Job Stress

Most working people don't realize that stress is a vital part of their job. Without some job stress you wouldn't be very productive. That's why, when your boss places reasonable demands on you (like giving you a deadline you both agree on) it can actually help you get the job done more efficiently.

There are many (stress-related) factors that can effect your performance at work. For one thing, each worker handles stress differently. So the right amount of job stress for one person might be too much for another.

In addition, not all jobs are created equal. An air traffic controller, coal minor, stock broker, emergency medical worker or an inner-city school teacher is thought to have more job stress than workers in other professions. But everyone experiences stress differently. That’s why some people love roller coasters and other people hate them. So you can’t predict whether a job is going to be stressful strictly based on objective measures (if there were such a thing) of how stressful a job might be.

That's why determining how much job stress is too much is a tricky proposition. But you can start this process by asking yourself three questions. 1. How adept am I at handling job stress? 2. How much control do I have in my occupation? 3. Is my job environment more stressful than other job environments?

How adept am I at handling job stress? Take a look at your coping skills. You can improve your coping skills by learning standard relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing and mindfulness. Meditation and regular exercise will also help. Even getting organized can help you cope better with job stress.

How much control do I have in my occupation? Nurses often have more stress than doctors; air traffic controllers often have more stress than pilots; And assistant managers often have more stress than managers. Why?

There is a correlation between responsibility and control when it comes to job stress. If you have lots of responsibility in your job and little or no control you are going to have more stress. But if your levels of responsibility and control are in balance chances are your stress will be lower.

For example, nurses often have as much responsibility for patient’s health as doctors but not as much input into the control of their care. This imbalance can be very stressful. Pilots and managers have more responsibility but the increased levels of control helps decrease their susceptibility to job stress. If you feel the responsibility in your job doesn't match the control, see if you can make adjustments: Making minor changes in your job description can sometimes bring these two forces into balance.

Is my job environment more stressful than other job environments? In order to answer this question you need to examine the circumstances under which you work. Conditions that can contribute to job stress include: chronic time pressure, a difficult supervisor, unsafe working conditions, a period of downsizing, changes in management, major changes in policies, increase in the pace of work, conflicts with coworkers, or being forced to work overtime.

In a healthy organization, the management:

  1. Clearly defines your responsibilities.

  2. Empowers you to participate in decisions that affect your work.

  3. Creates work schedules that are realistic and compatible with the demands outside your job.

  4. Challenges you to work up to but not over your capabilities.

If job stress is adversely affecting your life carefully examine the three areas we've just discussed. Try to improve your coping skills, seek out jobs that have equal measures of responsibility and control and most importantly look for healthy organizations (and/or supervisors) that encourage you to work at optimum levels.

What can I do to help me manage stress at work right now?

  1. Exercise. Engage in vigorous exercise every morning before you go to work. If that’s not possible, take a walk at lunch. If that’s not possible, get a pedometer and find a way to walk 10,000 steps a day at your job.

  2. Balance control and responsibility. If you feel like your job entails a lot of responsibility but not a lot of control look for ways to put these two forces in balance. Tell your boss, I don’t mind doing this task (for example, restocking the supply cabinet), but I need to be in control of when and how it should be done. (If your boss says you can only order so much or makes you wait to get permission to place an order - then blames you for running out—that’s an example of control and responsibility getting out of balance.)

  3. Check your values. Sometimes your company may have a different set of values than you do. Imagine a vegetarian working in a meat packing plant and you’ll know what we are talking about here. If your company’s values don’t match yours, you’ll experience stress at work. Maybe you don’t agree with certain business practices your company takes for granted. If there’s a mismatch, it’s time to change jobs.

  4. Change bosses. If you believe you have a difficult supervisor, check and compare with several coworkers and several friends first, and if your boss comes out last, go to HR and ask for a transfer to a different department.

  5. Change jobs. Remember the vast majority of stress at work is caused by unfriendly and or unsafe working conditions. If you are working in a hostile or unsafe environment with poor lighting, unrealistic deadlines, unrelenting time pressure, forced overtime, poor benefit packages, and/or a difficult boss think about how much time you’ll spend at work in the course of your lifetime. Probably over 60,000 hours! Then send out your resume.

Related Items

Stress Testing Cards
Wallet-sized card lets you know if your stressed.
Burnout and Job Stress
Tips for dealing with stress in the workplace.
Managing Stress DVD
Five techniques for tackling tension.
Job Stress
1-hour presentation on handling job stress.
Teach people how to avoid burnout.

Popular Products


Stress Testing Cards

The Stress Profiler

A Day Away From Stress CD

The Perfect Day DVD