see their lifestyle, their patterns of interacting with others, and their ways of perceiving the world as part and parcel of who and what they are. 9 | P a g e
  10. 10. Sufferers can be fiercely resistant to change. Only the promise of relief from pain and discomfort of their symptoms can keep them in treatment and on track in their recovery program. Chronic Stress While acute stress can be thrilling and exciting, chronic stress is not. This is the grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It wreaks havoc through long-term attrition. It's the stress of poverty, of dysfunctional families, of being trapped in an unhappy marriage or in a despised job or career. It's the stress that the never-ending "troubles" have brought to the people of Northern Ireland, the tensions of the Middle East have brought to the Arab and Jew, and the endless ethnic rivalries that have been brought to the people of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. It's the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time. With no hope, the individual gives up searching for solutions. Some chronic stresses stem from traumatic, early childhood experiences that become internalized and remain forever painful and present. Some experiences profoundly affect personality. A view of the world, or a belief system, is created that causes unending stress for the individual (e.g., the world is a threatening place, people will find out you are a pretender, you must be perfect at all times). When personality or deep-seated convictions and beliefs must be reformulated, recovery requires active self-examination, often with professional help. The worst aspect of chronic stress is that people get used to it. They forget it's there. People are immediately aware of acute stress because it is new; they ignore chronic stress because it is old, familiar, and sometimes, almost comfortable. Chronic stress kills through suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke, and, perhaps, even cancer. People wear down to a final, fatal breakdown. Because physical and mental resources are 10 | P a g e
  11. 11. depleted through long-term attrition, the symptoms of chronic stress are difficult to treat and may require extended medical as well as behavioral treatment and stress management. What is Organizational Stress? There is relatively little research on the causes and the implications of organizational stress, and there is no one acceptable definition. We consid er organizational stress to be the result of those factors in an organization that cause stress for the individual employee, and in turn, have negative organizational consequences. For example, because of organizational needs or changes, factors such as increased workloads or changes in reporting relationships may occur. Such changes to the organizational climate or structure may precipitate a stressful environment among the employees. The employees’ stress may cause negative consequences, including absenteeism, burnout, lack of trust, performance problems, or an erosion of positive communication and interaction. 11 | P a g e
  12. 12. THE NATURE OF JOB-RELATED STRESS Sources of job-related stress (Potential Stressors) 1. Job or occupation – the research has shown that there are occupational differences when it comes to stress. Some certain occupations are much more stressful than some other ones. Laborers, secretaries, lab technicians, first-line supervisors, managers, waitresses or waiters, and machine operators belong to the most stressful occupations. Some helping professions such as police, fire fighters, nurses, and social workers are stressful too. Because of the high level of stress caused by these occupations, there have been some magazines published which are exclusively related to stress, like for example “Police Stress” magazine. There are many reasons why these occupations are stressful and some of them are: uncertainty about the situation (patient’s health), interpersonal problems with coworkers, work overload, little support from supervisors, incompetent coworkers, etc. One occupation that is mentioned here as very stressful is managerial work. A quantitative job stressor is work overload which increases alcohol consumption and lowers the motivation, causes anxiety and depression and sometimes even coronary heart disease. A qualitative stressor is qualitative work which is required in these positions. 12 | P a g e
  13. 13. As it is obvious from the examples, stressful jobs are mostly concentrated on the lower levels of the organizations. 2. Environmental stressors- Some occupations require activities in traditional industrial environments such as factories. In such cases workers (blue-collars) are exposed to very difficult environmental conditions (high temperatures and noise) and repetitive activities which lead to feelings of boredom and monotony. Noise- has many negative effects on workers. The most severe one is permanent hearing loss. It can also affect performance in cases when the level of noise is very very high and when the tasks are demanding. Temperature- extreme temperature conditions can be very stressful. Performance is deteriorated under hot temperatures during physical tasks. For demanding mental tasks, performance deteriorates under heat exposure, particularly when two or more tasks are timeshared or performed simultaneously. Cold exposure can be a problem too. Apart from health risks, little is known about its effect on performance. We know for sure that manual performance is severely affected by cold temperatures (finger dexterity). Repetition- repetitive and routinized tasks are associated with monotony and boredom, negative attitudes toward work, etc. machine-paced jobs are especially stressful and cause depression, job dissatisfaction and anxiety apart from stress. This happens because workers have no control over work. Because these factors influence physical health of workers, governments often regulate the levels of exposure to these stressors in industrial settings. 3. Organizational stressors- white-collar stressors are usually related to the worker’s role in the organization. The most common organizational stressors are failure in role-sending and role- taking. The role-based stressors most frequently studies are: 13 | P a g e
