Stress at the workplace

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Introduction

Individuals often react in different ways when put under pressure. Just like objects, when exposed to stressful situations for a long time, they are bound to break or at least crumble. Stress is a negative/adverse reaction to pressure. (Folkman, p.1914, 2013). It happens in a situation where the circumstances presented exceed the physical and mental resources at hand. There are various causes of stress, some of them are outlined below.

Work Overload

Workload may be caused by tight deadlines and expectations which are in the opinion of the employee, unreasonable. Some workloads may be unmanageable to them, and in a situation where the employee is forced to compete with individuals who are immensely gifted, he may feel unqualified and unappreciated. The person may also be stressed due to technological advances in the workplace where he finds himself unable or slow to adapt as compared to his overachieving workmates. In some cases, the employer will be the cause of the stress. It is not uncommon in this day and age, for them to under-recruit, forcing the existing employees to take on additional work. (Michie, p.69, 2002)

Control-related Stress

No one likes to feel out of control; it is human nature to want to be in the driving seat in every situation. Sadly, that may not always be the case. Stress may be caused by the individual’s loss of influence or where he realizes he is not being consulted on matters like before. People will want to feel appreciated, so when an employee’s contributions and ideas are shunned, they end up being frustrated and feeling unwanted. He will desire to influence proceedings such as performance targets, decision making among others. The biggest cause of worry in such a place is the feeling that time is not on your side project-wise and job security-wise. (Michie, p.68, 2002)

Work Relationship Factors

In his day-to-day interactions, the individual may feel isolated or unfairly treated by colleagues. The discrimination will no doubt cause him a great deal of stress especially if his colleagues are not supportive. The pressure will continue to build if the management has an aggressive style of ruling. Some people may also experience bullying at work; bullying is among the leading causes of depression worldwide (Salin, p.37, 2003).

It is imperative to have an environment of understanding and good leadership for the workplace to be healthy, if this is achieved, the pressure will reduce and consequently, the stress levels will also go down. Many managers where the levels of stress are high are constantly finding faults with their employees; this may be due to slacking by colleagues which would only elevate the pressure levels. It gets worse where people get recognized for work the individual did, and he is overlooked. It is stressful in the workplace also, if relationships with fellow employees are poor. (Leymann, p.172, 1996)

Job Security

One may feel pressured by a feeling of not having job security. The employee will not be productive if he is constantly looking over his shoulder wondering if he will be let go. It is stressing to be unsure of job permanence. Workers such as casuals will be stressed due to the absence of a working contract. Pressure levels are also high for individuals who are expecting a future job change; they will not be as productive as they were before they knew of the impending transfer. Some may realize that their set of skills is no longer needed. This knowledge will cause them undue stress as they know it is only a matter of time before they are let go. (Michie, p.69, 2002)

Work-Life Balance

A job has high demands. Similarly, an individual’s personal life has demands that need his attention. Balancing the two is not easy, and this creates tremendous pressure on the employee. The hours at work may be too long, the schedules inflexible and over demanding. The employee may find themselves traveling too much or find themselves going to or leaving work at ungodly hours. He will find himself unable to merge the two, meaning he will be in a constant rush to do one or the other. (Michie, p.69, 2002)

Lack of Resources and Adequate communication

It is important for an employee to feel qualified for the job at hand. He should have had the right training, have access to the right equipment and enough resources. There should be a flow of information available to enable them to work. These conditions will make the individual feel valued. Where they are absent, a person will feel unwanted and pressured. Things such as updates on what is going on in the company, performance reviews, training from time to time and the availing of necessary equipment will make the workplace more conducive and stress-free. (Michie, p.70, 2002)

Perks and Pay

A person’s pay will determine the spirit and dedication he displays; a well-paid member is likely to enjoy working at the company more, as compared to a poorly paid employee. Housing and other benefits will make a job attractive. A person is likely to be more relaxed if the company has provided housing for him, he will focus more since he does not have to worry about rent or transport. (Theodossiou, p.89, 1998)

Nature Conditions and Satisfaction of the Job

Job situations are likely to adversely affect the employee’s wellbeing. If the job position is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, his morale is shattered. Poor physical conditions of the job and fears of violence, especially in a volatile region will elevate the stress levels greatly. If one also feels that he is constantly supervised and not given room to breathe and the job is the same every day, he will feel pressured and that will affect his productivity. The most common factor leading to stress in the work situation is a lack of enjoyment of what one is doing, difficult clients have been known to make employees quit. Therefore a conducive work environment is likely to make the employee thrive. (Lazarus, p.6, 1995)

Effects of Work Stress To employee

Physical Effects

The employee may experience disturbed sleeping patterns because of irregular and unpredictable working hours. He may also get headaches because of the constant worry. A common physical effect of stress is high blood pressure. It is not uncommon to experience gastrointestinal abnormalities. Therefore it is best to avoid the stress as much as possible. (Tennant, p.702, 2001)

Emotional Effects

The major emotional effect and one that affects an individual’s relationships with others is irritability and anxiety. The constant worry will make the person hard to unsociable. These two have led to many divorces and unhappy marriages. Stress will more likely than not lead to depression. A common indicator is emotions that swing from extreme happiness to extreme sadness. At this point, the employee is in need of medical care so as to get back to normal. (Boles Johnston and Hair, p.24, 1997)

