University Campus Suffolk School Business Essay

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Workplace Stress


Stress is a complex and dynamic concept. It is a source of tension and frustration experienced by individuals facing too many demands, constraints of opportunities. Work can be sometimes stressful and can also be disrupt by a person's work life balance. Moreover, stress can sometimes be helpful, providing people with the extra energy or alertness they need hence, it could also be harmful when not managed effectively. Workplace stress can be taken from numerous factors such as ethical dilemmas, job boredom, role conflicts, and task demands. This appears little doubt that stress at work is one of the biggest problems in European companies and one of the major adverse influences on the quality of working life and work performance. In addition, technology is one of the biggest factors of stress. The information technology growth and globalisation may enhance workplace productivity, but it also increases stress on workers. Technology is supposed to make employees feel more productive at work. But technology is moving too fast for some people contributing to more stress. For example, employees at Foxconn appeared to be committing suicides due to pressure at work, low pay, and standing for 12 hours of their shifts.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, also referred to as HASAW, is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the United Kingdom. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as: "The adverse reaction people have to excess pressure. It isn't a disease. But if stress is intense and goes on for some time, it can lead to mental and physical ill health (e.g. depression, nervous breakdown, heart disease)." (Mullins 2007, pg 102). The Health and Safety Executives is responsible for enforcing the Act and a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the working environment. Research by organisations such as Health and Safety Executive have identified stress, anxiety and depression as among the most commonly reported illness, and wider research has also indicated that stress, brought about through work growth and conflicts between home and work is related to the risks of disease and ill health. In this essay, i will be discussing .....

Foxconn is the trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry Company. Foxconn was established in 1974 as a manufacturer of plastic products, mostly connectors. Terry Gou is the founder of Foxconn, who remains as the CEO to date. Technology started with a mere $7,500 US dollars, but with Terry Gou staying devoted to his concept of low affordable prices for electrical parts this undoubting has made electronic products affordable for everyone. Foxconn happens to be one of the larger manufacturing companies when it comes to computer components worldwide in today's world. They provide services all around the world. Their main supplier is Apple. Recently Apple introduced their new product IPAD and Iphone 4G which happens to be the best top selling around the world. From this we can understand that there's a huge pressure on Foxconn to supply Apple's demand on time. As a result of the pressure, Foxconn is putting pressure on their 300 000 employees and forcing them to work around the clock to supply the demand on time. The cause of these suicides has made companies reputation below the average of working conditions. As a result, Apple rushed to release a statement according to the Associated Press that they are sorry for the incidents and they will open investigations as soon as possible and they contact their suppliers and asked them to treat workers with respect and dignity. Another company that face a similar incident is Nike in 1990's when they faced criticism for use of child labour in Cambodia and Pakistan. Even though Nike took action to reduce the practice of child labour, they continue to contract their production to companies that operate in areas where adequate regulation and monitoring make it hard to ensure that child labour is not being used. As pressure from the public began to mount, Nike made efforts to improve working conditions for its contracted workers. Such as the dangerous petroleum chemicals used in most factories were replaced by less harmful alternatives and wages was increased to rates higher than minimum wage. Reputation is how your business is perceived through the eyes of your customers, suppliers, employees and other interest parties, such as your bank manager or a potential investor. Since the difference between the rich and poor is a lot greater in China than it is in UK, many of the poor jump at the opportunity to work in a factory or sweatshop job where they pay less wages and health and safety are not in a working environments.

The term "Mass production technology depends on the availability of a variety of specialized goods and services and on the integration of these into a mechanized production operation. Because tools and products are more specialised under mass production technology, there is a great need for specialised knowledge". (Hodson, 2008, pg 161). Technology improves our productivity in some cases and increases our stress levels in some cases. Changes in technology may be confusing, too many things to learn, too many changes in rules and demands are increasing the stress levels too. Increased on demands will put pressure on employees causing them to use unethical ways of making themselves and their work look good. Additionally, increased productivity in the workplace will demand of learning new skills. Nordstrom and Ridderstrale suggest that with the increasing use of IT, control will not disappear but become more indirect. Information systems will be used to increase control by measuring more things, new things at multiple levels, and at a greater frequency than before.

