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Stress and Managers


Guest articles > Stress and Managers


by: Margaret Francis, MSW, M.Phil, PGDCIM


Two men look through the prison bars; one sees the mud and the other see the stars.


“A paradox of work life is that a situation can be seen by one person as a devastating threat, but by another as an invigorating challenge”, says Daniel Goleman. Job related stress among managers has been described as reaching epidemic. Stressful life is very common in our modern era, particularly in metropolitan cities. Stress in the work place has in fact, become a black plague of the twenty first century.


There is converging evidence that most managers’ reports feelings job related stress. Recently there has been increasing recognition of the potential positive out comes associated with job-related stress. Some managers perceive stress as leading to positive out comes. It is important to note that not all stress is bad, stress can result a competitive edge and force, positive changes. Job related stress associated with both positive and negative work out comes. Stress associated with two kinds of stress producing job demands or work circumstances described as challenges and hindrances.


Stress is found in all aspects of life. Hans Selye, a pioneer in stress research, has defined, as "stress is the nonspecific response of the body to any demands made upon it". According to Oxford Dictionary “Stress is a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy".It is an internal state or reaction to which we consciously or unconsciously perceive as a threat, either real or imagined .Stress can produce feelings of frustration, fear, conflict, pressure,  anger, sadness, inadequacy, guilt, loneliness, or confusion. Individuals feel stressed when they are fired or lose a loved one (negative stress) as well as when they are promoted or go on a vacation (positive stress). Individuals believe they must avoid stress to live longer. Most of the stress in modern society is distressful but stress may also have positive effect. Getting a job, getting married, etc. have a stimulating effect which results in personal growth. Selye suggests that we might call this Eustress or good stress.

In the workplace, stress can affect performance. Individuals under too little stress may not make enough effort to perform at their best levels, while those under too much stress often are unable to concentrate or perform effectively and efficiently. The relationship between stress and performance is complex. Employers, however, have primarily been concerned about the rising costs of overstressed employees. Everybody suffers from stress. Relationship demands, physical as well as mental health problems, pressure at workplaces, traffic snarls, meeting deadlines, growing-up tensions—which leads stress.  

Personal and Situational Factors

Stress is affected by variety of personal and situational factors. Some people may take criticism of their work as a personal attack, become upset, and waste or lot of energy defending themselves. Yet other people may take similar criticism as a challenge to improve their work, there by experiencing less stress. A lot depends upon our personal make up. Many situational factors may contribute to our experience of stress. Lack of control or a feeling of futility in a stressful situation are key factors in stress.

Reactions to stress

Mainly there are two kinds of reactions to stress: Physical Reaction and Psychological Reactions

In Physiological Stress reactions, the general adaptation syndromes consists of three progressive stages such as alarm reactions, the stage of resistance and the stage of exhaustion.

The alarm reactions consists of complicated body and biochemical changes that produce similar symptoms regardless the type of stressor. The common symptoms are fever, headache, loss of appetite and generally tired feeling.

In stage of resistance, the human organism develops an increased resistance to stressor. The alarm stage disappears and the body resistance rises above its normal level to cope up the continued stress. But this resistance includes increased secretions from various glands ,lowered resistance to infections and disease to adaptation. Stress induced peptic ulcers and high blood pressure are the common disorders induced by stress.

Chronic stress leads to the stage of exhaustion. Body defences break down, adaptation energy runs out and the physical symptoms of the alarm reaction reappear.

Psychological Reactions

It consists of wide variety of cognitive, emotional, and behavioural response to stress. Most stress evoke anxiety-the vague, unpleasant feelings that some thing bad is about to happen. The most familiar psychological reactions to stress is defence mechanisms which protects oneself from perceived threat. Once a stressor has been interpreted as threatening, a variety of cognitive functions may be adversely affected. Stress also interferes with our judgement, problem solving and decision making. Stress also evokes a wide range of emotions, ranging from a sense of exhilaration, in the face of minor ,challenging stressors to more familiar negative emotions of anger, fear, jealousy and discouragement. People behave under stress depends partially on the level of stress experienced. Mild stress energizes us to become more alert, active and resourceful. Moderate stress tends to have disruptive effect on our lives especially on complex behaviour. Under moderate stress people become less sensitive to their surroundings, easily irritated and more apt to relay on certain coping devices.


Experts tell us that stress, in moderate doses, are necessary in our life. Stress responses are one of our body's best defense systems against outer and inner dangers. In a risky situation

Research suggests that stress can actually increase our performance. Instead of wilting under stress, one can use it as an impetus to achieve success. Stress can stimulate one's faculties to delve deep into and discover one's true potential.

If approached positively, stress can help us evolve as a person by letting go of unwanted thoughts and principle in our life. Very often, at various crossroads of life, stress may remind you of the transitory nature of your experiences, and may prod you to look for the true happiness of life.

