Understanding Stress and its consequences

Stress is a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint, or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important. This is complicated definition. Let’s look at its components more closely.

Stress is not necessarily bad in and of itself. Although stress is typically discussed in a negative context, it also has a positive value.

What causes stress? What are its consequences for individual employees? Why is it that the same set of conditions that creates stress for one person seems to have little or no effect on another person?

The model identifies three sets of factors – environmental, organizational, and individual – that act as potential sources of stress. Whether they become reasons for actual stress depends on individual differences as job experience and personality. When stress is experienced by an individual is symptoms can surface as physiological, psychological and behavioral outcomes.

Just as environmental uncertainty influences the design of an organization’s structure, it also influences stress levels among employees in that organization. Changes in the business cycle create economic uncertainties. When the economy is contracting, for example people become increasingly anxious about their job security.

Political uncertainties don’t tend to create stress among North Americas as they do for employees in countries like Haiti or Venezuela. The obvious reason is that the United States and Canada have stable political systems, in which change is typically implemented in an orderly manner. Yet political threats and changes, even in countries like the United States and Canada can induce stress. For instance, the occasional threats by Quebec to separate from Canada and become a distinct, French speaking country increase stress among many Canadians, especially among Quebecers with few or no skills in the French language.

Technological uncertainty is third type of environmental factor that can cause stress. Because new innovations can make an employee’s skills and experience obsolete in a very short time, computers, robotics, automation, and similar forms of technological innovation are a threat to many people and cause them stress. Terrorism is an increasing source of environment-induced stress in the twenty-first century. Employees in Israel, for instance, have long faced this threat and have learned to cope with it. For Americans on the other hand, the events of 9/11 and subsequent color coded terror alerts have increased stresses related to working in skyscrapers, attending large public events, and heightened concerns about security.