It is inevitable that juggling work and family life will be one of a person’s demanding experiences. The rationale for having a job is not only to have a livelihood, achieve personal satisfaction in the expression of his abilities and trainings, and receive his remuneration and perks on the side. Preparation for family stability to be able to provide and thus create an atmosphere of care, for bachelors/maidens, is also the foremost and logical reason for having a job. However, the thin thread that separates between the two polarities becomes blurred, and there lies the tension that pulls a person in different directions. The Center for Mediation and Dispute Resolution opens its website with the following quote: “Our life is one giant balancing act (http://www.cmdronline.com/workshops.htm).” Perhaps, no person will ever disagree with that statement. The goal then is to know how to do the balancing act, to gain competencies in achieving a rewarding, flourishing kind of life that holds work in one hand, while maintaining a well-nurtured and healthy family on the other hand. The array of questions that confront couples or families with this dilemma is quite limitless.
Stress is a psychological factor and a common feature of almost every kind of work. But it is important to note that it was only in the mid-70s that industrial psychologists focused their attention on the importance of stress in the workplace.
Significance of the study
Two reasons are suggested why there was a growing recognition of the importance of stress on the job. First, there is the general awareness that stress-related diseases have reached epidemic proportions. More people die or are disabled today as a result of stress than at any other time. Because stress is so physically damaging and pervasive in people’s lives and because it is primarily psychological in nature the discipline of psychology as a whole and especially the specialty area of health psychology is interested in studying and treating stress and other psychosomatic disorders (Chang et al., 2006).
The second reason for the growing awareness of the importance of stress at work is practical. The effects of stress on the job are costly and are reflected in a lower productive efficiency. Stress has been known to reduce drastically employee motivation and the physical ability to perform the task well thus, increasing absenteeism, turnover, and tardiness (Cahill, 2003; Chang et al., 2006; Williams, 2003).
Statement of the Problem
What is stress at work and how is this demonstrated in a particular individual worker? What has personality trait or individual differences do with the development of stress as well as how do people cope with stress when the source is the place of work? This paper attempts to define, describe and explain the nature of stress, factors that contribute to the development of stress in an individual, and in particular what job stress or stress in the workplace can do to an individual. In addition, this paper also seeks to look into the interventions that have been instituted and are applicable to workers and various organizational settings.
~ The Nature of Stress
Inside the body, dramatic physiological changes take place under stress. Adrenalin, released from the adrenal glands, speeds up all bodily functions. Blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, and extra sugar is released to the bloodstream. The increased circulation of the blood brings additional energy to the brain and muscles, making us more alert and stronger sp that we can cope with the sudden emergency (Landy, 1985).
A stressful situation mobilizes and directs one’s energy beyond its normal level. But if a person remains in that state of supercharged energy for too long, the body’s reservoir of energy will dissipate. Rest is needed to replenish the energy supply (Williams, 2003).
Prolonged stress leads to psychosomatic disorders. Remember that psychosomatic diseases are not imaginary. They are real and involve specific tissue and organ damage even though their cause is psychological. In prolonged stress, the body may suffer physiological damage and the person may become ill (Landy, 1985).
A. Individual Differences in Vulnerability to Stress
One factor that affects vulnerability to stress on the job is social support, one’s network of social and family ties. The person who is alone physically and psychologically is more vulnerable to stress than someone who has strong social relationships. Social support on the job is also important to reduce stress and to have better health (Cahill, 2003; Chang et al., 2006; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
One’s physical condition also relates to one’s vulnerability to stress effects. Persons in better physical condition suffer fewer effects of stress than those in poor physical condition (Cahill, 2003; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Level of ability to perform a job can make people more or less resistant to the stresses of that job. Employees with a high level of the skills needed for the job finds the work easier and less stressful than employees with a lower ability (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Personality seems to be related to one’s ability to tolerate stress. This is particularly apparent with those of apparent with those of Type A and Type B personalities and their susceptibility to heart disease, one of the major effects of stress (Landy, 1985).
The Type A personality is highly prone to heart disease by middle age, independent of physical factors or their type of work. The two primary characteristics of a Type A personality are a very high competitive drive and a constant sense of urgency about time. Type A personalities are hostile people although they successfully hide it from others. That is why Type A personalities are always in a state if tension and stress (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Persons with the Type B personality never have heart attacks before the age of 70, regardless of their jobs or their eating and smoking habits. Type B people may be just as ambitious as Type A people, but they have none of their characteristics. They function under far less stress in all aspects of life including work (Landy, 1985).
