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Stress Has Been Divorced From The Working Environment...

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Significant alterations in the organisation of work and employment, especially in Western countries have considerably changed the surroundings of working conditions, increasingly recognized stress-provoking. Work-related stress is described as a detrimental response people have to unjustified pressures and hassles placed on them at work. (Almeida et al. (2009). These last decades stress has steadily been one of the most frequently itemized types of work-related illness. UK statistics related to stress are quite alarming. The Health and Safety Executive's report (2011) pointed out that the amount of cases of work-related stress currently listed for Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), are 352 000 cases in England, 16 000 cases in Wales and 32 000 cases in Scotland in 2010/11. The report specified that the whole figure of cases of stress in 2010/11 was 400 000 out of a total of 1 152 000 for all work-related illnesses. Nowadays and without any doubt stress is an integral part of the workplaces' landscape. This report will have to critically gauge and weigh up the above statement: has the stress been divorced from the working environment? Is counselling the only remedy against stress, the so called beast, or some other solutions or remedies are conceivable? These are questions which are at stake and the aim of this report is to discuss the statement of Hayes and Hudson, challenge or validate its accuracy. Before discussing the statement, the report will have to define and assess the ins and outs of the concept stress. Because it is crucial to understand first the complexity of the notion of stress, its socio-economic ramifications, but above all, it is critical to grasp how stress has become today a societal problem that impacts different aspects of our daily life.

What is stress?

There has been no commonly accepted definition of stress. Years ago it looked like stress was not perceived as a scientific concept, but it was considered in some way as an undefinable and unmeasurable concept. The lack of agreement on a consensual definition proves how the subject is controversial (Vanroelen et al. 2010). Depending on the method of approach - engineering, psychological, physiological, etc. - one will adopt a definition matching his/her understanding or his/her angle of analysis. Academics, scholars, researchers have very different ideas with respect to their definition of stress, but there is a kind of agreement at least in broad terms on the nature of stress (Cooper, 2002). Stress, which is broadly discussed and fuel contentious debates around the globe with regard to work environment, is a notion going back from time immemorial. It takes root in the Latin term "stringere", meaning to draw tight (Skeat, 1958). It can defined as "a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint, or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important" (Schuler, 1980:189). But there is probably the most common and widely accepted definition of stress - mainly attributed to Richard S. Lazarus, a former distinguished scholar, researcher and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California - which stipulates that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that "demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize." In less formal terms, people feel stressed when they sense that "things are out of control". Also people consider the definition of stress to be something that causes distress. McKenna (1984) added that in human terms any situation that is perceived as troublesome, hostile, ambiguous or boring is expected to induce stress. People experience stress when they notice that there is a discrepancy, an imbalance between the demands made of them and the existing resources they have access to contend with those demands. (Bakhshi et al. 2008).

Referring to above definitions of stress, there are some components associated with stress which emerge: constraints and demands. Robbins (2003) wrote that the constraints prevent people from doing what they desire and demands refer to the loss of something desired. When someone is undertaking a test at school or an annual review of performance at workplace, he feels stressed because he is antagonising opportunities, constraints and demands. If the performance review is good, promotion, greater responsibilities and a pay rise will follow. If failure is the outcome, promotion will be put on hold and eventually depending on how bad the review is, the person will be fired. Stress happens because of the two necessary conditions: "there must be uncertainty over the outcome and the outcome must be important" (Robbins, 2003:577). Stress occurs because of the doubt or uncertainty related to the opportunity to seize, the constraint to remove and the loss to avoid. If uncertainty to win or lose is high the stress will be higher too, but it will be low for individuals who are certain to win or lose. The same applies for the importance of winning or losing, if the outcome is unimportant there is no stress, but if the outcome is important the stress is high too. If earning a promotion or keeping a job doesn't matter, undergo a performance review doesn't cause any stress. But the contrary case does.

Although stress is typically discussed in a negative way, it is not always harmful or necessarily bad, it can also have a positive value. Any definition of stress should also include good, positive stress or eustress, term coined by endocrinologist Hans Seyle and utilised by Richard Lazarus in his stress model. Eustress is opposed to distress, and research has already pointed out that increased stress results in increased productivity (Michie, 2002). Consider an athlete on the verge of running a final 100 meter in Olympic Games. Such individual very often uses stress positively to perform at his maximum. Likewise students and employees take the pressure of deadlines as a positive challenge of motivation that heightens the quality and the performance of their work (Robbins & Judge, 2007). Briefly stress can also have a good impact even though the downside carved out the lion's share in terms of research. A definition of stress should also take in this type of healthy stress, which is commonly overlooked when it comes to define and describe the concept of stress (Cooper, 2002).

Understanding stress and its consequences

What causes stress and what is its impact on employees? Why the reaction to the stress is not uniform? Why people react differently to a same source of stress? The following



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