Stressors are Additive

A fact that tends to be overlooked when stressors are reviewed individually is that stress is an additive phenomenon. Stress builds up. Each new and persistent stressor adds to an individual’s stress level. So a single stressor may be relatively unimportant in and of itself, but if it’s added to an already high level of stress, it can be straw that breaks the camel’s back. If we want to appraise the total amount of stress an individual is under we have to sum up his or her opportunity stresses, constraint stresses and demand stresses.

Some people thrive on stressful situations, while others are over whelmed by them. What is it that differentiated people in terms of their ability to handle stress? What individual difference variables moderate the relationship between potential stressors and experienced stress? At least six variables – perception, job experience, social support, belief in locus of control, self efficacy and hostility have been found to be relevant moderators.

We demonstrated that employees react in response to their perception of reality rather than to reality rather than to reality itself. Perception, therefore will moderate the relationship between a potential stress conditions and an employee’s reaction to it. For example, one person’s fear that he will lose his job because his company is laying off personnel may be perceived by another as an opportunity to get a large severance allowance and start his own business. So stress potential doesn’t lie in objective conditions; it lies in an employee’s interpretation of those conditions.

The evidence indicates that experience on the job tends to be negatively related to work stress. Why? Two explanations have been offered. First is the idea of selective withdrawal. Voluntary turnover is more probable among people who experience more stress. Therefore people who remain with the organizations longer are those with more stress resistant traits or those who are more resistant to the stress characteristics of their organization. Second, people eventually develop coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Because this takes time, senior members of the organizations are more likely to the fully adapted and should experience less stress. There is increasing evidence that social support that is, collegial relationships with coworkers or supervisors can buffer the impact of stress. The logic underlying this moderating variable is that social support acts as a palliative mitigating the negative effects of even high strain jobs.

Locus of control was introduced as a personality attribute. Internal locus of control is an indicator of positive core self evaluations because people who think they are in control of their life(internal locus of control) have a more positive self view than those who think they’re controlled by their environment (external locus of control). Evidence indicates that internals perceive their jobs to be less stressful than do externals and internals cope better what job demands than do externals. When internals and externals confront a similar stressful situation, the internals are likely to believe that they can have a significant effect on the results. They therefore act to take control of events. In contrast, externals are more likely to be passive and feel helpless.

Self-efficacy has also been found to influence stress outcomes. You will remember that this term refers to an individual’s belief that he or she is capable of performing a task. A recent study indicated that individuals with strong self-efficacy reacted less negatively to the strain created by long work hours and work overload than did those with low level of self efficacy. That is, confidence in one’s own abilities appears to decrease stress. As with an internal locus of control, strong self-efficacy confirms the power of self beliefs in moderating effect of a high strain situation.

Some people’s personality includes a high degree of hostility and anger. These people are chronically suspicious and mistrustful of others. Evidence indicates that this hostility significantly increase a person’s tress and risk for heart diseases. More specifically people who are quick to anger maintain a persistently hostile outlook, and project a cynical mistrust of others are more likely to experience stress in situations.

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