Assess your stress: Defining and understanding stress


Stress is an unavoidable fact of organizational life today, taking its toll on both individuals and organizations. According to a survey, 90% of American workers report feeling stressed at least once a week and 40% describe their job as very stressful most of the time (Bolles, 2002).

The leadership literature defines stress as the pattern of emotional and physiological reaction occurring in response to demand from within or outside organizations (Greenberg, 2005).

It is important to recognize potential stressors and to take appropriate action. However, it can be very disruptive to mistakenly assume that something is a stressor when, in reality, nothing is wrong. With this in mind, here are some useful guidelines for appraising potential stressors accurately.

  • Check with others: Ask around. If others are not concerned about a situation,  then maybe neither should you be concerned. Discussing the situation with people may alleviate any feelings of stress you may have had.
  • Look to the past: Your best bet for deciding what to do may be to consider what has happened over the years. You may want to be concerned about something that has caused problems in the past, but worrying about conditions that haven’t been problems before might only make things worse by distracting you attention from what really matters.
  • Gather all the facts: It’s too easy to jump to conclusions, seeing situations as problems that really aren’t so bad. Instead of sensing a problem and assuming the worst, look for more objective information about the situation.
  • Avoid negative mental monologues: Too often, people talk themselves into perceiving situations as being worse than they really are, thereby adding to stress levels. You should avoid such negative mental monologues, focusing instead on the positive aspects of the situations you confront.


Bolles, R.N. (2002). What color is your parachute? (2002 edition). Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.


2 thoughts on “Assess your stress: Defining and understanding stress

  1. Pingback: What is stressing employees out? | Leadership Archways

  2. Pingback: Major effects of organizational stress: What can be done to reduce stress? | Leadership Archways

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