The cause of technology has developed too much stress during the job. Some of this stress is related to the work, while a large part of it is due to the technology. The use of technology is not always reliable when there's no backup plan which is the cause of an increase in stress. John Muller argues that instead of being too much stressed out because of the ineffectiveness of the technology, the only people that technology will be effective would only be those people who are tolerant and patient to bear the ineffectiveness of the technology. In order to overcome this stress, one should make one's work area comfortable and buy the technology equipments, which would have a benefit to an organisation. Another encounter in workplace stress are those people in the workplace that are forced to adapt to the use of technology and also technology that brings several stress related injuries that causes devastating problems to the health of people. For example, people that work for Nike company who were involve in health injuries due to lack of technology. Author and stress expert Odette Pollar note, "There are many things one can do to avoid unnecessary stress at work". What ethical issues are inherent with workplace stress. Ethical issues involved with workplace stress are the honesty, unrealistic expectations, or too many demands.

'Fordism' is a method of mass industrial production, established by Henry Ford in the US in the 1920s, which introduced electric motors to the then well known technique of chain or sequential production and, in the process, began a new era often called the "Second industrial revelation". Ford's contribution to mass production was synthetic in nature, that improves the existing methods of sequential production and applying electric power to them that makes model T affordable extremely high throughout. Henry Ford uses concentrated production in one enormous factory complex, the assembly line, via specific division of labour by the work force called Taylorism. A saying designed to Henry Ford about his newly mass-produced model T Ford car 'You can have any colour as long as it's black'. Many people and companies have rejected the theory of scientific management that Frederic Taylor developed in the early 1990's because it wasn't working effectively for the companies. However, as Rober Kanigel make clear in his biography of Frederick Taylor One Best Way the problem wasn't with the theory of scientific management but with Fredrick Taylor and his attempts at managing his own theories. "Taylor was a believer in the rational economic needs concept of motivation. He believed that if management acted on his ideas, work would become more satisfying and profitable for all concerned. Workers would be motivated by obtaining the highest possible wages through working in the most efficient and productive way". (Mullins, 2007, pg43). Taylor also believed that people only work one reason which is money. He felt that workers should get a fair day's pay for fair day's work, and that pay should be linked to the amount produced. Workers who did not deliver a fair day's work would be paid less and workers who did not deliver a fair day's work would be paid less, hence workers who did more than a fair day's work would be paid more. This would enable workers to be paid at a higher wage.

According to Braverman, scientific management starts from the capitalist point of view and method of production, and the adaptation of labour to the needs of capital. Taylor's work was more concerned with the organisation of labour than with the development of technology. The Daily Telegraph, 6th March 2010 describes how working conditions as cruel of 38 000 workers living in dormitories who work for one of 102 factories belongings to either Foxconn, Quanta or Pegatron, all Chinese companies who are suppliers of USA's Apple products e.g. iPhone for the world market. This has an effect on their workers, having to work for a 12 hours standing shifts and low pay.

Another theory I will be talking about will be Elton Mayo. He was a medical student who became an academic with a particular interest in people in organisations. His methods were heavily influenced by FW Taylor. Mayo's experiments involved the changing of illumination, changing the hours of work, and giving more or less breaks, which all resulted in the workers producing more with each intervention. Mayo moved on to work at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric Company in Chicago. His investigations there are known as the Hawthorne Experiments. The Hawthorne effect has been summarised as employees becoming more productive because the employees know they are being studied.

In essence, the Hawthorne Effect, as it applies to the workplace, can be summarized as "Employees are more productive because the employees know they are being studied." Elton Mayo's experiments showed an increase in worker productivity was produced by the psychological stimulus of being singled out, involved, and made to feel important.

Elton Mayo's Hawthorne plant experiments (1927-32) conducted at the Western Electric plant in Cicero Illinois gave rise to a theory as a departure from Taylorism which came to be known as the Human Relations school by its many followers. Douglas McGregor called Taylorism and similar top down command and control approaches to management of labour, Theory X, and proposed instead Theory Y giving the employees more autonomy and discretion at work following the Human Relations approach of Elton Mayo. Mayo's experiments involved the changing of illumination, changing the hours of work, and giving more or less breaks, which all resulted in the workers producing more with each intervention. The 'Hawthorne effect' has been summarised as employees becoming more productive because they knew they were being sympathetically observed by prestigious people who happened to be social scientists. These experiments proved that 'an increase in worker productivity was produced by the psychological stimulus of being singled out, involved, and made to feel important'.

Both Taylorism and Fordism are justified in terms of enhancing production / profits but both require links to mass consumption. Both require large-scale production (and hence large-scale consumption) to be viable.


Edward Yu, chief analyst at Beijing-based technology research firm Analysis International, said Foxconn could suffer from a major "public relations problem" and, if the matter is not handled properly, it "will test some of the long-term relationships with the brands, like Apple and Sony."