Occupational Stress in a Public essay

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The stress alarm, therefore, can actually assist the employee to improve her performance and is necessary especially, if positive perceptions regarding the challenges of the work environment exist. The response to the stress under the Cognitive Activation Theory of Stress, provided that the exceptions held by the employee are positive, is healthy and necessary for survival and productivity. Eriksen H.R., Murison, R., Pensgaard, a.M., Ursin, H. (2005). Under this theory, emotional and physical health within the individual is sustained through a positive expectation for the outcomes, compliance with the expectations, or through resisting the stress altogether. Eriksen H.R., Murison, R., Pensgaard, a.M., Ursin, H. (2005). A summary chart outlining these different theories on stress and their potential effects on the organization follows.

A Comparison of Theories of Stress and How They Affect Organizational Operations


Basic Concept

Basic Reaction

Effect on the Organization

Fight or Flight

The stress produces physiological responses in the employee that equip the employee to either adjust to the stress or flee.

The employee uses the body's physiological responses to the stress to help sustain itself during the period of stress.

The effect depends on if the employee is able to cope with the stressful situation. If she is not, she will endure the "flight" response and avoid the stress which could result in absenteeism or turnover.

General Adaptation

Stress is divided into stages -- exposure to the stressor, resistance of the stressor, exhaustion from the resistance which could become progressively worse if not controlled.

The employee's natural response is to resist the stress. This could lead to stress related health issues.

The employee's resisting the stress will likely have a negative effect on the organization and the health of the employee. The productivity of the employee may suffer and the as well as the employee's health.

Cybernetics Theory

The employee's senses perceive the stressor and transmit this stressor to the brain and other parts of the body. The body interprets this signal and compares it to what the expectations are or what the prior experiences. Any discrepancy is eliminated.

An employee will either naturally comply with the source of the stress or eliminate it.

The effect depends on how the employee reacts to the stress. If the employee chooses to comply with source of the stress, which are usually the demands of the organization, the organization will benefit from the increase in productivity. Otherwise, the organization will suffer because the employee will avoid the stressful situation leading to absenteeism or turnover.

Ethological Theory

Stress is perceived as a threat on the employee's ability to maintain the status quo. The stress is accompanied by a neural or endocrinal response in the employee.

Because the stress is a threat to the employee's livelihood, the employee will experience a need to either cope with the stress or to eliminate it.

The effect depends on the ability to cope by the employee. If the employee adjusts to the level of stress present in the organization, the stress will not adversely affect the organization, but may affect the health of the employee.

Cognitive Activation

Stress is perceived by the employee as either threatening or non-threatening based on the employee's perceptions

If the outcomes are perceived as non- threatening, then the employee will use the stress to assist her in attaining the goals.

Since the stress is can actually motivate the employee to attain the company's goals, the stress can actually assist in productivity.

How Management or Administration Can Affect Organizational Stress

Stress has also been found to exist in high levels in the management or administration divisions of a public organization. Because the management of the organization is responsible for ensuring the effective functioning of the organization, it is possible the stress that the management experiences will oftentimes be filtered down to the employees. Likewise, if at the management level, the stress level is controlled and kept to a healthy level, the employees are less likely to suffer from work related stress. On the other hand, the management can act as a buffer or protector of the employees regarding stress. The effect of managerial stress on employees has been researched and the key questions examined is whether managerial stress acts as a buffer or level of protection for employee stress or whether it has the opposite effect to increase employee stress. The study was conducted on entrepreneurs and managers, but based on the scope of this report, only the results of the managers will be reported.

The ways in which managers could buffer or reduce the stress of their employees and whether these methods worked were studied. Afzalur (1998). One of the primary methods studied includes the benefits of social support given by the mangers and the effects that it had on the employee's stress level. Social support for work related purposes is defined as the support availability in the time of need from one's supervisor. Afzalur (1998). Social support is hypothesized to interact with stress in that when a person receives less social support from one's supervisor, the amount of stress is significantly higher than when a person receives higher levels of social support. Afzalur (1998). Past studies in this area have been inconclusive as some studies have revealed that social support is a buffer towards the stress of the company's employees while other studies have found no correlation. Afzalur (1998).

In a recent study reviewed by Afzalur on the relationship between social support and occupational stress, a negative correlation between stress and social support was found for the managers studied. Afzalur (1998). In other words, the presence of social support from the management had the effect of lowering the stress of the employees. This is significant because it shows that a manager in an organization can act as a buffer or a form of protection against stress.

Also studied in terms of managers was the presence of the characteristic of the locus of control and the effect that this has on stress in an organization. The locus of control is defined as a personality variable where a person believes that she can control her circumstances and events affecting them. (1998). A locus of control can be either internal or external -- individuals who have an internal locus of control believe that the events in their lives are generally the result of their own behavior and actions while individuals who have an external locus of control believe that events in their lives are generally determined by chance, fate, or other people. Afzalur (1998). A higher locus of control is considered to be a moderating effect of stress. In other words, a manager with a higher locus of control is more likely to act as a buffer in a time of stress than one who has a lower locus of control. In the study reported by Afzalur, the findings were that a manager with internal locus of control should be selected for high-stress jobs. Afzalur (1998).

Overall the study found that the locus of control was found to be a more important variable than social support relating to occupational stress and that management can demonstrate a positive effect on organizational stress particularly if the managers have a high external locus of control -- believe that they can control the events around them. Another way that the study found that management could reduce occupational stress was to be available to provide social support for the employees.

The Effect of Stress on Employees

Stress can lead to serious health care issues in the workplace. It is estimated that more than 10 million American workers suffer from stress related problems. Denhardt, Denhardt, and Aristiqueta (2009). As a consequence, as many as 60%-90% of doctor visits have been found to be for stress related disorders. Weiss, Fielding, and Baum (1991). Substantial research has been performed on how stress affects the employee's productivity at work and, not surprisingly, stress has been found to have a negative effect on an employee's productivity and overall performance at work. In one study, four types of relationships were identified between job stress and job performance -- curvilinear/U shaped, negative linear, positive linear, or no relationship. Muhammad (1985). The first type of possible result was curvilinear/U-shaped results where as the level of stress rises, the job performance rises, but the level of performance will decrease as the amount of stress continues to rise. Denhardt, Denhardt, and Aristiqueta (2009). The next type of possible result for this study was a negative linear where stress will steadily decrease job performance. The next type of result possible is a positive linear where the stress will steadily increase the job performance. A final possible result is that there was no relationship between the level of stress and job performance. The data was collected between middle management and blue collar workers in a large Canadian organization. Muhammad (1985). The results of the study showed that Bivariate multiple regression and hierarchical multiple regression analyses generally supported the prevalence of…[continue]

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