The Strategies That 21st Century Businesses Could Use To Effectively Manage Work-Related Stressors

 

Executive Summary

This study investigates the workplace stressors that confront today’s businesses. A comprehensive literature review is conducted showing the main causes of stress in today’s work environment. After the review on workplace stressors, some of the stress management strategies applied to address stress in the work environment are discussed. The literature review is followed by a review and analysis that breaks down the key points highlighted in the literature review.  After the review and analysis, a brief conclusion is given summarizing the key points of the literature review and the analysis and discussion sections.  Recommendations are then given showing how twenty first century businesses can address workplace stressors.

Introduction

Work-related stress refers to the adverse psychological and physical response that occurs when the job demands exceed individuals’ capacities (Linden 2005).  Occupation stress is common in all organizations, but its nature varies across organizations. It is a common feature in twenty first century businesses, and it becomes a problem when it becomes continuous and excessive. It is the responsibility of a manager to ensure occupation stress remains low to the extent of not interfering with performance.  Workplace stress affects all members of the workforce including the top management, middle level management, and workers at the lowest level.  It is therefore imperative for the organizational leadership to implement effective stress management strategies aimed at ensuring that stress at all organizational levels does not exceed harmful levels. Failure to address stress adequately has grave outcomes as it can compromise the realization of corporate goals. Stress management as a crucial area of management has attracted many studies.  Most of these studies are directed towards understanding the causes of stress as well as stress management strategies.  The existence of many studies in this area gives managers a sound foundation in stress management. Contemporary businesses take stress management with utmost seriousness.  A stressed workforce poses a serious threat to any organization since the success of any organization since it reduces productivity.

 

Literature Review

Managing work-related stressors is of great importance to twenty first century businesses. These businesses operate in a complex environment that is characterized by intense competition and absence of stability.  Such an environment necessitates emphasis to be placed on increasing efficiency. Employees are among the most valuable resources, and this makes it necessary to ensure maximum worker’s output.   Work-related stressors are many and differ across organizations. It is therefore important for managers to identify and understand causes of stressors in their organization and develop the right strategies for addressing these stressors. Different studies in work-related stress have identified a variety of work-related stressors and also propose varying strategies for addressing these stressors.

Causes of Stress

The Nature of Work-The nature of work is one of the most common workplace stressors affecting 21st century organizations. Some aspects of work such as the size of workload and the extent of task complexity influence workplace stress.  An abnormal workload can lead to workplace stress. The workload becomes abnormal when it is excessive or when it is too little. Excessive work makes a worker frustrated since individual’s capacities are not sufficient to match the requirements of the concerned tasks (Davidson 2001). The frustration leads to stress that compromise employee productivity.  Too little or simple tasks make a worker feel underutilized, and this leads to a condition of stress. Employee’s morale is increased when they are given an opportunity to exploit their full potential. Too simple tasks make a worker feel less important.

Conflict -Conflict refers to hostility among groups and individuals. According to Colligan & Higgins 2006, conflict is one of the major causes of stress in today’s work environment. Many studies have focussed on conflict in the work environment linking it with stress. According to Dellve & Wikström 2009, it is the responsibility of a manager to implement effective conflict management systems with the aim of reducing stress in the work environment. Conflict among individuals in the work environment is an impediment to teamwork that compromises realization of group goals. Inability to perform tasks effectively is one of the major stressors in the work environment.

Bullying -Workplace bullying occurs when a person with relatively higher power becomes aggressive or attempts to coerce and dominate another person. For bullying to occur, the aggression must be continuous thus exposing the victim to untold psychological torture. According to Hall, Everett, & Hamilton-Mason 2012,  bullying is rampant in diverse workforces since a work environment that is characterized by workforce diversity is associated with power imbalances that encourage bullying. Failure to implement effective anti-bullying policies leads to stress in the work environment as it gives bullies an avenue for perpetrating their heinous acts. Creating a bullying-free environment reduces workplace stress that in turn increases worker productivity.

Change -Implementing change in the work environment leads to alteration of relationships that is considered a social loss. Human beings have social needs that are met through interpersonal interactions. Change is inevitable in all organizations, but its causes, scope, and consequences vary across organizations.  Change management is essential as it reduces resistance to change that is a major hindrance to change implementation.  According to Maudgalya, Wallace, Daraiseh & Salem 2006, change leads to stress as it causes interruptions in individual’s social life. People prefer retaining the status quo, and this makes them resist change. Proper change management can reduce the negative impact s of change, and this reduces workplace stress. Failure to include the subordinates in change management is one of the major change management factors that cause stress. Implementing changes without considering the inputs of the key stakeholders makes them feel not in control of their lives.  This practice causes a condition of stress since human being resent control and prefers being empowered to influence the environment.  Embracing democracy when implementing change is a counter to workplace stress as it ensures the opinions of key stakeholders are considered when implementing change.  As a result, stakeholders feel part of the change process, and this suppresses stress.