  14. 14. · Role conflict-occurs when role demands are in conflict. There are three types of role conflict: o Intrasender conflict – occurs when one person communicates a mixed or conflicting message (for ex.increase productivity but cut back overtime) o Intrersender conflict – two or more people send conflicting messages ( for ex. when a worker has more than one supervisor, satisfying one of them, means neglecting the other/s) o Interrole conflict - two or more roles conflict for one person ( for ex. a woman may find her roles as parent, worker, wife, and student conflict) · Role ambiguity – results when role demands are unclear or unknown; there is inadequate or confusing information about how to perform the task; or ambiguity about how you will be evaluated in your role (for ex. when we don’t know how the professor is going to determine our course grade, we experience evaluation ambiguity) · Interpersonal problems with coworkers - is another work role stressor. This is more common for managers, whose role includes responsibility. The risk of failure results in personal and professional trauma. Problems with coworkers usually have a negative impact on the communication process which leads to role ambiguity and low job satisfaction. 4. Nonwork stressors – many factors outside of work can influence the effectiveness at work. Personal problems for example have a great impact on our performance. There are three general perspectives which try to explain the relationship of job and life satisfaction: o Spillover- problems outside of work spill over into work life (personal problems, financial problems, etc.) o Compensation- one environment compensates for deficiencies in the other (a man who has marital problems immerses himself in projects at work) 14 | P a g e
  15. 15. o Independence- problems in one environment do not affect the other All three strategies have found support from researchers, although the first one is the most favored one. Another problem which is important in this section is the problem of dual career couples. These couples face a lot of problems since both partners work and often there are dilemmas on who should take care of children and how to balance the demands of home and work. There are three general classes of stressors that affect these couples: 1. The firs occurs because of conflicts between personal and job-related expectations 2. The second one arises from ambiguity about effective role-related behaviors; partners don’t know how to satisfy all the demands placed on them 3. The third one involves the extreme overload that arises from having too many personal, family, and work demands. WHAT IS INDUSTRIAL STRESS? 15 | P a g e
  16. 16. Industrial stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope. Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues and where they have little control over work or how they can cope with its demands and pressures. Stress results from a mismatch between the demands and pressures on the person, on the one hand, and their knowledge and abilities, on the other. It challenges their ability to cope with work. This includes not only situations where the pressures of work exceed the worker’s ability to cope but also where the worker’s knowledge and abilities are not sufficiently utilized and that is a problem for them. A healthy job is likely to be one where the pressures on employees are appropriate in relation to their abilities and resources, to the amount of control they have over their work, and to the support they receive from people who matter to them. As health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity but a positive state of complete physical, mental and social well-being a healthy working environment is one in which there is not only an absence of harmful conditions but an abundance of health promoting ones. These may include continuous assessment of risks to health, the provision of appropriate information and training on health issues and the availability of health promoting organizational support practices and structures. A healthy work environment is one in which staff have made health and health promotion a priority and part of their working lives. 16 | P a g e
