What is Stress? Meaning
Stress is a general term applied to various mental and physiological pressures experienced by people feel in their lives.
Image Credits © Queen Roly
Definition of Stress
Stress may be defined as "a state of psychological and / or physiological imbalance resulting from the disparity between situational demand and the individual's ability and / or motivation to meet those demands."
Dr. Hans Selye, one of the leading authorities on the concept of stress, described stress as "the rate of all wear and tear caused by life."
Stress can be positive or negative. Stress can be positive when the situation offers an opportunity for a person to gain something. It acts as a motivator for peak performance. Stress can be negative when a person faces social, physical, organisational and emotional problems.
Causes of Stress
Factors that cause stress are called "Stressors." The following are the sources or causes of an organisational and non-organisational stress.
1. Causes of an Organisational Stress
The main sources or causes of an organisational stress are :-
- Career Concern : If an employee feels that he is very much behind in corporate ladder, then he may experience stress and if he feels that there are no opportunities for self-growth he may experience stress. Hence unfulfilled career expectations are a major source of stress.
- Role Ambiguity : It occurs when the person does not known what he is supposed to do on the job. His tasks and responsibilities are not clear. The employee is not sure what he is expected to do. This creates confusion in the minds of the worker and results in stress.
- Rotating Shifts : Stress may occur to those individuals who work in different shifts. Employees may be expected to work in day shift for some days and then in the night shift. This may create problems in adjusting to the shift timings, and it can affect not only personal life but also family life of the employee.
- Role Conflict : It takes place when different people have different expectations from a person performing a particular role. It can also occur if the job is not as per the expectation or when a job demands a certain type of behaviour that is against the person's moral values.
- Occupational Demands : Some jobs are more stressful than others. Jobs that involve risk and danger are more stressful. Research findings indicate that jobs that are more stressful usually requires constant monitoring of equipments and devices, unpleasant physical conditions, making decisions, etc.
- Lack of Participation in Decision Making : Many experienced employees feel that management should consult them on matters affecting their jobs. In reality, the superiors hardly consult the concerned employees before taking a decision. This develops a feeling of being neglected, which may lead to stress.
- Work Overload : Excessive work load leads to stress as it puts a person under tremendous pressure. Work overload may take two different forms :-
- Qualitative work overload implies performing a job that is complicated or beyond the employee's capacity.
- Quantitative work overload arises when number of activities to be performed in the prescribed time are many.
- Work Underload : In this case, very little work or too simple work is expected on the part of the employee. Doing less work or jobs of routine and simple nature would lead to monotony and boredom, which can lead to stress.
- Working Conditions : Employees may be subject to poor working conditions. It would include poor lighting and ventilations, unhygienic sanitation facilities, excessive noise and dust, presence of toxic gases and fumes, inadequate safety measures, etc. All these unpleasant conditions create physiological and psychological imbalance in humans thereby causing stress.
- Lack of Group Cohesiveness : Every group is characterised by its cohesiveness although they differ widely in degree of cohesiveness. Individuals experience stress when there is no unity among the members of work group. There is mistrust, jealously, frequent quarrels, etc., in groups and this lead to stress to employees.
- Interpersonal and Intergroup Conflict : Interpersonal and intergroup conflict takes place due to differences in perceptions, attitudes, values and beliefs between two or more individuals and groups. Such conflicts can be a source of stress to group members.
- Organisational Changes : When changes occur, people have to adapt to those changes and this may cause stress. Stress is higher when changes are major or unusual like transfer or adaption of new technology.
- Lack of Social Support : When individuals believe that they have the friendship and support of others at work, their ability to cope with the effects of stress increases. If this kind of social support is not available then an employee experiences more stress.
2. Causes of Non-Organisational Stress
Certain factors outside the scope of an organisation also cause stress.
These main sources or causes of non-organisational stress are :-
- Civic Amenities : Poor civic amenities in the area in which one lives can be a cause of stress. Inadequate or lack of civic facilities like improper water supply, excessive noise or air pollution, lack of proper transport facility can be quite stressful.
- Life Changes : Life changes can bring stress to a person. Life changes can be slow or sudden. Slow life changes include getting older and sudden life changes include death or accident of a loved one. Sudden life changes are highly stressful and very difficult to cope.
- Frustration : Frustration is another cause of stress. Frustration arises when goal directed behaviour is blocked. Management should attempt to remove barriers and help the employees to reach their goals.
- Caste and Religion Conflicts : Employees living in areas which are subject to caste and religious conflicts do suffer from stress. In case of religion, the minorities and lower-caste people (seen especially in India) are subject to more stress.
- Personality : People are broadly classified as 'Type A' and 'Type B'.
- Feels guilty while relaxing.
- Gets irritated by minor mistakes of self and others.
- Feels impatient and dislikes waiting.
- Does several things at one time.
- Technological Changes : When there are any changes in technological field, employees are under the constant stress of fear of losing jobs, or need to adjust to new technologies. This can be a source of stress.
- Career Changes : When a person suddenly switches over a new job, he is under stress to shoulder new responsibilities properly. Under promotion, over promotion, demotion and transfers can also cause stress.