Stress is the emotional feeling of an individual to fight or flee when faced with a problem or demand. Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur within an individual when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.
Stress at workplace is a common feature and majority people experience it. Some jobs are associated with stress.
According to Crider, Goethals, Kavanaugh and Soloman, “Stress is a pattern of disruptive psychological and physiological functioning that occurs when an environmental event is appraised as a threat to important goals and one’s ability to cope.”
According to J.D. Brodzinski, R.F. Scherer and K A Goyer, Stress is, “the interaction between the individual and the environment characterized by physiological and psychological changes that cause a deviation from normal performance.”
Importance of job stress management for effective practice of human resource management:
(1) It has psychological and physiological effects on both employees and managers both affecting their health and performance at work,
(2) It is a major cause of absenteeism and poor employee turnover,
(3) Employee under stress may cause safety problems to fellow employees specially when he is handling dangerous machines and equipment’s,
(4) It makes an employee nervous and may lose temper,
(5) It makes an employee non- cooperative in nature,
(6) It may affect any member of the organisation whether he or she is a worker, manager, old and young both.
Stress is not always negative. Any event causing stress results into an action form person under stress. This action may also result into positive performance. If so, according to Cynthia D Fisher, L F Schoenfeldt and J B Shaw, “The optimum level of tension will result in maximum performance.” Optimum level of stress is difficult to determine as it depends upon the kind of occupation, age, sex and race of the employee. Overstress is always dangerous. No employee can escape its consequences.
In the below given diagram OS is the amount of stress on the employee results into optimum performance OP. More than OS stress results into negative performance because of its consequences on the employee. Too much stress is always detrimental and employees and organisation both suffer from its ill effects. Positive stress works, as motivator.
The relationship between stress and performance is shown in the diagram given below:
Employees are experiencing high level of stress due to various factors such as high workload, tight deadlines, high targets, type of work, lack of job satisfaction, long working hours, pressure to perform, etc. Interpersonal conflicts at the workplace, such as boss-subordinate relationships and relationships with peers, are also a source of stress.
Sources of job stress
- Lack of control - Feeling as if you have no control over your work or job duties is the biggest cause of job stress. People who feel like they have no control at work are most likely to get stress-related illnesses.
- Increased responsibility - Taking on extra duties in your job is stressful. You can get more stressed if you have too much work to do and you can't say no to new tasks.
- Job satisfaction and performance - Feeling insecure about job performance is a major source of stress for many people.
- Uncertainty about work roles - Being unsure about your duties, how your job might be changing, or the goals of your department or company can lead to stress. If you report to more than one boss, juggling the demands of different managers can also be stressful.
- Poor communication - Tension on the job often comes from poor communication. Being unable to talk about your needs, concerns, and frustrations can create stress.
- Lack of support - Lack of support from your boss or coworkers makes it harder to solve other problems at work that are causing stress for you.
- Poor working conditions - Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions, such as crowding, noise, or ergonomic problems, can cause stress.
What are the causes of Job stress?
There are three sets of factors that are responsible for causing stress.
Environmental uncertainty influences stress levels of employees in an organization. Changes in the business cycle create economic uncertainties. When the economy is contracting, people become increasingly anxious about their security. Political uncertainties are also a cause of stress.
Technological uncertainty is also a type of environmental factor that can cause stress. New innovations can make an employee’s skills and experience obsolete in a very short period of time.
There are no shortage of factors in organizations that can cause stress. These are typical causes of stress at work :
• Bullying or harassment, by anyone, not necessarily a person’s manager
• feeling powerless and uninvolved in determining one’s own responsibilities
• Continuous unreasonable performance demands
• Lack of effective communication and conflict resolution
• Lack of job security
• Long working hours
• Excessive time away from home and family
• Office politics and conflict among staff
• A feeling that one’s reward is not commensurate with one’s responsibility.
A person susceptibility to stress can be affected by any or all of these factors, which means that everyone has a different tolerance to stressors. And in respect of certain of these factors, stress susceptibility is not fixed, so each person’s stress tolerance level changes over time:
• Childhood experience (abuse can increase stress susceptibility)
• Personality (certain personalities are more stress-prone than others)
• Genetics (particularly inherited relaxation response, connected with serotonin levels, the brains ‘well-being, chemical’)
• Immunity abnormality (as might cause certain diseases such as arthritis and eczema, which weaken stress resilience)
• Lifestyle (principally poor diet and lack of exercise)
• Duration and intensity of stressors
Sleep disturbances, mood swings, headache, upset stomach and, disturbed relationships with family and friends are early signs of job stress. However, the health effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see as chronic diseases take a long time to develop and can be influenced by factors other than stress. Nonetheless, evidence suggests that stress is responsible for several types of chronic health problems—especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.