Managing Work Related Stress

Executive Summary

This study seeks to provide knowledge about workplace stress management.   Literature is reviewed to provide an overview of the existing studies regarding stress management in the work environment.  Specific stressors are identified describing how they affect workers.  The impact of stress on decision making is also examined showing how stress among managers and workers affect impede effective decision making. Strategies that can be used by twenty first century organizations to manage stress are investigated. After the literature review, a discussion and analysis are carried out focusing on the specific elements of the literature review. After the analysis three stress management recommendations are given.


1.0 Introduction

As the organizational leader manages’ response to situations determine organizational success. Organizations face different forms of crisis and an effective manager helps their organizations navigate crisis. Workplace stress is a common problem in all organizations. The success of a manager is dependent on the ability to manage stress. Stress affects managers as well as lower level employees and it has direct impacts on workforce productivity. People are the most important assets in an organization. The ability of an organization to realize its goals is determined by the wellness of its employees. Stress is one of the major factors affecting employees’ wellness. Ensuring the workforce wellness therefore needs emphasis to be placed on stress management.   It is necessary to create a stress free workforce to ensure organizational productivity. Managers are charged with the responsibility of managing their stress as well as that of their subordinates.  Stress affects individual’s ability to make decisions. Decision making occurs at all levels in an organization. Presence of stress in the work environment compromises the ability of managers and employees to make decisions.  Stress is caused by various factors that are broadly classified into intrinsic and external stressors. Managing stress demands focus to be put on eliminating or reducing the impact of the stressors. Contemporary organizations know the important of stress management and they use different stress management strategies.

2.0 Literature Review

There are different stressors in the work environment and they all impact decision making. Identifying the stressors provides a sound basis for implementing anti-stress strategies and also supports compression of how stress affects decision making across organizational levels. An abnormal workload is one of the major stressors in the work environment. Too much work beyond the worker’s ability leads to frustrations.  Strict and unattainable deadlines are another stressor that affects contemporary organizations. A worker becomes hopeless when facing unattainable deadlines.  Long working hours cause stress as it leads to fatigue. Other stressors include lack of job control, an absence of job satisfaction, the absence of appreciation, and poor working environment.

2.1 The Impacts of Stress on Decision Making

The outcomes of stress have grave impacts on decision making. Managing stress effectively leads to better decisions thus organizational success.  According to Jahanian, Tabatabaei, & Behdad 2012, stress compromise relationships with others as it makes people lose their temper and yell at others.  The inability to relate well with others leads to poor decisions due to some factors. Firstly, hostility leads to absent of cooperation between the decision maker and other stakeholders in a decision. One of the most effective aspects of decision making is the incorporation of the opinions of different stakeholders. Accommodating the opinions of stakeholders in decision making reduces resistance to decisions. Secondly, becoming hostile to others impedes their participation in implementing the decision. The situation becomes serious when the decision maker is a manager where a social distance exists with the subordinates (Wolever, Bobinet, McCabe, Mackenzie, Fekete, Kusnick, & Baime 2012). In such a situation the manager is unable to understand the environment due to the absence of feedback from the subordinates. As a result, decisions made, fail to reflect the actual conditions in the environment and this makes such decisions irrelevant.

Job related stress compromises focus on decision making, and this reduces the effectiveness of the decision making process. Managers are confronted by a complex decision making environment that requires the decision maker to give maximum attention to factors affecting the decision.  The absence of focus on decision making leads to poor decisions. Job related stress exposes workers to deep thought, and this reduces time committed to decision making. According to Regel 2007, stressed workers spend most of their time thinking about their problems instead of figuring out how to address these problems. Decisions are aimed at solving problems ailing the organization or exploiting opportunities. It implies that the decision maker is required to spend enough time understanding the decision making environment. A stressed decision maker makes haphazard decisions without analyzing the possible courses of action. Some organizational problems have more than one solution, and this requires decision makers to evaluate each course of action before identifying the optimal solution. Stress makes a decision maker reluctant to explore the different courses of action. This practice leads to poor decisions since the number of courses of action is directly related to the quality of the decision.

Workplace stress makes one a paranoid and this compromise decision making. A stressed manager finds it difficult to trust the subordinates and peers. They also expect too much from others, and this creates an environment that is not conducive to decision making. Stressed lower level employees also face a similar problem and this limits effective decision making at the lowest level. According to Chiesa & Serretti 2009, the right environment for decision making should be characterized by mutual trust among the key stakeholders in decision making. Being a paranoid makes one not to trust others in making contributions in decision making or participating in implementing the solution.  The condition of mistrust impedes teamwork, and this is a threat to effective decision making. According to Murta, Sanderson &Oldenburg 2007, teamwork in decision making leads to quality decisions that reflect the views of the majority in the work environment.  Such decisions are embraced by other stakeholders and are also easy to implement.

