PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology
Chapter 10: Stress Management
Stress and Related Factors
1. Stress and Performance
The best known and most thoroughly documented pattern in the stress performance literature is the inverted – U relationship. This is shown in figure:
Stress can be either helpful or harmful to job performance depending upon the amount of it. When there is no stress, job challenges are absent and performance tends to be low. As stress increases, performance increases as stress helps a person to mobilize resources to meet job requirements. Ultimately stress reaches a plateau that corresponds with a person’s top performance capability. At this point, additional stress tends to produce no improvement of performance. Finally, if stress becomes too heavy, performance will decline and if it increases to a breaking point, performance comes down to zero.
Fig.: Stress and Performance
2. Type of Job and Stress
Job differs in such a way that a given level of stress might affect performance positively in one job and negatively in another. Stress stimulates a nervousness and intensity that is functional. But would the same stress level be functional for every job? Probably not, a script writer of a comedy show works in an high state of arousal that is necessary to get a quality script, where as a brain surgeon works under stress, it is of a lower level. It is more controlled.
The evidence suggests that high stress jobs are those where incumbents have little control over their work, are under relentless time pressure, face threatening physical conditions, or have major responsibilities for financial or human resources. Managers fall in this category, as do secretaries, foremen, waiters, inspectors and clinical lab technicians. In contrast, jobs rating low on stress includes farm labour, maids, stock handlers, and college professors.
3. Personality and Stress
Individuals differ dramatically in their response to a problem or a stressor. Some people are born with a temperament that predisposes them to higher or lower levels of tolerance to stress.
Experts have developed several explanations for why certain people respond more positively or negatively to stressors. To some degree, it is human nature to feel stressed when we aren’t sure what to do or when faced with making a difficult or frustrating decision. And, some individuals may have a heightened level of arousal in the central nervous system, causing them to react more excitedly to events and adapt more slowly.
Personality traits appear to play an influential role in the development of psychological distress. Personalities that are more negative are traditionally associated with greater distress, while more outgoing and positive personalities generally experience positive psychological health.
Research indicates that those who seem to effectively handle a high level of stress, posses one or more of the personality dispositions of ambiguity, internal locus of control, and self esteem.
Type A personality
Type B personality
Is always moving
Is never in hurry
Plays for fun, and not for win
Relaxes without guilt
Has no pressuring deadlines
Feels time pressure
4. Technology and Stress
There is rapid technological transformation occurring in both work and social life. The results of information technology, such as mobile telephones, computers, and electronic networks, have been looked upon as the key to solving several of the most pressing problems of the Western world. At the same time, numerous studies have shown that the great majority of computerization projects fail to meet their deadlines with the originally specified functionality mainly because human factors are not sufficiently taken into account during the planning and implementation phase of the project. In a study of the bodily, mental, and psycho-physiological reactions of employees involved in the design of advanced telecommunications systems and of office employees using regular video display technology, several stress-related psychosomatic disorders have been identified. They include sleep disturbances, psycho-physiological stress and somatic complaints.
Modern technology is affecting our sleep. The artificial light from TV and computer screens affects melatonin production and throws off circadian rhythms, preventing deep, restorative sleep. New research out of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden reinforces this fact, specifically relating to young adults.
Some researches resulted that intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults. Some of the more specific findings are:
- Heavy cell phone use showed an increase in sleep disorders in men and an increase in depressive symptoms in both men and women.
- Those constantly accessible via cell phones were the most likely to report mental health issues.
- Men who use computers intensively were more likely to develop sleeping problems.
- Regular, late night computer use was associated with sleep disorders, stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women.
- Frequently using a computer without breaks further increases the risk of stress, sleeping problems and depressive symptoms in women.
- A combination of both heavy computer use and heavy mobile use makes the associations even stronger.
This is a growing and serious public health hazard that should be acknowledged and addressed by both the medical community and technology industry.
Stress has been linked to heart disease, depression, impaired sexual performance, nervous breakdown, alcohol and drug abuse, sickness absence, family break-ups and job dissatisfaction. Millions of working days are lost every year as a result of stress.
Work-related stress is a major cause of occupational ill health, poor productivity and human error. It can result in sickness absence, high staff turnover and poor performance and a possible increase in accidents due to human error. Many managers and business owners mistakenly fear that reducing employee stress requires a reduction in productivity or the creation of a “country club” atmosphere, which in today’s marketplace could be fatal. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the opposite is true.
Thus, reducing employee stress isn’t a matter of reducing work load, it’s a matter of understanding how to create an organization where employees are motivated, committed, and excited about their work. When employees feel this way, they are able to perform at high levels and maintain a demanding work load without getting burnt out.