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Occupational Stress Essay

Job stress has proven to be a difficult issue for the workplaces and the labor movement to tackle. Unlike physical or chemical hazards, there is not an obvious tangible hazardous agent. This issue has also been preempted by corporate stress management, health promotion, or employee assistance programs, which explain stress as a purely personal reaction, and often treat the symptoms, not the causes, of job stress.

The occupational stress field also has been plagued by a variety of definitions and difficulties in measurement of stress. (Buunk,De-Jong,Y-Bemas&De wolff,1998) In addition, changes in job design or work organization are often inherently more “systems challenging” and require more radical restructuring of workplaces than reducing levels of exposure to toxic substances or ergonomic hazards. According to Mclean (1979) stress affect everyone in the workplace whether blue collar or white collar workers.

Hughes (1971, p342) supported Mclean by stating that” the essential problems of men at work are the same whether they do their work in some famous laboratory or in the messiest vat room of a pickle factory” So this essay will review the major explanations that have been given for the higher rates of stress amongst working women’s based of the interview conducted on south African female worker. Part one of this paper will discuss how the factors such as Gender’s, race, marital status can cause stress among workers.

In the second part work related factors such as heavy workload demand, control over work ,rewards and poor social relationship will be discussed. Lastly changes facing South African workplaces shall be discussed. The issue of stress is complicated because there is no single definitions that allows one to defines it . According to Buunk at al (1998) psychologist and other disciplines defines stress in relation to their area of focus. Holt (1982,p. 421) as stated in bunk et al (1998) defines stress as the “dark side of work”.

The stimulus approach to stress defines stress as the result of stressor or event in the environment external to the person (Buunk et al 1998). Stimulus approach stress perceive stress in terms of the degree of demand placed on individual by an environmental stimulus (Buunk et al1998). The response approach view stress as outcomes or as depending on other variables such as work. As stated by Buunk et al (1998) the response approach will be interested in measuring individual blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. The transactional approach view stress as the result of transaction between an individual goals and the environment.

The transaction approach to stress ensemble with the person and environment fit model which shall be discussed later in connection with work related factors that contribute to my interview stress . Lazarus & Folkman (1980s) viewed stress in a systems manner, in which none of the variables alone is capable of explaining the emotional response. Stress is a handy term to describe the operation of many processes that occur when demands tax (or exceed) the person’s resources. The interview was conducted on South African white collar workers, who is a black lady working for the University of the Johannesburg.

The lady was between the age of 40 -45. She is married with four children’s. The interviewee fell into the categories of white collar workers. As stated by Cooper & Smith (1985) white collar workers are vulnerable to stressors and their manifestation. The issue of white collar work and stress shall be discussed in relation to work related stressors. The below paragraph will discuss my interviewee characteristics that seem to be associated with increased vulnerability to stressors. The first characteristics impacting on her job stress is gender.

However no one theory accounts for the extent and prevalence of high rates of stress amongst women’s. Woman biology, environment and psychology all seem to play a role in increasing her risks of stress . Researchers such as Phillips & Segal (1969) have argued that women are likely to experience stress because they are likely to seek professional help. Being a woman means that one’s hormones are responsible for higher vulnerability to stress . According researchers many hormonal factors contribute to the increase rate of stress in women, particularly such factors as menstrual cycle change, pregnancy, miscarriage etc.

Researches done on the effects of hormones has found out that changes in hormones level accounted for approximately 1% change in moods level(Gunn & Warren . 1987). Environmental explanations for stress amongst women are based on the assumptions that women’s experience more stressor in their lives. Firstly my interviewee had to with role strain and role conflict. Meta-analysis of studies conducted in various countries has shown that women’s are roughly twice to experience stress because of role conflict(Frakenhaeuser, Lundberg &Chesney1991).

Researchers have argued that woman’s are likely to be stressed because of the need to balance multiple conflicting roles (family, work, mommy, house work). Study on work -family conflict and wellbeing stated that related loss of productivity among organisation employing women is estimated at nearly $40 billions year . My interviewee mentioned that role conflict was stressful to her because every day after work she has to rush home to prepare food for her husband and the children.

The study on role strain and in married women professional with young children shows that professionals with young children are vulnerable to stress (Frakenhaeuser et al, 1991). As stated by Frakenhaeuser et al( 1991,p ) “professional women with young children are likely to report spillover between work and home than mothers of older children” In the study of role conflict One-fourth of all workers who are married or living with children under age 18 reported moderate work-family conflict and another one-tenth reported severe work-family conflict. Women and men reported similar amounts of conflicts.

Women heading one-parent families reported conflict somewhat less often than women or men in two-parent families, parents reported more conflict than childless couples, and parents of preschoolers reported more conflicts than parents with school-age children. Secondly her age was associated with higher vulnerability to stressors. At stated by Mclean (1979) at the age of 40 one began to experience life time crisis. The fears of getting old and wondering where you are going can be stressful (Mclean, 1979) Being fourty and over can be stressful because workers began to fell that their retirement in near.

According to Levision at the age of fourty and above one need strong approval from his employee . If approval does not occur one may experience stress. Being married can also contribute to the amount of stress experience by women . According to Radloff (1975) married women are more likely to be stressed. Radloff (1975) finding suggest that woman’s react differently to romantic relationship, and they are likely to experience stress due to a negative relationship.

The findings were replicated in a survey of 900 couples, with women more likely to report stress due to marital troubles. Gale group, 2000). Lastly being black women is associated with increased vulnerability to stressor. The rate of stress in Black women remains about twice that of whites’ women. South African black women are faced with added stress from racial discrimination. Racial discrimination can make women to fell that she doesn’t have control over her life . That in turn can contribute to feelings of negativism and lack of self esteem , which all increase risk of stress.

