Stress At Work

OBJECTIVESStress has become a part and parcel of human life and is more pronounced in corporate life. While the idea to excel in life is a great thing to have, the same should not result in such a stressful situation where the individual is forced to devote more time in solving stress related problems than in achieving his objectives. This is what is happening in the present day corporate environment with deadlines hanging over one’s head, day in day out. Yes, a certain amount of stress is essential even in our day-to-day life, without which nothing can be achieved: it could be even at school level where a student goes through stress while appearing for his exams, extending up to a CEO of a company as the accounting year end approaches. This stress gives us zest for life and releases our creativity in finding better ways of performing our tasks. But with the intense competition, work related stress has assumed economic proportions as identified by the WHO. Employees are experiencing work related stress a little too frequently resulting in their inability to cope with both official and domestic lives ,since it manifests on psychological, physiological and Behavioural planes companies are doing their best to remedy the situation through recreational facilities, flexible timings, forced holidays, yoga centers, gymnasiums and even with art of living programs. Whatever may be done at the organizational level to alleviate and free people from stress, unless it is addressed at an individual level no tangible results can be achieved. For these reasons, it is very important for us to study the causes and effects of stress so that we may be in a better position to manage it. This term paper provides a comprehensive analysis of not only what causes stress, and what the consequences are but also various techniques to deal with high levels of Stress.

There is no dearth of stressors in any profession or occupation, leave alone your personal life. Starting from students who face examination stress or growing deadlines, from teachers to CEOs to Doctors, Engineers, Managers, etc. This term paper contains a study on Teacher’s Stress, which is a specialized aspect of Stress. There are results on the basis of a Primary Research which was carried out via a questionnaire. 50 Questionnaires were collected from different institutions so as to obtain fairly accurate results on the stress levels faced by teachers. The survey pinpointed certain factors or conditions causing high stress levels in Teachers, the relationship of age and gender with stress levels, the relationship of stress levels with teachers of not only different institutions but also different fields or subjects.

INTRODUCTIONThe word `stress`, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary, as “a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy”. A condition or circumstance (not always adverse), which can disturb the normal physiological andpsychological functioning of an individual. In medical parlance `stress` is defined as a perturbation of the body`s homeostasis. This demand on mind-body occurs when it tries to cope with incessant changes in life. A `stress` condition seems `relative` in nature. Extreme stress conditions, psychologists say, are detrimental to human health but in moderation stress is normal and, in many cases, proves useful. Stress, nonetheless, is synonymous with negative conditions. Today, with the rapid diversification of human activity, we come face to face with numerous causes of stress and the symptoms of anxiety and depression. But here, we are concentrating on the work aspect or the organizational aspect of Stress. In which case, it can be defined as: “STRESS is a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint, or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important.” —- Stephen Robbins (Organizational Behavior, Stephen P Robbins, edition 11, pg. 569) “It is an adaptive response, mediated by individual differences and/or psychological processes that are a consequence of any external (environmental) action, situation, or event that places excessive psychological and/or physical demands on a person.” —- Ivancevich and Matteson (Organizational Behavior, Fred Luthans, pg. 396) Three critical components of this definition are:

1) It refers to the reaction to an event or situation, not the event or situation in itself. 2) It emphasizes that stress can be impacted by individual differences 3) It highlights the phrase “excessive psychological and/or physical demands” because only special or unusual situations (as opposed to minor life adjustments) can be said to produce stress. “JOB STRESS is a condition arising from the interaction of people and their jobs and characterized by changes within people that force them to deviate from their normal functioning” —- Beehr and Newman (Organizational Behavior, Fred Luthans, pg. 396)

Dynamics of StressIn a challenging situation the brain prepares the body for defensive action—the fight or flight response by releasing stress hormones, namely, cortisone and adrenaline. These hormones raise the blood pressure and thebody prepares to react to the situation. With a concrete defensive action (fight response) the stress hormones in the blood get used up, entailing reduced stress effects and symptoms of anxiety. When we fail to counter a stress situation (flight response) the hormones and chemicals remain unreleased in the blood stream for a long period of time. It results in stress related physical symptoms such as tense muscles, unfocused anxiety, dizziness and rapid heartbeats. We all encounter various stressors (causes of stress) in everyday life, which can accumulate, if not released. Subsequently, it compels the mind and body to be in an almost constant alarm-state in preparation to fight or flee. This state of accumulated stress can increase the risk of both acute and chronic psychosomatic illnesses and weaken the immune system. Stress can cause headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, eating disorder, allergies, insomnia, backaches, frequent cold and fatigue to diseases such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, heart ailments and even cancer. In fact, Sanjay Chugh, a leading Indian psychologist, says that 70 per cent to 90 per cent of adults visit primary care physicians for stress-related problems. Scary enough, But where do we err? Just about everybody—men, women, children and even fetuses—suffer from stress. Relationship demands, chronic health problems, pressure at workplaces, traffic snarls, and meeting deadlines, growing-up tensions or a sudden bearish trend in the bourse can trigger stress conditions. People react to it in their own ways. In some people, stress-induced adverse feelings and anxieties tend to persist and intensify. Learning to understand and manage stress can prevent the counter effects of stress. Methods of coping with stress are aplenty. The most significant or sensible way out is a change in lifestyle. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, physical exercises, listening to soothing music, deep breathing, various natural and alternative methods, personal growth techniques, visualization and massage are some of the most effective of the known non-invasive stress busters.

