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ONLY recently has stress been seen as a contributory factor to the productivity and health costs of companies and countries. As studies of stress-related illnesses and deaths show, stress imposes a high cost on individual health and well-being as well as organizational productivity. There are books now, which review the sources and outcomes of job-related stress, the methods used to assess levels and consequences of occupational stress and strategies to confront stress and its associated problems.
A visit to Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. (Vikhroli) was of great help in my project. Godrej is one of the companies that are using various “Stress Management” methods in their organization. Here I met Mr. Sameer Bharoik, The Leadership and Organization Effectiveness Staff Consultant, HR Department, Godrej, who is one of the committee members of their very effective stress management system. He told me about the stress management system they were using in Godrej.
I was also told about their need to adopt the modern day “Stress Management” methods rather than the old one, what are the advantages the disadvantages etc. A very friendly and helpful man by nature, Mr. Sameer helped me a lot to understand how the “Stress Management” methods are meant to work, what are the practical difficulties in the implementation and how they have managed to overcome these difficulties successfully.
Stress is a complex phenomenon. It has been defined in many ways, but simply put; it is the wear and tear of everyday life.
In everyday’s life people are subjected to a wide range of pressures. Similarly there are also a wide range of resources and strategies for coping with pressure. Sometimes people cope well and will not feel that the pressure is having any adverse effect upon them. At other times they will have difficulty in dealing with the situation and that is when we may use the term “stress”.
In reality, any situation that puts pressure is technically “stressful”. Stress is not necessarily unpleasant or harmful. When people are able to cope satisfactorily with the stress and find it to be positive in its effect, they tend to use other words – such as “stimulation” or “challenge”.
In this regard a simple but accurate definition of stress is:
“Stress occurs when the pressure upon us exceeds our resources to cope up with the pressure”
Stress can be broadly classified in the following categories:
- Acute stress is what most people identify as stress. It makes itself felt through tension headaches, emotional upsets, gastrointestinal disturbances, feelings of agitation and pressure. It’s easily treatable and can be brought under control in six to eight weeks.
- Episodic acute stress is more serious and can lead to migraines, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, anxiety, depression, serious gastrointestinal distress. It’s quite treatable, but it takes general life style readjustments, four to six months, and often requires professional help.
- Chronic stress is the most serious of all. It’s the stress that never ends. It grinds us down until our resistance is gone. Serious systemic illness such as diabetes, decreased immunocompetence, perhaps cancer is its hallmark. It can be treated, even reversed, but it takes time – sometimes two to three years-and often requires professional help.
- Traumatic stress is the result of massive acute stress, the effects of which can reverberate through our systems for years. Post traumatic stress disorder is treatable and reversible and usually requires professional aid.
Certain Statistics that support common belief about stress:
Statistics from a recent global stress research study show that increased stress is felt worldwide, and stress affects women differently than men: A recent Roper Starch Worldwide survey of 30,000 people between the ages of 13 and 65 in 30 countries showed:
- Women who work full-time and have children under the age of 13 report the greatest stress worldwide
- Nearly one in four mothers who work full-time and have children under 13 feel stress almost every day
- Globally, 23% of women executives and professionals, and 19% of their male peers, say they feel “super-stressed”
At work, the following may be stressors.
- Needs not met. These could be needs for power, for fulfillment, for use of knowledge
- Not being included by others as part of a group you want to belong to
- Not being recognized or valued for one’s competence
- Feeling that one is not adequate for the task, particularly when compared to some one else
- Being denied what is due (rewards, work)
- Monotony or boredom
- Not having enough freedom at work, being closely supervised
- Inequity in rewards, assignments
- Very little opportunity for growth
- Too much of work, overload
- Too little work, boredom
- Inadequate resources to do the assigned work, creating possibilities of failures
- Conflict in values at work, being required to do what one does not like to do
- Too many and conflicting demands at work from the role set
- Responsibilities not clear, ambiguity on what is expected
- Understanding, unpredictable, temperamental boss
- New unfamiliar work
- Being blamed
On close analysis, it will be found that all of the above situations are, in some way or other, causing perceptions of possible failure at work or non-recognition and consequent loss of self-esteem.
The Healthy Pattern recognizes that we can help our bodies to cope with the stress adjustment process by applying a positive strategy, such as leisure, relaxation, a vacation/trip, exercise and others. This restores a healthy stress level.
