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The Effects of Stress on Productivity

The Effects of Stress on Productivity

It has long been acknowledged that job stress plays a role in employee performance.  As a result, it has become more important than ever that managers pay attention to the stress level as may be observed in their employees.

Workplace stress derives from many sources. It can be annoying co-workers, a never satisfied boss, difficult students, angry customers, hazardous working conditions, an extremely demanding jobs, long hours spent commuting from home to work, etc. Work performance is also affected by stressors such as family relationships, finances and a lack of sleep resulting from fears and anxieties about the future. This is especially true in growing economies where the standard of living is quite low. This is one major reason why productivity is on the low in most developing countries.

Stress promoting negative emotions initiate a sympathetic state in the human nervous system that can (if chronic) potentially lead to cognitive, perceptual and emotional impairment – damaging human health and over a long run make human performance unsustainable. And sustainable productivity is a direct result of consistent performance.

It is important to state that any kind of stress, whether small, medium, or large, can activate the sympathetic nervous system. And so, since the modern world is filled with many symbolic and often illusional threats, these stress- like reactions can occur on daily basis. Stress reactions do not have to be triggered by some large personal or collective disasters only, but often, it is the small and the little annoyances of everyday life that initiate stress like responses

For managers, creating a workplace environment conducive to employee commitment and professional development may be important to enabling employees to withstand and perform during periods of high stress.

In fact it is not out of place at all that the ambience of a workplace should be devoid of “threatening” symbols, signs
and other supposed “illusional threats”. A major objective of affective productivity is to tackle sources of negative emotions that can affect productivity everywhere. Negative emotions have a potential to seriously limit our emotional, cognitive and physiological functioning.

However, there is a good news: positive emotions can help us to remedy the effects of negative emotions. In fact, according to the  “undoing hypothesis” presented by Fredrickson (2003) in an article titled “The Value of Positive Emotions” – positive emotions ‘undo’ the lingering effects of negative emotions; having a capacity to speed cardiovascular recovery following a negative emotional experience, while loosening the hold that negative emotions gain on the mind and body.

paperworkoverwhelmedSources of stress varies in organizations and societies.  In organizations, Red tape, organizational politics and bureaucracy are major sources of stress and are classified as “hindrance-oriented” stressors.  These sources of stress do not usually contribute to the overall mission fulfillment of an organization but rather serve as distractions to it.  “Challenge-oriented” stressors include things such as high work load, deadlines and time pressure and directly contribute to the purpose of the organization.

Managers can engage in the following proactive tasks to maximize performance:

  • Identify and Buffer Employees Against “Hindrance-Oriented” Stressors.  Every process needs to be reviewed: It may be pertinent to ask: “Does what we are asking our employees to do contribute to the overall value of the end product?”  If the answer is no, then it will be wise to find a way to eliminate or reduce it.
  • Increase Organizational Commitment Through Employee-Centered Behaviors

Managers are often the face, voice, and tone of the organization to their employees.  The way that a manager treats an employee can impact how they perceive their value to the organization.

Ensuring that employees feel valued by being active in their development and career path, being empathetic to their needs, and creating an environment in which they feel they belong are a few of the areas where managers can contribute to increased organizational commitment.  This in turn can help tune up to a very large extent the level of productivity of an organization.

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