In this post I would like to address two issues: major effects of organizational stress, and strategies on how you can deal with stress related to your job. I have blogged about assessing your stress and stressors that are commonly encountered at work, so by now you probably understand that stress stems from a variety of sources, ant how it can affect the people who experience it. What may not yet be apparent is just how powerful and far-reaching such effects can be. In fact, so widespread are the detrimental effects of stress (i.e., strain) that is has been estimated to exceed an annual cost of 10% of the U.S. gross national product (Greenberg, 2005)!
Major effects of organizational stress:
Lowered task performance – but only sometimes: Current evidence suggests that stress exerts mainly negative effects on task performance (Greenberg, 2005). For the most part, the greater stress people encounter on the job, the more adversely affected their job performance tends to be (Cropanzano, Ruppe, & Byrne, 2003). It is important to note that the adverse relationship between stress and job performance does not always hold. For example, some individuals seem to “rise to the occasion” and produce exceptional performance at times of high stress. This phenomenon is explained be the fact that people differ widely with respect to the impact of stress on task performance. Some people seem to thrive on stress, finding it exhilarating and improving their performance, whereas others seek to avoid a high level of stress, finding it upsetting and an interference with job performance.
Desk rage: Defined as the lashing out at others in response to stressful encounters on the job (Greenberg, 2005). Just as angered drivers have been known to express their negative reactions to others in dangerous ways (commonly referred to as road rage), so too have office workers been known to behave violently towards others when stressed out by long hours and difficult working conditions. It takes many different forms and a survey found three interesting stats: 42% of workers surveyed had witnessed yelling or other verbal abuse, 29% had yelled at a co-worker, and 10% had seen physical violence in the workplace (Greenberg, 2005).
Stress and health – The silent killer: How strong is the link between stress and personal health? The answer, say medical experts, is “very strong, indeed.” Some estimate that stress plays a role in anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of all forms of physical illness (Frese, 1985; Greenberg, 2005). Drawing on the research here is a quick list of physical illnesses with strong ties to stress levels: heart disease, stroke, ulcers, headaches, diabetes, and even lung disease (Reivich & Shatte, 2002; Greenberg, 2005)
Reducing stress: What can be done?
Although stress may be inevitable, I would like to present some ways you can reduce stress and minimize it’s harmful effects (Greenberg, 2005; Latack & Havlovic, 1992; Reivich & Shatte, 2002).
Manage your time: Stress is often created by poor time management. Learn such skills as prioritizing activities, allocating time realistically, and taking control of how one spends their time.
Eat a healthy diet and be physically fit: Research makes it clear that reduced intake of salt and saturated fats and increased consumption of fiber and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables are steps that can greatly increase the body’s ability to cope with the physiological effects of stress. Physical exercise also helps build resistance to the adverse effects of stress.
Relax and meditate: People can cope more effectively with work-related stressors when they have learned to relax. Meditation, the process of learning to clear one’s mind of external thoughts, is especially useful in combating stress. I have provided two links that I think you will find insightful and useful, how to mediate and free guided meditations provided by UCLA.
Get a good night’s sleep: Lack of sleep leaves us tired and unprepared to handle stressful situations. To get a good night’s sleep, “clock out” mentally and never dwell on workplace problems as you try to fall asleep.
Avoid inappropriate self-talk: Avoid the temptation to think about how bad things will be if you fail. Dwelling on this only makes things worse. Instead, try to practice positive self-talk on how you can make a work situation better.
Control your reactions: When facing stressful situation, don’t allow your speech to become rapid and intensify. Instead, make a conscious effort to speak calmly. Making an effort to speak calmly can help reduce arousal and tension. When facing rising tension, it also helps to take a short break – a time out – to restore equilibrium.
Cropanzano, R., Rupp, D.E., & Byrne, Z.S. (2003). The interrelationship of emotional exhaustion to work attutudes, job performance, and organizaitonal citizenship behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 160-169. Motowidlo, S.J., Packard, J.S., & Manning, M.R. (1986). Occupational sttress: Its causes and consequences for job perfromance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 618-629.
Frese, M. (1985). Stress at work an psychosomatic complaints: A causal interpretation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 314-328. Quick, J.C., & Quick, J.D. (1984). Organizational stress and preventative management. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.
Latack, J.C., & Havlovic, S.J. (1992). Coping with job stress: A conceptual evaluation framework for coping measures. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13, 479-508.
Reivich, K., & Shatte, A. (2002). The resilience factor. New York: Broadway Books. Abascal, J. R., Brucato, D., & Brucato, L. (2001). Stress: Mastery: The art of coping gracefully. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Cunningham, J.B. (2000). The stress management sourcebook (2nd ed.) Los Angeles: Lowell House.