Balancing  job stress

We all experience stress in our lives and our jobs. While some stress may push us to achieve results, too much stress may cause us to fail instead. Constructive stress acts in a positive way for the individual or organization, while destructive stress or distress is dysfunctional for the individual and the organization. Excessive high levels of stress can overload and break down a person’s physical and mental systems. Performance may suffer and workers experience illness brought on by very intense stress and they may react by being absent from work, making mistakes, causing accidents, dissatisfaction, reduced performance or even unethical behaviour, like cheating. Now, if all workers face stress to a certain extend it is important that managers recognise stress as people display certain stress related behaviour. The key thing is to look for changes from normal patterns, like from regular attendance to absenteeism, from punctuality to tardiness, from diligence to carelessness, from a positive attitude to a negative attitude, from openness to resistance or from cooperation to hostility. The role of stress in the work setting is complex, with constructive stress facilitating performance and destructive stress reducing performance and impairing the worker’s health.

It is thus very important for management to find a good fit between the individual, the work environment and the amount of job stress involved. Such a fit stimulates productivity without damaging health.

Having said that, people react and respond differently to stress they are exposed to and some people can endure more stress than others. One orientation towards the differences in personalities in relation to stress, is the Type A and Type B orientation. To get a feel for this orientation, take the following quiz. Circle the number that best characterises you on each of the following pairs of characteristics.

Casual about appointments     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8              Never late

Not competitive                     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8               Very competitive

Never feel rushed                   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8              Always feel rushed

Take one thing at a time        1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8               Try to do many things

Do things slowly                    1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8               Do things fast

Express my feelings              1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8               Hold in my feelings

Many outside interests          1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8               Few outside interests


Now total your points for the seven items in the quiz. Multiply this total by 3 to arrive at a final score. Use this total score to locate your Type A/Type B orientation on the following list.

Final points           A/B orientation

Below 90               B

90-99                     B+

100-105                 A-

106-119                 A

120 or more          A+

Individuals with a Type A orientation are characterized by impatience, desire for achievement and perfectionism. In contrast, those with Type B orientation are characterized as more easy going and as less competitive in relation to daily events.

Think about your Type A/Type B orientation and its implications, both in terms of your work and non work behaviours and your personal health. Type A people tend to work fast and to be impatient, uncomfortable, irritable and aggressive. Such tendencies indicate obsessive behaviour, a fairly widespread – but not always helpful – trait amongst managers. Many managers are hard driving, detail oriented  people who have high performance standards and thrive on routine. But when carried to the extreme, this may lead to greater concerns for the details than the results, resistance to change, overzealous control of subordinates and various kinds of interpersonal difficulties, which may even include unacceptable behaviour like threats and physical violence. In contrast, Type B managers tend to be much more laid back and patient in their dealings with co-workers and subordinates.

Now, who are you? Do you recognise yourself in any of the above described traits and personality orientations? Key again is to find a balance I guess, whereby the most important question to answer is how our behaviour can be applied to contribute most effectively to the purpose of the organization.

Source: Managing Organizational Behavior – Schermerhorn/Hunt/Osborn