2.2 Managing Work Related Stressors

The 21st century companies can use different stress management strategies.  The increasing awareness of the importance of stress management has led to many studies seeking to provide better stress management strategies. The nature of stress varies across organizations, and the type of workplace stressors also vary.  This diversity leads to the adoption of varying stress management strategies across organizations. Some of workplace stress management approaches include creating a healthy workplace culture, exploiting technological capacities, improving communication, and implementing training programs.

Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture

According to Wolever, Bobinet, McCabe, Mackenzie, Fekete, Kusnick, & Baime 2012, creating the right culture in the organization reduced workplace stress. Some of the workplace stressors can be eliminated by establishing the right culture. Bullying at the workplace is one of the main stressors affecting today’s organizations.  Making zero tolerance to bullying a core value in an organization would help to alleviate workplace stress. According to Jahanian, Tabatabaei, & Behdad2012, women and new employees are the most victims of workplace bullying. Creating corporate values that are based on anti-bullying would alter the beliefs and behaviours of the workforce positively thus protecting the vulnerable from bullies. The ideal culture should stress on teamwork, and this would enable the workers to meet social needs. Teamwork leads to friendly relations among the workers, and this supports problems sharing and this averts stress. Teamwork also leads to cooperation when performing tasks and this makes work easier. A heavy workload is one of the stressors in the work environment implying that team spirit helps to address this stressor.

Exploiting Technological Capabilities in the Work Environment

Technology refers to the techniques and tools uses for making work easier.  Its application in the work environment helps to address stressors emanating from strict deadlines and the difficulty to perform tasks. Information communication technology is an important aspect of technology that can be used to manage workplace stress. The use of ICT in work environment makes work easier and also supports collaboration.  Process automation makes work easier as it enables workers to perform tasks faster and with greater accuracy.  Higher productivity reduced stress as it makes them meet targets easier.  Regarding collaboration, ICT supports seamless communication among the workers, and this supports teamwork. The ability to communicate with fewer restrictions helps workers to meet social needs that in turn reduce stress. People are social beings and denying them a chance to interact leads to stress.

Improving Communication

Twenty first century organizations can streamline communication as a stress management strategy. Some of the workplace stressors emanate from a communication breakdown.  Vertical and horizontal communication is important for all organizations. Bureaucratic organizations emphasize on vertical communication while more democratic organizations ensure communication occurs in all directions. The breakdown of vertical communication can lead to managers setting unattainable targets because the worker is not given a chance to give opinions regarding deadlines and the nature of tasks. The absence of effective horizontal communication compromise teamwork and this is a source of stress. It also limits the ability to meet social needs, and this is a source of stress.

Training and Development

Contemporary organizations can use training and development as a stress management tool.  According to Eisen, Allen, Bollash & Pescatello 2008, successful managers align training programs with workplace stressors. This practice ensures that specific stressors are addressed. The inability of the worker to perform tasks assigned is one of the major causes of workplace stress. Training and development ensure that the worker possesses the right skills and this supports the performance of organizational duties. Today’s organizations implement both on-job and off-job training programs. This approach to training ensures the worker posses vast skills and this enhance the performance of duties assigned. Skilful workers experience less stress than workers who are not properly trained due to their ability to perform assigned duties effectively. Poor performance in the work environment is a major cause of stress.

3.0 Discussion and Analysis

Based on the literature review, workplace stress is a pressing problem in today’s organizations. Many studies have been conducted to provide a reliable perspective to addressing stress. Most studies agree on workplace stressors and propose varying strategies of addressing the problem. The inability to perform the assigned tasks is identified as a major cause of workplace stress.  Many factors can impede the performance of duties. Many studies recognize lack of skills, poor communication as the main factors lead to non-performance that in turn cause workplace stress.  Skilful workers are productive since they perform their tasks faster and better.  According to Murta, Sanderson &Oldenburg 2007, skills shortage increase error rate and this leads to stress.  The ability to manage stress is to a great extent influenced by the extent to which the manager can optimize employee productivity. The absence of effective communication is another factor that causes poor performance that in turn causes workplace stress. Many studies recognize different outcomes of communication breakdown that trigger workplace stress.  Communication failure compromise cooperation between managers and the subordinates and this has grave outcomes.  Firstly, it makes it makes hard for the subordinates to seek clarifications regarding the performance of tasks. The absence of clarification leads to a higher error rate and also delays the performance of duties thus causing stress.  Secondly, it reduces teamwork in the workplace. Most studies recognize the importance of teamwork in the work environment. According to Jahanian, Tabatabaei, & Behdad2012, team spirit is promoted through free communication among the internal stakeholders.  A workforce that is characterized by teamwork is associated with low stress level.   Some studies recognize the working environment as a key workplace stressor. Work environment features such as health and safety, availability of social amenities, and availability of resources influence stress level.

