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American today, works more that an American worker of even a generation ago. A 1999 Government report stated that workers worked 8% more hours than the previous generation. This translates to an average workweek of 47 hours. Twenty percent of workers today work more than 49 hours. The work place has been constantly changing -- the revolution from agronomies to industrialization having had its origins in the industrial revolution. Most of the industrialized regions of the world have attained better standards with significant improvements in quality of life as a result of the industrial revolution. In turn, however, the workplace became more formal and restrictive. Any personal skills of an individual worker were generally ignored. These abilities were not essential a worker's role in the "new" work environment.
Mass production was the next phase of change in the workplace. It made standardization the norm. Greater emphasis was placed on conforming to acceptable standards and rules than to the workers' actual skill and potential in the workplace. America has always been the land of dreams. It is a place where a common man can strike it rich if he can work hard enough, be smart enough, and work longer hours. This has resulted in the average American worker putting in more hours than any off his counterparts anywhere in the world for the same level of work. Competitiveness and profit seeking tend to create a society of insecure individuals. They are forever interested in climbing the next hill and crossing the next sea. While this has helped America stay at the top of most of the research and development now being carried out in the world, it has also made the society more stress and less interactive.
In the pre-industrial era, workers lived and worked in isolation (as dictated by the work environments of those days); they crafted goods required at their homes and farms. Artisans produced non-agricultural goods. These workers brought their completed goods to the market or the town-fairs. These market days were special: the exchanges of goods were sometimes monetary, but mostly based on a system of barter. After the advent and establishment of the industrial revolution, industrialization brought people closer together in central locations to work. These areas were pre-determined by the locations of factories and industries. The new worker was often taught a single skill. This skill was used repetitively in mass production -- in an assembly-line setup. The newly created commodities were sold by the factory in a larger market -- the size of the market determined by the worth of the product.
The workplace is always changing. Change is good. The environment in which an organization operates and functions in today's dynamic market is also constantly changing. (Mukherjee and Mukherjee, 2001) Competition will and must exist at all levels for an organization or individual to be successful. Competition does exist even at the most basic level -- the family. And it is also necessary to keep an organization growing. A few will and must get rich over the poverty of a larger number of the population; the need to become one of the few rich will fuel the drive from the larger poor ensuring that competition in its very basic form will always be in existence in society.
Job stress has become very common in the work place. Most workers think they are victims of job stress. Unfortunately, very few know what they can do to minimize stressful conditions. In the past, most careers required that a worker, possessed of relevant skills and abilities, complete a job in a reasonable amount of time. Today, however, competition forces big decision-making and quick reaction times. Workers are forced to make quick, or even instant, decisions based on either extensive or insufficient information. These decisions may not always be the right ones. The employee is often aware of that; he or she makes a wrong decision, nonetheless. As a result of the above, and also due to several other reasons that will be discussed, workers experience job stress.
In a nutshell, therefore, job stress is defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses to job requirements that do not match the abilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Occupational stress is a perceived imbalance between occupational demands and the individual's ability to perform when the consequences of failure are thought to be important. (Orris et al., 1993) Epictetus believed that, "People are disturbed not by things, but by their perception of things...." This makes the entire concept of job stress a very personal and psychological matter where perception also plays and important role. Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News and World Reports have all run features and cover stories on stress in the workplace and its effect on the average worker.
Reasons for Job-Stress
Challenges are good. They can help many workers prove themselves by accomplishing these difficult tasks. (Stress at work (webpage), 1999) Challenges energize workers psychologically and physically. They motivate workers to learn new skills. They enable workers to keep constantly abreast of the evolution in their fields of expertise. Unfortunately, in many cases, the problems and challenges may be beyond the capacities and expertise of the employee. (OSHAnswers, 2002) With no job security in today's workplace, the worker who cannot accomplish the task often get laid off or fired from the job. This constant fear of being fired coupled with the feeling of incompetence can seriously affect the performance on the job.
In the current job market, resizing and downsizing are becoming increasingly familiar. The need to increase profits and revenues has forced many establishments to try to optimize their resources and do more with a fewer number of employees. This in turn has forced many employees to multi-task. Even well qualified employees are limited by the amount and the variability in jobs that they can perform. Many workers initially starting at a new job or task may consider this wearing of many hats a challenge; they may use the opportunity to prove themselves and further their careers. In the long run, however, this constant juggling can get to them. It affects their overall performance in each of their required responsibilities. While multitasking is a much sort after quality, it can burnout many good and very productive employees.
Often people are stressed out from job related task that may not even be the primary job that they perform. For example, replying and tracking faxes, e-mails, voice mails and attending pointless meetings and briefings. Cheap and easy methods of communication, transportation and manufacturing increase the volume of mail both from within the company and from external clients. The market for goods and services is also constantly becoming global in nature. Often, communication can become tedious and difficult if every one does not speak the same language or use similar terminology.
With the advent of cell phones and email communications, employees are available instantly if needed. Formerly, only people holding very sensitive and high decision-making jobs were expected to be on call and available when required. In return for this level of dedication to the job, they were very adequately compensated for their services. In addition, the nature of their jobs ensured that they had ample job security for as long as they wished to work. At present times, however, all employees are expected to provide this high level of dedication. The privileges of job security or the high paycheck as compensation are not forthcoming. This often results in low morale, low self-esteem and job-dissatisfaction among lower or mid level employees. In addition, many workers may not see the opportunity for advancement in the company in which they work; they may be looking for other opportunities for personal advancements. It may also affect their current job. Workers may experience the stress of constantly walking the fine line between loyalty to their current employers and the pursuit of something better.
Personal behavior and habits also greatly impact the stress patterns that people experience. What may be stressful and challenging for one person, may be a motivator for another. Such workplace characteristics make it very difficult to set baselines for job-stress. Individuals that maintain a good balance between their personal lives and their work, those that have good social interactions with friends and family tend to be less affected by work stress. Employees who also have good and healthy interactions with their co-workers also have better control over the extent that they allow the work to affect them. An office environment which fosters honest and open interaction between the management and the worker helps the workers relate better to their job. It improves their esteem about their work and their role in the organization.
Many companies are also increasingly outsourcing their requirements. Companies outsource for a number of reasons: cost reduction and to increase the reliability and performance of the company. By outsourcing, the management expects to have more time and resources to spend on new product-development thereby increasing the organizations' market-share. Outsourcing helps reduce…[continue]
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