Coping With Stress In An Organization26 November 1994Table of ContentsI. IntroductionII. Defining StressIII. Types of StressIV.
How to Handle StressV. Recognizing StressVI. The Military and StressVII. SummaryI. INTRODUCTIONSince the beginning of mankind there has always been some kind of stressaffecting how people feel, act and cope with situations.
In this paper we willlook at the definition of stress and what causes people to have stress. Then wewill see how different people handle stress and show how not all individualshave the same tolerance for stress. The next thing that will be discussed ishow managers in organizations can recognize and reduce the negative effects thatstress has on the worker and the organization. Finally we will consider whatkind of stresses there are in military organizations and how they can becontrolled. II. DEFINING STRESSRobert C.
Dailey, in his book Understanding People In Organizations,defines stress as any demand made on the body that requires psychological orphysical adjustment. Many people think of stress as always being something bad. However, stress sometimes can be good. Stress is part of our every day life.
It can have a motivating effect or a demotivating effect. Each of us have ourown level of how much stimulation or stress we need in our lives to keep us fromgetting bored. 1 Others however, have a much lower tolerance for stress stimuli. So managers must be able to look at each individual and decide if the individualhas a high or low tolerance for stress. Managers can do this only if they havea good understanding of what causes stress. III.
TYPES OF STRESSStress can come from a multitude of different reasons, but forsimplicity lets break it down into two forms: individual induced stress andphysical environment stress. Individual stress includes things such as roleconflict, role ambiguity, work overload, and responsibility for others. Roleconflict occurs when accomplishing one job inhibits or greatly reduces thechance at completing another assigned task. In this case the person who istasked to do the jobs will incur some type of stress while trying to figure outhow to get both tasks accomplished in the given amount of time.
How much stressand if it will impact the individual positively or negatively will depend on theexperience level of the individual. Role ambiguity is when an individual is notsure of what their job entails. It makes it hard for a person to decide on whattheir priorities are and how to manage their time. Ambiguity can come from anumber of different things. A transfer, promotion, new boss, or new co-workerscan all cause an individual to experience some type of role ambiguity and addedstress. Both role conflict and role ambiguity relate to job dissatisfaction,lower level of self-confidence, and sometimes elevated blood pressures.
2 Whenthese occur an individual’s motivation decreases, family problems surface, anddepression sets in. Another form of individual induced stress is work overload. There aretwo forms of work overload: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative occurswhen a person has too many things to accomplish and not enough time to do themin. Qualitative overload on the other hand is when the individual doesn’t haveenough experience or expertise to accomplish the task(s) at hand.
Both of thesetype of stressors are very detrimental to an individual’s health. In factbecause employees feel as if they are doing two or more jobs at once and have notime to themselves they experience elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, andpulse rate. 3 Another factor which affects employees is when they have or feelthey have the responsibility for other co-workers. This can happen not only tomanagers but also to other employees who may be group leaders or even unionleader. When you start adding up all of these individual responsibilities thepotential for employees having some sort of job related stress is very high. Now lets move on to physical work environment stressors.
When people think of physical work environment they usually think ofsome type of hard labor. But its not confined only to physical labor, it alsoencompasses other factors such as noise, temperature, lighting, and pollution. 4So that means even people in business and people in construction both have somekind of physical work environment stressors. Stress from noise doesn’t have tobe caused from loud sounds. It could be the sound of the air conditioner ormaybe even the silence of some one who is sitting next to you and you know theyare watching what you do. Temperature also adds to frustration and thereforecauses stress.
Whether its from working out in the blazing sun or from sittingbeside the air conditioner, they both can lead to stressful situations. Lightcan cause stress because of being to high, to low, or the wrong type. Any ofthese can make a person strain their eyes thus make them more susceptible tostress. When you put all the individual and physical stressors together you cansee why job stress is drawing more and more attention.
IV. HOW TO HANDLE STRESSAlthough every person handles stress in their own particular way theyall basically go through the same stages. Professor Hans Selye called thesestages the ‘general adaptation syndrome’. 5 He says that the body adjust tostress in three stages; (1) alarm reaction, (2) adaptation, and (3) exhaustion.
Alarm reaction is where a person first becomes aware of whatever the stressor is. In this stage the body activates its defensives. Some of the notable traitsare higher blood pressure, rapid breathing, faster heart rate, and muscletension. In the adaptation stage the body tries to identify which system itneeds to use to deal with the long term effect of what ever is causing stress. Then the body moves into the exhaustion stage.
This is where the body istotally depleted of its adaptive energy. The body also can revert back to thesymptoms of the alarm reaction stage. 6 From having a basic understanding of howa person’s body reacts to stress, managers have a better insight on what to lookfor when trying to figure out what the limits are of their personnel. V.