Evolutionary StressStress has existed throughout the evolution. About 4 billion years ago, violent collision of rock and ice along with dust and gas, led to the formation of a new planet. The planet survived more than 100 million years of meltdown to give birth to microscopic life. These first organisms enduredthe harshest of conditions—lack of oxygen, exposure to the Sun’s UV rays and other inhospitable elements, to hang on to their dear life. Roughly 300,000 years ago, the Neanderthals learnt to use fire in a controlled way, to survive the Glacial Age. And around 30,000 years, Homo sapiens with their dominant gene constitutions and better coping skills, won the game of survival. Each step of evolution a test of survival, and survival, a matter of coping with the stress of changing conditions. Millions of trials and errors in the life process have brought men to this stage. Coping with events to survive has led men to invent extraordinary technologies, beginning with a piece of sharpened stone. From the viewpoint of microevolution, stress induction of transpositions is a powerful factor, generating new genetic variations in populations under stressful environmental conditions. Passing through a `bottleneck`, a population can rapidly and significantly alters its population norm and become the founder of new, evolved forms. Gene transposition through Transposable Elements (TE)—`jumping genes`, is a major source of genetic change, including the creation of novel genes, the alteration of gene expression in development, and the genesis of major genomic rearrangements. In a research on `the significance of responses of the genome to challenges’, the Nobel Prize winning scientist Barbara McClintock, characterized these genetic phenomena as `genomic shock`. This occurs due to recombination events between TE insertions (high and low insertion polymorphism) and host genome. But, as a rule TE’s remain immobilized until some stress factor (temperature, irradiation, DNA damage, the introduction of foreign chromatin, viruses, etc.) activates their elements. The moral remains that we can work a stress condition to our advantage or protect ourselves from its untoward follow-throughs subject to how we handle a stress situation. The choice is between becoming a slave to the stressful situations of life and using them to our advantage.

TYPES OF STRESSEustress: It refers to “good stress” or “positive stress”. They are able to exert a healthy effect on us. It gives one a feeling of fulfillment or contentment and also makes one excited about life. Unfortunately, it is a type of stress that only occurs for a short period of time. Eustress is alsooften called the curative stress because it gives a person the ability to generate the best performance or maximum output. -The feeling of excitement when you won a game or race

– The excitement when you bought your first car- The accomplishment of a challenge- The happy feeling of being loved- The excitement of going for a holiday

Distress: It refers to “bad” or “negative stress”. These types of stress are the opposite of Eustress and it’s called Distress. It is a stress disorder that is caused by adverse events and it often influences a person’s ability to cope. Some events leading to distress are: – Death of a loved one

– Financial problems- Heavy work responsibility and workload- Strained relationship- Chronic illnesses.SOCIAL READJUSTMENT RATING SCALE

LIFE EVENTDeath of a SpouseDivorceJail TermDeath of a close family memberPersonal Injury or illnessMarriageBeing firedRetirementPregnancyChange in one’s financial positionChange in responsibilities at workSon or daughter leaving homeBeginning or ending schoolChange in living conditions

Trouble with one’s bossChange in working hours or conditionsChange in eating habitsVacations ( Eustress)Christmas ( Eustress)

LIFE CHANGING UNIT100736363535047454038292926252320151312


Distress can be classified further as ACUTE stress or CHRONIC stress. Acute stress is short-lived while chronic stress is usually prolonged in nature. Acute StressThis type of Stress can be defined as an acute stress or chronic stress (Long Term). Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the fight or flight response, Where sometimes you have no choice tochoose to be in it or not. The threat can come any time through life experiences. Unexpected situations may be experienced consciously and unconsciously, real or imagined as a danger thing. There can be some physical symptoms of acute stress. These include:   Headaches