The Crisis Pattern develops when we fail to recognize the signals that the body sends and therefore we continue to stress ourselves until eventually we drop and enter a deep negative state (crisis) and then physical and/or psychological breakdown
There is a considerable cost to people, in both human and financial terms, in working in an unhealthy stressful environment. It is therefore in the interest of all leaders and managers to create healthy workplaces.
What is commonly referred to as ‘organizational stress’ may be said to be caused by a dysfunctional culture. Where members of an organization share a negative view of that organization, they are not likely to be motivated to perform well. On the contrary, they may feel that work is not worthwhile and that there is little point in pursuing personal or organizational objectives or desires. The result may be a serious loss of self-esteem and when this condition prevails this will be experienced as stress.
Some of the consequences of stress have been identified as:
- Reduced productivity
- Lack of creativity
- Job dissatisfaction
- Increased sick leave
- Premature retirement
- Organizational breakdown
There are many ways in which organizational culture will manifest itself in a dysfunctional way. For example, the unhelpful and dysfunctional division between ‘us’ and ‘them’, which may be perpetuated, by both senior managers and those at other levels of an organization in a collusive manner. A division, which results in a lack of proper communication and a sort of ‘blaming’ culture.
Addressing these matters is difficult work, work that cannot be adequately dealt with by managers or internal consultants because they are part of the culture; part of the hierarchy, and subject to the authority structure of the organization.
However, this is not the total extent of the needs regarding organizational stress. There is also a need for a Stress Management Strategy that through various approaches will, in its entirety, provide for the needs of the organization.
Such a strategy would address the following sort of issues:
The first four actions are as essential as the last. Internal staff that has the knowledge, skills can develop all these and ability to ensure that what is provided is as good as anywhere else. There may be benefit from employing outside assistance to consult to the process but basically the experts in the field are in the organization.
The real point is that this sort of strategy should be seen as a total package. Without addressing the issue of culture the organization will not achieve the desired effective activities in the areas identified at 1 – 4 above. Equally, it could be ensured that the organization had a wonderful culture but without the other activities there would be no service available to members of the organization.
Short term stress
Where stress is low, one may find that his/her performance is low because of boredom, lack concentration and motivation. Where stress is too high, the performance can suffer from all the symptoms of excessive short-term stress. In the middle, at a moderate level of stress, there is a zone of best performance. If one can keep oneself within this zone, then that person will be sufficiently aroused to perform well while not being over-stressed and unhappy.
This graph, and this zone of optimum performance, is different shapes for different people. Some people may operate most effectively at a level of stress that would leave other people either bored or in pieces. It is possible that someone who functions superbly at a low level might experience difficulties at a high level. Alternatively someone who performs only moderately at low level might perform exceptionally under extreme pressure.
The best way of finding your optimum level of stress is to keep a stress diary for a number of weeks.
Long term stress
The problems of long term, sustained stress are more associated with fatigue, morale and health than with short term adrenaline management.
The graph shows stages that a person may go through in response to sustained levels of excessive stress:
- During the first phase a person will face challenges with plenty of energy. One’s response will probably be positive and effective.
- After a period of time one may begin to feel seriously tired. The person may start to feel anxious, frustrated and upset. The quality of one’s work may begin to suffer.
- As high stress continues one may begin to feel a sense of failure and may be ill more frequently. A person may also begin to feel exploited by his/her organization. At this stage the person may start to distance himself/herself from the employer, perhaps starting to look for a new job.
- If high levels of stress continue without relief one may ultimately experience depression, burnout, nervous breakdown, or some other form of serious stress related illness.
Stress cannot be avoided. It should not be avoided. Without stress, there will be no attempt to try the difficult. One will give up much too easily. One will not succeed in doing even what one is easily capable of, because even the normal faculties will not come into play – like the goalkeeper, if he remained relaxed even at the last minute.
There are two aspects to take care of in managing stress. One is that one should not develop stress to the point that one becomes non-functional like Arjuna laying down his arms. The second is to try to get back to normal as quickly as one can and not continue to be in a state of stress for too long.
The former is achieved essentially by an attitude that is developed by rational thoughts. The first is to realize that one’s perceptions often distort the reality. The situation may not be as bad as it may seem to be. The second is to understand that a failure is not an unmitigated disaster. It is not possible to succeed all the time. It is not even necessary to succeed all the time. One failed effort does not mean that the person is no good. Nobody has succeeded without many losses. Even World champions sometimes lose a first round match to an unseeded player. Marconi and Thomas Alva Edison succeeded in their inventions after many attempts that failed. They saw failures as opportunities to learn.