  17. 17. Work-related stress and industrial relations Stress is one of the most common work-related health problems in Europe. This comparative study examines work-related stress as an issue in industrial relations in the EU Member States and Norway. It outlines the regulatory framework, the extent to which stress is an issue in collective bargaining, and the views and actions of the social partners and public authorities. The study finds that stress is rarely dealt with specifically in health and safety legislation and is an issue in collective bargaining in only a few countries. Stress is a matter of increasing importance for trade unions and for some employers' organisations, but overall it is still an 'invisible' issue in industrial relations, at least with regard to effective preventive action. There are, however, signs that this may change in future. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions' third European survey on working conditions (2000) (EU0101292F) found that the second most common work-related health problem (after back pain) across the European Union is stress, which is reported by 28% of workers (the same figure as found by the second survey in 1995). There were found to be strong correlations between stress and features of work organisation such as repetitive work and pace of work. This comparative study seeks to examine work-related stress, related to work organisation, as an issue in industrial relations (the stress referred to in the study is 'negative' stress, rather than 'positive' stress - ie harmful and unwanted stress). According to the European Commission (Guidance on work-related stress), work-related stress can be defined as 'a pattern of emotional, cognitive, behavioural and physiological reactions to adverse and noxious aspects of work content, work organisation and work environment. It is a state characterised by high levels of arousal and distress and often by feelings of not coping.' 17 | P a g e
  18. 18. Again according to the European Commission, 'stress is caused by a poor match between us and our work, by conflicts between our roles at work and outside it, and by not having a reasonable degree of control over our own work and our own life.' Common stressors include: • over- and underload; • inadequate time to complete work; • lack of a clear job description, or chain of command; • no recognition, or reward, for good job performance; • no opportunity to voice complaints; • many responsibilities, but little authority or decision-making capacity; • uncooperative or unsupportive superiors, co-workers, or subordinates; • no control, or pride, over the finished product of work; • job insecurity and no permanence of position; • exposure to prejudice regarding age, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion; • exposure to violence, threats or bullying; • unpleasant or hazardous physical work conditions; • no opportunity to utilise personal talents or abilities effectively; or • chances of a small error or momentary lapse of attention having serious consequences. 18 | P a g e
  19. 19. Recognition of stress In no country examined is stress included in the official lists of occupational illnesses drawn up by the relevant authorities, and therefore there is no automatic right to monetary compensation for those affected. The only exception is in cases in which persons have been submitted to a violent situation due to their work that has led them to suffer post-traumatic stress - this applies in Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal (specifically for members of the army who have taken part in wars). In the absence of its inclusion on such lists, stress may be recognised as an occupational disease through two main channels - the epidemiological method and/or through the courts. In the first case, legislation allows an illness to be recognised as a heath problem arising from work when the working conditions have a major – though not exclusive - influence, because illnesses do not tend to have a single cause. However, despite this open definition, not all countries of the European Union have suitable mechanisms for this recognition to be possible. Only in countries that have a mixed system of recognition of occupational illnesses - ie a fixed list of recognised diseases, plus the option for workers to prove a link between between their illness and their work - can the workers avoid going to court to obtain recognition of a work-related illness that is not in the list of occupational illnesses. Medical reports (as in the Netherlands and Norway) and scientific research (as in Austria and Denmark) assessing the influence of work in an illness may be used in some countries to determine that a harm arises from the working conditions, and stress-related harm may therefore be subject to this type of assessment. The problem is that in these countries there are major variations between sectors and occupations on how reports of these types are drawn up. 19 | P a g e
  20. 20. In the remaining countries, the only way to obtain recognition for the negative nature of psycho-social risk factors and stress and their relation to employment is through the courts. The courts may consider such harm as industrial accidents (as they do in almost all countries), or as illnesses arising from work. In the UK, Ireland and Italy, the courts have considered psycho-social risk factors and work- related stress and the illnesses arising from them as occupational illnesses. In the UK, in 1996, a social worker was the first person to claim successfully in court that their employer was responsible for a nervous breakdown suffered due to overwork. He was awarded the right to retire due to illness. In 1999, Birmingham City Council became the first employer to accept responsibility for damage to health caused by stress suffered by a worker when she was moved to a new job for which she had neither experience nor qualifications; in this case the council paid compensation to the worker (of GBP 67,000). In Ireland, the Labour Court recently issued a Recommendation (LCR15820) after trying a case of work-related stress in which the worker received financial compensation (of IRP 500). This Recommendation stipulates that work-related stress is recognised as a question of health and safety and that employers are obliged to deal with it and to take suitable measures. If measures are not taken, the employer will be considered responsible. Informal measures will not be accepted. Any psychological damage arising from the employer's failure to comply with this Recommendation may result in the obligation to pay substantial compensation. 20 | P a g e
