S. Revathy

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To understand how to reduce the occupational stress in the personnel




The word stress is derived from the latin term ‘stringers’ which means “to draw tight”. Some defines stress as the non –specific response of the body to any demands made on it. When the demands on an individual exceed his capability and adjustments resources stress occurs. Stress is different from anxiety which is a state of uncertainty. It is also different from agitation which is the physical part of anxiety. Stress also differs from frustration which is blocked goal attainment. Occupational stress is an internal phenomenon and a mental attitude. If stress is the condiment, strain is the salt and if there is an imbalance in condiment-salt relationship, the result is implantable. Stress is generally believed to have a deleterious effect on health and performance. It is the individual’s reaction to stress which makes all the difference.


Occupational 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. In short, the stage is set for illness, injury, and job failure. It is 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.


Occupational stress is a major hazard for many workers. Increased workloads, downsizing, overtime, hostile work environments, and shift work are just a few of the many causes of stressful working conditions. Thus, stress is a mental, emotional or physical reaction from an individual’s response to environmental pressure and similar stimuli. It refers to pressures people feel in life. Hans Selyes, father of stress, believes that stress is spice of life and absence of stress is death. Different persons respond to stressful situation in different ways.


Causes of Organization stress


1. Goals: Goal set should be realistic. Unrealistic goal set at very high level cause stress

2. Policies and Procedures: Unfavourable policies and difficult procedures causes stress

3.Rules and Regulations: Strict and inflexible rules designed to affect workers result in stress

4. Working conditions: Employees feel stressful if the working conditions are unhealthy, unsafe and affect performance.

5.Compensation: Low salaries and wages discrimination in wages, lack of incentives, delayed payments etc causes stress

6.Job Design: Poorly designed jobs, mismatch between jobs and skills unrealistic job descriptions etc give rise to stress

7.Organization structure : Defective structure results in high degree of specialization, excessive interdependence among departments, line and staff conflicts etc

8. Performance Appraisal: Bias, unfairness and lack of transparency give rise to stress

9. Job loss: The unexpected loss of a job can take an emotional toll on individuals especially in situation where personnel are not financially prepared to deal with this set back

10.Frequent overworking : The overworking may leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure especially for those who do not feel as though they have a great deal of control our their job duties

11. Conflicting or nuclear job Expectations

12.Lack of compensation for the types of work

13.Poor interpersonal relationships with coworkers

14.Career concerns, such as job insecurity

15.Extremes of work activity

16. Unpleasant or dangerous work conditions such as overcrowding , noise and air pollution

17.Commuting to work

In these causes the psychosocial stressors are a major cause of occupational stress:


Working conditions




In an occupational setting, dealing with workload can be stressful and serve as a stressor for employees. There are three aspects of workload that can be stressful.

  • Quantitative workload or overload: Having more work to do than can be accomplished comfortably.
  • Qualitative workload: Having work that is too difficult.
  • Underload: Having work that fails to use a worker’s skills and abilities.


Workload as a work demand is a major component of the demand-control model of stress. This model suggests that jobs with high demands can be stressful, especially when the individual has low control over the job. In other words, control serves as a buffer or protective factor when demands or workload is high. This model was expanded into the demand-control-support model that suggests that the combination of high control and high social support at work buffers the effects of high demands.


As a work demand, workload is also relevant to the job demands-resources model of stress that suggests that jobs are stressful when demands (e.g., workload) exceed the individual’s resources to deal with them.




A person’s status in the workplace can also affect levels of stress. While workplace stress has the potential to affect employees of all categories; those who have very little influence to those who make major decisions for the company. However, less powerful employees (that is, those who have less control over their jobs) are more likely to suffer stress than powerful workers. Managers as well as other kinds of workers are vulnerable to work overload.

Economic factors


Economic factors that employees are facing in the 21st century have been linked to increased stress levels. Researchers and social commentators have pointed out that the computer and communications revolutions have made companies more efficient and productive than ever before. This boon in productivity however, has caused higher expectations and greater competition, putting more stress on the employee.


