This essay will examine the causes of stress in organisations in relation to theories regarding workers characteristics and working conditions. Legal, economic, psychological and ethical reasons will be shown as reasons why human resource managers should be concerned about stress. Finally, examples of what organisations have done to manage stress will be discussed, with reference to the organisations of Bradford & Bingley, Lothian & Borders Fire Service and Somerset County Council.
Stress is a state, not an illness and can be defined as "the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them." (www.hse.gov.uk). Events which cause stress in our personal life and working environment are called "stressors" and can lead to painful emotions like anxiety, depression, anger and aggression and cognitive impairment and physical illness both minor and severe (Smith, Nolen-Hoeksema, Fredrickson & Loftus, 2003). People's reactions to stressors, termed stress responses, differ significantly due to individual factors and their ability to cope and balance demands which makes stress hard to measure.
Cooper & Cummings (1979) state that: "stress is any force that puts a psychological or physical factor beyond its range of stability, producing a strain within the individual".
Two theories concerning the cause of stress at work focus on:
1. The importance of worker characteristics
2. Working conditions
According to one theory, individual differences such as personality and coping skills show that some people are more resistant to stress than others. Friedman & Rosenman's (1974) study on patients with coronary heart disease identified people with Type 'A' and Type 'B' patterns of behaviour. Type 'A' individuals are highly competitive and aim to achieve. When confronted with delays or perceived incompetence they become angry and impatient. Type 'B' individuals can relax without feeling guilty and work without becoming...