Many studies link stress with poor decision making.  Managers and employees make key decisions in line with organizational goals. It implies that failure to make good decisions compromise realization of organizational goals.  Decision making process requires decision makers to focus on understanding the environment to make sure decisions made are in line with environmental factors. Some studies state that stress reduces commitment to decision making that leads to poor decisions.  Another aspect of stress that affects decision making is the negative impact of stress on workplace relationships. Some studies recognize bad workplace relationships as a cause of stress while others identify stress as a source of strained relationships.  It is also worth noting that work relationships impede effective implementation of decisions according to some studies.  Many studies recommend teamwork in decision making as does not only improve the quality of decisions but also leads to decisions that are embraced by the stakeholders.  Some studies state that stress reduces participation in decision making. This problem is more common when the manager is making a decision than when a lower level employee is making a decision.  According to Jahanian, Tabatabaei, & Behdad2012, stressed managers cannot build good relationships with the subordinates.  The strained relationship makes it difficult to bring the subordinates on board when making decisions.

Based on the literature reviewed, twenty first century organizations use different strategies to combat workplace stress. The diversity of these strategies is an indication of a difference in management environments as well as the vastness of management philosophies.  A good number of studies recognize the role of technology in stress management. The ability to make work easier is one of the most recognized aspects of technology that reduces stress. Today’s organizations have embraced process automation that has reduced the number of employees in the work environment.  Such a situation would compromise the ability of workers to meet social need due to the reduced interpersonal interactions.  On the contrary, most studies focus on the positive impact of technology on combating stress.  It implies that the negative impacts of technology outweigh its contribution on stress management.  There is an agreement that technology enables workers to meet strict deadlines since it empowers workers to accomplish more work within a shorter period and with great accuracy. Most studies recognize the role of technology in collaboration. In specific, the role of ICT in enhancing collaboration has been recognized. Improving communication is another stress management strategies addressed by the existing literature. This strategy is closely linked to the application of technology since ICT is a crucial communication tool.  Studied vary regarding the type of communication that reduce workplace stress. Some studies cite the need for clear hierarchical communication while others emphasize on free communication among peers. Despite these differences it is clear communication plays a crucial role in reducing workplace stress.  The role of culture in stress management is clear. Studies highlight anti-bullying policies and the creation of friendly relationships in the work environment as effective approaches to stress management.  The last stress management strategy that is visible in many studies is training and development. Most studies highlight the role of training improving employee skills that in turn improve productivity.

4.0 Conclusion

Workplace stress is a pressing problem in today’s management environment.  Different work-related stressors include abnormal workload, unattainable deadlines, long working hours, lack of job control, poor working environment, lack of appreciation, and the lack of job satisfaction. Stress impedes effective decision making, and this makes it necessary to implement effective stress management strategies. Contemporary organizations can use different strategies to combat stress. Some of these strategies include creating a healthy work culture, exploiting technological capacities, improving communication and training and development.

4.1 Recommendations

Specific measures can be implemented to enable twenty first organizations to enable organizations in the 21st century to address stress at workplace. Some of these measures include

  • Creating ideal culture – managers should seek to create cultures that are directed to towards eliminating stress. Emphasis should be put on promoting interpersonal interactions and prohibiting bullying.
  • Implementing training programs – organizations should implement comprehensive training programs to ensure workers can perform duties without difficulties.
  • Using technology to support communication and collaboration- organizations should use technology to create communication systems to support interactions among peers and across organizational structure.

5.0 List of References

Chiesa, A. & Serretti, A., 2009. ‘Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis.’ The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, vol. 15,no.5, pp.593-600.

Eisen, K.P., Allen, G.J., Bollash, M., & Pescatello, L.S., 2008. ‘Stress management in the workplace: A comparison of a computer- based and an in- person stress- management intervention.’ Computers in Human Behavior 24, 486–496.

Jahanian, R., Tabatabaei, S.M. & Behdad, B., 2012. ‘Stress management in the workplace.’ International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences,, p.1.

Murta, S.G., Sanderson, K. & Oldenburg, B., 2007. ‘Process evaluation in occupational stress management programs: a systematic review.’ American Journal of Health Promotion, vol.21, no.4, pp.248-254.

Regel, S., 2007. ‘Post-trauma support in the workplace: the current status and practice of critical incident stress management (CISM) and psychological debriefing (PD) within organizations in the UK.’ Occupational Medicine, vol.57,no.6, pp.411-416.

Wolever, R.Q., Bobinet, K.J., McCabe, K., Mackenzie, E.R., Fekete, E., Kusnick, C.A. & Baime, M., 2012. Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of occupational health psychology, vol.17,no.2, p.246.




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