The following economic factors may lead to workplace stress:

  • Pressure from investors, who can quickly withdraw their money from company stocks.
  • The lack of trade and professional unions in the workplace.
  • Inter-company rivalries caused by the efforts of companies to compete globally
  • The willingness of companies to swiftly lay off workers to cope with changing business environments.



Bullying in the workplace can also contribute to stress. This can be broken down into five different categories:

  • Threat to profession status
  • Threat to personal status
  • Isolation
  • Excess work
  • Destabilization i.e. lack of credit for work, meaningless tasks etc.

This in effect can create a hostile work environment for the employees that, which in turn, can affect their work ethic and contribution to the organization.


Narcissism and psychopathy


Higher level of stress with people who work or interact with a narcissist, which in turn increases absenteeism and staff turnover.


Workplace conflict


Interpersonal conflict among people at work has been shown to be one of the most frequently noted stressors for employees. Conflict has been noted to be an indicator of the broader concept of workplace harassment. It relates to other stressors that might co-occur, such as role conflict, role ambiguity, and workload. It also relates to strains such as anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, and low levels of job satisfaction.


Sexual harassment


Women are more likely than men to experience sexual harassment, especially for those working in traditionally masculine occupations. In addition, a study indicated that sexual harassment negatively affects workers’ psychological well-being. Another study found that level of harassment at workplaces lead to differences in performance of work related tasks. High levels of harassment were related to the worst outcomes, and no harassment was related to least negative outcomes. In other words, women who had experienced a higher level of harassment were more likely to perform poorly at workplaces.


Occupational group


Lower occupational groups are at higher risk of work-related ill health than higher occupational groups. This is in part due to adverse work and employment conditions. Furthermore, such conditions have greater effects on ill-health to those in lower socio-economic positions.


Dynamics of work stress


Work related stress is of growing concern because it has significant economic implications for the organization


1.Intrinsic job factors such as poor working conditions, work overload and monotony

2. Role in organization, for example role conflict

3.Career development , for instance lack of promotional opportunities, policies and job insecurity

4.Poor relationship at work




Stressful working conditions can lead to three types of strains:

  • Behavioral (e.g., absenteeism or poor performance),
  • Physical (e.g., headaches or coronary heart disease), and
  • Psychological (e.g., anxiety or depressed mood).

Physical symptoms that may occur because of occupational stress include fatigue, headache, upset stomach, muscular aches and pains, weight gain or loss, chronic mild illness, and sleep disturbances. Psychological and behavioral problems that may develop include anxiety, irritability, alcohol and drug use, feeling powerless and low morale. The spectrum of effects caused by occupational stress includes absenteeism, poor decision making, lack of creativity, accidents, organizational breakdown or even sabotage.[ If exposure to stressors in the workplace is prolonged, then chronic health problems can occur including stroke.


Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress


Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress include:



Possible effects of stress on body:



Possible effects of stress on behavior:

  • Eating too much
  • Eating too little
  • Food cravings
  • Sudden angry outbursts
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Higher tobacco consumption
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent crying
  • Relationship problems

Follow our 10 simple tips to help manage and reduce stress levels.

  • Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine.
  • Indulge in Physical Activity.
  • Ensure adequate More Sleep.
  • Try Relaxation Techniques.
  • Talk to Someone.
  • Keep a Stress Diary.
  • Take Control.
  • Manage Your Time.
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Learn to relax
  • Be active regularly
  • Eat well-balanced meals
  • Proper time management
  • Developing hobby
  • Building healthy relationship
  • Sense of humour
  • Take yearly break from work
  • Spending time with nature
  • Positive outlook towards life


Organizational level strategies to cope up with stress: There are measures undertaken by the organization to reduce stress level of employees


1.Right fit : Jobs should be matched with the skills, qualifications, interest and experience of the employees

2.Interesting work: Providing challenging job assignments to improve interest in work and utilize potential. Job rotation, job enrichment and job enlargement are the techniques that can be used

3.Flexible work arrangement: Providing flexibility in work arrangements to satisfy employee requirements. Flexible timings, job sharing, telecommuting, working from home, compressed work week are some the arrangements

4. Role clarity : Employees should have a clear understanding of their jobs, responsibilities and reporting relationships