Job Stress

Job stress is a chronic disease caused by conditions in the workplace that adversely affect an individual's performance and/or overall well-being of his body and mind. One or more of a host of physical and mental illnesses manifests job stress. Stress can adversely affect an employee's performance. In the early stages job stress can enhance performance in the workplace, thus the term 'I perform better under pressure'. However, if this condition is allowed to go unchecked and the body is revved up further, the performance ultimately declines and the person's health degenerates.

Symptoms of job stress can be:

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of mental concentration,
  • Anxiety, stress
  • Absenteeism
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Extreme anger and frustration,
  • Family conflict
  • Physical illnesses such as heart disease, migraine, headaches, stomach problems, and back problems.

The causative factor of Job stress may be a complex set of reasons. Some of the most visible causes of workplace stress are:

Job Insecurity

Organized workplaces are going through various changes and consequent pressures. Reorganizations, takeovers, mergers, downsizing and other changes have become major stressors for employees, as companies try to live up to the competition to survive. These reformations have put demand on everyone, from a CEO to a mere executive.

High Demand for Performance

Unrealistic expectations, especially in the time of corporate reorganizations, which, sometimes, puts unhealthy and unreasonable pressures on the employee, can be a tremendous source of stress and suffering. Increased workload, extremely long work hours and intense pressure to perform at peak levels all the time for the same pay, can actually leave employees physically and emotionally drained. Excessive travel and too much time away from family also contribute to an employee's stressors. 


The expansion of technology has resulted high expectations for productivity, speed and efficiency, increasing pressure on the individual worker to constantly operate at peak performance levels. Workers working with heavy machinery are under constant stress to remain alert. Both the worker and their family members live under constant pressure and mental stress. There is also certain factors which are forcing employees to learn new software all the times.

Workplace Culture

Adjusting to the workplace culture, whether in a new company or not, can be intensely stressful. Making one adapt to the new situation and other aspects of workplace culture such as communication patterns, hierarchy, dress code if any, workspace and most importantly working and behavioral patterns of the boss as well as the co-workers, can be a lesson of life. Maladjustment to workplace cultures may lead to subtle conflicts with colleagues or even with superiors. In many cases, office politics or gossips can be major stress inducers. Lack of motivation also affects his ability to carry out job responsibilities.

Personal or Family Problems

Employees going through personal or family problems which leads tensions and anxieties to the workplace.

Job Stress and Women

Apart from the common job stress, women may suffer from mental and physical harassment at workplaces, Sexual harassment in workplace has been a major source of worry for women. A constant source of tension for women in job sectors like subtle discriminations at workplaces, family pressure and societal demands add to these stress factors.

The choice is between becoming a slave to the stressful situations of life or using them to our advantage. Because change is constant in life, stress is an integral part of it. Since we do not want to perish under it, we have to adhere to the bottom line for survival—adapt.


Tips to survive stress

  • Changing one's position more secure, and be prepared for changes to avoid stress and survive in the competitive world.
  • re-energize and re-motivate yourself. Spend quality time with your family. This can be an excellent source of emotional and moral support.
  • Avoid using alcohol, smoking and other substance abuses
  • Develop positive attitudes towards stressful situations in life.
  • In case of chronic stress consult a health professional.
  • Adapting to demands of stress also means changing your personality. Improve your line of communication, efficiency and learn from other's experiences.
  • Breathing exercises.
  • Say kind ‘no’ to additional commitments or responsibilities
  • Avoid trying to achieve too much
  • Re-evaluate your goals and prioritize them
  • Evaluate the demands placed on you and see how they fit in with your goals
  • Identify your ability to meet these demands.
  • Learn stress management skills
  • Identify stressors in your life, get the support of your friends, family and even counseling in reducing stress
  1. Get adequate sleep and rest.
    Ensure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet—
  2. Try to recognize your spiritual
  3. Do meditation or yoga
  4. Proper Time Management
  5. To be more Organised and sense of control over the task which need to fulfill.

Coping with Stress

Methods of coping with stress are plenty.

  • Music therapy
  • Meditation

Alleviating stress by altering our life style includes better stress tolerance; changing our pace of life, controlling distressful thoughts, acquisition problem solving skills and seeking social support. Apart from this identification of negative thoughts recurring often, invalidating negative thoughts by searching out life experiences contradicting them, Superimposing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, identifying one’s own strength and capacities. Believing that every solution or opportunity is preceded by crisis. Avoiding brooding over crisis like a stick in the mud, start developing action plan to deal with crisis.

The management of stress calls for inculcating an attitude of challenge to transform life’s eventualities to one’s advantage, with the commitment to attain certain values or goals of life, and the belief that one has the ability of control in diffusing threatening stressful events.


Contributor: Margaret Francis, MSW, M.Phil, PGDCIM, Qualified Social Worker & Counsellor, Registered under GSCC UK

Published here on: 20-Jan-07

Classification: Management, Stress

Word document: Stress & Managers.doc

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