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Stress

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1/ Definition of “Stress” :

Stress is an individual’s adaptive response to a situation that is perceived as challenging or threatening to the person’s wellbeing. (1)

There are two kinds of stress dimensions which are psychological and physiological one. In psychological aspect, people perceive a situation and interpret it as challenging or threatening or both and then this cognitive appraisal leads to physiological responses.

Distress: the degree of physiological, psychological and behavioural deviation from healthy functioning. (2)

General adaptation syndrome: a model of the stress experience, consisting of three stages : alarm reaction, resistance and exhaustion which helps people to cope with environmental demands by providing an automatic defence system.

• Alarm reaction : biochemical reactions occurring

leads to physiological responses of the human body in order to alert the person to the threatening or challenging environment conditions.

• Resistance : the body resists the environment demands in an above normal state level due to various biochemical, psycological and behavioural mechanisms activated at previous stage.

• Exhaustion : excess a limited resistance capacity of a person leads to exhaustion stage due to body operating overload on previous stage.

2/ Stressors: the causes of stress, including any environmental conditions that place a physical or emotional demand on a person. (3)

• Physical environment stressor: found in physical working environment such as : excessive noise, poor lighting, safety hazards…

• Role-related stressor: includes conditions where employees have difficulty understanding, reconciling or performing the various roles in their lives. (4)

o Role conflict : occurs when people face competing demands.

o Role ambiguity : uncertainty about job duties, performance expectation, level of authority …

o Workload : receiving too little work or having tasks that do not sufficiently use employee’s ability.

o Task control : lack control over how and when performing tasks and the pace of work activity.

• Interpersonal stressors: includes ineffective supervision, office politics and other conflicts when working with people. (5)

o Workplace violence: employees who experience violence usually have symptoms of severe distress after the traumatic event.

o Workplace bullying: offensive, intimidating or humiliating behaviour that degrades, ridicules or insults another person at work. How to prevent ? Firstly, set expectations regarding acceptable workplace behaviour. Secondly, base on past behaviour/incident. Lastly, companies should have a grievance, mediation or other conflicts resolution process that employees trust when they become victims of workplace bullying.

• Organisational stressors: such as the sale or merger trend of a company that employees face.

• Non-work streesors: Stressors from work spill over into non-work stressors and conflict with each other. (6)

o Time-based conflict: The challenge of balancing the time demanded by work with family and the other non-work activities.

o Strain-based conflict: occurs when stress from one domain spills over to the other.

o Role behaviour conflict: occurs when people are expected to enact different work and non-work roles.

3/ Individual differences in stress:

• People expose to the same stressors might response differently for some reasons:

o People have different approach to a same situation.

o People have different threshold levels of resistance to a stressor.

o People use different coping strategies.

• Type A behaviour pattern: A behaviour pattern associated with people having premature coronary heart disease; Type A’s tend to be impatient, lose their temper, talk rapidly and interrupt others. (7)

• Type B behaviour pattern: A behaviour pattern of people with low risk of coronary heart disease; Type B’s tend to work steadily, take a relaxed approach to life and be eventempered.

4/ Consequences of distress:

• Physiological consequences: Stress takes its toll on the human body. Cardiovascular disease represents one of the most disturbing effects of stress in modern society. Strokes and heart attacks are now leading causes of death. In addition, hypertension is caused by anxiety and worry.

• Psychological consequences:

o Job burnout: the process of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment resulting from prolonged exposure to stress. Job burnout is caused by excessive demands made on people who serve or frequently interact with others. (8)

• Behaviour consequences: When stress becomes distress, job performance falls and workplace accidents are more common. Human’s basic instincts like remembering, decision making or doing action are effected by exposing to high stress level.

5/ Managing work-related stress:

The stress management strategies include 5 different approaches :

• Remove the stressor: find out the main causes of stress in workplace in order to remove the stressors that cause unnecessary tension and job burnout.

o Work-life balance initiatives: includes

 Flexible work time: define a flexible working timetable.

 Job sharing: a career position can be shared by 2 employees so that they experience less time-based stress

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