5. Effective career management: Employees should be provided clear career paths. They should know the positions that they can reach and the benefits that they can receive

6. Improved organizational structure: creating flexibility in organizational structure, Improved clarity in responsibility, team work, effective leadership and providing transportation facilities

7. Working conditions: safe and healthy working conditions , adequate ventilation , lighting space, ideal temperature, control of excess noise and providing transportation facilities

8.Open communication: Open communication helps to create understanding improves relationships and reduce tensions. Clear communication acts as a stress busters

9.Programs to manage stress: The organization should conduct programs to mange stress such as employee counseling, holding team meetings and offerings health facilities


Some easy ways to incorporate exercise into our daily schedule to reduce stress :


  • Put on some music and dance around
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Walk or cycle to the grocery store
  • Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
  • Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you work out
  • Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids

Coping strategies to reduce stress


Coping strategies refer to the specific efforts, both behavioral and psychological, that people employ to master, tolerate, reduce, or minimize stressful events. Coping skills are methods a person used to deal with stressful situations. .Some good coping skills include Meditation and Relaxation Techniques, Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation.


Strategies for reducing occupational stress


1.  Alter the working conditions so that they are less stressful or more conducive to effective coping. This strategy is most appropriate for large numbers of personnel working under severe conditions. Examples include altering physical annoyances such as noise levels or changing organizational decision making processes to include personnel

2.  Help individuals adapt by teaching them better coping strategies for conditions that are impossible or difficult to change. A limitation to these strategies that it is costly to deal with individual’s unique transaction with the environment. Interaction strategies could include individual counseling service for employees. Employees Assistance programmes or specialized stress management programs, such as cognitive behavioral interventions

3. Identify the stressful relationship between the individual or group and the work setting. Intervention strategies might include changes in personnel assignment to produce a better person environment fit, or it could involve teaching coping strategies for individual who share common coping defilicits (training in relaxation skills)




Indian philosophy consisting of Upanishadas, Vendata, etc is very helpful in winning stress. Dr.Stish Chandra Pandey has given the following Indian model of occupational stress management


  1.  Develop a strong philosophical base by combining different Indian values.
  2. Create awareness among organization members about these values
  3. Develop training programmes for executives and others staff members for their total personality development based on the Indian values, so that they can develop their own strategies for coping with their organization stressors
  4. There must be compulsory course of Indian philosophy in professional management courses so that today’s management personnel can develop their own managerial philosophy based on Indian values
  5. Popularizing Indian values among organizational members will be helpful in reducing unnecessary individual and group conflict, power politics and stress in Indian organization
  6. Stress management programmes for employees must be based on sharing different philosophical values and developing strategies through group learning
  7. Each organization must develop its own management philosophy based on Indian values and educate its employees about the philosophy to motivate them for achieving excellence in different areas
  8. Organization must include these training programmes as integral part of their life. There must be continous learning by organizational members through such training programmes
  9. Organizations must know the reducing organizational stress is as important as motivating employees. So stress management programmes must be integral parts of organizational training programmes along with motivational development programmes
  10. In Indian organizations, the goal of stress management programmes must be to develop this spiritual dimension of personality and immunize their employees against the organizational stressors
  11. Stress management programmes based on programmes based on Indian values like “Karma theory as mentioned in the Gita” will not only reduce employees work stress but also help in developing achievement – oriented motivational climate of organization



Health requires the promotion of healthy lifestyle. In the last 20 years a considerable body of evidence has accumulated which indicated that there is an association between health and lifestyle of an individual. The lifestyle of personnel heath affecting due to headache, depression, back problems, sleep disturbances, mood disturbance, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, fatigue, shortness of breath ,high blood pressure and digestive problems. To summarize, both the individual executive and organization need to act to prevent burnout. The primary role of the individual executive should be to alert personnel lifestyle, increase his role efficacy and learn new orientations to be able to influence and control destiny in the organization. The organization should pay major attention to the redesigning of roles, training of executives in stress re- designing and personality building areas, diagnosing and improving the climate.






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  • Torrington, Dereck ,and Laura Hall, 1998, Human Resource Management, Prentice Hall, New Jercy
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