In years past, careers were milestones, which demonstrated successful accomplishments within our lives. Men utilized their careers to stake claim in society; a way to categorize their family’s worth. “Honey, I’ll be working late tonight” sometimes signified that the “gang” would have a long evening of crunching numbers, entertaining clients, or even smoking cigars with the boss while talking shop. If life went according to plan, and you chose the perfect career, the worst part of your workday would be choosing the best tie to match your navy pinstripe suit.
Well, things have certainly changed. Careers are no longer guaranteed based on who-ya-know concepts. Today, young men and women both prepare frantically in high school to have the best grades and make the right contacts to ensure that once they graduate, they are accepted in a top-notch colleges, in hopes to transition into the perfect career. Little do they know, that because of the changing times, high demands, advancement in technology, liberal concepts, unethical business practices, etc. areers are no longer work filled bliss and may cause a great deal of work-related stress. When you accept a position for employment, one of your last thoughts is “gee, I wonder if the work environment here causes a great amount of stress. ” Of course, if you are a day trader or a high risk emergency room doctor, you have some idea that your position within the organization will in fact be demanding and have a level of stress that is greater than other careers.
But, if you are a bank teller, college professor, or a bus driver, work-related stress may not be a deciding factor when one accepts a new job. There are various definitions defining the word stress. Stress is “a state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain,” as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Author Unknown, 2002). Stress can also be comically defined as, “the confusion created when one’s mind overrides the body’s basic desire to choke the hell out of someone who desperately deserves it” (Author Unknown).
Though both definitions accurately describe stress, Robert N. Lussier, author of Human Relations in Organizations, defines stress as “an emotion and/or physical reaction to environmental activities and events” (Lussier, 2005). When defining work-related stress however, emotional or physical relations that occur are related solely to your job; no other factors are involved in creating work-related stress. When analyzing Lussier’s definition of stress, understand that the environmental activities and events in which he mentions defines stressors.
Stressors are a sort of stimulus that encourages a stressful response. In the workplace, stressors can vary depending on the “personality type, organizations climate, management’s behavior” and other variables (Lussier, 2005). For example, loud noises in a manufacturing plant or warehouse may play a role in creating a stressful day for a laborer. Whereas, delivering two sets of twin in one day may increase the stress level of a nurse or obstetrician. How stress is handled by an individual is related to their personality type: Type A or Type B.
A Type A personality is “fast moving, hard driving, time conscious, competitive, impatient, and preoccupied with work” (Lussier, 2005). Type B is the exact opposite. In this case, a Type A personality may be prone to encounter more stressful situations than someone of the opposite personality type, because of the tendency for a Type A person to be overly active. A Type A personality would probably choose a career that is very demanding and creates a challenging and changing work schedule. Because of the desire to be active, such a career will inevitably increase a Type A personality’s stress level.
However, just because a Type B personality would assume be a slow paced, laid back, and less active person, stress can also play a major role within their work environment. A Type B personality may create social stressors, because of the lack of involvement within their workplace. The tendency to be less involved may force a Type B personality to be overlooked for promotions, or special assignments; not necessarily because the employee is not qualified, but because they are less prone to make themselves a key player within the organization.
This alone can be stressful to someone who believes that he/she is deserving of a promotion or special assignment, and in turn can cause the employee to become less motivated and consumed with pressure (i. e. stress), and force them to produce in ways that he/she would not normally. What if an employee works for an organization that poorly motivates their employees, or has little “work culture,” or one that has financial difficulties (Lussier 2005)? These factors alone can cause stress to an individual that may have a mixture of Type A and B personality.
Ensuring that employees have the proper climate within an organization makes a difference whether the employees are happy ones. Last year, a well know pharmaceutical manufacturer, Merck, Incorporated announced that their blockbuster drug, Vioxx, caused strokes and heart attacks when taken over several months. Immediately, Merck’s stock plummeted. Later in the next month, Merck advised the associated press that another one of their blockbusters, Fosamax, was rejected by the Food Drug Administration. Again, the stock shifted in a downward spiral.
Imagine the change in the climate of the company once the news was released that Merck was facing financial difficulty. Is it possible that the employees became afraid of loosing their jobs, retirement, and security? I would guess that the stress level within the company increased dramatically. An employee of Merck, Inc. in Wilson, North Carolina, had this to say, “because we were told about the problem with the drugs last, we felt like we didn’t matter to the company. They told us last; even after the press. I have been with them [Merck] for over 10 years.
I’m worried about my job; about being laid off. Merck’s reputation is on the line. Who will buy from us [Merck] now” (personal communication, January 29, 2005)? This conversation is a perfect example of climate induced, work-related, stress. The situation with Merck is also an example of how management’s behavior (informing the press before the employees) can be stressful as well. In some instances, work-related stress has been so evident that it has caused workers to “burnout”, or develop physical and/or mental impairments that affect their health (Lussier, 2005).
After the tragic events of September 11th, workers in New York claimed that because of the events they had become mentally ill and demanded workers’ compensation benefits in lieu of pay (Armour, 2002). In Illinois, the Supreme Court granted a teacher, Darwin Baggett, workers’ compensation after he suffered a heart attack, which was thought to be related to his job situation. Baggett died later within the year of his court case. (Armour, 2002). These situations prove that work-related stress is beginning to become more and more common.
It is proven that even our government has taking the dilemma into serious consideration. It is first the responsibility of the individual to detect when their stress levels have increased. A few signs of work-related stress are: feelings of “uneasiness, irritability, anxiousness, overworked and overwhelmed with work projects, likeness to call out of work for no apparent reason, or dreading Monday’s workday” (Author Unknown,2005). These symptoms may infer that the stress level at work may be too high and intervention may be necessary to avoid burnout or illness.
Take a moment, sit back and access your work situation. It may be that you are juggling too many projects at once. It is far better to be recognized for the success of one project than the destruction of many. Ask for help. If you have the luxury of having a secretary, utilize his/her talents. Understand that it is ok to delegate work to someone else, rather than overloading yourself with tasks. Set a work schedule and make it appoint to stick with it. If for some reason you work over your scheduled time today, take time off at the end of the week. When at all possible, leave work at work.
Take time for yourself. Attempt to eat nutritiously and exercise. Exercise produces endorphins, which help make you more upbeat and cheerful. “Think positive” (Lussier, 2005). It is ok to admit when you are at fault. But, once you do, learn from it, get over it, and move on. There are many ways to detect and treat stress. These are only a few that may be used as a preventative measure. Of all the suggestions listed, the most important is to relax. The old saying goes “take one day at a time. ” Once you have made the accomplishment to get that great job, see it as an opportunity and not a stress filled threat.