B. Stress at work
There are occupations that are considered very stressful. The following twelve are those that engender highest levels of stress: labourer, secretary, inspector, clinical lab technician, office manager, first-line supervisor, manager or administrator, waiter or waitress, machine operator, farm worker, miner, painter. This is taken from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Other occupations considered to be in high stress are police officer, fire fighter, computer programmer, dental assistant, electrician, fire fighter, social worker, telephone operator, and hairdresser (Landy, 1985).
Survey is also found that among working women, the most stressful jobs are in the health care industry. For example, nurses, medical, dental, and lab technicians and social workers (Cahill, 2001).
Psychologists renamed the concept of overwork into the term overload and have identified two types:
1. Quantitative overload
2. Qualitative overload
Quantitative overload is the condition of having too much work to do in the time available. Qualitative overload involves not so much work to do but work that is too difficult (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Another stress factor in the workplace is change. Many changes occur in the workplace. The introduction of a new work procedure may require employees to learn and adapt to different production methods (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Performance appraisal is a source of stress for a great many people. Few people like the idea of being evaluated whether at school or work. An employee’s role in the organization can be a source of stress. Role ambiguity arises when the employees’ work role is poorly structured and ill-defined. Role conflict arises when there is a disparity among the demands of a job and the employees, personal standard and values (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Problems of career development may lead to stress at work. Stress can arise when an employee fails to receive an anticipated promotion (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003)
Being responsible for other people is a major source of difficulty for some supervisors and managers (Landy, 1985).
Contact with a stress carrier is also a cause of stress. A person free of stress can be infected by someone who is highly stressed (Landy, 1985).
Assembly-line work has been associated with stress because it is characterized by repetition and monotony (Landy, 1985).
Overall, then, each person must confront and deal with a large and recurring number of stress-producing events everyday both at home and at work. Although most people experience at least some of the harmful effects of stress at one time or another, most people, fortunately, do manage to cope (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
One effect of stress on the job resulting from overwork is called burnout. The employee becomes less energetic and less interested in the job. He or she becomes emotionally exhausted, apathetic, depressed, irritable, and bored; finds fault with everything about the work (Cahill, 2003; Chang et al., 2006; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Model of Job Stress
(Source: NIOSH, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/stresswk.html)
Burnout develops in three distinct stages:
1. Emotional exhaustion, with a feeling of being drained and empty (Cahill, 2003; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
2. Cynicism and the lack of sensitivity toward others (Cahill, 2003; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
3. Futility, the feeling that all the effort put forth previously was wasted and worthless (Cahill, 2003; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Employees with burnout become rigid about their work, following rules and procedures blindly and compulsively because they are too exhausted to be flexible or consider alternative solutions to a problem (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
There is a price to pay for such overwork over a long period of time. Stress accumulates and leads to the psychological and physiological ailments described earlier. These people work so hard that they burn away their energy faster than the body can replace it. Such persons have been described as workaholics, or employees addicted to work (Cahill, 2003; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
C. Interventions and organizational techniques
The techniques for dealing with stress on the job involved both the prevention of stress and its reduction and elimination. Techniques that individual employees can practice on and off the job include relaxation training, biofeedback, and behavior modification. Some methods provided by organization include altering the organizational climate, providing employee assistance programs and treating victims of stress-related illnesses (Cahill, 2003; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Industrial/organizational psychologists have proposed several organizational techniques for managing stress at work:
1. Emotional Climate Control. Because of the stressors of modern organizational life is change, the organization must provide sufficient support to enable employees to adapt to change. This can be accomplished by providing a climate of esteem and regard for employees and by allowing them to participate in all decisions involving change in their work and in the structure of the organization (Chang et al., 2006; Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
2. Provision of social support. Social support can reduce one’s vulnerability to stress. Organizations can enhance social support by facilitating the cohesiveness of work groups and by training the supervisors to be supportive of their subordinates (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
3. Redefinition of employee roles. To reduce the stress caused by role ambiguity, managers must clearly state to their subordinates what is expected of them and what the precise scope and responsibilities of their jobs are (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
4. Elimination of work overload and work underload. Proper selection and training, equitable promotion decisions and fair distribution of work can do much to eliminate these causes of stress.