Stomach aches or indigestionSweatingHeart palpitationsShortness of breathDizzinessChest painTreatment for acute stress often includes rest and relaxation. Anti-anxiety medication is usually only used if acute stress is a trigger for anxiety or panic attacks. Therapy can help is the situation is not going to be resolved in a short period of time.   Chronic Stress

In some cases events of acute stress passed, threats were gone but stress will remain then it became chronic stress which generates more disturbances physically and mentally. Researchers found that in prehistoric times, the physical changes in response to stress were an essential adaptation for meeting natural threats. In modern times, stress response can be an asset for raising levels of performance during critical events such as a competitive sports activity, an important job interview, or in unexpected situations of actual danger or crisis. In both types, the body’s response to this constant readiness for action creates symptoms of stress. An example is muscular tension resulting from the frequent input of adrenaline. The body is designed to dissipate this adrenaline physically, through fight or flight, but these options are not possible in a work or family situation. No-one can run away from a difficult meeting or an interview with a new boss, however much they might want to

STRESS AND PERFORMANCEThe relationship between stress and performance is explained in one of the oldest and most important ideas in stress management, the “Inverted-U” relationship between stress and performance (see below). The Inverted-Urelationship focuses on people’s performance of a task.  The left hand side of the graph is easy to explain for pragmatic reasons. When there is very little pressure on us to carry out an important task, there is little incentive for us to focus energy and attention on it. This is particularly the case when there may be other, more urgent, or more interesting, tasks competing for attention.

As pressure on us increases, we enter the “area of best performance”. Here, we are able to focus on the task and perform well – there is enough pressure on us to focus our attention but not so much that it disrupts our performance. The right hand side of the graph is more complex to explain. We are all aware that we have a limited short-term memory: If you try to memorize a long list of items, you will not be able to remember more than six or eight items unless you use formal memory techniques. Similarly, although we have huge processing power in our brains, we cannot be conscious of more than a few thoughts at any one time. In fact, in a very real way, we have a limited “attention capacity”. As we become uncomfortably stressed, distractions, difficulties, anxieties and negative thinking begin to crowd our minds. This is particularly the case where we look at our definition of stress, i.e. that it occurs when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” These thoughts compete is with performance of the task for our attention capacity. Concentration suffers, and focus narrows as our brain becomes overloaded. As shown in the figure, this is something of a slippery slope: the more our brain is overloaded, the more our performance can suffer. The more our performance suffers, the more new distractions, difficulties, anxieties and negative thoughts crowd our minds. Other research has shown that stress reduces people’s ability to deal with large amounts of information. Both decision-making and creativity are impaired because people are unable to take account of all the information available. This inability accounts for the common observation that highly stressed people will persist in a course of action even when better alternatives are available. It also explains why anxious people perform best when they are put under little additional stress, while calm people may need additional pressure to produce a good performance.  A Modern Approach to the Stress- Performance Relationship

Older research suggested that stress and performance were related by a curve shaped roughly like an upside-down U. This is no longer thought to be the case. A more realistic shape for the curve relating performance to stress is shown below.

This sort of curve is usually referred to as a catastrophe curve. It indicates that at low levels of stress performance should improve with increase in stress up to a certain critical point. At this point (point B) the performer starts to perceive that the demands of the situation are greater than his ability to meet them. Anxiety occurs, and performance suddenly and dramatically fails. After such failure the original level of performance can only be regained if stress levels are considerably reduced (to point A). This sort of phenomenon is very common in sport situations. Once a performer starts to “go over the top”, it is very difficult to get him back up to a high level of performance. Catastrophe curves like the one shown above usually occur as a result of opposing forces, and recent work suggests that this one is no exception. In competition these two forces are the desire to compete and succeed, and the fear of losing or failing.

