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STRESS AND WEL- BEING AT WORK

Introduction

Every single day is a brand new day for a school principal. Once s/he reaches to the school

s/he starts to see, hear and read many things which keep her/him stressed throughout the day. It is my

personal feeling. As a school principal of a learning school I feel a lot of pressure. Very many times I

have visited doctors. They suggested me to take the things easily. They suggested to keep going

relaxed. It seems easy to hear but it is equally hard for me. Most of the doctors suggest me not to

take my school (Work place) to my home. For me workplace stress is life and being healthy and

happy at the job is the goal. In this article I will discuss on stress and well being at work.

Oxford Learners Dictionary (2005, 7th ed.) defines stress as pressure or worry caused by the

problems in somebody’s’ life. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (2009) defines stress as

an unpleasant state of emotional and physiological arousal that people experience in situations that

they perceive as dangerous or threatening to their well-being (http://encarta.msn.com

/dictionary/stress.html). According to the Cambridge Paperback Encyclopedia (2000), stress is

effects arising when certain external circumstances (stressors) led to a stereotyped non specific

response from a person (p. 826). The encyclopedia further extends that the stressors may be physical,

or psychological, but their effect depends on their interpretation by the recipient. Similarly oxford

dictionary defines well-being as general health and happiness. When we explore further, we

encounter with many in-depth discussions about the stress and wellbeing at work. This article will

discuss the concept of stress on organizational level, concept of well being at work and some

researched concepts on stress management to foster wellbeing at work.

Stress
“Stress can be considered as good stress or bad stress. Bad stress could result from an

unpleasant situation such as losing one’s job. An example of good stress would be a situation that

creates excitement, stimulation, and arousal for the individual. A job promotion might be an example

of a positive, energizing type of stressor. Any type of stress puts a strain on the person. However,

good stress results in a less negative effect on the person” (Selye, 1976).

Stress is a widely explored topic. Robbins (2009) defines stress as a dynamic condition in

which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, a demand, or a resource related to what the

individual desires and for which the outcome is both uncertain and important (p. 678). He further

explains that stress is not always bad or it is not bad itself. But in general it is taken as a negative

context. Moorhead and Griffin (2009) defines stress as a person’s adaptive response to a stimulus

that places excessive psychological and physical demands on that person (p. 169). Selye (1976)

brought a pioneering concept of GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome) on stress process

understanding. According to him stress process has got three stages, the alarm stage, the resistance

stage and the exhaustion stage. Eustress and Distress are two terms used for positive and negative

stress. These two terms were used and defined for the first time by Selye. Eustress can motivate a

person. For example, this type of stress can inspire a person to work harder if one has a deadline

approaching. An example of eustress is: earning an “A” on a test, winning a big game can be

another. Just Opposite of eustress, distress has a negative effect, when it interferes with one’s ability

to perform throughout the day it will be harmful to your health. Examples of distress include:

earning an “F” on a test, losing a big game, arguments, breakups, death, and divorce etc. It is not

possible to have not any stress. It is natural. If there is no negative stress, there is possibility of

having positive stress.


By observing the facts presented above we can now say that stress can be both negative and

positive. Some people believe that the stress is always unhealthy. This is not true. We can say that

reaction of the body and mind to everyday challenges and demands is the stress.

Stressors

Stressors are those factors which create stress. Robbins, Judge and Sanghi (2009) talks about

two types of stressors. The two types of stressors are challenge stressors and hindrance stressor.

Challenge stressors are the stressors associated with work load, work pressure , time urgency etc

where as Hindrance stressors are Red tape(complicated official rules), office politics and confusing

job responsibilities. Research by Podsakoff, LePine, J. and LePine, M.(2007 ) opened up finding

that hindrance stressors had dysfunctional relationships or negative relationships with job

satisfaction and organizational commitment and positive relationships with turnover intentions,

turnover, and withdrawal behavior. Challenge stressors were generally positively related with job

satisfaction and organizational commitment and there was a negative relationship with turnover

intentions and turnover. So challenging task of course creates the stress but gives job satisfaction too.

Stressors can be real or imagined, anticipated or unexpected. People, objects, places, events,

and situations are all potential stressors. It is also equally true that what causes stress for one may

not cause same or equal stress to another.

Personality type and stress

Reaction of a person to a stressor differs person to person. Some researchers have brought

evidences too. According to the research done by Friedman (1996), Type A personality is a

competitive, high achieving personality type, most likely to develop heart disease or other significant

health problems. Type A personalities are aggressive, time-conscious, very ambitious, perfectionists,

compulsive, easily angered, and meticulous / fastidious. Research indicates that the type A
personality may actually relieve stress by working. Type A people usually find themselves in

stressful situation. The type B personality is a much more relaxed, less time-conscious and driven

person. Type B personalities are able to view things more adaptively. They are better able to put

things into perspective, and think through how they are going to deal with situations. Consequently

they tend to be less stress-prone (as cited in Moorehead and Griffin, 2009.