RECOGNIZING STRESSThe best way to learn how to notice signs of stress in other people isto become aware of your own types of symptoms. There are many warning signsavailable to us. A few of them include dryness of the mouth, insomnia, chestpain with no known cause, rapid breathing, stomach pain, and changes in appetite. When you feel these type of symptoms pay attention to how you react to them. More than likely what you do will probably be the same way others cope withstress.
Here are some of the things you might not see in your self that youmight notice in your co-workers; drug use, excessive drinking, absenteeism, andemotional outbursts. One of the more serious stress-related sickness isdepression. This happens when a person loses their self-esteem and they feelthat they have no control over their job. Two signs associated with depressionare the inability to meet deadlines and having trouble making decisions while atthe same time worrying about both of them excessively. 7 Managers need to beableto recognize these signs of stress in the work place so productivity won’tbe hurt and the quality of life for the employees remain high.
What exactly can be done about stress? The most important thing thatorganizations can do is try to keep stress at a minimum on the job. Employersneed to make sure that they educate their employees about how to handle stress. This can be in done at a formal meeting, at informal group meetings, or bynewsletter. The main thing is to get the word out about stress and heightenindividuals awareness of it. There are many avenues to take that help relievestress. Physical fitness, nutrition, weight loss, and smoking programs are someof the more popular ways to help ward off stress.
One way that employers areresponding to employees’ emotional, physical, and personal problems are employeeassistance programs(EAP). 8 These programs are set up by the employer with alocal medical organization that has the capability of helping employees thathave some type of problem whether it be drug dependency, alcoholism or smoking. The employer in these programs pay for part or all the expenses of the program. Another way organizations are helping their employees to deal withstress are wellness programs. Many organizations are using these programs andare reporting great results from them. Companies are beginning to realize thatprograms dealing with stress-related problems before they become chronic can bea major contributor to the quality of work life for employees thus enhancingtheir job performance.
9 Some companies spend millions of dollars each year onwellness programs. One company even paid their employees bonus’ for any weightthey lost. Although these programs sound like they cost a lot they actuallysave companies money in the long run. This is because of several factors someof which are less hospital stays, less health insurance claims, reducedaccidents rates, and increased employee satisfaction.
All of these lead to amore productive individual and better work force. One other aspect of reducing stress deals with specific behavioraltechniques for mental relaxation. These are brought out in stress managementcourses that some companies let their employees attend. They focus theirattention on the concept that the central nervous system can’t differentiatebetween a real experience and an imagined experience. These classes teachthings like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and how stress canaffect them personally and what they can do about it. 10 In today’s societywhere pressures are becoming more and more extreme organizations, leaders, andmanagers need to be aware of the stress that their work force encounters and setup some type of program to help them deal with them.
In the military there are the same type of stressors as in the privatesector and also a few that wouldn’t be found in corporate industries. Militaryleaders must look at their personnel and see what kind of pressure they areexperiencing to be effective leaders. In fact they need to be even morevigilant for signs of stress because they must be sure that an individual isready to go to combat, both in a physical and mental state, at a moments notice. VI. THE MILITARY AND STRESSThere are many things that can cause undo stress in the military.
Theyrange from worrying about getting promoted to getting a college education and totrials and tribulations of being separated from ones’ family for long periods oftime. Some of the things already mentioned before such as responsibility forothers, role conflict, and role ambiguity are all present in the military workforce. Stress affects enlisted personnel as well as officers. Lets exploresome of the ways the military and military leaders can help the organization andits members to cope with stress and its effects. One way the armed forces has dealt with stress in its organization iswith EAPs. 11 Almost all bases have some type of program to help members whohave some type of dependency.
The first step however is usually the hardest, isto identify the people who need the help. Most of the programs allow the memberto volunteer for help without retribution. Individual commanders also can playa big part in helping members find help. By making sure their troops know aboutwhat programs are available and by having stress awareness training so othermembers know what to look for in their co-workers, the commander is able to stopchronic stress before it occurs.
Another way the services deal with preventingstress are their physical fitness programs. Each unit should support theseprograms by assuring the individuals have time allotted to participate in them. Still another way that has picked up steam in the last couple of years is thequality of life working teams. These teams look for ways to improve the qualityof living both during work hours and after. So as you can see the military isconcerned about stress and are taking great steps in trying to reduce itsaffects. VII.
SUMMARYWe have taken a look at what the definition of stress and some of thecauses of stress in the work place. It is important to try and reduce thesecauses as much as possible so that employees won’t get any stress relatedsymptoms. Also it was stated how a persons’ body reacts when it encountersstress. Then the signs of stress that managers need to look for were discussed.
After that some of the ways organizations can help it employees manage stresswere looked at. Finally, it was shown how the military is handling stress amongits members. As the world gets more diverse stress in the work force willcontinue to grow. It is imperative for managers and leaders to be able torecognize stress, understand its causes, and know how to alleviate it in theirorganizations so that it can continue to grow and be productive.