Work related factors impacting on my interviewee job stress Occupational stress has increased in recent years because more and more is demanded from workers in terms of long periods of intense time pressure and rapid change in the nature of the job due to the introduction of new technology, international markets” (Buunk et al ,1998,p. 145) Many job conditions contributed to interviewee stress , such conditions includes heavy workloads demand , poor relationship with co workers and supervisors, low reward, sexual harassment , racial discrimination and work and family balance issue.

As stated by Cooper & Payne(1978) white collars workers are more likely to experience occupational stress from allied stress and other interpersonal dynamics and less from the physical conditions of work. Theories accounting for occupational stress can be divided into four models namely social environment, person environment fit, vitamin model and job strain (Buunk et al, 1998). Social environment model view environmental factors such as the size of organisation that one is working for as the source of stressor .

Organizational size can be a stressor(Cooper & Payne, 1978). Large organizations, especially the universities, can create a sense of helplessness to make required changes in the organization. Similarly, the technology used by an organization to provide its service can be a source of employee stress. An organization’s design can also affect employee stress. Mechanistic organizations can create in some employees the sense of being controlled by the organization as a machine. (Buunk et al ,1998)

While an organization’s design can be a stressor, whether or not a particular employee will perceive stress due to that design will be affected by other factors. In this case personality might be a factor that influences the type of organization structure found to be stressful. For example, my interviewee likes order and certainty he find an organic organization much less stressful. The issue of personality type and stress shall be discussed later. The next model to be discussed is person environment fit . Person environment -fit view behavior as an interaction between person and the environment. (Cooper & Payne, 1978).

The Person-Environment (P-E) Fit model, developed in the early 1970s by researchers at the University of Michigan, states that strain develops when there is a discrepancy between the motives of the person and the supplies of the environment (job), or between the demands of the job and the abilities of the person to meet those demands. (Van Harrison 1964 as stated in stress at work) Motives include factors such as participation, income, and self-utilization. Demands include work load and job complexity (Cooper & Payne, 1978). my interview experience stress because of lack of resources from the environment.

She stated that she experience stress because the university doesn’t give her enough time . So using person – environment fit model we will say that my interviewee experience stress because of the environment fails to provide enough resource. Secondly by interview experienced stress because she was no satisfied with her salary. Again the environment failed to provide resources. The most significant stressor on my interviewee appeared to be workload excess, job complexity misfit, underutilization of abilities, and time. The next model of occupational stress is Job strain model

Job strain model emphasizes the inter-action between demands and control in causing stress, and objective constraints on action in the work environment, rather than individual perceptions or “person-environment fit. ” This model cannot be applied to my interview because my interviewee was having control over her work. As noted by Karasek (1989) in work stress and the resulting physical and mental health effects of work stress, result “not from a single aspect of the work environment, but from the joint effects of the demands of a work situation and the range of decision-making freedom available to the worker facing those demands.

Job strain occurs when job demands are high and job decision latitude is low” (52, p. 287). In addition, other important work related and “social” stressors exist that are less directly connected to the concept of “job strain,” but may also have significant health consequences. These include increasing work hours , and sexual or racial harassment or discrimination. Conflict within and between groups can be a significant source of organizational stress, as can poor relations with co-workers. Personality is another factor that can moderate the relationship between a stressor being present and stress being perceived.

One important personality characteristic is called Type A/B Behaviour Pattern(Cooper& Roy,1978). This classification is based on early work in medicine linking personality to susceptibility to heart attack. It was found that those people who could be classified as Type A were hard-driving, felt time-pressured, and tried to accomplish too much in too little time. Behaviourally, the Type A individual always seems to be in a hurry(Cooper &Roy ,1978). The Type A person is likely to interrupt another to finish the other’s sentences (presumably to save time).

The Type B person, in contrast, is more relaxed, less in a hurry, and more willing to take time. Given these descriptions, it is not surprising to find that a Type A is more at risk of health breakdown. Type Bs either do not expose themselves to as many potentially stressful situations, feel less stress even when in those situations, or do not respond to stress in the same way. Other personality features thought to moderate the stressor perceived stress. Stress response relationships are self-esteem and what is called locus of control.

People with a strong sense of self (high self-esteem) and who feel in control of events (internal locus of control) are predicted to be less affected by stressors. The study done on mental outcomes of job stress among Chinese teachers shows that there’s a correlation between job stress and self esteem (Brouwers, Tomic ,Schmitch,Schwarze2000,Schwarzer &Greenglass,1999) The more a person feels out-of-control and/or unable to make required changes, the stronger the links should be between stressors, perceived stress, and stress reactions.

In this latter case, the individual is under strain and yet feels unable to do anything about it. It an acceptable fact that women experience more stress than man . As stated by above discussion. Theories accounting for high stress amongst woman’s have been divided into two namely Biological, environmental. Using biological explanation of stress this essay has found that my interviewee was experiencing stress because of her hormones. Discussion of environmental factors shows that my interviewee was more stressed because of the environment failure to supply resources .

As stated by person environment fit theory, behavior is the interaction between person and the environment. So the above discussion has stated that my interviewee experience stress because of lack of resources from the environment. Social environment theory discussed above has identified that certain factors such as size of the organization, technology using by the organization can be stressful. As stated by my interviewee working for big university such as university of the Johannesburg require one to put more effort in her work .

Like I mentioned my interviewee was married women with four children, putting more effort in her resulted in work conflict . She had to deal with work over load and this was the main cause of stress for her. Lastly this discussion has found that my interviewee was more likely to be stressed because of physical and sexual abuse . Studies shown that sexual abuse , in particular led to stress . Other factors contributing to my interviewee high level of stress include bad relationship with peers and supervisor.

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