Moorehead and Griffin(2009) say, some people seem to be less affected by stressful

situations and more resilient in adjusting to change. This quality is called stress hardiness.

Personality factors that stand out in stress-hardy people include; having a strong commitment to self,

work, family, and their personal values. ,having a sense of control over their lives, generally seeing

change as a challenge rather than a threat , participating in activities that promote creativity and their

own uniqueness, having a strong network of support and close relationships. Moorehead and

Griffin(2009) further say that optimism is also related to low stress. Pessimists are more prone to

stress.

It is already discussed that the stress is a common phenomenon. Often, situations associated

with stress are unavoidable. How much the stress of an event affects a person depends on perception

of it in the person. For example, based on ones perception, one might believe that a disagreement

with a friend has ruined her/his relationship. The friend, on the other hand, might believe that his

/her friend will eventually work out the issue. Because of perception of the event, the first one is

more likely to experience a higher level of stress about the situation than the second one will.

Reactions to stressful events depend on the persons previous experiences too. If one enjoys playing

the band, performing a solo may not make her/him nervous. However, the individual performance in

the band also was bad then s/he might worry about how well the solo performance will go. Once

again we should keep in the mind that what causes stress for one may not cause stress for someone

else.
The Workplace Stress

Stress in the workplace has become an increasingly hot topic over the past few decades.

“Stress in the workplace is obviously important to employees but management is also concerned

about stress in the workplace for several reasons. Increased stress in the workplace has been shown

to increase absenteeism and employee turnover” (Moorhead and Griffin, 2009). Increased stress in

the workplace also increases medical and insurance costs because of rising workers compensation

rates and awards due to growing stress in the workplace suits.

“Many employees are reluctant to talk about stress at work, due to the stigma attached to it. They

fear they will be seen as weak. But stress is not a weakness, and can happen to anyone. No employer

should subject their employees to work-related stress, and this is an issue both employer and

employee should take seriously” (HSE 2008) .

“At the end of the workday leave work in the office. Make a very definite separation

between work and home. Enjoy life at home and start your evening with a different perspective

completely is connected from work. More than likely, the following day, things at work will still be

the same and house stresses will be there waiting for you, however, your temporary shift of

environment has given you a fresh mind to look at things differently and more effectively” (Rojas

and Kleiner, 2001, pp86-89).

After reading the paragraph given above from the Journal Management Research News,

every reader starts to think about the stress at work place. In this changing world, the role, the

working style and the demands of the costumers are changing every minute. Let’s see some more

examples which illustrate the of workplace stress.

Managerial Auditing Journal (2004) says “Internal audit managers and directors should be

aware of the job stress factors inherent in the nature of the work of an internal auditor and take steps
to reduce job stress for individuals who are showing the early signs of job stress. For if the stress is

allowed to progress, job dissatisfaction will likely occur, and the individual will typically seek out a

new job. Therefore it is in the best interest of the organization to take appropriate steps to reduce job

stress of its internal auditors rather than risk increased job turnover”.

The story does not end here. Like internal auditors, another research opens up the stress faced

by school principals in this way. According to the Journal of Educational Administration (1994)

specific sources of stress are “feeling a lack of support from the education department and the union,

feeling a lack of control over the work environment and a managerial role being forced on the

principal. All appear consistent with the interpretative view that these sources of stress are a

reflection of the contradictory class location of school principals. Principals clearly feel like an

employee of the Education Department on the one hand with limited control over resources and

policy. On the other hand, at the school level and in the industrial arena, principals are perceived as

agents of the employer and responsible for the activities and resourcing of the school. Journal of

Educational Administration, Vol. 32 No. 3, 1994, pp. 18-34. © MCB niversity Press, 0957-8234

Before discussion let’s see another workplace scenario of principals. A study at Obafemi

Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Olayiwola (2008) concludes that principals are experiencing

stress in their job in the same dimensions irrespective of any variables such as gender, years of

experience, school type and location of the school.

This study and the previous one both accepted that the job of principals is stressful. Lets us

observe some more researched facts about stress at workplace. A discussion paper presented by The

Canadian Council on Integrated Healthcare (2002) has focused following researched ideas:

Canadian Council on Integrated Healthcare (2002) presented that “Sparks (2001) reviewed

article indicates there have been widespread organizational and economic changes in western
industrialized nations heightening perceptions of job insecurity, leading to increases in work

hours, decreases in perceptions of job control, and increases in managerial stress levels.