Work Environment -The work environment is comprised of broad dimension factors.  Some factors of the work environment affect stress level.  The availability of resources needed to perform work is one of the factors that influence workplace stress. A worker gets stressed when resources needed to perform duties are inadequate. In such an environment, a worker cannot accomplish the assigned duties effectively. The safety of the work environment has direct impacts on stress (Avey, Luthans, & Jensen 2009). It is the responsibility of a manager to create a safe and secure work environment for the workers. Workers need to be safe from workplace risks such as injuries, and these are fulfilled by providing a protective gear as well as eliminating factors that can lead to injury.  Failure to protect the workers from injuries leads to stress.  Security in the work environment also covers job security.  Workers become stressed when their jobs are not secure.

Stress Management Strategies

The importance of stress management in the work environment has led to many studies that seek to identify the ideal strategies for managing stress. The success of a manager is to some extent determined by the ability to implement effective stress management strategies to ensure that stress level does not escalate to the extent of compromising productivity. Failure to manage stress limits workforce productivity and this limits realization of organizational goals.  According to Cooper 2006, involving the subordinates in decision making is one of the most effective stress management strategies.  Based on this study, failure to involve subordinates when making key decisions makes them resent decisions, and this leads to conflict between the decision maker and people affected by the decision. Considering the subordinates’ opinions when making decisions makes them feel appreciated and this prevents and relieves stress.  Implementing proper communication systems is another reliable stress management strategy. Communication breakdown among departments and team members cause stress and streamlining communication averts stress. According to Colligan & Higgins 2006, it is the managers’ responsibility to establish communication systems that support uninterrupted communication across the organization structure. The manager should identify communication bottlenecks within the organization and implement corrective measures to ensure the free flow of information among organizational units. Creating a healthy work environment is a good stress management strategy.  According to Teasdale 2006, the work environment is characterized by numerous mental and physical health risks. This research suggests that managers should continuously monitor the work environment with the aim of identifying health hazards and implementing the right measures aimed at ensuring a healthy workforce. Many occupation health hazards can cause stress in the workplace. Addressing these hazards creates an environment that enables the workers to address stress.  Training and development is another stress management strategy that is applicable in the work environment.  According to Cooper 2006, equipping the workers with the right skills enables them to perform organizational duties, and this reduces stress.  Workers whose skills match job requirements experience a low level of stress since they can execute their duties properly.

Discussion and Analysis

The literature review presents diverse opinions regarding workplace stressors and stress management strategies. The pieces of literature reviewed focus on different elements of stress management and bringing them together provides a holistic perspective to understanding stress in the work environment. Relying on different studies conducted in the past two decades creates a clear picture of the stress-related problems facing the 21st century organizations. As a result, this study guides managers on stress management strategies.  Based on the literature review, workplace stressors are linked to policy failures, cultural shortfalls, and leadership problems.  Strategies for addressing stress are also linked closely to these three areas.

Policy

The literature review identifies policy failures as a major cause of workplace stress.  The absence of the right policies leads to stressors such as bullying and conflict. A good number of studies used in the literature review identify bullying as a major cause of workplace stress. Bullying is a common problem in contemporary, and it has a far-reaching impact on employee productivity.  Addressing the bullying problem requires implementation of sound anti-bullying policies aimed at protecting the workers form bullies. These policies ensure bullies are punished and also create an environment discourage bullying.  A bullying policy includes a clear definition of bullying and the punishment of bullying. Work environment differs across organizations, and this reality also makes bullying to differ across organizations.  Implementing an effective bullying policy requires emphasis to be put on understanding the types of bullying that are relevant to the organization.  The literature review identifies conflict as a major cause of workplace stress. Effective conflict management requires a policy intervention to state conflict management systems. Conflict management policy provides a clear framework to manager and employees regarding conflict management.  The policies outline the person spearheading conflict resolution in the work environment, and this clears ambiguity during conflict resolution. The nature of work and the work environment as workplace stressors are related to policies. Regarding the nature of work hiring, deployment, promotion, and transfers are influenced by human resource policies. A policy shortfall in human resources can lead to workplace stress.  Skills mismatch that leads to failure to perform duties effectively emanate from a human resource policy failure. Good human resource policies ensure effectiveness in placement where skills are matched with the job requirements. Stressors associated with the work environment are related to poor policies. Occupation health policies are aimed at protecting the employees from health hazards in the work environment.  Absence of reliable occupation safety policies leads to stress as it exposes the worker to health risks.  Just like the workplace stressors, the stress management strategies highlighted in the literature review are closely related to policies. Improving the work environment, training and development, enhancing communication, and involving employees in decision making are policy interventions. Improving the work environment as a stress management strategy requires the implementation of policies relating to occupational health to ensure health stressors are addressed. Training and development is a human resource policy intervention that is aimed at ensuring the workers possess the right skills. Enhancing communication as a stress management strategy requires the implementation of elaborate communication strategies. Lastly, participative management aimed at reducing stress is a policy measure that seeks to compel manager to involve employees in making key decisions.   It is clear the literature reviewed identify policy failure as a major cause of stress and advocates for policy intervention as a stress management strategy.