Under normal circumstances the activation system “amplifier” is fine-tuned by the performer to meet the needs of his situation. However, when performers become anxious this fine-tuning is lost—in their anxiety they fiddle about with all the knobs, and so greatly distort their own performance. There is some debate as to how much effect the physiological response associated with anxiety has upon mental performance. However, there seems less doubt about its importance for physical performance, as any football coach who has witnessed the sustained speed at which a typical cup final is played will no doubt testify. Furthermore, it appears that the distortion produced by excessive physiological arousal is most apparent in skills requiring fine control or touch. The basic implication of the model shown is therefore clear: to maintain performance in the face of anxiety you must either reduce anxiety or increase the “strength” of the activation system. To remind you of what we mean by the “activation system”, the diagram on the left shows how different “stressors” (factors causing stress) might affect theactivation pattern of the information-processing system. In order to perform difficult skills with accuracy and grace, the sportsperson must clearly “process” a vast quantity of information about the environment and his orientation within it. To do this, he must first of all perceive the relevant cues, and then use them to make decisions about appropriate courses of action, “programme” these decisions into responses, and finally transmit these responses to the muscles. Of course, different situations will require each of these processes in varying degrees, so that the activation pattern necessary to achieve the best performance will vary from sport to sport, and from skill to skill within a sport. For example, speed of perception will be very important when close marking at basketball, hut much less so when performing a set shot. In fact, the stressors and the activation pattern is itself an over-simplification, since each of the three major cognitive processes which we have distinguished— perception, decision-making and action—is itself made up of a number of sub-processes. For example, decision-making requires information to be stored in memory, transformed into likely consequences, and recalled—all before the information is passed on for programming. However, the model is sufficiently realistic for our purposes.


POTENTIAL CAUSES OF STRESSThere are three categories of potential stressors:♣Environmental factors♣Organization factors♣Individual factors


Economic Uncertainties:Just as environmental uncertainty influences the design of an organization. Changes in business cycle create economic uncertainties. Political uncertainties:If the political system in a country is implemented in an orderly manner,there would not be any type of stress. Technological uncertainties:New innovations can make an employee’s skills and experiences obsolete in a very short period of time. Technological uncertainty therefore is a third type of environmental factor that can cause stress. Computers, robotics, automation and other forms of technological innovations are threat to many people and cause them stress.

2) OrganizationAL factors:There are no storages of factors within the organization that can cause stress; pressures to avoid error or complete tasks in a limited time period, work overload are few examples. Task demands are factors related to a person’s job. They include the design of the individual’s job working conditions, and the physical work layout. Role demands relate to pressures placed on a person as a function of the particular role he or she plays in the organization. Role overhead is experienced when the employees is expected to do more than time permits. Role ambiguity is created when role expectations are not clearly understood and employee is not sure what he / she is to do. Interpersonal demands are pressures created by other employees. Lack of social support from colleagues and poor Interpersonal relationships can cause considerable stress, especially among employed with a high social need. Organizational structure defines the level of differentiation in the organization, the degree of rules and regulations, and where decisions are made. Excessive rules and lack of participation in decision that affect an employee are examples of structural variables that might be potential sources of stress.

Organizational leadership represents the managerial style of the organizations senior executive. Some executive officers create a culture characterized by tension, fear, and anxiety. They establish unrealistic pressures to perform in the short-run impose excessively tight controls and routinely fire employees who don’t measure up. This creates a fear in their hearts, which lead to stress. Organizations go through a cycle. They are established; they grow, become mature, and eventually decline. An organization’s life stage – i.e. where it is in four stage cycle-creates different problems and pressures for employees. The establishment anddecline stage are particularly stressful.

3) Individual factors:

The typical individual only works about 40 hours a week. The experience and problems that people encounter in those other 128 non-work hours each week can spell over to the job. Family problems:

National surveys consistently show that people hold family and discipline, troubles with children are examples of relationship problems that create stress for employee and that aren’t at the front door when they arrive at work. Economic problems:

Economic problems created by individuals overextending their financial resources are another set of personal troubles that can create stress for employees and distract their attention from their work.

STRESSORSSociety the working world and daily life have changed almost beyond recognition in the past 50 years. These changes have contributed to a major increase in stress. Stress is caused from both outside & inside the organization & from groups that employees are influenced by & from employees themselves. The agents or demands that evoke the potential response are referred to as stressors. According to Seyle a stressors is “Whatever produces stress with or without functioning hormonal or nervous systems”. 1) Extra organizational stressors:

Extra organizational stressors have a tremendous impact on job stress. Taking an open system perspective of an organization, it is clear that job stress is not just limited to things that happen inside the organization, during working hours. Extra organizational stressors include things such as social / technological change, the family, relocation, economic & financial conditions, race & class, residential or community conditions.

2) Organizational stressors:

Besides the potential stressors that occur outside the organization, there are also those associated with the organization itself. Although the organization is made up of groups & individuals, there are also more macro- level dimensions unique to the organization that contains potential stressors. MACRO-LEVEL ORGANIZATIONAL STRESSORS:

All of these lead to Job Stress.


