Physical, psychological and behavioral Problems Due to Stress
Physical problems due to stress
In developed countries, basic research has been centered on ascertaining the effect of stress on physical health. A continued exposure to a high level of stress can give birth to various physical ailments such as high blood pressure and high level of cholesterol. It may even result in heart diseases, ulcers, and arthritis, not excluding the possible link between stress and cancer. For example, a study carried out by Ivancevich and Matteson in the American context leads to the following table for computing costs of replacing employees lost to heart diseases in a company employing 4000 people.
Obviously not all heart diseases can be directly attributed to stress but there seems to be enough evidence for stress contributing not only to heart diseases but to other physical ailments as well. Table below, though based on estimates, amply illustrates how heart diseases can impinge upon costs and sheer number of employees in a typical American organization.
Psychological problems due to stress
Having explained briefly the physical problems arising due to stress, duly researched and attributed by medical experts, it must be pointed out that at least indirectly, if not directly, serious psychological problem also result from stressful situations. These may affect as adversely, if not more, the day to day job performance.
One study suggested that stress had the strongest impact on aggressive actions such as sabotage, interpersonal aggression, hostility and complaints which in turn, are relevant to poor job performance, lowered self-esteem, resentment of supervisor’s inability to concentrate and make decisions and job dissatisfaction. National Centre for Disease Control in America reports that psychological stress has become the source of numerous job-related insurance claims. Experts are even predicting the if the number of stress related workers compensation claims continue to grow at the current rates, in course of rime, these claims may exceed all other claims.
But perhaps the most important effect of stress may be the subtle, though at the same time very real influence on the style and effectiveness of key managers. As it, managers under continuous stress may become very moody and their subordinates may choose not to disturb them even with important information for fear of being ‘bitten of. The more unfortunate part is reached when the manager himself becomes aware that he is acting in a way which is not commensurate with his position in this state of mind, he may himself procrastinate and may continue to put off his decision which in turn may invite the censure of his superiors, in trying to put the manager back on track. The unfortunate part of the situation is that if the manager had suffered a heart attack as a result of his stressful working, all would have sympathized with him. Both a heart attack and a psychological problem may be due to the same cause of too much stress and yet the people may react so differently. The negative impact on performance is however the same in the case of psychological problem as in case of heart attack. Indeed, in case of a psychological problem, the impact may even be worse.
Behavioural problems due to stress
In analyzing effects of job stress, a behavioral unit of analysis may be very helpful. Direct behaviors which may accompany high levels of stress include:
(a) Under eating or overeating
(c) Increased smoking
(d) Increased drinking, and
(e) Drug abuse
To talk again in terms of American figures, Ivancevich & Matteson quote the following figures:
(i) 6% of the population arc alcoholics;
(ii) 10% are problem drinkers; and
(iii) 6 billion doses of amphetamines and barbiturates are taken annually.
The nature of employee problem caused by alcohol and drug abuse should thus become crystal clear. No wonder, then, that one company had to introduce breath-alcohol meter to test on the job drinking habits. Besides being dangerous in relation to accidents with running machines, over-drinking manifests itself in tardiness, absenteeism and employee turnover.
Again evidence has been gathered which relates stress with absenteeism and employee turnover. Stress may seek relief in getting drunic and staying home with a hangover. Repetition of such incidents either results in self-indictment of quitting the job or being fired by the employcr. Actually ‘flight’ reaction is more positive than the ‘fight’ reaction since staying on a stressful job may increase the incumbent’s negativism. The climbing rate of abscnteeism then claims a higher rate of employee turnover thus giving birth to increasing replacement costs.
As with psychological problems born out of stress, the behavioural problems are seldom, if ever, attributed to stress and generate little or no sympathy in colleagues and seniors. However the psychological, physical and behavioural problems can all be controlled.