  21. 21. In Italy, two judgments by the Corte di Cassazione (the third most important court in the Italian legal system) deal with stress. In the first, Cassazione 3970/99, the Court considered that a work-related accident was caused by stress. The Court determined that an incident in which a worker was run over by a car when he was going to catch the bus home at the end of his working day was a work-related accident. It was found that the worker was suffering from stress and crossed the road without looking because he had done a long working day. In the second, Cassazione 1307/2000, the court found that the company, Bari Trade Fair, should compensate a worker for a heart attack caused by an excessive workload resulting from staffing cuts, which forced the worker to work excessively long hours. However, in some countries it is still required that occupational illnesses should be unquestionably and specifically related to the job (as in Luxembourg and Portugal) or that this relationship with the job must be the cause of death or permanent incapacity (as in France). The Netherlands is a particular case because social security legislation does not distinguish between general and work-related illnesses. However, the Centre for Occupational Illnesses has drawn up specific guides for evaluating work-related stress and distinguishing general psychological disorders from work-related ones. The Norwegian legislation is also notable in that it states explicitly that the damage caused by fatigue, or the mental suffering caused by continuous effort, may not be considered within the scope of the legislation on occupational illnesses, unless a medical report states otherwise. It might be argued that in most EU Member States, damage to physical or mental health caused by psycho-social risk factors or stress tends to go unnoticed, or to be catalogued as general, or non-work related, illnesses. 21 | P a g e
  22. 22. Trade unions and stress In recent years, psycho-social risk factors, and in particular stress, have occupied an important place on trade unions' agendas. Research, information and advice, publications, training and campaigns are the main actions by the trade unions in relation to stress. Many unions, or institutes or centres linked to them, are carrying out research to identify the effects and causes of stress. The main conclusion is that stress is becoming one of the main problems of health and safety at work in Europe. To quote some examples, in a survey of 8,000 safety representatives carried out in 2000 by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the UK, over 60% mentioned stress as the main health risk at their workplace. In a survey of works councils conducted in 2000 by Germany's IG Metall metalworkers' union, 98% stated that stress and pressure at work had increased in recent years. The research carried out by the trade unions clearly links stress with work organisation and relations at work. The abovementioned research by the TUC states that the main causes of stress are heavy workloads and long working days, unpaid overtime, staffing cuts in companies and bullying. Research by Greek unions also identifies factors such as high demands arising from lack of time available to complete the work, lack of a correct job description, a poor chain of command, lack of recognition, the impossibility of complaining, routine and monotonous jobs with little room for creativity, and lack of safety at work Another important area of trade union activity is providing information, advice and training on the prevention of psycho-social risks, aimed particularly at workers' representatives or safety representatives. Trade union publications and guides on health and safety at work, including stress, and guides on the prevention of psycho-social risks are considered to be an important means of training workers who have a poor health and safety culture with regard to this type of risk, because they have traditionally concentrated on physical and chemical risks. Another common practice is the introduction of specific modules on psycho-social risks in the training courses for safety representatives. 22 | P a g e
  23. 23. The above summarises most of the action taken by the main trade unions in Europe, with certain variations. Additional areas where there may be differences in types of action are related to the unions' collective bargaining demands, social dialogue and campaigns to modify existing regulations. Also, due to the different institutional and regulatory contexts, in some countries there is concertation between the social partners and the government on dealing with, or regulating the prevention of, psycho-social risks in companies, whereas in others stress is an 'invisible' issue in industrial relations, or action is limited to trade union activities that do not have a great impact on the public. In the countries where stress appears as an issue in collective bargaining (notably Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK), the aim of the trade unions is essentially to achieve agreed provisions on stress prevention or to take indirect action on psycho-social