The third is to recognize that worry and anxiety will not modify the situation, but will only disturb one’s peace of mind and health. If one watches passengers at airports and railway stations, one will find how some of them remain quite relaxed and even sleeping while others are continuously making enquiries from officials about extent and causes of delays. Such constant enquiries only irritate, but do not expedite solutions. They add to stress of self and of others.
As an organization as a whole
- Organizational Stress Auditing (organization)
- Before organizational stress is targeted, we need to know what is causing it. Workplace stressors should be identified and employees can guide with options to manage it.
- Stress Management Training (group or individual)
- Through a range of easily applied, practical courses underpinned by widely accepted Stress Management theory, groups and individuals can increase their understanding of the causes of stress and through this, learn techniques for reducing and dealing with stress.
As the Manager
As the boss, one can ensure that subordinates are not put to undue stress and also that they are helped to get out of stress situations as quickly as possible. The steps are
- Recognize the stress levels
- Show concern
- Encourage talking
- Explain and show how it can be done
- Provide support
- Discuss and involve them in decisions
- Show respect to the individuals
- Avoid insult, denunciation, abuse, reprimand, particularly in public
- Avoid manipulation, coercion, blaming
- Avoid pressurizing too much
- Provide social support
All the above, render support and help to reduce anxieties. It is not suggested that the demands on people should be lowered. People like challenges. They must be given challenging assignments. That is the only way to growth. But if there is a sensing of extreme stress, it should be managed through reassurance, not by withdrawing the assignment.
Studies on Stress have identified that Type A personalities tend to get stressed much faster than Type B personalities. The characteristics of a Type A personality are an intense urge to achieve, impatience and restlessness, always on the move, hurrying, doing more than one task at a time. He keeps a heavy and tight schedule and dislikes waiting and relaxing. The Type B is exactly the opposite, takes things easy, finds time to relax, is not impatient and is not obsessed with winning all the time.
Instruments have been developed to identify the Type of any person. But no one is fully Type A or fully Type B. It is possible to move from one type to another. It is not as if Type B is the more desirable personality, because stress is not the only factor relevant for effectiveness. Achievement is equally important for effectiveness and there the Type A has a better chance to win.
Inadequacy of resource is a common stressor. One needs resources to do a job and if the resource is not available, there could be stress. One important resource is Time. Many people find that they do not have enough time to do a job. Deadlines seem to be difficult to meet. This is true of individuals as well as of collectives. We read of committees asking for extension of time to do their jobs; of projects not being completed on time. Unfortunately, time is such a resource that nobody can give more or take away. Everybody has a definite amount of time available. Studies show that people are poor planners in terms of usage of time as a resource. Time is wasted in a number of ways. Therefore, if one learns ways to manage one’s time better, there could be a better control on stress.
Time is wasted because of
- Non-productive work like searching for files, papers and references.
- Available information being inadequate or incomplete
- Meetings and lengthy reports
- Indecisiveness, unable to make up one’s mind
- Correcting errors in instructions, assignments
- Clarifying goals and roles
- Too much routine, paperwork
- Lack of prioritization
Once the cause is known, the remedy should be obvious. The best way to know the cause is to keep a detailed log of how one is using his time over a period of a week or so. Some of the remedies will be in the nature of readjustments of personal habits, like planning on priorities, avoiding drift in meetings, not insisting on perfectionism etc. Some remedies will be in the nature of reorganizing work systems in the office so that search and corrections are made minimal. Some will be in the nature of training others for better work practices, so that supervision can be less.
Indecisiveness has been mentioned as a time waster. This may happen because of lack of clarity on objectives or because of fatigue and the mind not being able to concentrate. Both are avoidable. Indecisiveness can also happen because of lack of knowledge on the subject. The time one takes to study a matter depends on one’s skill. Experienced people run through a 100 page file, without reading every page, but picking up the important and relevant matter, while another may have to spend double the time reading every paper to determine its relevance. Thus, one way to manage time better is to improve one’s skills at work
Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.
Schedule a stress busting experiential activity to help deal with particularly stressful times in life. Examples could include bringing in a massage therapist to share techniques with the chapter, scheduling regular physical activities or having an individual lead the chapter through a meditation/imagery exercise. For exercise examples, feel free to contact the Coordinator of Resource Development at Executive Offices.
