PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology
Chapter 10: Stress Management
Consequences/ Effect of Stress
There are clear links between work-related stress and a variety of physical and mental disorders, despite the difficulty of proving a direct causal link since the majority of diseases and syndromes commonly attributed to stress have multiple causes. The effects of work-related stress on ill-health operate in physiological, cognitive, emotional and behavioural ways. But there are some positive effects also.
Some of the benefits of stress are:
- Pressure and stress help to motivate us e.g. to learn, to achieve, be more productive, achieve our goals, to study for exams, pass our driving test, be more successful etc.
- Pressure and arousal stimulate us to get things done
- Pressure and demands from situations and people challenge us to achieve more than we might otherwise attain
- Stress and tension can be used in creative ways to make use of energy that would otherwise be lost through distress
- Pressure, stress and arousal can be the vital ingredient that stimulates personal growth
- Stress has a positive function in that it can act as a warning signal, rather like the red light on your car dashboard, which encourages you to be alert, prepared and ready to act.
Stress is proven beyond doubt to make people ill, and evidence is increasing as to number of ailments and diseases caused by stress. Stress is now known to contribute to heart disease; it causes hypertension and high blood pressure, and impairs the immune system. Stress is also linked to strokes, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcers, diabetes, muscle and joint pain, miscarriage during pregnancy, allergies, alopecia and even premature tooth loss.
Individual Level Consequences
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Skin trouble
- Frequent colds
- Feeling too hot
- Increased sweating
- Raised blood pressure
- Over-sensitivity to noise or smell
- Muscle cramps or twitching
- High blood pressure
- High level of cholesterol
- Loss of libido
- Heart disease
High level of stress can make a person feel:
- Unable to relax and concentrate
- Over eating
- Rude behaviour
- Disturbed sleep
- Increased smoking
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of addictive drugs
- Feeling of job insecurity
- Feeling of incompetence
- Nervousness in social interactions such as rapid speech and fidgeting
Organization Level Consequences
1. Neglecting Safety Precautions
When people are stressed because of work overload or time pressures, they are more likely to ignore safety procedures or neglect the use of proper safety gear, believing they don’t have time for either. Because stress compromises a person’s ability to think clearly, stressed-out employees are more likely to act without thinking through the potential consequences of unsafe practices.
The more stressed a person is because of work overload, the more likely they will feel rushed and try to move as quickly as possible through a task. This increases the chances of mistakes, fumbling or dropping objects, and ignoring warning signs that could prevent an accident.
3. Doing One’s Job Without Adequate Instructions or Coaching
When employees feel overloaded and rushed, they are more likely to launch into a job without taking the time to seek out the information and coaching required to do the job safely.
4. Refusing Safety Feedback and Coaching
When stressed out, people feel “on guard” and become defensive. The defensive person sees helpful input and suggestions as attacks. This makes it difficult for them to absorb the feedback and coaching that could help them work more safely.
5. Becoming Clumsy
Research shows that stress interferes with the brain’s ability to communicate with the body, resulting in compromised coordination. Thus, the stressed-out employee is more likely to have diminished hand and eye coordination, move clumsily, and bump into things.
6. Developing Tight, Stiff Muscles
When people are stressed, they unconsciously tense up their muscles. If people are chronically stressed, this muscle tension becomes a habit, resulting in tight, stiff muscles. Stiff muscles, as any athlete knows, make a person far more susceptible to injuries. This stress-related problem is especially serious for workers who do manual labour or jobs requiring repetitive movements.
7. Having Difficulty Concentrating
People also have difficulty concentrating when stressed because stress can interfere with the mind’s ability to focus. When this happens, the person’s attention constantly flits from one thought or thing to another. This inability to concentrate on one’s job is clearly very serious when the job is potentially dangerous or involves using heavy equipment.
8. Becoming Oblivious to One’s Surroundings
While some people have difficulty concentrating when stressed, others become overly focused, developing “tunnel vision.” This makes them far more vulnerable to accidents and injuries, because they “tune out” sights and sounds that could warn them of potential danger.
9. Insisting on Doing a Task One’s Own Way, Even If That Way is Potentially Harmful
When people don’t believe they have positive control over their circumstances, they seek negative ways of exerting control in their lives. This can include insisting on doing things their way, even if their way could be dangerous. Stress can also lead to a rebellious, defiant attitude of “I’m going to do it my way, regardless of what you say!” because stress often makes people regress psychologically. In this regressed state, a normally responsible, reasonable adult can start responding like a rebellious teenager.
Many illnesses have been show to be stress-related and research has shown that stressful times lower our resistance, making us more vulnerable to ill-health.