Managing Stress at Work


Prof. Jayanta Banerjee
BSc, PGDBM (Marketing/HR), MPhil
Sr. Faculty
Magnus School of Business


Topic Name: Managing Stress at Work

Managing an over worked and stressed human resource have become a challenging and ever difficult task for today's managers. With a view to utilize the available human resource  thus minimizing costs and maximizing profits, today both managers and their subordinates have to coop with work related stress. This stress if it goes to certain extent without being controlled can affect the person's family/social life, health, performance etc and changes the employee's whole attitude towards work- frustrating, demotivating and frightening him/her which in the long run damages the organization and the employee both.

This paper will briefly examine the various stress-management interventions adopted by three reputed companies to improve efficiency in the work place

Key Words: Stringers, Biofeedback, stressors, Food exchange.

Life is tough and getting tougher by the day! The stress of daily living, especially as the pressure to excel mounts, impacts everyone, not just on the work front but in every single area of an individual's life In today's world of doing more with less, employees find themselves with more work, fewer resources, and less time. With a tight deadlines and a competitive work environment only the best performers are guaranteed continued employment.

All of these factors add up to a very stressful work environment. Ultimately employees take work home and worry about missing deadlines or performing inadequately and end up working longer hours.

Stress can be caused by many things in life, pressures from work, the family, social commitments and other everyday events. The word stress is derived from the Latin term 'Stringers' which means "to draw tight". Some define stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demands made on it. Stress is our physical, mental, and emotional response to the various demands, changes, and events in our life. It is an internal phenomenon and a mental attitude.

In some cases, stress motivates and encourages us to complete a task we find difficult so that we can take pride in ourselves and what we achieve.

Hans Selye was one of the founding fathers of stress research. His view in 1956, which holds true today also, was that stress is not necessarily something bad – it all depends on how one takes it. In an ideal world, there should be just enough stress to keep employees working to their full potential, but not enough to cause overwhelm or excessive anxiety. Too much or too little stress is where we run into problems.

Stress symptoms begin to manifest themselves when an individual perceive or feel that life demands are exceeding their ability to deal with them. When stress begins to take its toll, they may experience both physical and psychological effects.

Causes or Sources of Stress

The sources of stress may be classified into two broad categories as follows:

1. Individual Stressors: Personality, motivation, ability, experience, status, life stages, beliefs and values.

2. Organizational Stressors or Environment: There are several potential stressors in the organization. These are summarized as bellow

Organizational Stressors

1. Roles in the Organization

a) Role conflict
b) Role ambiguity
c) Minimum management support
d) Holding mid-management position

2. Responsibility

a) With superiors/subordinates/ colleagues
b) Inability to delegate

3. Job Qualities

a) Time pressures
b) Work over/under load
c) Level of accountability

4. Organizational Structure

a) Lack of participation
b) No sense of belongining
c) Poor communication
d) Restriction on behavior
f)  Lack of opportunity/performance evaluation/pay

5. Physical Environment

a) Working conditions like noise, lighting, aesthetic appeal of rooms etc.

6. Change

a) Individual life stages
b) Organizational- transfer, promotion, job expansion etc.

7. Career Development

a) Status conflicts
b) Obsolescence of skill
c) Mid-career stage

Consequences of Stress

1. On the Individual:

a. Physical Aliments e.g. headache, insomnia and heart problems
b. Mental e.g. anxiety, lack of clear thinking, loneliness
c. Behavioral e.g. excessive smoking, drinking, withdrawal from relationships

2. On the Organization:

Low productivity, poor quality, absenteeism, low job satisfaction, accident proneness and poor interpersonal communication.

Indian Methods of managing Stress

Indian philosophy consisting of Upanishadas, Vedanta, etc, is very helpful in winning stress. Dr. Satish Chandra Pandey (8m Journal, JIMS April-June 1997) has given some valid points on managing stress, some of which are as follows-

1. Develop training programs for executives and other staff members for their total personality development based on Indian values, so that they can develop their own strategies for coping with their organizational environment/stressors.

2. Each organization must develop its own management philosophy based on Indian values and educate its employees about that philosophy to motivate them for achieving excellence in different areas.

3. Organizations must know that reducing organizational stress is as important as motivating employees. Both the process is complementary to each other: they are not replacements.

Stress Management Techniques

There are numerous techniques that experts recommend for relieving the symptoms of stress.

1. Talk about your worries – to colleagues, spouses or friends

2. Exercise – take up physical activities such as jogging, walking, and cycling which can relieve the feelings of stress. Chemicals released in the brain during exercise produce a 'feel good' mood.

3. Learn biofeedback – this is a relaxation method in which a person learn to consciously control your breathing rate and heart rate so that stressful situations do not elicit a major physiological reaction.

4. Take up a new hobby –like gardening or join a group so that you can socially interact with people who have the same passions.

5. Join a Yoga class – yoga is one of the oldest forms of relaxation known to man.

6. Learn the difference between work and home- By separating the two main areas of your life you can leave the stress of work behind when you finish for the day.

7. Help out with a charity- Charities are always looking for volunteers to help with events and collecting. Find a charity that you are passionate about and donate a few hours to helping them in the community.