risk factors by introducing provisions on relevant aspects of work organisation (such as workload and intensity of work, breaks and rest areas). In relation to attempts to modify the legislation in this area, one of the recurring demands of the trade unions is to include stress or mental illness in the list of recognised occupational illnesses, which would thus recognise the right of the employees affected to sick leave and medical services. For example, this has been proposed in France, Norway, Portugal . In countries that are currently undergoing a reform of their legislation on health and safety at work, the trade unions are considering the need to go further in the prevention of psycho-social risk factors. This is the case in Austria, where the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) wants a reformulation of the Employee Protection Act to include: the availability of professional psychologists for workers who suffer stress at work; special psychological care for health and social service workers, who are subject to a high level of psycho-social risk; specific psychological training for company doctors; a clear division of prevention tasks between health and safety experts, company doctors and other experts, especially occupational psychologists; and integration of stress assessment and prevention. 23 | P a g e
  24. 24. In Norway, the the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) is seeking the review and reform of current legislation to include the relationship between work organisation and psycho-social risks. It also considers it necessary to place the physical and the mental health of workers on the same level, and to give safety representatives powers to stop the work when the mental health of the workers is endangered. Employers' organisations and stress Whereas stress has recently been included in the agenda and activities of most trade unions, the approach taken employers' organisations is far more heterogeneous, not only with regard to the activities carried out but also with regard to the perception and assessment of the problems. In a large number of European countries, including Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, the main employers' organisations do not carry out any type of specific activity related to stress. The main reasons put forward for this are that either they do not have figures to assess the extent of the problem or they consider stress to be essentially an individual problem for workers, that affects their health and their activity but is not linked to the working environment. 24 | P a g e
  25. 25. In other countries, though the personal problems of the employees are underlined as a factor, employers do not deny that stress is linked to work organisation, working conditions and the working environment. The effect of stress on the health of workers, and on activity, productivity, motivation and involuntary absence from work is a subject of concern for the employers' organisations. This concern leads employers' organisations to issue publications and guides, to carry out research, and to organise conferences and seminars on the subject. For example, the the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) believes that not all situations of stress are open to preventive action by the company, but does recognise that the employers can play a major role in reducing stress by introducing measures to minimise its causes or to support the affected workers. Guides for companies have been published on how to recognise specific signs of stress in workers, and also on how to approach and prevent the problems of stress in the workplace. Other countries in which some employers' organisations have issued specific guides and publications to deal with stress or psycho-social risk factors in the company include Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. Another example that shows the interest of employers' organisations in the issue and their different possibilities for providing information and instruments for dealing with workplace stress is the recent organisation of a symposium by the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (Fédération des Entreprises de Belgique/Verbond van Belgische Ondernemingen, FEB/VBO) on specific examples of good company practice on the eradication of stress. 25 | P a g e
  26. 26. Public authorities and stress The action of public administrations with regard to work-related stress are generally articulated through a diverse set of bodies with competences in different areas of action. However, with the exception of some initiatives related to dissemination, awareness-raising and advice on stress, and a few research centres or institutes, the action of public authorities seems fairly limited in many countries. Specific programmes, action plans and campaigns to promote the prevention of stress and psycho-social risks in companies, in some cases designed and implemented in concertation with the social partners, have been introduced in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Another of the main potential areas of action is the activities of the national labour inspectorate or equivalent body. Though such bodies are generally formally empowered to act on psycho-social risk factors, there is general agreement that the action of labour inspectorates in this area is limited. In some cases, this is due to a lack of resources, or the fact that the wide range of activities that the inspectorates have to carry out in companies leaves no room for action on stress. In other cases, it is argued that inspection of psycho-social risks is more difficult than that of other physical factors, or that the inspectorate staff have insufficient training in this area. 26 | P a g e
