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Managing Stress

Stress at the Workplace

Anjali feels irritable and exhausted most of the time. She is suffering from loss of appetite and restless sleep. At first, she tries to ignore these problems but eventually goes to see a physician. Anjali’s symptoms are not uncommon and they arise from the stressful job she holds, where she is expected to work long hours and meet tight deadlines on a regular basis. Job stress is a very common phenomenon amongst most employees today due to the exacting nature of most professions and the excessive demands placed on the employee by the organization in its bid to outstrip the competition.


Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur in the individual. This happens when the potential, resources, or competencies of the individual do not measure up to the requirements of the job. A little bit of stress at the workplace is not harmful. On the contrary, it may even prove beneficial for the employee, as it will act as a challenge spurring him on to achieve his targets and goals. However, prolonged and continuous exposure to extreme stressful conditions can transform the individual into a complete wreck. Job stress can be caused by numerous factors. Some of them have been listed below and subsequently explained at greater length.

  • Job roles

  • Management styles

  • Job insecurity

  • Environmental conditions

  • Interpersonal relationships

  • Technology        

  • Workplace culture


Job roles: Stress can occur when the employee is unsure of his job description and the role he is expected to play in the organization. Stress can also result if there are too many expectations of the employee and he is expected to perform at a level beyond his ordinary capabilities. Stress can also be caused by excessive demands on an individual when he feels that his true potential is not being tapped and his job description does not match up to his true capabilities.


Management styles: Stress can result from ineffective management styles. For instance, if the management is too autocratic and the worker is not involved in the decision-making process at any level, he is likely to feel stressed out. When the employee feels that external forces control his work environment and he has little or no control over it, this may cause him mental tension after a point of time.


Contrarily the non-involvement of the management in the day-to-day operations of the organization may also affect workers adversely. Lack of management feedback on tasks performed may leave the workers unsure about their performance. They may wonder whether their contribution is considered worthwhile and their task appreciated by the organization. Prolonged exposure to such a situation may result in demotivation and stress.


Job insecurity: This is one of the primary causes of stress among employees. This is especially high in organizations where downsizing and restructuring take place and employees are unsure of holding a job in the organization, no matter how capable they are.


Environmental conditions: Certain external conditions may also cause stress among employees. Overcrowding, lack of proper resources and facilities, exposure to too much noise, or even situations where the employee’s work area isolates him/her from other employees, can result in stress.


Interpersonal relationships: Poor interpersonal relationships with colleagues and peers can cause stress. In such a situation, the employee does not have anyone to share his/her problems with. This lack of a supportive and cooperative environment may cause stress amongst the employees.


Technology: The technology boom and the onset of computers, pagers, mobile phones, and fax machines have resulted in heightened expectations from employees. They are expected to keep abreast of the latest developments in technology. Technology has also increased expectations of speed and efficiency from employees and they are expected to perform at peak levels at all times. This often results in stress amongst employees.


Workplace culture: The culture of an organization refers to dressing styles, communication patterns, hierarchy, workspace, and most important, working and behavioral patterns of the management and employees. If the employee is unable to fit into the culture of an organization or if the organizational culture is at odds with his values, he is likely to feel stressed out.


Here is a checklist to determine if you are under stress at your place of work. Read the questions provided and check those that apply to you.

  • Do you suffer from increased blood pressure?

  • Do you suffer from increased heart rate?

  • Do you suffer from increased muscle tension?

  • Do you suffer from frequent headaches? 

  • Do you feel anxious? 

  • Do you feel depressed? 

  • Are you aggressive with your colleagues?  

  • Are you confused about what you are expected to do?

  • Have you taken up smoking recently?

  • If you are already a smoker do you find that your smoking has increased?

  • Are you irritable?

  • Do you consume alcohol even during working hours?

  • Are you overly concerned with trivial issues?

  • Is your work performance consistently poor?

If you have checked more than 4-5 of the statements provided above then you are probably stressed out and need to take active measures to relieve stress. 

Relieving Stress at Work

If you are stressed out at the workplace here are a few stress relievers that you can practice.

Taking a break: If you have been working under high pressure or at a demanding task for several hours at a stretch then it is time to take a break. You can chat with your colleague for ten minutes or have a cup of coffee, whatever works best for you.

Adding humor to work: When you are under pressure it often helps to spend a couple of minutes reading a joke or telling your colleagues a joke. Laughter can sometimes be one of the best stress-relieving medicines.

Breathing exercises: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Empty your mind of all the pressure that has been building up within you. After a few minutes you will be ready to tackle your tasks with renewed vigor.

Visualization: Close your eyes and visualize yourself in a calm and serene place. Appreciate and savor the beauty of the place and feel the tranquility within you.

Reminders: Place helpful reminders on the wallpaper or screensaver of your PC. It could be an inspiring thought, a favorite joke or even a picture of a beautiful and tranquil place.

Use your judgment on the stress relieving technique that will work best for you. Also make sure that you select one that is not likely to disturb your colleagues or make the management unhappy.

Women and Stress

Women are more prone to stress at the work place. There are several reasons for this. The most common is sexual harassment, which can be a constant source of worry for working women. Apart from this, women can also face discrimination at the workplace where they may find that they are paid less or passed up for promotion in favor of their male counterparts. Another factor that contributes to the working woman’s stress is the pressure to balance the demand of home and family with those of her work environment.



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