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I.                    OVERVIEW


A.      Definitions

1.       Stress is an adaptive response to a situation that is perceived as challenging or threatening to the person’s well-being.

2.       Stress is a reaction to a situation, not the situation itself.

3.       Distress is the degree of physiological, psychological, and behavioral deviation from healthy functioning.

4.       Eustress refers to the healthy, positive, constructive outcome of stressful events and the stress response.


B.      General Adaptation Syndrome

1.       Definition:  a response that provides an automatic defense system to help us cope with environmental demands.

2.       Three stages of general adaptation syndrome:  alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.

a.       Alarm reaction stage is characterized by the perception of a threatening or challenging situation , causing the brain to send a biochemical message to various body parts and resulting in increased respiration rate, blood pressure, heartbeat, muscle tension, and other physiological responses.

b.       During the resistance stage, the person’s ability to cope with the environmental demands rises above the normal state because the body has activated various biochemical, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms.

c.        Exhaustion occurs when the body has relinquished its resistance capacity.




Stressors, the causes of stress, include any environmental conditions that place a physical or emotional demand on the person.  The four main types are:


A.      Physical Environmental Stressors

·         These are found in the workplace and include things such as excessive noise, poor lighting, and safety hazards.


B.      Role-Related Stressors

1.       Role conflict – occurs when people face competing demands.

a.       Interrrole conflict – exists when employees have two roles that conflict with each other.

b.       Intrarole conflict – occurs when an employee receives contradictory messages from different people about how to perform a task.

c.        Personal-role conflict – occurs when work with organizational values and work obligations are incompatible with one’s personal values.

2.       Role ambiguity – exists when employees are uncertain about their job duties, performance expectations, level of authority, and other job conditions.

3.       Workload – occurs when a person receives too little work or has tasks that do not sufficiently use one’s talents.

4.       Task control – occurs when employees lack control over how and when they perform their tasks as well as lack control over the pace of work activity.


C.      Interpersonal Stressors

1.       Include ineffective supervision, office politics, and other conflicts one experiences with others.

2.       Sexual harassment is the unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for its victims.

a.       Quid pro quo includes situations in which a person’s employment or job performance is conditional on unwanted sexual relations.

b.       Hostile work environment includes sexual conduct that unreasonable interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

3.       Workplace violence

·         In the U.S., 1,000 employees are murdered on the job each year and another 2 million others experience lesser forms of violence.

4.       Workplace bullying – refers to the offensive, intimidating, or humiliating behavior that degrades, ridicules, or insults another person at work.


D.      Organizational Stressors

1.       Mergers

2.       Acquisitions

3.       Downsizing – reducing the number of employees


E.       Nonwork Stressors

1.       Time-based:  the challenge of balancing time demanded by work with family and other non-work activities.

2.       Strain-based:  occurs when stress from one domain spills over to the other.

·         Examples include relationship problems, financial difficulties, and the loss of a loved one.

3.       Role based-conflict:  occurs when people are expected to enact different work and nonwork roles. 


F.       Stress and Occupations

·         Refer to Exhibit 7.3 for a sample of jobs and their relative level of stressors.




A.      Noted differences in responses to similar situations.

1.       Each person perceives the same situation differently.

2.       People have varying personalities affecting the response to the same situation.

3.       People have different threshold levels of resistance to a stressor.


B.      Type A / Type B Behavior Pattern

1.       Type A:  characterizes people who are hard-driving, competitive individuals with a strong sense of time urgency.  People tend to work faster, choose more challenging tasks, and have higher self-motivation.

2.       Type B:  characterizes people who are less competitive and less concerned about time limitations.




A.        Physiological Consequences

1.       Colds, headaches, and situations caused by muscle contractions may occur.

2.       Cardiovascular disease and hypertension may result.


B.         Psychological Consequences

1.       Job Burnout – refers to the process of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment resulting from prolonged exposure to stress.

a.       Emotional exhaustion – also called compassion fatigue, it represents the first stage of burnout and plays a central role in the burnout process.

b.       Depersonalization – follows emotional exhaustion and is identified by the treatment of others as objects rather than people.

c.        Reduced personal accomplishment – the final component of job burnout which refers to the decline in one’s feelings of competence and success.


C.        Behavioral Consequences

1.       When stress becomes distress, job performance falls and workplace accidents are more common.

2.       High stress levels impair the ability to remember information, make effective decisions, and take appropriate action.

3.       Overstressed employees tend to have higher levels of absenteeism.


D.        Workplace aggression

1.       Aggression represents the “fight” instead of “flight” reaction to stress.

2.       Coworker aggression represents relatively small proportion of workplace violence.




A.      Remove the Stressor

1.       Some writers argue that the only way companies can effectively manage stress is by removing the stressors that cause unnecessary tension and job burnout.

2.       Employees can take an active role in removing stressors by seeking out more information.

3.       Family-friendly and work-life initiatives can help to remove the stressors.

a.       Flexible work time – flexible hours, days, and amount of time employees want to work.

b.       Job sharing – splits a career position between two people so they experience less time-based stress between work and family.

c.        Telecommuting – working from home to decrease the time and stress of commuting to work.

d.       Personal leave programs – extended maternity, paternity, and personal leaves to care for a new family or take advantage of a personal experience.  FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) mandates employers to give personal leave time for legitimate purposes.

e.        Childcare support – on-site or subsidized child care facilities provided by the employer.


B.      Withdraw from the Stressor

1.       Temporary withdrawal strategies

a.       Nortel Networks h as a relaxation room complete with comfy chairs and comedy videos where employees can temporarily escape from the hassles of work.

b.       Washrooms are becoming an increasingly popular retreat for American employees.

c.        Vacations are longer temporary withdrawals from stressful conditions.


C.      Change Stress Perceptions

1.       Mental imagery can reduce the uncertainty of future work activities.

2.       Personal goal setting and self-reinforcement can reduce the stress people experience when they enter new work settings.

3.       Positive self-talk can increase one’s self-efficacy and develop a more optimistic outlook.


D.      Control the Consequences of Stress

1.       Research indicates that physical exercise reduces the physiological consequences of stress by helping employees lower their respiration, muscle tension, heartbeat, and stomach acidity.

2.       Some companies offer wellness programs that educate and support employees in better nutrition and fitness, regular sleep, and other good habits.

3.       Employee assistance programs (EAP’s) are counseling services offered by employers to help employees overcome personal or organizational stressors and adopt more effecting coping mechanisms.

E.       Receive Social Support

1.       Social support from coworkers, supervisors, families, and friends is one of the more effective stress management practices.

2.       Social support reduces stress in three ways:

a.       Employees improve their perception that they are valued and worthy.

b.       It provides information to help employees interpret, comprehend, and possibly remove the stressor.

c.        It can directly help to buffer the stress experience.

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