Stress Management in the Workplace Table of contents Page Abstract3 Definition of stress management4 Two advantages of stress management5 – 6 Positive impacts on the organization5 Positive effects on lifestyle and health behavior6 Two limitations of stress management6 -8 Role of supervisors and management6 – 7 Individual differences in stress response7 – 8 The role of the Human Resource Manager towards stress management8 – 9 Conclusion9 – 10 References11 – 12 Abstract Organizations are constantly undergoing change through new demands, changing technology, demographic changes and increased competition.
Due to the increase in workload, psychological problems related to occupational stress have increased rapidly in Western countries (van der Klink, Roland, & Blonk, 2001). More than ever before, job stress has become a hazard to the health of employees and in turn the health of organizations (Sauter, Hurrell, Scharf, & Sinclair, 2003). The purpose of this research paper is to illustrate the overall importance of stress management in the workplace. The research paper will start by giving a definition of the term stress management. After that, it will illustrate advantages and limitations of occupational stress management.
Finally, the third point will cover the role of a Human Resource Manager in the field of stress management. Definition First of all, several definitions of stress management will be illustrated in order to provide a clearer understanding of the term. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (2008), stress management can be defined as follows: “A set of techniques used to help an individual cope more effectively with difficult situations in order to feel better emotionally, improve behavioral skills, and often to enhance feelings of control” (NHLB, 2003) .
Ivancevich, Matteson, Freedman, and Philips (1990), describe stress management intervention as any activity or program initiated by an organization aimed to reduce the presence of work-related stressors or to assist individuals in minimizing the negative outcomes of these stressors (Ivancevich, Matteson, Freedman, & Philips, 1990, as cited in Richardson & Rothstein, 2008). According to Cotton (1990), stress management is concerned with identifying and analyzing problems that are related to stress, and applying a variety of therapeutic techniques to change either the source of stress or the experience of stress.
Stress management educates the worker about the nature and sources of stress, the effects of stress on health, and personal skills in order to reduce stress (Sauter, Hurrell, Scharf, & Sinclair, 2003). Stress management techniques consist of organizational or individual techniques (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). Organizational techniques include emotional climate control, social support, redefinition of employee roles, and elimination of work overload and work underload. Individual techniques comprise physical exercise, time-management, relaxation exercises, assertiveness training, biofeedback and behavior modification (D.
Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). The main objective of stress management is to help the employee to function at an optimal level (Cotton, 1990) by improving the ability of the workers to cope with difficult work situations (NIOSH, 2003 Two advantages of stress management Positive impacts on the organization The following paragraph will highlight the beneficial effects of occupational stress management on organizational success. Research has shown that occupational stress management has several positive impacts on employee’s stress response, and therefore contributes to organizational success (Kohler & Munz, 2006).
Stress can be considered as costly to organizations because high stress is related to a decrease in job satisfaction, lower productivity, reduced motivation, increased errors, accidents, counterproductive behavior, and decline in turnover (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). Research by Kohler and Munz (2006) indicated that a comprehensive stress management program improves the well-being of employees and contributes to organizational effectiveness. Employees who are satisfied with their job are more productive, show pro-social behavior, and have a lower absenteeism and lower turnover rate (D. Schultz & S.
Schultz, 2002). A meta-analysis by Richardson and Rothstein (2008) proved that cognitive-behavioral stress interventions helped workers to promote successful responses to stress. Murphy and Sorensen (1988) studied the impact of relaxation training and biofeedback on absenteeism rate, and found a decrease of absenteeism in the following year (Reynolds & Brinner, 1994). Another meta-analysis of 37 studies involving 1,837 participants showed that stress-inoculation techniques significantly reduced anxiety and enhanced job performance (Saunders, Driskell, Johnston, & Salas, as cited in D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002).
To sum up, stress management can contribute to the organizational success by improving the well-being of an employee, enhancing the coping mechanism, reducing absenteeism, and improving job performance. Positive effects on lifestyle and health behavior The second advantage of stress management programs is its beneficial effects to the lifestyle and health behaviors of workers. Stress can be considered as a major health problem in today’s society (Yates, 1979). Stress is linked to physical problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, and can also cause long-term psychological effects (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002).
Therefore, stress should be seen as both a health and safety hazard since it affects the worker’s health negatively (CUPE, 2003). Research indicates that stress management leads to a stressor reduction and improves individual well-being (Kohler & Munz, 2006). A study analyzing the effects of two stress-reduction interventions on physically inactive employees showed that physical exercise improved the feeling of well-being and decreased muscle pain. In addition, stress management training lead to improved coping ability and had positive effects on lifestyle and health behavior (Gronningter, Hytten, Skauli, & Christensen, 1992).
Two limitations of stress management Role of supervisors and management In the following paragraph, two limitations of stress management in the workplace will be illustrated. The management of an organization can contribute in two ways to the failure of occupational stress management. Firstly, a difficulty for implementing a stress management program can be the lack of superior support. According to Kohler and Munz (2006), the top management support is essential to the success of a stress management program.
