Stress comes in many forms and from many places – work, school, family and even from yourself. Stress ranges from a mild irritation, such as being late to class, all the way to a major catastrophe, such as a death in the family. The point is to learn how to handle the stress before it becomes a problem and interferes with your life. In my training to be a counselor at the crisis center in Dallas, they refer to stress in terms of pounds. Everyone can handle 500 pounds (a random number of course), but once the 501 st pound is piled on, it’s too much – and it doesn’t matter if that additional pound is breaking a nail, missing a meeting or even divorce. The fact is, we can only handle a certain level of stress and anything above and beyond that amount will affect us in one form or another.
This is a very important concept to realize. Management sometimes places pressures on workers that we in turn feel obligated to handle; however, as an employee (and an individual) we need to be able to realize our limitations and know the difference between: Stress and challenges Healthy and unhealthy levels of stress Short term and long term stress When assignments have a negative impact
Being overworked is a major contributor to stress. Especially in today’s economy when tasks are being merged and combined, employees find themselves being pulled in several directions and in some cases, with too many tasks with unclear goals. As we have learned in this class, this leads to anxiety and stress. Furthermore, companies often do not put forth the effort needed to design missions, goals and tasks in such a fashion so that employees can easily follow them and complete their workload in an effective and efficient manner. Impending layoffs can certainly induce stress. In times of recession, as we are experiencing now, employees often find themselves “waiting for the other shoe to drop” at which time they will be let go. This impending feeling of doom has a negative impact on an employees mental health, their productivity and their emotional well being. Being in the wrong career is very frustrating. It can cause an employee to feel unappreciated, under (or over) utilized, and extremely stressed. If action is not taken to correct the situation, the negative feelings will only continue, which will in turn increase the problems. Conflict with your boss or co-workers makes going to work each day a difficult struggle. I’m sure we’ve all been there at least once. Each morning you wake up and you dread going to work. You wonder what bad things will happen and immediately the stress begins. This on-going stress and negative environment will lead to unhealthy levels of stress, frustration and fatigue. As we’ve learned in this course, and maybe as some of us have experienced, job dissatisfaction leads to reduced productivity, moral and effectiveness as well as increased anxiety, frustration and stress. Obviously, this is not a good mixture. A healthy environment and productive workplace involves a high level of job satisfaction and appreciation. If you aren’t satisfied with your job, you are not likely to produce quality results. This in turn will result in “the slippery slope” that begins a downward spiral, which is a definite cause of stress.
Things to consider when putting a dollar amount to the cost of employee stress: 1) Absenteeism – studies have shown that workers experiencing high stress were over two times more likely to be absent more than five times per year. This also causes lost productivity and replacement costs which makes absenteeism an even more costly consequence. 2) Workers Compensation Claims – Lately, stress-related claims have skyrocketed. The California Workers' Compensation Institute (CWCI) reports that the number of workers compensation claims for mental stress increased by almost 700 percent between 1979 and 1988. Nine out of ten stress claimants ended up receiving compensation benefits. In Maine, workers compensation claims have increased by 1,000 percent since 1985, according to Bureau of Labor Standards statistics. 3) Litigation - Litigation is more popular than ever, both in workers compensation and in employer-employee relations. In our litigious society, many organizations are reluctant to identify and address worker stress, fearing that admitting workers are stressed would provide &quot;ammunition&quot; for employee lawsuits; however, there is a better likelihood of litigation if a company ignores stress-related problems than if it addresses them up-front. 4) Accidents - Stressed-out employees trying to do more with less are also likely to take shortcuts which lead to accidents. &quot;With increasing work demands and time pressures, people are less likely to take safety precautions, use proper equipment, and implement appropriate body mechanics,&quot; states Jonathon Torres, M.D., of Worked Occupational Health Services. Workers who report high stress are 30 percent more likely to have accidents than those with low stress. Stress-related accident claims are, on average, two times more costly than non-stress-related cases, reports the Harvard Business Review.
More than half of 500 managers from both large and small companies surveyed in 1994 reported incidents and threats of violence in the previous four years, according to a study by the American Management Association. Homicide accounted for 17 percent of all deaths in the workplace. A study by Northwestern National Life showed that workers who feel unsafe suffer the same level of stress as the actual victims. Violence is both a cause and a consequence of employee stress. The stress brought on by interpersonal challenges and conflicts, combined with the fact that many people are operating just below their &quot;boiling point,&quot; creates a potentially volatile situation. Conversely, the threat of violence or an actual violent episode in the workplace creates tremendous stress. This is especially true in cases where powerlessness and helplessness play a central role in a person's stress. The more powerless people feel, the more likely they are to resort to violence. (The John Liner Review)
Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the American workplace, leaving few workers untouched. For example, studies report the following:
JOB STRESS – IS IT AFFECTING YOU??? IS IT AFFECTING YOUR COMPANY???
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is directed by Congress, was formed to study the psychological aspects of occupational safety and health - including stress at work. NIOSH defines stress as “emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker”
The concept of job stress can be confused with challenge, but these concepts are very different. Challenge is meant to energizes us psychologically and physically, and it motivates us to learn new skills and master our jobs. When a challenge is met, we feel relaxed and satisfied. Thus, challenge is an important ingredient for healthy and productive work. The importance of challenge in our work lives is probably what people are referring to when they say "a little bit of stress is good for you.
65% of workers said that workplace stress had caused difficulties and more than 10 percent described these as having major effects;
10% said they work in an atmosphere where physical violence has occurred because of job stress and in this group, 42% report that yelling and other verbal abuse is common;
29% had yelled at co-workers because of workplace stress, 14% said they work where machinery or equipment has been damaged because of workplace rage and 2% admitted that they had actually personally struck someone;
19% or almost one in five respondents had quit a previous position because of job stress and nearly one in four have been driven to tears because of workplace stress;
62% routinely find that they end the day with work-related neck pain, 44% reported stressed-out eyes, 38% complained of hurting hands and 34% reported difficulty in sleeping because they were too stressed-out;
12% had called in sick because of job stress;
Over half said they often spend 12-hour days on work related duties and an equal number frequently skip lunch because of the stress of job demands.