Workplace Stress and Aggression
Stress is defined as a feeling of anxiety that an individual experiences when the expectations placed upon him / her are considered to exceed his/ her strengths and abilities. Stress can be considered as a reaction or response to the fear of failure or some frustration of an individual on whom certain demands are placed. In the workplace, stress is a common issue. It can be brought about by numerous pressures, such as workload, deadlines, hectic job designs, strained interpersonal relationships, and difficulty in balancing work and personal life. People can respond differently to the stress factors; thus, there are different levels of stress in different individuals working in the same environment.
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The Concept of Creating Stress
Stress is simply a response of an individual to circumstances that he / she perceives as beyond his / her capabilities (Petryni, & Media, 2010). It means that stress is created when an individual is under too much pressure and he /she does not think himself / herself to be capable of coping with the set tasks. Thus, an individual feels helpless and frustrated. Stress is often a result of the unfulfilled potential with regard to workload, compensation, career growth, and inability to find a work-life balance or even interpersonal relationships in the workplace. All these factors create stress that should be managed effectively if the performance of an individual is to be maintained or even improved.
Surveys of Workplace Stress and Aggression
It should be noted that according to the latest research, 70% of workplace stress and aggression are caused by poor scheduling and time management (Petryni, & Media, 2010). Stress has a negative impact on the productivity of an individual, as well as an organization. Experts agree that stress has a negative impact on employees’ productivity. The study showed that 48% of the stressed working population could not perform optimally due to stress.
Credible findings indicated that 65% of the stressed working population confirmed that workplace aggression and stress had a negative influence on their psychological and physical health. In addition, the incidences of stress in the workplace are quite common. 40% of the interviewed people stated that their current jobs were extremely stressful.
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The Influences on Stress
According to Petryni and Media (2010), almost every individual is subjected to some stress in the workplace. The reason for different patterns of manifestation can be found in the four major influences of stress. They include perceptions, experiences, social support, and individual differences. Stress is defined as a feeling that an individual experiences when he /she thinks that the expectations placed upon him / her are beyond his / her abilities. This implies that all concerns perception. An individual who perceives himself / herself as a superior is less vulnerable than that one who considers himself / herself as an inferior. Perception herein defines how an individual see himself / herself, thus influencing his/her ability to be stressed. A positive perception of oneself reduces the possibility of stress, whereas a negative one increases the possibility of being stressed.
Another impact of perception is on the expectations or tasks placed upon an individual. It is proven that an individual who perceives the expectations placed on him/her as easy ones is less likely to be stressed than that one who perceives these expectations as extremely heavy ones. Perception, thus, defines the occurrence of work-related stress both on the basis of the expectations and responsibilities, as well as individual capabilities.
Experiences define perception in that if an individual fails at some point, he / she is more likely to fear the task or role placed upon him / her, thus increasing the possibility of being stressed (Robbins, & Hunsaker, 2003). On the other hand, a positive experience boosts an individual’s confidence and enables him /her to avoid getting stressed. A social support system influences stress positively in that an individual who has a support system has more confidence in his / her abilities as he / she is consistently reassured and supported through the hard times. An individual is well motivated, thus making him / her less vulnerable to stress than his / her lonely counterparts.
On the other hand, personal differences define how an individual interacts with the other people in his/ her lives. This affects his/ her ability to create and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, thus influencing his/ her ability to be happy and fulfilled within the work environment. Also, each individual defines himself / herself uniquely, making his/ her responsible for his/ her own self-esteem. In this regard, it can be stated that self-esteem concerns self-worth of an individual. It impacts the thoughts of an individual regarding what he / she can or cannot handle in terms of expectations.
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The Primary Sources of the Work-Related Stressors
In the work environment, there are about eight primary sources of stress, and some of these sources could be avoided. The amount of work that an individaul has to fulfill on a regular basis or within a specific timeframe gives him / her the perception of being under pressure. Workload is, thus, a primary stressor given that it creates the notion of being overwhelmed with work, as well as deadline.