More and more employees are experiencing stress at work. They may be coping with too much pressure, long hours or rapid change. The nature of employment has now changed and the idea of a job for life has been replaced by an emphasis on performance. Stress is now recognized as a valid health and safety issue at work. Litigation is on the increase and there have been successful claims for compensation for work-related stress. More and more employers are turning to Stress Management to tackle these problems. Stress Management can enable people to improve their own response to stress and enable the organization to reduce workplace stressors. Our Training Package addresses the problems of work-place stress with the twofold approach of Stress Auditing and Stress Management Training.
The Stress Audit for the Organization
We provide the information and materials to enable you to carry out a Stress Audit for your organization. The findings of the audit can be addressed in the Stress Management Training sessions. Master copies of all Stress Audit forms and questionnaires are provided in order for you to carry out regular audits.
Organizational Stress Management aims at preventing and reducing stress for both the individual employee and the organization or company. The Training Package offers you eight detailed sessions for stress management training groups in your workplace. These include eight relaxation exercises on audio cassette tapes, together with training in relaxation, breathing and cognitive-behavioral techniques. We also provide practical training in the management of many workplace stressors. The Stress Management sessions provide employees with the opportunity to tackle major stressors using techniques from Problem Solving Therapy. We also provide research notes with each session giving you in-depth background information on the problems of work-pace stress, together with step-by-step presentations of related therapies of particular value in the treatment of stress at work.
- Fortune 50 company installs Stress Navigator on corporate intranet as in-house stress control program; prior to program rollout, the site attracts 7,000 employees ready to reduce stress
The Situation: This Fortune 50 Company, like many others, realized that stress was a significant problem, a major burden in both economic and human terms for company and employees alike. They had tried various stress management programs before, but with little success – employees weren’t utilizing the programs. When they first saw the Stress Navigator Workshop, the company realized that this program was different. When used as a portal to the Human Resources, it could directly link employees to appropriate corporate benefits and programs.
The Stress Navigator Workshop: This Company put the Workshop on their corporate intranet as part of a pilot program for executives. The executives had such a positive experience with it that they mentioned it to their co-workers and others. Word of mouth spread, and before they knew it, more than 10% percent of their 70,000 employees with access to the corporate intranet had taken the workshop online. And this was before it was general knowledge that the program was available. Stress Directions and the Stress Navigator Workshop answered a need the company knew they had, but didn’t know how to resolve. Employees recognized the opportunity immediately and got the help they needed.
The Resolution: When presented with a system that made sense, the organization and individuals chose to take action towards health. It’s too soon to measure the impact of Stress Directions on their bottom-line, but after a year on their intranet, much of this company’s workforce has gone through the online program. The company has settled on the Stress Navigator Workshop as their stress control strategy and plans to keep it available for their employees indefinitely.
- Personal products company struggles to maintain global market share, restructures product delivery protocol to increase health and productivity, and decrease costs
The Situation: The Situation: The most recent product development cycle of this global manufacturing company provides a prime example of how stress can cost even the most successful organizations.
In the rush to stay competitive, what had been a five-year development cycle was cut to three years. Because of the push to get the new product on the market, design and engineering specs were less firm than they should have been, and decision-makers continued to tinker with basic design after manufacturing machinery was under construction. The machinery had to be redesigned and rebuilt several times. Machinists were assigned back-breaking amounts of overtime to stay on schedule. The ripple effects of the overtime made the situation stressful for families as well as employees. With no time to rest, machinists made mistakes that had to be corrected, which called for more overtime. The entire development team felt tremendous stress and, sadly, three suicides occurred among them during a 13-month time period.
The Organization Stress Profile: The 850-member development team took the Stress Navigator Workshop either online or in the paper and pencil format in a corporate effort to address wellness issues and retain the entire corporation’s competitive market position. In the workshops, employees cited overwork as their number one stress concern.
The Resolution: The division head in charge of the development team implemented mandatory stress management programs and put a cap on overtime. In the end, the incidence of errors dropped significantly and employees were able to accomplish more work of higher quality in fewer hours.
