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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
must help employees' stress, August 18, 2006, 2D.
ever felt “stressed out?” If so, it probably happened
amidst tremendous uncertainty and involved something
important. People can get stressed out while worrying about
being late to appointments, changing jobs, moving to a new
city, or experiencing other life-changing events. At its
core, stress is a perceptual process that occurs as a
reaction to uncertainty about important events. What is
stressful to one person might not be stressful to another
person—one who does not view the event/circumstances as
uncertain or important.
is associated with a wide variety of psychological and
physiological reactions. Depression, anxiety, and feelings
of helplessness and a lack of control can result from
excessive stress. Chronic stress can also lead to coronary
disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, and fatigue. Each
year, stress-related illnesses cost businesses hundreds of
millions of dollars in lost productivity. It is important
that managers and organizational leaders understand the
causes of stress so that they might help their workers
manage stress and control harmful reactions to stress.
addition to the stress that comes about from major life
changes, organizational researchers have identified four
types of stressors. These are: time stress, encounter
stress, anticipatory stress and situational stress.
stress arises when people perceive that they have too much
to do and too little time to do it. The uncertainty that
comes with not knowing whether the task will be completed in
the allocated time brings about stress. Encounter stress is
an interpersonal stress and arises when individuals disagree
with others on issues, expectations, or ways of doing
things. Being in the presence of someone with whom you have
had an important interpersonal conflict can bring about
Anticipatory stress arises when something unpleasant or
unnerving looms in the near future. The uncertainty of not
knowing the outcome of the feared event creates stress for
the person. Finally, situational stress arises when
characteristics of the situation and environment overwhelm a
person. The old “Calgon, take me away!” commercial is an
excellent example of situational stress. The woman in the
commercial must simultaneously attend to a crying baby, a
ringing telephone, a barking dog, someone at the door, and a
boiling pot on the stove. Complexity, rapid change, and
information overload contribute to situational stress.
and preparation, time management, reassignment of work, and
delegation can help alleviate many job-specific stressors.
However, it is unrealistic to think that managers can
eliminate all stress from the work lives of their workers.
In fact, stress can be motivating to a certain limit.
Anxiousness about upcoming events can encourage workers to
focus on and begin working toward a goal. After a certain
limit, however, stress can become distracting and harmful to
workers and their performance.
cannot be eliminated, it is important that people
resiliently cope with stress. Staying healthy through
exercise and proper diet, forming supportive mentor and
social relationships, developing mental states where
difficulties are viewed as challenges and small wins are
noted, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle are all ways to
help build physical, social, and psychological resiliency to
stress and its effects.
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