The group can also be a potential source of stress. Group stressors can be categorized into three areas. a. Lack of group’s cohesiveness:-

“Cohesiveness” or “togetherness” is a very important to employees, especially at the lower levels of the organizations. If the employee is denied the opportunity for this cohesiveness because of the task design, because the supervisor does things to prohibit or limit it, or because the other members of the group shut the person out, this can be very stress producing.

b. Lack of social support:-

Employees are greatly affected by the support of one or more member of a cohesive group. By sharing their problems & joys with others, they are much better off. It this type of social support is lacking for an individual, it can be very stressful.

c. Intra-Individual , inter personal & inter -group conflict :- Conflict is very closely conceptually or hostile acts between associated with in compatible or hostile acts between intra-individual dimensions, such as personal goals or motivational needs / values, between individuals within a group, & between groups. 4)INDIVIDUALSTRESSORS:

In a sense, the other stressors (Extra organizational, organizational, & Group stressors) all eventually get down to the individual level. For example, role conflict, ambiguity, self-efficacy & psychological hardinessmay all affect the level of stress someone experiences.

Serious work-related stress by sector, 2002/2004

In 2004 over a quarter of the employed labour force were regularly working under severe time pressure. Over the past five years a downward trend was recorded. The proportion of employees who regularly had to work at a high pace (over 40 percent) has hardly changed in recent years. Severe work-related stress (high work pace as well as serious time pressure) declined over the last years and is most commonly found in the sectors hotels and restaurants and transport and communication.

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCESSome people thrive on stressful situations, while others are overwhelmed by them. What is it that differentiates people in terms of their ability to handle stress? What individual difference variables moderate the relationship between potential stressors and experienced stress? At least five variables- perceptions, job experience, social support, belief in locus of control, and hostility- have been found to be relevant moderators. PERCEPTION: It is well-known that employees react in response to their perception of reality rather than to reality itself. Perception, therefore, will moderate the relationship between a potential stress condition and an employee’s reaction to it. One person’s fear that he will lose his job because his company laying off personnel may be perceived by another as an opportunity to get a large severance allowance and start his own business. Similarly, what one employee perceives as a challenging job may be viewed as threatening and demanding by others. So the stress potential in environmental, organizational and individual factors does not lie in their objective condition. Rather, it lies in an employee’s interpretation of those factors. Job Experience: Experience is said to be a great teacher. It can also be a great stress reducer. For most people the uncertainty and newness of the situation creates stress. But as one gains experience, that stress disappears or at least significantly decreases. The same phenomenon seems to apply to work situations. That is, experience on the job tends to be negatively related to work stress. Two explanations have been offered.First is the idea of selective withdrawal. Voluntary turnover is more probable among people who experience more stress. Therefore, people who remain with the organization longer are those with more stress-resistant traits, or those who are more resistant to the stress characteristics of their organization. Second, people eventually develop coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Because this takes time, senior members of the organization are more likely to be fully adapted and should experience less stress. Social Support: There is increasing evidences that social support – that is, collegial relationships with co-workers or supervisors- can buffer the impact of stress. The logic underlying this moderating variable is that social support acts as a palliative, mitigating the negative effects of even high strain jobs. For individuals whose work associates are unhelpful or even actively hostile,, social support may be found outside the job involvement with family, friends, and community can provide the support- especially for those with a high, social need- that is missing at work and this can make job stressors more tolerable. Belief in Locus of Control: Locus of control is a personality attribute; those with an internal locus believe that their lives are controlled by outside forces. Evidence indicates that internals perceive their jobs to be less stressful than do externals. When internals and externals confront a similar stressful situation, the internals are likely to believe that they can have a significant effect on the results. They, therefore, act to take control of events. Externals are more likely to be passive and defensive. Rather than do something to reduce the stress, they acquiesce. So externals, who are more likely to feel helpless in stressful situations, are also more likely to experience stress. Hostility: For much of the 1970s and 1980s, a great deal of attention was directed at the Type A personality. In fact, throughout the 1980s, it was undoubtedly the most frequently used moderating variable related to stress. The type A personality is characterized by feeling a chronic sense of time urgency and by an excessive competitive drive. The Type A individual is “aggressively involved in a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and if required to do so, against the opposing efforts of other things or other persons. STRESS AND PERSONALITY (TYPE A, TYPE B)

In the mid-1900s, psychosomatic medicine began to place importance on identifying specific psychological characteristics that might be considered as authentic risk factors in relation to diseases. From this research very interesting data emerged regarding the relationship between the personality and tolerance towards stress. In particular, with reference to the ways in which people cope with stress, it was found convenient to postulate the existence of two separate personality types characterized by differing sets of behaviour