Managing Stress in the Work Place


Dr.G. Nagarajan
T.John Institute of Technology

R. Rajalakhmi
Clinical Instructor
College of Nursing, NIMHANS


The workplace of the 21st century is a fast-paced, dynamic, highly stimulating environment which brings a large number of benefits and opportunities to those who work within it. The ever-changing demands of the working world can increase levels of stress, especially for those who are consistently working under pressure. Whilst pressure has its positive side in raising performance, if such pressure becomes excessive it can lead to stress which has negative consequences. Stress is not a disease, but it can lead to a reduced ability to perform at work and have an impact on a person's health and wellbeing Change in working practices, such as the introduction of new technology or the alternation of new technology or the alternative of targets, may cause stress, or stress may be built into an organizations' structure. Organizational stress can be measured by absenteeism and quality or work. Stress affects as well as the individual within them. An organization with a high level of absenteeism, rapid staff turnover, deteriorating industrial and customer relations, a worsening safety record, or poor quality control is suffering from organizational stress. The Garden of Eden began as a tranquil stress environment. However when Adam was given the tantalizing chance to eat the forbidden fruit, he was thrust into mankind's first stressful situation. Adam was offered a choice and, as we know, decision-making is the breeding ground for conflict, frustration and distress.


Stress in individual is defined as any interference that disturbs a persons' healthy mental and physical well being. It occurs when the body is required to perform beyond its normal range of capabilities.

Behr and Newman define job stress as "a condition arising from the interaction of people and their jobs and characterized by changes within people that force them to deviate from their normal functioning".

Stress is a dynamic condition, which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important. Stress is associated with constraints and demands. The former prevent you from doing what you desire, the latter refers to the loss of something desired.

Phases of stress

Alarm Reaction: In the alarm phase, the individual mobilizes to meet the threat. It has two phases. The first phases includes in initial "stock shock phase" in which defensive mechanism become active. Alarm reaction is characterized by autonomous excitability; adrenaline discharges; increase heart rate, ulceration. Depending on the nature & intensity of the threat and the condition of the organization the period of resistance varies and the severity of symptoms may differ from "mild invigoration" to "disease of adaptation".

Resistance: In the resistance phase, the individual attempts to resist or cope with the threat. Maximum adaptation occurs during this stage. The bodily signs characteristic of the alarm reaction disappear. If the stress persists, or the defensive reaction proves ineffective, it may overwhelm the body resources. Depleted of energy, the body enters the phase of third.

Exhaustion: Adaptation energy is exhausted. Sings of the alarm reaction reappear, and the resistance level begins to define irreversibly. The organism collapses. We can identify three important sectors of life in which Stress originates. These are

* Job and the organization
* The social sector
* Intrapsychic sector

Job and organization, refers to the totality of the work environment (task, atmosphere, colleagues, compensation, policies, etc.). The social sector refers to the other such factors. The Intrapsychic sector encompasses those things, which are intimate, and persona, like temperament, values, abilities and health. It is contended that stress can originate in any of these sectors or in combinations thereof.

In the figure below it can be seen that the magnitude of stress emanating from the stress to learner limit of the individual to handle these stress. This indicates a balanced state.

Organization-individual normal interaction pattern

S.T.L – stress tolerance level

In the figure we find that job and organization loads have increased and have made a dent in the personality. In this stage, we find minor surface changes taking place, which are quite manageable.


1. Adaptation attempt           
2. Extra effort
3. Excessive concern of task
4. Worries
5. Anxiety

In the stage three and the figure below, we find that job and organizational loads have become unmanageable and interact with intrapsychic loads. This is the stage at which he negative consequences of the stress become apparent. Most of the stress related diseases emerge at this point. When the situation persists we move into the next stage in which we start operating beyond the "stress tolerance limit".


1. Frantic copying
2. Extra ordinary effort
3. Worry and anxiety about the self
4. Onset of physiological symptoms
5. Aggressive tendencies

Several types of breakdowns and cracks are observable in this stage i.e., fourth stage. If unchecked the situation may culminate into the last and most intense phase wherein complete disintegration of personality takes place. At this stage, the individual requires proper psychological and medical care. The figure below depicts the fourth and fifth stage.


Breakdowns and cracks: failure in coping

A. Work related symptoms

1. Lack of concentration
2. Affected clarity of thinking & decision – making
3. Frequent absenteeism
4. Affected team work
5. Aggressive behavior

B. Physiological symptoms

1. Headache / Migraine
2. Insomnia
3. Lack of appetite
4. Digestive disorders
5. Sexual disorders
6. Temperamental chang

Pestonjee has also developed a model to explain how we cope with stress reactions. It is called the BOUNCE model because the behavioral decomposition taking place due to stress tense to get reflected in interpersonal reactions. The reactions are received & analyzed by the environment, which in turn, bounce back signals to the individuals to bring about a change either at the orgasmic level or at the response level.