5. Provision of assistance to stressed employees. More and more organizations today are recognizing the harmful effects that stress can have on employee health and productivity. As a result, they are providing in-house counseling programs that teach individual stress-control techniques and supplying facilities for physical exercise (Landy, 1985; Williams, 2003).
Synthesis of Problems and Challenges
While working, dual career parents who have not agreed beforehand, assume that either one of them would somehow manage to adjust and take heavier responsibility of managing the household and minimize responsibility in the workplace. This poses a lot of potential problems like expecting more understanding from the other spouse who had not taken this additional household cares. Another major thing, and probably more important, is the parents’ oversight of children. Whereas it is true that some considerable “rewards” go along with dual career arrangement, the potential neglect of children must not be ignored. Imbalance family set up can wreck a household. At the organizational level, employees in this kind of set-up experience the beginning of burnout or may be highly stressed to the point of exhibiting physiological, mental and emotional exhaustion. Symptoms appear in the form of “presenteesm, absenteesm, regrettable turnover and loss of productivity,” according to Spinks (2006).
Conclusion and Recommendations
In general, people become satisfied and fulfilled when success comes to both important areas in his/her life. Work brings personal gratification and provision for family is secured somehow, while having a happy and contented family is considered miracle in a dog-eat-dog world. This is the aspiration of many if not all working couples and individuals. When employed in an institution that really takes care of their workers, taking into consideration the things that their employees hold dear by providing as much as the employee needs, the worker or employee settles into a condition wherein he/she can focus on the work or be inspired of it. In addition, the worker can afford more quality time to spend with his/her family. The strategies mentioned are time-and tested approaches. These have greatly helped a lot of people or families in their search for a balanced work-family life. At the stake when a family works to achieve a balance are principles or values they uphold. These are the values of family togetherness, rearing and nurturing their offspring, and providing for all aspects of each household member.
The Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution has suggested five points to help their clients; namely: 1.) Division of labor and household tasks, 2.) Career expectations and plans, 3.) Allocation of family funds, 4.) Changing roles over time, and 5.) Educational plans and provisions (http://www.cmdronline.com/workshops.htm).
. These are strategies not only to address the challenges, but are sure methods also to prevent possible frictions and eventual breakups of households. Constant communication that is authentic and with respect are keys to the five points enumerated. When the spouses are able to adjust to changing roles they become less stressed or burdened over the many expectations that society and themselves raise on how families are supposed to be run and arranged.
At times, institutions employ the services of mental health practitioners as retainers to provide their employees with counseling help along these strategic lines. Companies who deeply understand that human personnel are their primary investments look to utilizing the available resources within their reach to lessen the stress, burnout, unhealthy lifestyle, or other potential problems within each of their framework. According to Spinks, achieving work-family life balance requires the contribution of “employers, employees, governments and communities.” He also adds that it entails a collaborative effort that “integrates health and fitness, mental health and well-being, and non-work commitments, as well as career aspirations and job satisfaction.”
This implies that employees are given a more varied approach to maximizing their potential while taking care that they do not sacrifice other areas of their personal domain. The corporate world now talks of supportive environments that look after an employee’s other pursuits in life besides his/her work, giving him/her opportunities to have a more convenient or handy work schedule, more sufficient and suitable means for the anticipated problems to come, a system of reward and recognition for performance, as well as creating a good working environment for the individual workers.
Works Cited Page:
______Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution, Retrieved May 2, 2008 in http://www.cmdronline.com/workshops.htm
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Johnson, F. A, E. A. Kaplan, and E. J. Tusel, “Sexual Dysfunction in the’Two-Career’ Family,” Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, XIII (January, 1979), 7-17.
Hester, Susan, and Kitty Dickerson, 1984. Serving Dual-Career families: Problem or opportunity? Extension Journal, Inc. ISSN 1077-5315. Vol. 22.No 4. Retrieved May 2, 2008 in http://joe.org/joe/1984july/a4.html.
Landy, F.J. 1985. Psychology of Work Behavior. 3rd Ed. Dorsey Press.
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Spinks, Nora. 2006. Choosing the Right Metaphor to Ensure Work-Life Quality for All .Article originally published by WFC Resources, (Accessed in http://www.workfamily.com/Work- lifeClearinghouse/GuestColumns/gc0036.htm).
Williams, C. 2003. Stress at Work. Canadian Social Trends, Autumn, 7-13.