- Federal agency cuts turnover rate from 40% to 15% in three years by identifying stress patterns and changing hiring philosophy
The Situation: This 47-person government agency had a 40% turnover rate and was experiencing deep problems with employee moral and stress. A manufacturing section within the agency was particularly hard-hit and had fallen far behind schedule. Management was quickly reaching a dead-end in their search for solutions, and job security was on the line. The agency perceived high stress in the manufacturing section to be the likely cause of its problems.
The Organization Stress Profile: All agency employees were administered the Stress Navigator Questionnaire to determine whether the turnover rate was indeed related to job stress. Grouped results did show the manufacturing group to be higher in susceptibility to stress, sources of stress, and symptoms of stress. But they also differed demographically from their peers in many significant respects. For example, their average age was five to ten years younger than workers in the other two sections of the agency, and this job typically represented their first foray into the labor market.
Further analysis revealed that the workers in manufacturing had several likely causes for higher stress and job dissatisfaction. Compared to co-workers in nearby regulation and communication sections, they had less seniority (it was the entry-level section of the organization), earned lower pay, were more vulnerable to seasonal layoffs, were restricted to their work stations, and had no access to phones. In addition, they were isolated from the other sections by a wall with a single door that remained open so they were constantly aware of the contrast in working conditions between their section and the others.
In other words, manufacturing still scored highest in all stress categories, but not for the reasons that had been assumed. In-depth analysis made it evident much of the workplace stress stemmed from the fact that the employees were young and financially insecure. The turnover had as much to do with conditions outside of the agency, such as career level, maturity and financial security, as it did with the conditions of the workplace.
Resolution: Based on the information gleaned from the Stress Navigator Workshops and the advice of stress consultants, the agency corrected many of the internal conditions cited above, implemented appropriate stress management training for supervisors, and changed their hiring patterns to select stable, more mature workers who would not be looking at the job as a career opportunity. Turnover rates were cut from 40% to 15% in just under three years.
Critical incidents do occur In the workplace:
- Accidents on the work sight
- A sudden unexpected death of a coworker
- Workplace violence
Critical Incident stress is a normal response to an abnormal situation. Left untreated, critical Incident stress could lead to lower production, increased absenteeism, Increased substance abuse, and increased use of health care benefits. The stress reactions experienced by those who have been exposed to a critical Incident may appear immediately or surface hours or days after the event:
- Survivor guilt, Flashbacks, Confusion
- Poor concentration, Distressing dreams
- Fatigue, Grief, Fear
- Anger, Chills, Diarrhoea, Nausea
These are only a few examples of what individuals report after experiencing a critical Incident. Sometimes the critical Incident Is so painful professional assistance from a specially trained Individual becomes necessary.
WORKPLACE RESOURCES has professionals with more than ten years experience in the area of critical Incident stress. We can provide: pre-planning: to help you design a plan of action to assist your company be better prepared If and when your workplace experiences a critical incident post-accident: We will provide a team to help assess the situation and guide you through the recovery phase.
Everyday, every Indian encounters the ‘Godrej’ name sometime somewhere. A person may begin the day bathing with a Godrej soap, shaving with a Godrej shaving cream, storing clothes in a Godrej Storewell cupboard, cooking food in a Godrej cooking oil and preserving it in a Godrej refrigerator. Money and valuables are kept in a Godrej safe, work is done on a Godrej computer or typewriter while sitting on a Godrej chair and drinking a Godrej fruit drink. Yet few know about the indomitable spirit of the man responsible for making Godrej a household name – Ardeshir Godrej., a pioneer who produced quality products and captured markets.
Innovation has been the key. It is this spirit that has built Godrej and carried it for a hundred years. Taking it into diverse industries ranging from cupboards to soaps, hair dyes to edible oils, and packaged foods to refrigerators. In recent years several partnerships have been formed with international giants like General Electric, Pillsbury, Fiskars and Sara Lee, bringing Godrej membership in the Global village that will carry it forward into the 21st century.
Godrej has always been a crusader for a better world with programs that benefit endangered forests, wild life and mangroves. Every year the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation dedicates funds towards promoting education, housing, social upliftment, conservation, population management and relief of natural calamities.
Godrej Consumer Products Ltd.(GCPL) is a major player in the Indian FMCG market with leadership in personal, hair, household and fabric care segments. The company employs 950 people and has three state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities at Malanpur (M.P.) Guwahati (Assam) and Silvassa (U.T.).
Their main focus is on providing their customers with innovative, value for money solutions for meeting their da
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