  27. 27. WHAT CAUSES STRESS? Poor work organization that is the way we design jobs and work systems, and the way we manage them, can cause work stress. Excessive and otherwise unmanageable demands and pressures can be caused by poor work design, poor management and unsatisfactory working conditions. Similarly, these things can result in workers not receiving sufficient support from others or not having enough control over their work and its pressures. Research findings show that the most stressful type of work is that which values excessive demands and pressures that are not matched to workers’ knowledge and abilities, where there is little opportunity to exercise any choice or control, and where there is little support from others. The more the demands and pressures of work are matched to the knowledge and abilities of workers, the less likely they are to experience work stress. The more support workers receive from others at work, or in relation to work, the less likely they are to experience work stress. The more control workers have over their work and the way they do it and the more they participate in decisions that concern their jobs, the less likely they are to experience work stress. Most of the causes of work stress concern the way work is designed and the way in which organizations are managed. Because these aspects of work have the potential for causing harm, they are called ‘stress-related hazards’. The literature on stress generally recognizes nine 27 | P a g e
  28. 28. categories of stress-related hazards and these are listed in Table I. One should keep in mind, though, that some of these hazards may not be universal or may not be considered harmful in Specific cultures. Stress-related Hazards Work Content: Job Content • Monotonous, under-stimulating, meaningless tasks • Lack of variety • Unpleasant tasks • Aversive tasks Workload and Work pace • Having too much or too little to do • Working under time pressures Working Hours • Strict and inflexible working schedules • Long and unsocial hours • Unpredictable working hours • Badly designed shift systems Participation and Control • Lack of participation in decision making • Lack of control (for example, over work methods, work pace, working hours and the work environment) Work Context: 28 | P a g e
  29. 29. Career Development, Status and Pay • Job insecurity • Lack of promotion prospects • Under-promotion or over-promotion • Work of ‘low social value’ • Piece rate payments schemes • Unclear or unfair performance evaluation systems • Being over-skilled or under-skilled for the job Role in the Organization • Unclear role • Conflicting roles within the same job • Responsibility for people • Continuously dealing with other people and their problems Interpersonal Relationships • Inadequate, inconsiderate or unsupportive supervision • Poor relationships with co-workers • Bullying, harassment and violence • Isolated or solitary work • No agreed procedures for dealing with problems or complaints Organizational Culture • Poor communication • Poor leadership • Lack of clarity about organizational objectives and structure Home-Work Interface • Conflicting demands of work and home • Lack of support for domestic problems at work • Lack of support for work problems at home THE EFFECTS OF STRESS 29 | P a g e
  30. 30. Stress affects different people in different ways. The experience of work stress can cause unusual and dysfunctional behavior at work and contribute to poor physical and mental health. In extreme cases, long-term stress or traumatic events at work may lead to psychological problems and be conductive to psychiatric disorders resulting in absence from work and preventing the worker from being able to work again. When under stress, people find it difficult to maintain a healthy balance between work and nonwork life. At the same time, they may engage in unhealthy activities, such as smoking drinking and abusing drugs. Stress may also affect the immune system, impairing people’s ability to fight infections. If key staff or a large number of workers are affected, work stress may challenge the healthiness and performance of their organization. Unhealthy organizations do not get the best from their workers and this may affect not only their performance in the increasingly competitive market but eventually even their survival. Work stress is thought to affect organizations by: • Increasing absenteeism • Decreasing commitment to work • Increasing staff turn-over • Impairing performance and productivity • Increasing unsafe working practices and accident rates • Increasing complaints from clients and customers • Adversely affecting staff recruitment • Increasing liability to legal claims and actions by stressed workers • Damaging the organization’s image both among its workers and externally. THE PREVENTION OF STRESS 30 | P a g e
  31. 31. There are a number of ways by which the risk of work stress can be reduced. These include: Primary prevention, reducing stress through: • ergonomics, • work and environmental design, • organizational and management development, Secondary prevention, reducing stress through: • worker education and training, and Tertiary prevention, reducing the impact of stress by: • developing more sensitive and responsive management systems and enhanced occupational health provision. The organization itself is a generator of different types of risk. Tertiary prevention in organizations places an emphasis on the provision of responsive and efficient occupational health services. Contemporary work stress management should, therefore, encompass tertiary Prevention. 31 | P a g e
