Someone interfered with your work activities (Kowalski, Harmon, Yorks & Kowalski, 2003, p. 39)
One can see from this list that there is a significant development of aggression, in relatively mild forms that probably occurs across the board, to some degree in every business environment. Workplace aggression, between low level employees as well as between supervisors and employees is clearly a significant cause of workplace stress as well as a symptom of stress frequently on the part of the aggressor. Those causes and forms of aggression covered in the list above, consist of many interpersonal stressors, a significant form of work place stress, especially depending upon the level of each employee.
There are however other forms of workplace stress that can be associated work issues, such as stress created by increased work hours, quotas, looming deadlines, technological interaction stress (Rue & Byars, 2006, p. 351-352), a perceived inequality between work and compensation, perceived inability to progress in the organization, and last but not least poor or unsafe work environment and a perceived lack of ability to change it, and lastly fear of termination or excessive changes that will end in termination. "When employees are treated as disposable commodities, the company loses moral authority." (Johnson & Indvik, 1994, p. 515) There is a clear sense that work could easily become the greatest source of stress in the modern world, for most people.
Stressors can also be non-work issues such as the very common stress with regard to the perceived inability to meet personal needs outside of work, as a result of work pressures, economic stress in the home, family and/or relationship stresses (outside of work), personal medical issues, possibly exacerbated by stress. Though these stresses may not be considered workplace stress they can and frequently do infringe upon work time and should be treated as a part of reducing overall stress in employee's lives through management sponsored programs. (Rue & Byars, 2006, p. 351)
Management Centered Stress Reduction Strategies
There is a clear sense form the above writing that the best possible manner in which people can receive stress management assistance would be from the top down, if for no other reason management sponsored assessments as well as interventions demonstrate a system that will be perceived as caring about the health and wellness of the individual. It must also be noted here that traditional interventions have been centered on teaching individual stress coping skills, rather than demonstrating alterations in the whole system that better meet the needs of even those who are unwilling to seek help for work related stress.
Stress management for employees tends to focus on the individual because of the implication that adaptive coping strategies can be learned (Matheny, Aycock, Pugh, Curlette, & Silva Cannella, 1986). Yet variations in the stress and coping process may be due to influences from the larger social context (Lennon, 1989; Pearlin, 1989). To date, counselors know little about the influence of the work context (e.g., institutionalized social roles) on workplace stress and the stress adjustment process. (Long, 1998, p. 65)
Though it may be beneficial for individual stress management training to occur it might also seem rather shallow in a situation where broader concerns, such as the work environment or aggressive social behavior between coworkers is occurring. In short the program that directs everything back on the individual is enforcing the idea that the individual, rather than the system is flawed.
It is for this reason, and others outlined earlier that there is a clear need to perform a workplace stress audit as a first step toward creating new or better Employee Assistance Programs. The management must clearly understand the level of stress, as well as the employee perceived reasons for its occurrence. The manger must be an ally, or resource in the development of the individual as well as the environment to reduce stress and aggression at work.
There is also a clear sense in the literature that the need to define both passive and active responses to workplace stress and aggression is essential. Some people may employ passive or disengagement coping strategies, where they will remove themselves from the stressor or avoid it to reduce the level of stress associated with it, or active coping or engagement coping where the individual will attempt to cope with stress by addressing it and trying to change the situation. (Long, 1998, p. 66) it can be assumed that the later would be long-term and productive, in many cases while the former would be counterproductive and possibly end in even greater stress caused by work affect, inability to communicate and a sense of powerlessness.
Performing an active assessment, utilizing industry specific or general techniques for audit can be the essential first active step in change as it allows individuals to align and air grievances without naming names, or feeling like a complainer. The advantages of using a pay service, such as the many available on the web (Rue & Byars, 2006, p. 349) is that a good service can offer a tailored test or survey materials that is specific to the organization as well as support and suggestions for the development of intervention strategies. In many cases such programs offer as much or as little as a company wishes to utilize. The time saved by utilizing such a service could pay for itself. There are also resources available in the form of books and other materials for those who wish to appoint an individual to produce a stress audit program and/or offer intervention strategies, once an audit has been conducted.
On an organizational level there are several suggested guidelines for managing stress, before, during or after an audit.
Shortening hours of direct contact with customers
Granting special leaves (sabbatical programs)
Introducing early retirement programs
Installing on-site exercise programs
Actively involving employees in the decision-making processes
Fulfilling the realistic expectations of employees
Introducing flextime or telecommuting where possible
Insisting that employees take vacation time
Clearly defining employee jobs
Providing well-thought-out training programs
Introducing changes gradually (Rue and Byars, 2006, p. 349-350)
Focusing on helping individuals manage personal stress through the development of stress management programs, with a clear emphasis on the individual not being flawed but being a part of the solution to environmental problems. This is also a clear indication that an audit is necessary as individual stress may not be the sole, and likely are not the sole source of workplace stress. Self audits may also be necessary if the individual is experiencing many symptoms of personal imbalance. (Rue and Byars, 2006, p. 351)
Once personal and company wide stress audits have been conducted and the manager is knowledgeable of the outcomes there is a likely need for the implementation of a Employee Assistance Program, that can assist the individual, and the group in resolving stressors both in and outside the work environment. EAPs can be anything from allowing employees to take reasonable draws or take paid personal leave to address family problems on a more regular basis, rather than only on the traditional one week vacation plan, that does not serve the modern work environment. (p, 356-357)
One particularly effective EAP is a wellness program, that provides illness prevention and intervention programs and allows the individual opportunities to enhance personal well being. The program can provide, periodic health clinics, or offer time off for preventative health checks, smoking cessation classes, nutrition education classes, hypertension screening clinics, weight control classes, exercise classes, stress management classes, accident risk reduction training, immunization opportunities as well as CPR training for individuals. The availability of community opportunities may be an aspect of understanding that management needs to elicit such interventions. (p. 358-359)
Burnout is one of the most significant causes of workplace stress, as well as attrition and turnover. Individuals may not recognize burnout, and outsiders may not either. It is for this reason that one of the most important aspects of any audit is to assess the personal level of burnout symptoms. (p. 353-354) One clear symptom of burnout, as well as prolonged or excessive stress in or out of the workplace is depression. (Johnson & Indvik, 1997, p. 359) Depression can be a symptom that shows in the work or general affect of the individual in subtle ways or more intense ways, causing work slowdowns as well as absenteeism.
As has been previously stated in the above work, workplace stress is a significant factor for business failure, and individual attrition and turn over, as well as the individual health of employees and therefore the health of the organization. Without the practice of workplace stress audits, implementation of changes that elicit reduced stress in the workplace, including management driven organizational changes such as Employee Assistance Programs organizations may be in extreme dire straights and potentially at risk for…