This is the fifth in a series about contemporary job stress in today’s society.
Q: What are further causes of job stress?
A: In an article from aol.com in 2012, workers in finance reported they were doing the work of 1.3 persons, doing 30 percent more work than what’s normal. A British staffing consultant firm, Ranstad, surveyed 2,000 finance professionals. One in five said they were doing more work than reasonable and have consequently increased the number of errors in their work. Professionals from the legal sector said they were doing 60 percent more work.
From Economic Insights-Trends and Challenges, Vol. 11, No. 3/ 2013, an article written by a doctoral researcher at the University of Wales, London, United Kingdom, documented organizational sources causing job stress. First are stressors intrinsic to the job role: work overload, lack of job control, time pressure and poor working conditions.
The second category is that of roles within the organization: role stress, conflict, ambiguity and level of responsibility. The third source of work stress is career development which includes: lack of job security, over or under promotion and career stagnation.
The fourth category of work stress is relationships at work. These include: bullying in the work place, superior/subordinate showdowns, weak leadership and discrimination. The final source of work stress is organizational structure and atmosphere. These factors include management style, decision-making, participation throughout the organization, and formalization, the degree to which organizations are locked into rules and regulations that supercede autonomy in worker roles.
Dr. David S. Walonick identified three facets of organizational social climate. First is how workers identify with or isolate themselves from the organizational climate. The second significant factor of social climate is how much labor and management are polarized. The third aspect of organizational climate is how employees perceive the social norms, ie., respect, trust and fairness.
In a series of articles on the Comprehensive EAP Website, Mark J. Sager, MA, CEAP, states if an employee becomes preoccupied with mistreatment by a boss, and believes he is right and the boss is wrong, or gets into a significant power struggle with the boss, the employee will lose.
Dealing with negative people at work is a good example of the fact a person cannot control or change another person, only the response to the negative person. Kindness helps reduce a person’s response to negativity. Sager also promotes asking questions in order to overcome obstacles to change such as being overwhelmed by having too much to do or being stymied by other workers or managers. An example of a question would be: How can I improve my job performance today?
In an article by Amy Scholten, M.P.H, she reiterates 10 signs that one’s workplace is toxic. She believes toxic workplaces result from three characteristics. These are chaos due to poor decision-making; high stress levels and dissatisfaction; and lack of support. Not all workplaces have all 10 signs.
The first sign is low morale. Chronic high stress most of the time is one cause of low morale. Another type of chronic high stress is due to a climate of fear or bullying. Third is a lack of consideration for employee work-life balance. The organization dominates employee lives. Work demands more than 40 hours a week and forces a person to choose between work and having a life. The fourth sign of toxicity is stress-related emotional or physical illness. Fifth is unrealistic expectations; the workload is unreasonable and leads to burnout or failure.
When an organization has a new employee sign an at-will employment contract, giving the organization the right to fire someone anytime for any reason, the organization sets the stage for a relationship based on lack of trust and lack of loyalty. Immature and dysfunctional leadership with some of the following characteristics is the seventh toxic sign: unreasonable expectations, unwillingness to listen, conflict avoidance, lack of empathy, bullying and intimidation, and behavior contradictory to words or talks.
Eighth is pervasive poor communication. This sign of toxicity means employees do not get anything but negative feedback or are left out of the communication loop and thus do not know what is happening. Scapegoating is explaining mistakes by blaming other employees. Management belittles employees, criticizes good employees as incompetent and blames employees who leave for poor performance. Leaders who bully can be tolerated or admired.
The final sign of toxicity is dysfunctional relationships throughout the organization. Dysfunction includes cliquishness, favoritism, back-biting and pitting workers against one another, phoniness in communication, holding grudges and criticizing someone before getting all the facts.
Common reasons for toxic organizations include economic stress, lack of funds, personal employee agendas, ongoing conflicts, poor management and workers with unresolved emotional issues. Businesses can reflect healthy society values such as cooperation, loyalty, humanism, self-reflection and spirituality. On the other hand, companies also can incorporate negative society values such as materialism, status-seeking, exploitation, egocentrism and aggression.
• Next week’s article will focus on a discussion of the effects of job stress.
Judy Caprez is professor emeritus at Fort Hays State University.