Culture

The literature review links workplace stress with corporate culture. Corporate culture refers to the set of values that determine how organizational activities are carried out.  Corporate leadership is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the existence of the right culture to support actualization of the corporate vision.  Most of the studies reviewed links the corporate culture indirectly with workplace stress management.  Workplace stressors identified in the literature review are directly related to the corporate culture.  Bullying is an element of the corporate culture. Strong corporate culture is characterized by anti-bullying values that indicate that bullying is not acceptable in the work environment. Conflict management is a related to corporate culture.  Organization’s value system defines interactions among the stakeholders and this influence conflict. A strong value system that streamlines interpersonal interactions averts a conflict that in turn reduces stress.  Maintaining a healthy work environment is a cultural aspect that is found in organizations that care about their employees.  Linking the work environment with workplace stress is an indication that stress management can be supported by creating a strong corporate culture.

Leadership

According to the literature review, workplace stress and stressors are associated with leadership. Although leadership is not expressly mentioned in different studies, the stress management strategies and stressors identified are associated with leadership.  Leadership is concerned with influencing the beliefs and the behaviours of others. The quality of leadership is associated with the level of stress. High quality leadership reduces workplace stress.  A good leader understands the need for communication and creates an environment that supports communication in all directions. Absence of proper leadership is a hindrance to effective communication that in turn leads to stress. Leadership influence conflict management. Effective leaders understand sources of conflict and implement effective conflict resolution strategies. As a result, conflict level reduces and this, in turn, lowers workplace stress level. On the other hand, leadership failure escalates workplace conflict that leads to the high stress level.

Conclusion

Twenty first century companies are faced with various workplace stressors. The success of these companies is pegged on the ability to identify specific stressors and implement the right mitigation strategies.  Some of the main causes of stress in the workplace include nature of work, conflict, bullying, and work environment.  The existing literature identifies the above four elements as the main workplace stressors. An analysis of the existing literature links workplace stress to culture, leadership, and policies. This implies that twenty first century businesses should emphasize the three elements when managing workplace stress.

Recommendations

Based on the literature review and the subsequent analysis, twenty first century businesses need to implement measures to curb workplace stress.  These measures include:

  • Providing proper leadership- sound leadership is needed to support communication and formation of the right culture. Communication should be streamlined to support effective communication that will, in turn, reduce stress due to teamwork and interpersonal interactions.   Leadership should focus on creating anti-stress value systems.
  • Involving subordinates in decision making- leaders should seek the subordinates’ opinions when making key decisions.
  • Formulating the right policies- businesses should implement the right anti-bullying, human resource, and conflict management policies.

References

Avey, J.B., Luthans, F. & Jensen, S.M., 2009. Psychological capital: A positive resource for combating employee stress and turnover. Human resource management, 48(5), pp.677-693.

Colligan, T.W. & Higgins, E.M., 2006. Workplace stress: Etiology and consequences. Journal of workplace behavioral health, 21(2), pp.89-97.

Cooper, C., 2006. The challenges of managing the changing nature of workplace stress. Journal of Public Mental Health, 5(4), pp.6-9.

Davidson, J. 2001. Stress management. Indianapolis, Ind, Macmillan USA.

Dellve, L. & Wikström, E., 2009. Managing complex workplace stress in health care organizations: leaders’ perceived legitimacy conflicts. Journal of Nursing Management, 17(8), pp.931-941.

Hall, J.C., Everett, J.E. & Hamilton-Mason, J., 2012. Black women talk about workplace stress and how they cope. Journal of Black Studies, 43(2), pp.207-226.

Linden, W. 2005. Stress management: from basic science to better practice. Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Maudgalya, T., Wallace, S., Daraiseh, N & Salem, S., 2006. Workplace stress factors and ‘burnout’among information technology professionals: A systematic review. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 7(3), pp.285-297.

Teasdale, E.L., 2006. Workplace stress. Psychiatry, 5(7), pp.251-254.

 

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