The working conditions within a given environment also contribute heavily to the stress levels of a working individual. In most cases, an individual is subjected to the bad working conditions, such as long hours, poor compensation, as well as unfavorable relationships with colleagues and bosses, among other things. If the working conditions are unfavorable, an employee is more likely to be stressed than when working in a favorable workplace with the good working conditions.
Also, when an individual’s role within the workplace conflicts with his / her personal beliefs and characters, he / she is likely to develop some amount of stress based on his/ her perception of himself /herself in the context of his/ her work. The role conflicts often appear because of different religious and cultural beliefs in that an individual is uncomfortable in his / her workplace and, thus, end up developing stress.
Career development implies growth in the right direction. When an individual considers himself / herself stuck in terms of his / her career development, he / she becomes frustrated based on his/ her unmet expectations. It is, thus, important for an individual to ensure that he /she gets into job positions that allow him / her to develop his /her careers in the right direction as opposed the jobs that will impede his / her career growth.
As one major factor in job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships play a big role in alleviating or enhancing stress at the workplace. An individual who is unable to create and maintain the healthy interpersonal relationships is more likely to be stressed at work. The ability to bond and communicate with colleagues ensures that an individual can be happy and content within the work environment, thus eliminating cases of stress that appear due to the feelings of loneliness.
Workplace aggression also hinders the ability of an individual to be relaxed within the work environment. Whether it is bullying or sexual harassment, the employee who is victimized is highly unlikely to cope with anything without help and support. Thus, workplace aggression creates stress within the workplace by making the victim uncomfortable and, thus, unable to relax and concentrate on his/ her work.
Drawing from the idea that interpersonal relationships at the workplace are good for the employees’ performance, employees’ conflicts result in more stress and less productivity. It means that while the employee is only responsible for how he / she deals with other persons within his / her work environment, keeping them at a safe distance of each other is the best way of avoiding or eliminating stress. Employees’ conflicts are one of the work-related stressors.
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As to the life roles, people often need to have a life beyond their employment. For people whose work occupies all their lives, it is very difficult to focus on anything else. As they allow their work to dominate over their lives, they become stressed due to the failing relationships that are away from the workplace. It is the other work-related stressor in that while the problem is not at work, it can be traced back to the workplace, workload, and work schedules.
The Potential Impacts of Severe Stress on Performance, Health, and Job Burnout
Stress has physical, psychological and social impacts on people. As to the impact of stress on an individual’s health, it can cause a number of problems, such as coronary heart disease, back pain, and headaches. All these health problems are associated with being stressed on a regular basis and often beyond the normal levels of ‘good stress.’ Thus, severe stress does not only damage the heart and the kidneys, but also the back, thus causing serious backpains.
Regarding employees’ performance, severe stress is likely to cause an individual to overwork himself / herself as he/she strives to prove his/ her abilities, to feel helpless once he /she acknowledges a defeat, to lose control over his / her work impulses as he /she seeks to do more of everything, and to perform poorly considering his/ her heavily impeded sense of judgment. In most cases, work-related stress costs an employer more money than he / she could comfortably repay.
A job burnout happens when an employee has undergone the stress issues in detail to determine what the real cause of the problem is. It should be noted that a job burnout implies a failure of an individual to perform his / her functions and duties within the organization, thus requiring a replacement. While an employer acknowledges the medical aspect of stress, the management of the organization is supposed to handle the issues as seen or expected. A job burnout occurs when an employee does not stop pressuring himself / herself and eventually looks for a better solution.
How Individual Differences Impact Reactions to Various Stressful Situations
When it comes to work related stress, there are two main different personalities that influence the severity and outcome of stress. These are the type A personalities and the Hardy personalities. These two groups of individuals have differences that make them react differently in various stressful conditions and towards the stressors in their environments.
The type A personality is extremely conscious about time and keeps on pressuring himself / herself while working against the clock. This pressure makes an individaul susceptible to stress, considering that he / she is almost always on edge. On the other hand, the Hardy personality exercises personal control, thus avoiding unnecessary pressures.
