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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,

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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).

Figure 1. 0 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).

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