  32. 32. A good employer designs and manages work in a way that avoids common risk factors for stress and prevents as much as possible foreseeable problems. Well-designed work should include: Clear organizational structure and practices Employees should be provided with clear information about the structure, purpose and practices of the organization. Appropriate selection, training and staff development Each employee’s skills, knowledge and abilities should be matched as much as possible to the needs of each job. Candidates for each job should be assessed against that job’s requirements. Where necessary, suitable training should be provided. Effective supervision and guidance is important and can help protect staff from stress. Job descriptions A job description will depend on an understanding of the policy, objectives and strategy of the organization, on the purpose and organization of work and on the way performance will be measured. Job descriptions have to be clear It is important that an employee’s manager and other key staff are aware of the relevant details of the job and make sure that demands are appropriate. The better employees understand their job, the more they will be able to direct the appropriate efforts towards doing it well. Communication Managers should talk to their staff, listen to them and make it clear that they have been heard. Communication of work expectations should be comprehensible, consistent with the job description and complete. Commitments made to staff should be clear and should be kept. Social environment A reasonable level of socializing and teamwork is often productive as it can help increase commitment to work and to the work group. In an existing workplace it may be far from reasonable to expect all these factors to be present or introduced where they are absent. It might therefore be better to identify any mismatch between demands and pressures, on the one hand, and workers knowledge and abilities, on the other, set priorities for change and manage the change towards risk reduction. 32 | P a g e
  33. 33. SOLVING WORK STRESS PROBLEMS IN ORGANIZATION There are various strategies to solve work stress problems. Work redesign The best strategies for work redesign focus on demands, knowledge and abilities, support and control and include: • Changing the demands of work (e.g. by changing the way the job is done or the working environment, sharing the workload differently). • Ensure that employees have or develop the appropriate knowledge and abilities to perform their jobs effectively (e.g. by selecting and training them properly and by reviewing their progress regularly). • Improve employees’ control over the way they do their work (e.g. introduce flexi-time, job-sharing, more consultation about working practices). • Increase the amount and quality of support they receive (e.g. introduce ‘people management’ training schemes for supervisors, allow interaction among employees, and encourage cooperation and teamwork). 33 | P a g e
  34. 34. Stress Management Training • Ask employees to attend classes on relaxation, time management, assertiveness training or exercise. Ergonomics and Environmental Design • Improve equipment used at work and physical working conditions. Management Development • Improve managers’ attitudes towards dealing with work stress, their knowledge and understanding of it and their skills to deal with the issue as effectively as possible. Organizational Development • Implement better work systems and management systems. Develop a more friendly and supportive culture. There are basically three ways by which employers can detect problems early and prevent them from becoming serious. These are presented below. Early detection and prevention of work stress-related problems: • Regularly monitoring staff satisfaction and health. • Making sure staff know whom to talk to about problems. • Knowing where to refer employees to for professional help when they appear to be experiencing real difficulties. Small businesses would perhaps refer in the first instance to their employees’ General Practitioner. Larger businesses may have access to their own occupational health service or Employee Assistance Programme. It is essential that you take steps to confirm the effectiveness of the measures you have taken to correct work stress. You should follow up your findings after a suitable period and compare them with your earlier findings and interpretation at the time of the initial assessment. Your method of follow-up should be recorded and explained. If necessary, you may have to revise your approach to work stress problems. CARING FOR TROUBLED WORKERS 34 | P a g e
