Individual and Organizational Approach in Managing Stress

From the organization’s standpoint, management may not be concerned when employee experience is low to moderate levels of stress. The reason is that such levels of stress may be functional and lead to higher employee performance. But high levels of stress, or even low levels sustained over long periods, can lead to reduced employee performance and, thus, require action by management

Although a limited amount of stress may benefit an employee’s performance, do not expect employees to see it that way. From the individual’s standpoint, even low levels of stress are likely to be perceived as undesirable. It is not unlikely therefore, for employees and management to have different notions of what constitutes an acceptable level of stress on the job. What management may consider to be a positive stimulus that keeps the adrenalin running is very likely to be seen as ‘excessive pressure by the employee’. Keep this in mind as we discuss individual and organizational approaches toward managing stress.

Individual Approaches: An employee can take personal responsibility for reducing stress levels. Individual strategies that have proven effective include implementing time-management techniques, increasing physical exercise, relaxation training and expanding the social support network.

Many people manage their time poorly. The well-organized employee, like the well organized student, can often accomplish twice as much as the person who is poorly organized. So an understanding and utilization of basic time management principles can help individuals better cope with tensions created by job demands. A few of the more well-known time management principles are: (1) making daily lists of activities to be accomplished (2) prioritizing activities by importance and urgency; (3) scheduling activities according to the priorities set; and (4) knowing your daily cycle and handling the most demanding parts of your job during the high part of your cycle when you are most alert and productive.

Non-competitive physical exercises such as aerobics, walking, jogging, swimming and riding a bicycle have long been recommended by physicians as a way to deal with excessive stress levels. These forms of physical exercise increase heart capacity lower the at-rest heart rate provide mental diversion from work pressures, and offer a means to ‘let off steam’.

Individuals can teach themselves to reduce tension through relaxation techniques such as meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback. The objectives to reach a state of deep relaxation, in which one feels physically relaxed somewhat detached from the immediate environment and detached from body sensations. Deep relaxation for 15 or 20 minutes a day releases tension and provides a person with a pronounced sense of peacefulness. Importantly, significant changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological factors result from achieving the conditions of deep relaxation.

As we noted earlier having friends, family to or work colleagues to talk to provides an outlet when stress levels become excessive. Expanding your social support network therefore can be a means for tension reduction. It provides you with someone to hear your problems and to offer a more objective perspective on the situation.

Organizational Approaches: Several of the factors that case stress particularly task and role demands are controlled by management. As such, they can be modified or changed. Strategies that management might want to consider include improved personal section and job placement, training use of realistic goal setting redesigning of jobs, increased employee involvement improved organizational communication, offering employee sabbaticals and establishment of corporate wellness programs.

Certain jobs are more stressful than others but, individuals differ in their response to stressful situation.

We know, for example, that individuals with little experience or an external locus of control tend to be more prone to stress. Selection and placement decisions should take these facts into consideration. Obviously, management shouldn’t restrict hiring to only experienced individuals with an internal locus, but such individuals may adapt better to high stress jobs and perform those jobs more effectively. Similarly, training can increase an individual’s self efficacy and thus lessen job strain.

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