Support of superiors towards stress management programs create awareness of the needs and provide a long-term viability (Kohler & Munz, 2006). A lack of superior acceptation might cause the stress management intervention to fail (Kohler & Munz, 2006). In summary, supervisor’s attitudes towards these programs play an important role and can influence the effectiveness of occupational programs and trainings (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). The second limitation of a successful stress management program can be caused by the leadership itself.
A survey in the UK in 2001 showed that workers ranked bad management as a leading cause of stress (CUPE, 2003). “In 1997, 75% of American workers believed that the worst thing about their jobs and the greatest single cause of stress, is their boss” (Galant, 2000, as cited in D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002, p. 193). In contrast to that, “research involving 543 German workers found that social support offered by supervisors reduced the symptoms of depression that resulted from social stressors on the job”(Dormann & Zapf, 1999, as cited in D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002, p. 357).
An additional study of 90 German workers showed that social support given by supervisors leads to significantly reduced physical and psychological effects (Frese, 1999, as cited in D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (2003), factors such as bad management style can be seen as leading causes of stress and therefore contribute to the failure of occupational stress management. Individual differences in stress response The following paragraph will focus on the individual differences of workers as a contribution to the failure of occupational stress management.
Stress management programs might not have the same effects on all participants because of individual differences in a person’s stress response, such as the ability to cope in difficult situations. Research showed that differences in stress responses can be influenced by certain personality factors, such as a Type A personality, a person’s self-efficacy and locus of control (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). In 1950, Meyer Friedman, an American cardiologist, defined two types of personalities linked to different stress tolerance levels (Friedman, 1996).
According to Friedman, the Type A personality can be described as highly competitive, ambitious, and aggressive with a constant sense of time urgency (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). In contrast to that, the Type B personality experiences fewer stress effects (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). This comparison shows that internal factors might influence the success of occupational stress management. A second individual difference in a person’s ability to cope stress situations is the level of self-efficacy, which refers to the belief of one’s ability to achieve a task (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002).
A study of 226 U. S. bank tellers showed that the most important factor in stress tolerance was self-efficacy (Schaubroeck, Lam, & Kie, 2000, as cited in D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). Bank tellers who were high in self-efficacy were more resistant to psychological stress. An additional study provides evidence of individual differences in stress response. Managers who had a high level of internal control, which means they believe that job performance is under their control, were significantly less affected by stress than those who had a high level in external control (Daniels & Guppy, 1994, as cited in D.
Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). This leads to the assumption that even the best stress management program might affect certain individuals in a different way and therefore demonstrates a limitation of occupational stress management. The role of the Human Resource Manager towards stress management The following paragraph, will demonstrate the role of a Human Resource Manager towards occupational stress management. A Human Resource Manager (HRM) can contribute with his or her work to the decrease of work-related stressors and therefore to the overall success of stress management in the work place.
Successful stress management can start with the prevention of stress during the recruitment process. By finding the right person for a specific job, the HRM can avoid stress for the individual and for the organization (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). Therefore, defining a realistic job preview and using validated tests in order to select the right person can contribute to a lower level of stress for all people involved. “Research supports that realistic job previews correlate positively with job satisfaction, job performance, and reduced turnover” (D. Schultz & S.
Schultz, 2002, p. 66). By defining detailed job guidelines, the HRM can avoid role ambiguity and role conflicts, which are to be found as a great source of stress (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). By working together with the management of an organization and enriching, enlarging, and expanding job tasks, the HRM is able to provide greater responsibility and decision-making authority, which reduces work related stress (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). The HRM can contribute to the avoidance of qualitative or quantitative work overload and underload which therefore reduces stress.
Preparing employees for necessary changes, training them, and providing the necessary support can be an additional role of a HRM (D. Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). A HRM can be responsible for giving stress management training sessions, implementing stress management interventions, and selecting training institutions, according to scientist guidelines. Moreover, a HRM can train the supervisors in empathy and concern for subordinates and thereby increasing social support, which can reduce personal vulnerability to stress effects (D.
Schultz & S. Schultz, 2002). Conclusion In view of a changing environment, organizations are facing new challenges. According to the main principle, “If you do not go forwards, you go backwards” (Sauter, Hurrell, Scharf, & Sinclair, 2003, p. 1), the nature of work is changing frequently. Due to the increase in workload, psychological problems related to occupational stress have increased rapidly in Western countries (van der Klink, Roland, & Blonk, 2001). Therefore, the value of stress management might become more important.
Further research is needed in order to develop this topic and to evaluate the different stress management interventions. Therefore, this field might offer various possibilities and challenges to Human Resource Manager. To sum up, these are the main ideas of this research paper: on the one hand, stress management can contribute to the organizational success and has the potential to improve the lifestyle and health behavior of employees. On the other hand, there are individual differences in the personalities of employees who influence and can limit the success of stress management in the workplace.
In addition to that, the management might either promote the success or inhibit it by a lack of support. In view of the positive effects of stress management on organizational success and individual wellbeing, it is recommended that stress management should be an organizational interest. References Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). (2003). Health and Safety Guidelines – Enough Workplace Stress: Organizing for change. Ottawa: Health and Safety Branch. Retrieved November 11, 2008, from http://cupe. ca/updir/stress_guideline. pdf Cotton, D.
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