  35. 35. This is tertiary prevention to work stress. When all efforts towards preventing work stress and controlling foreseeable risk have failed, you need to act swiftly and appropriately to deal with workers who are being hurt by the experience of work stress. You will be involved both in identifying employees in trouble and in managing their problem. In cases that cannot be handled by the employer or manager, expert assistance should be sought. Steps of tertiary prevention of work stress: Identifying the problem • Work stress is usually revealed by observations of worker difficulties or worker complaints of difficulties and ill health. • Signs include irritability, aggression, errors, decreased performance, increases in smoking, drinking and substance abuse, higher levels of absenteeism and clients’ complaints. • You should look for any changes in workers’ behavior or health. Such warning signs should never be ignored. Where these signs coincide with excessive work pressures or demands, you should consider that the workers may be suffering from work stress. What should you do to help? • An individual worker’s problems and the solutions to those problems should be discussed with the worker, described and agreed. • Timing of such discussions may depend on worker’s state of wellbeing. • Possible interventions, both individual (e.g. training, medical treatment, counselling) and organizational (e.g. job re-design, changes in management practices) should be planned, implemented and evaluated. Records • Careful records should be kept, and progress evaluated. • Records should be accurate, deal with facts and points of evidence. Opinions and judgments should not be represented as facts. • Proposed actions and the reasons for their selections should be agreed where possible and recorded. 35 | P a g e
  36. 36. EFFECT OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE Organizational culture is one of the key factors in determining how successful an organization will be in managing work stress. Organizational culture is reflected in the attitudes of staff, their shared beliefs about the organization, their shared value systems and common and approved ways of behaving at work. Organizational culture also concerns how problems are recognized and solved. It can affect what is experienced as stressful, how that experience translates into health difficulties, how both stress and health are reported and how the organization responds to such reports. Employers, managers and trade union representatives must therefore become aware of the culture of an organization, and explore it in relation to the management of work stress. If necessary, these parties must engage in culture change activities as an important aspect of improving the management of stress at work. RESOURCE FOR MANAGING STRESS All employers should carefully consider the systems that they have in place for assessing, preventing and otherwise managing work stress. You must be aware of your organization’s systems and resources for managing stress. Internal resources may include occupational health services, human resource management (personnel), training departments or other individuals with responsibility for staff well-being and health. 36 | P a g e
  37. 37. Individual problems which are complex, difficult and not manageable internally are best dealt with by a counseling psychologist, clinical psychologist, counselor, or an occupational physician who may consult with a general practitioner or other specialist functions as deemed necessary. Identification of any groups at risk within your organization is crucial and should accompany the examination of available organizational resources for managing work stress. Figure: Natural Stress managing Figure: Tips of Stress Management CONCLUSION Industrial stress is a real challenge for workers and their employing organizations. As organizations and their working environment transform, so do the kinds of stress problems that employees may face. It is important that your workplace is being continuously monitored for stress problems. Further, it is not only important to identify stress problems and to deal with them but to promote healthy work and reduce harmful aspects of work. Work in itself can be a self- 37 | P a g e
  38. 38. promoting activity as long as it takes place in a safe, development- and health-promoting environment. The reason is clearly that stress is an important stimulus of human growth and creativity. When managed well, stressors can an opportunities for people to be fully aware of their own shortcomings and to change for improvement. As organizations and their working environment transform, so do the kinds of stress problems that employees may face. It is important that your workplace is being continuously monitored for stress problems. The goals of best practice objectives with regard to stress management are to prevent stress happening or, where employees are already experiencing stress, to prevent it from causing serious damage to their health or to the healthiness of their organization. In many countries, legislation obliges employers to take care of the health and safety of their workers. This duty is normally interpreted to include the management of stress-related hazards, work stress and mental as well as physical health outcomes. Employers would be well advised to familiarize themselves with the relevant law in their country. REFERENCE Cooper, CL, Liukkonen, P. & Cartwright, S. (1996) Stress prevention in the workplace: assessing the costs and benefits to organizations. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Cox, T., & Cox, S. (1993) Psychosocial and Organizational Hazards: 38 | P a g e
  39. 39. Monitoring and Control. Occasional Series in Occupational Health, No.5. World Health Organization (Europe), Copenhagen, Denmark. stress. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. ISBN: 92- 828-9255-7. International Labour Organization [ILO] (1986) Psychosocial Factors at Work: Recognition and Control. Occupational Safety and Health Series no: 56, International Labour Office, Geneva. International Labour Organization [ILO] (1992) Preventing Stress at Work. Conditions of Work Digest, 11, International Labour Office, Geneva. 39 | P a g e