Much research suggests that management must play a greater role in efforts to reduce the

effects of stress, anger, and depression in the workplace. This finding reinforces the need for

workplace health initiatives to be integrated into managerial responsibilities.

The report further presents that, workplace health promotion interventions should be better

targeted, particularly aimed at those workers suffering from high levels of a stressor or

disease, rather than more "general education" based types of interventions. Concerns about

privacy are not impossible through good communication (trust; clearly stated intentions) and

obtaining appropriate consent.

The report further presents violation of psychological contract causes decreased trust of the

employer, reduced job and organizational satisfaction, feelings of less obligation and

increased turnover intentions, and reductions in their contributions to their workplace. Given

the potential impact that an employee in such a state can have on the organization, it is clear

that the violation of psychological contracts is potentially a very important consideration for

employers. The concept of a ‘spiral of incivility’ (coined by researchers Andersson and

Pearson) suggests that smaller transgression, if left unattended, can lead to higher levels of

aggression or harassment.

If a healthy workplace includes the notion that workers’ perceptions, attitudes and feelings

are causally related to their work performance behaviours, then these psychological elements

are fundamental to creating a healthy worker and a healthy workplace. Employers concerned

about practical management, due diligence, and standards of care need, therefore, to

understand that their responsibilities may well include "social" and "psychological"
dimensions of workplace health, as much as they have previously been concerned about the

"physical" dimensions.

The stressors of present workplace are task demands, workload, isolation at the workplace,

Physical environment, role in the organization, conflicting job demands, multiple managers /

supervisors, level of responsibility, Lack of clarity about responsibility / expectations, career

development, under / over promotion, job insecurity, relationships at work (interpersonal),

difficulty with boss / coworkers, threats / harassment / violence, organizational structure,

participation in decision-making, management style etc. To comprehend the researched facts

mentioned above , we can say that present work places are stressful. For ensuring well being

at work, managing the stress is inevitable”.

Ornelas and Kleiner (2003) explains about the job conditions that may lead to stress. On their

article ‘New Developments in Managing Job Related Stress’ they cited (NIOSH,2003) to describe

stressful work conditions. The conditions were : The first factor was Job Design . Heavy workload,

infrequent rest breaks, long work hours, hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning

that does not utilize workers skills and provide little sense of control cause the stress on workers.

Management Style was the second. Lack of participation by workers in decision-making process;

poor communication in the organization and lack of family friendly policies come under this

category. Interpersonal Relationships is the third factor. Lack of support from co-workers and

supervisors comes under this. Work Roles is the fourth Conflicting or uncertain job expectations;

excessive work responsibility etc create stress. Career Concerns is the fifth factor. Job insecurity; no

opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion come under this . Environmental Conditions is

the last factor. Things like Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air

pollution or ergonomic problems come under this heading.


Symptoms of work place Stress

“Symptoms of work place stress are categorized in five ways: Emotional – anxiety,

nervousness, worries, depression, anger, irritability, guilt, moodiness, loss of enjoyment of life,

loneliness, loss of humour, lack of confidence, isolation, and job dissatisfaction come under

emotional symptoms. Physical symptoms are feeling restless, feeling uptight, jumpy, high blood

pressure, back and neck muscle tension, lack of energy, dry mouth headaches, insomnia, dizziness,

loss or increase in appetite and ringing in the ears. The behavioral symptoms are impatience,

impulsiveness, hyperactivity, short temper, aggressiveness, alcohol abuse, use of drugs, avoiding

difficult situations, loss of sex drive, and overworking. Likewise the mental symptoms are frequent

lapses of memory, constant negative thinking, being very critical of yourself, inability to make

decisions, difficulty getting things done, distorted ideas, very rigid attitudes and difficulty

concentrating. There are many health related symptoms too. They are high blood pressure, higher

than usual susceptibility to colds and flu, migraines, irritable bowel symptoms, ulcers, stomach

disorders, heart attacks, angina, strokes, asthma and skin rashes” (Cohen, 2002).

Encyclopedia of Occupational Safety and Health gives the following points do describe

health problems caused by stress. A. Cardiovascular Disease ,many studies suggest that

psychologically demanding jobs that allow employees little control over the work process increase

the risk of cardiovascular disease. B. Musculoskeletal Disorders, on the basis of research by NIOSH

(National institute of occupational safety and health) and many other organizations, it is widely

believed that job stress increases the risk for development of back and upper- extremity

musculoskeletal disorders. C. Psychological Disorders, several studies suggest that differences in

rates of mental health problems (such as depression and burnout) for various occupations are due

partly to differences in job stress levels. (Economic and lifestyle differences between occupations

may also contribute to some of these problems.) d Workplace Injury, although more study is needed,
there is a growing concern that stressful working conditions interfere with safe work practices and

set the stage for injuries at work. Suicide, Cancer, Ulcers, and Impaired Immune Function. Many

studies suggest a relationship between stressful working conditions and these health problems.

However, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Stress Management for well being at work

Webster Online Dictionary (2009) says Well being is state of being healthy , happy, and

prosperous. “ Workplace place well being and performance are not independent. Rather they are

complementary and dependent components of financially and psychologically healthy workplace”

(Keyes and Haidt, 2003).

There are many researches which suggest for timely and proper management of stress.

Distress or Eustress both are to be managed on time. Unmanaged stress may cause health hazards.

Lets see some of the facts . Ettner and Grzywacz (2001) on their research "Workers' Perceptions of

How Jobs Affect Health," at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of

Northern Iowa, found that employees who experienced serious ongoing job stress and who work

long hours reported more negative effects of work on physical and mental health. The study, which

surveyed 2,048 workers across the United States, found that employees who work nights or more

than 45 hours per week were more likely to say their job undermines their health.

HSE(2008) suggests the followings for managing stress at workplace on individual level. It is

suggested that one should try to identify the causes and what s/he can do to make things better.

Ideally, should tell the manager at an early stage. If the stress is work-related, this will give them

the chance to help and prevent the situation getting worse. Even if it isn’t work-related, they may be

able to do something to reduce some of the pressure.


Many employees are reluctant to talk about stress at work, due to the stigma attached to it.

They fear they will be seen as weak. But stress is not a weakness, and can happen to anyone. When

such situation arises no employer should subject their employees to work-related stress, and this is

an issue both the employee and employer should take seriously.

Dunnagan, Peterson, and Haynes (2001) studied the effects of a "traditional" worksite health

promotion program and found that it had a limited role in reducing work-related mental health

outcomes. The authors suggest that management must play a greater role in efforts to reduce the

effects of stress, anger, and depression in the workplace.

However, Murphy (1996) cautiously reaches the conclusion that workplace stress

management programs do have demonstrable effects, particularly if the technique is matched to the

type of outcome, e.g., cognitive-behavioural interventions have strongest effects on psychologic

outcomes and relatively lesser effects on physiologic outcomes. Importantly, Murphy (1996)

suggests that "stronger" interventions, i.e., combinations of stress-management techniques, produced

more consistent results than did individual techniques. This finding supports the need for workplaces

to use strong workplace health interventions rather than simply opting for approaches that are

simple, easy, and less costly .

“The relationship between coworkers was, for decades, characterized by formality yet

friendliness, distance yet politeness. This last bastion of civility, however, appears to be disappearing

as research reports escalating levels of incivility and aggression in the workplace” (Andersson &

Pearson,1999). A large number of reasons are given for the increase, ranging from society in general

being less civil to internal organization factors such as downsizing, autocratic work environments,

and increased pressure to be productive.


Morrison and Robinson (1997) list a number of potential effects of such violations on

employees: decreased trust of the work organization, reduced job and organizational satisfaction,

feelings of less obligation and increased turnover intentions, and reductions in their contributions to

their workplace. Given that productivity, turnover, and distancing from the organization are all very

important to the stability and performance of an organization, it is clear that violating psychological

contracts is potentially a very important consideration for organizations.

Calabrese (2000) concludes that there are a variety of organizational, team, and individual

level characteristics that are possible causes for workplace anger. This conclusion supports, again,

the notion that organization structures, managerial influences, and relationship management are

important areas for intervention in workplace aggression.

There is no option left except managing the stress at work place for ensuring well being at

work . “We first begin by taking care of ourselves. There is a new wave of holistic stress therapies

that can be incorporated in our personal lives to help us deal with work-related stress such as:

Aromatherapy, Yoga, Acupuncture, Hypnosis and of course simple exercise and healthy eating. After

we have a healthy us we can conquer our work environment through evaluating the factors that

contribute to harmful stress in our work place, implementing stress management measures to reduce

workplace stress and monitoring the progress of these changes” (Ornelas and Kleiner, 2003, p 64).

Conclusion

In conclusion, life is full of conflicting choices, demands, desires and expectations. People

react differently to stress. How do people react to the stress depends on their strategies for coping

with stress, their level of social support and how they view their social support. Respectful and

considerate management of employees is essential. It can help everyone get through the difficult

times with manageable levels of stress. When stressful situations arise in the work environment, it is
important that the company’s management and its working people jointly address the stressors in the

work environment. Through employee participation in assessing the problem; communicating

potential resolutions and recognizing that stress management is a joint effort, stress can be managed.

Most importantly, people should relieve their own stress through exercise, muscle relaxation, color,

scent and massage. A stress-free work environment begins with a stress-free individual. A stress free

work environment is needed for well being at work.


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