Occupational Stress

Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.
This paper will discuss the four primary areas from which occupational stress originates. Next, the outcomes of stress will be discussed, followed by an examination of the classifications of stressors. The remainder of the discussion will be focused on the aspects of organizational communication and recommendations for prevention of occupational stress and stress management.
Table of Contents
Introduction 4
Sources of Occupational Stress 4
Stress Outcomes 5
Classifications of Occupationally Related Stress 6
Stressors and Organizational Communication 6
Job “Burn-Out” 8
Recommendations for Stress Management 9
References 11
Occupational Stress and its
Effects on Organizational Communication
The nature of work is changing at whirlwind speeds. Perhaps now, more than ever before, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers. Stress has long been associated with the onset of significant physical and mental health problems. Stress began to be implicated in areas beyond the bounds of physical and mental health as far back as the 1980s. In the organizational environment, stress has been implicated in the deterioration of performance efficiency by both managers and subordinates. When performance efficiency suffers the quality of the overall organizational environment and productivity deteriorates. A deterioration of the organizational environment is accompanied by deterioration in organizational communication (Gilberg, 1993).
Sources of Occupational Stress
The primary sources of occupational stress within an organization originate from four areas. These areas include task demands, physical demands, role demands, and interpersonal demands. “Any demand, either of a physical nature or psychological nature, encountered in the course of living is know as a ‘stressor’. A stress response will occur as a result of an individual’s interaction with and reaction to the stressor” (Knotts, 1996).
Task-related stress is directly related to the specific characteristics of the job itself. This type of stress involves role ambiguity, conflicting task demands, work overload or work underload, inadequate resource support, no provision for meaningful participation in decision-making, and insecurity, among others (Knotts, 1996).
Physical demands of the workplace are another source to be considered. Environmental factors such as temperature variations, noise vibrations, and lighting may significantly affect individual stress. For example, “extremes in lighting can cause stress, which often results in headaches and nervous tension” (Knotts, 1996).
Role demands are external to the tasks associated with a job. This particular type of stress typically develops as a result of flawed organizational structures, ineffective organizational development, the inability of an individual to successfully pursue achievement goals within an organization, or some combination of all three. The individual’s stress often results when his or her work role and responsibility has not been clearly defined (Knotts, 1996).
The final source area of occupational stress relates to interpersonal demands. “Interpersonal stress at work is concerned with the demands that are placed on us in developing working relationships with other people in our organizations” (Knotts, 1996). Leadership style of managers and supervisors is often a source of stress for their employees.
Stress Outcomes
The result of stressors commonly associated with occupational stress tends to vary widely. Workers may simply resort to daydreaming or fantasizing. Alternatively, employees may react more actively by creating interpersonal and intraorganizational conflicts involving escalating levels of communication problems.
Workers may also experience effects in their psychological and physical health. Psychological consequences may include anxiety, boredom, low self-esteem, forgetfulness, depression, anger, apathy, or worry. Physical consequences may include, but are certainly not limited to, headaches, diabetes, fatigue, hypertension, chest and back pain, ulcers, or even infectious diseases. Studies show that 85% of all physical illness is stress related (Randolfi, 1996).
These results are just a few of many stress outcomes that may result from the effects of occupational stress. Workers may also exhibit deviations in their behavior. Examples of departures from normal behavior may be overeating/loss of appetite, smoking, alcohol abuse, sleeping disorders, emotional outbursts, or violence and aggression (Randolfi, 1996).
From the organizational aspect, stress has many consequences. Reductions in effectiveness, productivity, and communication are results that are not as easy to identify; however, such outcomes can be among the most debilitating for both the organization and for the individual. Other results may include accidents in the workplace, job turnover, low