Management Articles


 

Preventing Work Stress

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

Work Stress is a primary cause of both physical and mental illness in society. For every diagnosed case, there are many more people who are prevented from performing their best, for themselves and for their employers due to stress-creating situations at work.

The cost to business and society is significant. Surveys show that work stressors are among the most common and upsetting stressors that people report. Annually, the cost of work stress in North America and Europe is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. These costs arise from industrial accidents, absenteeism, medical expenses, lost productivity, long-term disability, stress-related diseases and premature death. The need for business to reduce work stress is clear.

Work stress originates from three potential sources. The two that are beyond the practical control of business are: individual characteristics of each employee such as family and financial problems and individual personalities; and environmental sources such as economic, political and technological uncertainties - the perceived frantic pace of change in society.

The third set, organizational factors, are within a business' influence and include an employee's perceived work overload, role conflict and role ambiguity, career blockages, lack of job autonomy and control over personal work, and dysfunctional work relationships.

The bad news is that for workers, business consistently creates the most destructive stress, and if unchecked, does so for long periods of time. The good news is that much of this stress can be prevented by proper performance management.

How should a business manage itself to prevent work stress? By ensuring that at least the following happen (failure to do so creates stress!):
  1. All employees know what's expected of them in their jobs. Individual performance direction doesn't become a guessing game nor is it filtered by unresponsive or unconcerned levels of bureaucracy;

  2. People are never put in a performance situation without proper and adequate training and job orientation;

  3. Sufficient direction detail is given to all employees including performance standards, priorities, company policies, codes of personal conduct, required procedures, and goals or other expected performance outcomes;

  4. Employees have a practical means to raise concerns and problems about their work and a process to get them addressed and resolved;

  5. Fair procedures are used to correct any unacceptable behavior of any member of the business - poor work isn't condoned and good work is recognized and rewarded;

  6. Management is required to develop supportive, coaching relationships with employees;

  7. All employees are aware of their personal performance as it relates to expected standards or outcomes -- employees are not dependent upon their supervisor's time and attention to know how well they are performing;

  8. If workers cannot have much control over the pace and content of their work such as an assembly line job, they should at least be empowered with some control over their performance record including performance reviews; but most importantly,

  9. A business must have a management process in place to monitor and ensure that these requirements actually happen, all the time, throughout the business.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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