8. Take time to read- Novels and autobiographies are particularly good for diverting your thoughts away from the stresses and worries of the day.

9. Learn to meditate- the art of meditation is easy to learn and as it allows you to suspend your thoughts for a period of time it is great for forgetting about the pressures that you are under.

10. Vacation away- helps in avoiding and changing the stressors or environment for a short time.

It doesn't matter which type of stress relief method you choose because they will all work to some degree however some people will prefer physical activities such as dance or exercise whereas others will prefer meditation and relaxation techniques. Find what works for you and have fun doing it.

Stress management techniques applied in some organization

Dell Inc

Dell was founded in 1984 with $1,000 and an idea by Michael Dell. The idea was to build relationships directly with customers. Michael Dell, born in February 1965, is presently the chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of Dell.  Mr. Dell became the youngest CEO ever to earn a ranking on the Fortune 500. Dell Inc. (Dell) is a technology company, which offers a range of product categories, including desktop computer systems, storage, servers and networking products, mobility products, software and peripherals, and enhanced services. Dell entered Asia-Pacific/Japan in select markets and began investing in regional facilities, management, service and technical personnel in 1993, with its first operations in Japan and Australia.

Dell direct sales operations are currently in 13 markets in the region: Australia, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. In addition, 38 distributors serve another 31 markets. Dell was the No. 3 vendor in the industry in the region in 2007. Dell had a market value of $4 billion (20 Oct, 2007).

Industry Type: BPO/Call Center (Dell)
Average age of employee: 21+
Qualification: HS/Graduation
Work profile: Attending customer calls.

Some stress management techniques adopted at Dell are as follows-

1. Lighting-Bright light with carefully chosen wall colours

2. In-house cafeteria and Gym

3. Food festivals-on special days/festivals at cafeteria

4. TV's placed in corridors, adequate number of bunks for taking rest

5. Food exchange-employees are encouraged to bring home made food. These foods are exchanged-this technique help bridge cultural differences as employees get to taste may be Bengali, Marathi, Andhra or Punjabi food. Small rewards are offered to the best recipe.

6. Quarterly tours are organized. If the place is far or exceeds budget, Dell pays part expense.

7. Gaming stations, cricket pitch (net practice) and table tennis playing provisions are also maintained.

8. Dell also undertakes social services like sponsoring education to some poor children. These children are brought to Dell office and the employee interacts with them along with a in-house cafeteria party.

9. For newly joined employees mentoring (buddy) is done relieving the new appointees stress and helping him/her settle down.

10. Quarterly good performers are rewarded along with a party (recently held in Taj Deccan) with theme based programme like Hollywood night. Best dressed individuals are also rewarded.

Sipera Systems Inc

Founded in 2003, Sipera is headquartered in Richardson, Texas US, with a development center in Hyderabad, India. Sipera is backed by three well-established venture capital firms and is led by a seasoned, experienced management team.

Industry Type: IT/Software
Average age of employee: 27+
Qualification: BE
Work profile: Software development

Some stress management techniques adopted at Sipera Systems are as follows-

1. Weekend Salsa class.

2. Gym, Meditation sessions.

3. Saturday morning cricket, TV, Cafeteria.

4. Well lit interiors/ambience/carefully chosen wall colours

5. Share-the Director of India operations encourage individuals to invest in shares, he himself is also an avid investor-he claims it to be his de-stressing workout. Recently the Sipera also invited Networth Stock Broking Ltd an investment firm to give presentation on  "How to invest in shares" to its software developers.

TATA Group

The Tata Group comprises 98 operating companies in seven business sectors: information systems and communications; engineering; materials; services; energy; consumer products; and chemicals. The Group was founded by Jamsetji Tata in the mid 19th century, a period when India had just set out on the road to gaining independence from British rule.

The Tata Group is one of India's largest and most respected business conglomerates, with revenues in 2006-07 of $28.8 billion (Rs129,994 crore), the equivalent of about 3.2 per cent of the country's GDP, and a market capitalization of $59.64 billion as on January 24, 2008.

Industry Type: Steel
Average age of employee: 46+
Qualification: HS/Graduates/Engineers
Work profile: Production of steel from natural ores.
Recent Stress management programs organized by TATA

1. A spate of cultural activities, including a "Hasya Kavi Sammelan" (stand-up comedy) and an art exhibition, was organised by the Jharia Division during the last few months.

2. Held on March 29, 2007 the focus on the Domestic Management Programme was to encourage spouses of employees to take better charge of managing their homes and create a stress free and happy home environment. Mrs Divaker, wife of General Manager, Jharia, Mr Ch Divaker, took a lead role in successfully conducting the programme, sharing her own experiences with the ladies. Over 75 participants benefitted from the inputs and experiences shared.


1. Source:
2. Source: TATA steel news Issue 1 2007-08
3. Robbins.P.Stephen, Organizational Behaviour, 10th Ed, Prentice Hall.
4. Kreitner, Kinicki, Organizational Behaviour, 8Ed McGraw Hill.

Prof. Jayanta Banerjee
BSc, PGDBM (Marketing/HR), MPhil
Sr. Faculty
Magnus School of Business

Source: E-mail December 3, 2008


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