Boss can lead to at least four types of stress related consequences such as, depletion of energy reverses, lowered resistance to illness, increased dissatisfaction and pessimism and increased absenteeism and inefficiency at work.


This stage can be describe as accounting for the euphoric feeling of encounter with the new job such as excitement, enthusiasm, challenge and pride. Dysfunctional features emerge in two ways first; the energy reverses are gradually depleted in coping with the demands of a challenging environment. Second, habits and strategies for coping with stress are formed in this stage which is often not useful in coping with later challenges.


This stage can be identified as composed of the value feelings of loss, fatigue and confusion arising from the individual's overdraws on reverses of adaptation energy. Other symptoms are dissatisfaction, inefficiency, and fatigue and sleep disturbances leading to escape activate such as increased eating, drinking & smoking.


When these feelings and physiological symptoms persist over period of time, the individual enters the stage of crisis. At this stage he develops "escape mentality" and feels oppressed. Heightened pessimism, self-doubling tendencies, peptic ulcers, tension headaches, chronic backaches, blood pressure.


This stage of BOSS is characterized by total exhaustion of one's adaptation energy, which may mark the end of one's professional career. While recovery from this stage elude may be resourceful to tide over the crises.

* If the stress for the day to day adaptability of man to his environment and results in the maintenance of internal steady state (homeostasis) it is known as neustress. For example, one produces neustress in order to breath, work.
* Stress is through of in negative terms. It is thought to be caused by something bad (for example the boss gives a formal reprimand for poor performance). It the stress response is unfavorable and potentially disease producing, this is known as distress. Constant worry in a susceptible individual can lead to ulcers.

Reduction or elimination of stress is necessary for psychological and physical well being of an individual. Efficiency in stress management enables the individual to deal or cope with the stressful situations instead of avoidance. Strategies like tie management, body-mind and mind-body relaxation exercise, seeking social support help individual improve their physical and mental resources to deal with stress successfully.

Apart from helping employees adopt certain coping strategies to deal with stress providing them with the service of counselor is also useful.

 Many strategies have been developed to help manage stress in the work place. Some are strategies for individuals, and other is geared toward organizations.


Many strategies for helping individuals manage stress have been proposed.

Individual coping strategies are used when an employee under stress exhibits undesirable behavior on the jobs such as performance, strained relationship with co-workers, absenteeism alcoholism and the like. Employees under stress require help in overcoming its negative effects. The strategies used are:


One method by which individual can manage their stress is through exercise. People who exercise regularly are known to less likely to have heart attacks than inactive people are. Research also has suggested that people who exercise regularly feel less tension and stress are more conflict and slow greater optimism.


A related method individual can manage stress is relaxation. Copying with stress require adaptation. Proper relaxation is an effective way to adopt.

Relaxation can take many forms. One way to relax is to take regular vacations; people can also relax while on the job (i.e. take regular breaks during their normal workday). A popular way of resting is to sit quietly with closed eyes for ten minutes every afternoon.


Time management is an often recommended method for managing stress, the idea is that many daily pressures can be eased or eliminated if a person does a better job of managing time. One popular approach to time management is to make a list, every morning or the things to be done that day. Then you group the items on the list into three categories: critical activities that must be performed, important activities that should be performed, and optimal or trivial things that can be delegated or postponed, then of more of the important things done every day.


Some what related to time management in which the individual actively works to avoid overload, ambiguity and conflict.


This method of managing stress is to develop and maintain support group. A support group is simply a group of family member or friends with whom a person can spend time. Supportive family and friends can help people deal with normal stress on an ongoing basis. Support groups can be particularly useful during times of crisis.


By consciously analyzing the cause and consequences of employees own behavior, he or she can achieve self-control. They can further develop awareness of their own limits of tolerance and learn to anticipate their own responses to various stressful situations. The strategy involves increasing an individual's control over the situations rather than being solely controlled by them.


The cognitive therapy techniques such as Elli's rational emotive model and Meichenbaum's cognitive strategy fir modification have been used as an individual strategy for reducing job stress.


Personal counseling help employees understand and appreciate a diverse workforce, the holistic approach adopted by the counselor gives him a comprehensive view of the employee as client and enable him to deal the issues of work related problems in a larger context with his awareness of the inter-relationship among problems in adjustment with self, other and environment and that a work concern will effect personal life and vice-versa, the employee would receive help regarding the problem in all life.

One of the advantage of the individual interventions is the individual can use these skills to improve the quality of life in offer domains like family, social support and self, thus reducing the negative carry of experiences in these domains into the work life which might affect his occupation mental health.


The most effective way of managing stress calls for adopting stressors and prevent occurrence of potential stressors.' Two basic organizational strategies for helping employees manage stress are institutional programs and collateral programs.

Work Design            Stress Management programs
Work schedules        Health promotions programs
Culture                   Other programs

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Source: E-mail January 14, 2011


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