Intellectual Effects

Stress will cause loss of concentration on one’s duties. The employee will lose motivation to continue working. It is also common for him to find himself being unable to articulate thoughts and ideas authoritatively. He may find himself losing memory from time to time as he is so immersed in his worries that he loses a sense of time. Where the person is in a position that requires him to make decisions, he will find himself being unable to make sound decisions. (Dahlgren, Kecklund and Åkerstedt p.283, 2005)

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Behavioral Effects

People with stress will turn to drugs and substance abuse. They do it to forget what they are going through, though it just makes it worse. A person who has acute stress will experience a low libido too. The behavior he tends to display is not appropriate, and he will also have moments where he just wants to be alone. The employee will develop a habit of not coming to work on time or even submitting his tasks at the set deadlines despite many promises to do so. The behavior is a factor that may cause him to be fired as it will not go unnoticed for long. (Dahlgren, Kecklund, and Åkerstedt, p.283, 2005)

Effects of Stress on the Organization

An organization where many employees are stressed will experience many cases of absenteeism. Their turnover rate of labor will also be high since not many people can work well under pressure. A common indicator that the stress levels in the company are high is that people will constantly be late for work. The performance levels will go down and so will productivity; this could mean huge monetary losses for them. Due to poor motivation, the morale will be low; there will be constant complaints and increased sick leaves and accidents. It is therefore advisable for an institution to make the environment as stress-free as possible. (Van der Klink, Blonk, Schene and Van Dijk, p.270, 2001). It is advisable therefore to adopt a protection rather than cure approach when it comes to stress at the workplace.

Advantages of the Protection Approach

This approach aims at preventing the stress causes as opposed to dealing with the effects when they occur. (Noblet and LaMontagne, p.349, 2006) The advantages of this approach are;

Stress is Detected Early

Since stress detection and coping mechanism are already in place, the management can detect stress in an employee early and conveniently deal with it. The situation benefits not only the organization, but its employees too as they will be able to detect the problem early enough, and after it is dealt with the employee will be able to perform at peak again. (Avey, Luthans, and Jensen, p.682, 2009)

Improved Communication between Employees and Management

The employee will not fear the management. An attitude of openness is essential in a company if performance levels are to be boosted. (Watson, Pennebaker and Folger, p.147, 1987)When management knows the problems ailing their employees, they can do something about it. The abolishment of a bureaucratic management is the first step of building employee morale, and when morale is boosted then automatically performance is improved. (Avey, Luthans, and Jensen, p.682, 2009)

A More Relaxed Business Atmosphere

The protection approach encourages activities such as team building, growth forums, and employee training. This ensures the employees get the necessary skills required to carry out the tasks at the company. It also ensures there is a happier team of employees. The people under employ will also be able to understand each other well. This understanding when transferred to the business dealings of every day, will bring about more productivity. (Avey, Luthans, and Jensen, p.682, 2009)

Omani Cement Company Practices

Organizations need to be involved in the wellbeing of their employees. Omani Cement Company’s human resource department has a culture of training the Omanis before employing them into the company. In addition to training, they offer medical services, report on the progress of the workers regularly and follow up on how the staff is doing. They have created an environment where the employee can grow and obtain maximum productivity. The company has scholarships for its staff too. It also ensures that its staff can transition from one position to another flawlessly. The existing employees are also trained in the system of Omanization. Omanization is a new system being adopted throughout Oman. (Al-Hamadi, Budhwar, and Shipton, p.104, 2007)

The main aim of the department is to be aware of and take care of all aspects of the employee’s life. If the employee is absent, they will know. If he has accumulated some overtime, if he gets a raise, if he is sick, in case he does not have a  medical cover they will get it for the employee. The thing that makes them stand out is that they listen to complaints and suggestions by employees and implement them. It is no wonder they are among the leading companies in Oman. The environment created is so conducive to work that what is left is for the employees to be productive. By the time Omanization is complete, the levels of competence in Oman will have skyrocketed. (Al-Hamadi, Budhwar, and Shipton, p.104, 2007)

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Suggested Improvements

I would suggest to the Oman cement company that they deal with each employee differently. Some people will work best under supervision while others will not function at all when constantly supervised. In a high-stress field such as the cement industry, I would suggest to the management that they need to go for team building activities together to get to know one another better and to relieve the stress that they accumulate during workdays through fun and games. (Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman, p.5, 2011). They should also increase the level of one on one conversations with their employees as this will tear down the bureaucratic walls and enable them to motivate employees to do much more.

Conclusion

Working in any organization can be stressful. However, the management and employees can work together to ensure that the stress levels are not so high as to affect productivity and the wellbeing of individuals. When employees are stressed, the company also suffers. Depression is a major illness at workplaces today. It can, however, be prevented if it is noted at an early stage.  Through the adoption of the protection policy in regards to stress, the company and employees will be able to work together to ensure that they move forward and achieve all the goals they set out to achieve. If employees are happy, the management will also be happy, and business will thrive.

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