Stress can have both functional and dysfunctional consequences to the individual and the organization, as shown in Fig. 2. Of concern here are the latter ones. Medical experts generally agree that many illnesses, both physical and mental ones, are stress-related. Carter’s lawsuit I have mentioned in the first part is the best example. Research has shown that chronic stress lowers resistance to illness and intensifies its impact. (Kornhauser, 1965) Some stress-related illnesses are killers, such as coronary diseases.
Other physical effects are less severe. People may experience non-specific pain or just generally feel unwell. The impact of stress depends on the severity and duration of the pressure and one’s own vulnerability. Stress is best escaped by absenting oneself from the stressful situation. Absenteeism is thus a common sign that a person is under stress. Part of the psychological dynamics underlying common colds, alcoholism, and minor psychosomatic disorders is the fact that these problems create conditions that legitimise being absent.
Even the light-headedness and dizziness that characterize mild attacks of anxiety are sufficient to keep one home from a stressful job situation. However, the problems that caused stress in the first place are still likely to exist when he/she returns. People experiencing stress make frequent errors in attention and judgment. Most of us can probably recall locking ourselves out of cars or homes, or losing keys, while under the influence of heavy stressors. An explanation has been provided of the physiology behind such errors.
(Marks, 1967) We know, first of all, that stressors bring about a heightened amount of bodily chemical reactions, including the secretion of hormones from the endocrine glands. Second, the adoption energy extracted by a higher than normal level of endocrine activity must be replenished sooner or later, and the involuntary “let-down” which seems to be necessary for such replenishment may show up in such trivial, apparently unrelated symptoms. Under sufficiently severe stress, people regresses to a more primitive level of functioning and often lose control of the situation.
A person may refer to outbursts of temper, excessive worry of feeling upset as a reaction to stress, and to allowing themselves to remain in this emotional state. In this state, people may feel he is on a knife-edge, or in crisis, and he is likely to transmit this tension to others. The result can be an impulsive decision (such as firing competence employees to squeeze out additional profits) that overcompensates in terms of the reality of the situation.
Many people expend time and energies on routine or unimportant tasks while crucial problems go unresolved. Crucial problems are anxiety provoking and stressful; making decision about office landscaping is less anxiety provoking than is dealing with creditors. People looking for a behavioral escape from the stresses of dealing with important matters can find example trivial meetings to attend and unimportant memos to read and sort. Considerable evidence has been presented that job pressure and job satisfaction are negatively related.
Kahn and his colleagues (1970) found that individuals who perceived conflicting role and duties being demanded by their positions were less satisfied with their jobs. People who work under pressure are less enthusiastic about their work, and said that most of the time they have to force themselves to work. Therefore, their work performances are worse than the people work without stress. Stress is often the stepping-stone of burnout. If a person experience distress for a prolonged period of time, he may suffer the amorphous condition described as burnout.
Pines and Aronson (1981, p15) note that burnout is “characterized by physical depletion, by feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, by emotional drain, and by the development of negative self-concept and negative attitudes toward work, life, and other people… (it is a) sense of distress, discontent, and failure in the quest for ideals”. Thus it can be argued that burnout can serves as a stressor. If a person feels depleted, apathetic, and washed up, as a consequence he will experience stress.
Many people experience stress somewhere between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five, when they begin to realize that their accomplishments have fallen far short of their aspirations. Referred to as the mid-career crisis, the condition is also related to the physiological slowing down and other life changes that occur in midlife. However, burnout is a much more specific problem. Burnout comes about when one’s anticipated rewards from working with people are not forthcoming. And it can take place at any point in a career.