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The Sources and Effects of Workplace StressTerm Paper

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Stress Management in the 21st Century Workplace

Anyone who has ever held down a job can readily testify that the workplace can be an enormously stressful environment, and many professions experience higher rates of burnout that others due to stressful working conditions. Indeed, in some cases, such as the nursing profession, the stress can become so intense that people experience physical and mental harm as a result and some even leave the professions for which they have trained for length periods of time (Lynott, 2011). Over the years, I have seen this occur time and again, making stress management in the workplace a timely and valuable enterprise, but my personal experience confirms that far too many organizations fail to address this problem before it is too late.

Research Question

To determine what can be done, this paper reviews the relevant literature concerning stress management in the workplace, including the sources of stress and their implications as well as effective stress management practices, followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues in the conclusion.

Literature Review

Source and Implications of Workplace Stress

At the outset, it is important to point out that a workplace stressor does not have to be exotic, but can be something as simple as a cruel and insensitive supervisor, a co-worker who hums (or talks or snaps gum) all day, a creaking desk chair or an inordinately noisy working environment that precludes effective thought processes. In fact, I have experienced all of these types of workplace stressors and others that defy easy categorization but which made the workplace a less desirable place. As Lynott (2011) points out, "Stress is a constant presence in the workplace, and never more so than in difficult economic times such as these. Stress simmers just beneath the surface, silently eating away at morale, productivity, and [customer] relations" (p. 26).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has identified some of the more common sources of workplace stress, including the following:

Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours, and hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers' skills, and provide little sense of control;

Lack of participation by workers in decision-making, poor communication in the organization, lack of family-friendly policies;

Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility, too many "hats to wear";

Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion; rapid changes for which workers are unprepared; and,

Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems (cited in Lynott, 2011, p. 26).

Of all the foregoing sources of workplace stress, heavy workloads appear to be among the most commonplace. Beginning with the wave of downsizings that took place during the 1990s, organizations are requiring their surviving workers to do more with less in ways that have added stress to the workplace. In this regard, Owens (2014) emphasizes that, "In general, workloads have increased while the number of people available to do the work has decreased. When people are working longer hours, they have less time for self-care. They may miss meals, skip exercise and lose sleep" (p. 45).

Moreover, because all organizations are comprised of people, each workplace will be different in terms of what types of stressors are most salient. In addition, different people have different levels of resiliency that can determine how workplace stressors affect them, if at all. In this regard, Nasr (2012) advises that, "Workplace stress is a well-known fact that is expressed differently with different employees in different work settings" (p. 72). In fact, some level of stress is important for individual development and motivation, but some people are unable to handle the levels of stress that they experience on a daily basis. For instance, according to Tynan (2009), "[Stress] can be a positive thing -- helping an individual to grow, develop, be stimulated and take action. However, if stress exceeds a person's ability to cope it can impact on their mental and physical health in a range of ways" (p. 27).

Although more research in this area is needed, what is known for certain today is that the adverse impact of workplace stress can be enormous for workers and organizations alike. For example, the American Medical Association reports that out of a population of around 321 million, fully 95 million… [END OF PREVIEW]

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