The type A personality is also highly competitive to the point that he/ she may show some hostility towards his/ her colleagues. Such an individual sees other people as a threat, and their work is simply a race to the finish line. This results in the bad interpersonal relationships and a lack of a work-life balance. The Hardy personality, on the other hand, takes responsibility for his/ her actions and ensures that he / she is in good terms with other people. Such an individual considers work to be just work. He / she is committed to doing his/ her best all times. Thus, it is easier for such an individual to handle competition rationally and to balance his /her work, as well as social and family life.
The Hardy personality is committed to his/ her work. An individual sees his /her tasks through to the end unlike the Type A personality who gets frustrated whenever he/ she encounters a minute obstacle on the way to his/ her objectives. Such an individual is very impatient and, thus, easily discouraged. It should be noted that he / she is very vulnerable to different stressors.
The Type A personality also does not know how to relax and just stay away from work. An individual feels guilty or is just completely unable to get his/ her mind from work. Considering that fatigue is a stressor that culminates in job burnout, the Type A personality is rather vulnerable. The Hardy personality has a positive outlook on his/ her work and can take a break when he / she needs it without fearing competition or being replaced.
Personal Insights to the Management of Workplace Stress
In order to manage work-related stress, there are a number of simple and yet effective steps that an individual should follow. Firstly, it is important to plan ahead in order to avoid working against the clock. Good time management allows alleviating unnecessary pressures in the workplace with regard to workload and deadlines (Gerzon, 2006). Positive thinking also helps a lot, by giving an individual the motivation to face challenges and obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow. Different relaxation techniques are also very important in order to deal with fatigue. Thus, it is important to get enough rest and find a work-life balance. A healthy diet and a practical exercise regimen can help not only to stay healthy, but also to have a fully functional mind.
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Leader Insights into the Management of Workplace Stress
A leader can do a number of things in order to reduce the stress levels in the workplace. Firstly, the work environment must be comfortable and efficient, depending on the type of work performed there. Secondly, the job design must be rational for the employees in terms of workload and deadlines (Gerzon, 2006). Employees also should build good relationships through different team building exercises and group sabbaticals. Leaders should also organize various seminars that would help their employees to deal with the inevitable work stressors that are unique to their work environments.
The Four Major Types of Workplace Aggression
Workplace aggression refers to the behaviors that are meant to harm a colleague or an organization within which an individual works because of whatever reason. The four major types of workplace aggression include: bullying, sexual harassment, violence, and aggression towards the organization.
Bullying it the workplace implies flaunting one’s authority and often using it to undermine the performance of another individual in the same or lower rank. It may involve silent treatment, insults, yelling, backbiting, or even verbal sexual harassment. Bullying works through intimidation, humiliation, discrediting or isolation in order to make an individual withdraw the organization (Robbins, & Hunsaker, 2003).
Sexual harassment may be defined as sexual advances or requests for sexual favors within the workplace that are not only unwelcome, but also inappropriate. Also, verbal or physical conducts that carry some undertones of inappropriate sexual nature and create a hostile working environment are considered as a form of sexual harassment.
Workplace violence can be defined as any action that involves abusing, threatening, assaulting or intimidating an individual, thus imposing a threat on the physical or mental health, as well as safety (Jones, & Brinkert, 2007). These actions are seen in strong feelings of resentment, rage, and harassment. Workplace violence culminates in serious interpersonal conflicts and even physical harm that endangers the workforce.
Aggression towards the organization implies doing the things that will harm the organization, such as trying to make the workers leave, mistreating the customers to give the organization a bad image, damaging the property, or speaking in a bad way about the management to the customers. Also, stealing is an aggression towards the organization in that the effects can be significant.
All these types of workplace aggression discussed above have serious impacts on the health of an individual, as well as an organization. While legal confrontation may be considered as a last resort, it often allows considering the seriousness of the matter. Dialogue may work in some cases, but more often than not, there is a need for mediation and even legal counsel to find a proper solution to a certain problem and to punish the offenders.
Work-related stress has many negative effects, not only on the employees, but also on their employers and organizations. The reduced productivity, increased turnover, reduced employee retention, and poor attitudes in the workplace have a number of negative impacts on an organization, thus making it impossible to perform exceptionally well.
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