Stress is a major problem in the workplace. Chronic stress —
that is, long-term unresolved stress — can lead to burnout,
an occupational hazard that affects all industries at every level,
from the mailroom to the boardroom.
signs of job stress are headaches, short tempers, trouble sleeping
and low morale, according to the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH). And it’s not just physical health.
An estimated 60 percent of work absences are from psychological
problems — at a cost of more than $57 billion yearly —
according to the American Psychological Association. Health costs
are almost 50 percent greater for workers who report high levels
of stress according to the Journal of Occupation and Environment
Medicine. Body systems start to fail under excessive stress
and things begin falling apart.
much multi-tasking appears to be one cause of work overload and
stress. You cannot accomplish two things at the same time as efficiently
as you would if you were doing them separately. A lot of accidents
and a loss of efficiency can occur from requiring excessive multi-tasking.
Fatal Work Ethic
In Japan, burnout is known as “karoshi,” or death from
overwork. The Japanese government has reported 10,000 cases a year
of managers, executives, and engineers who have died from overwork,
a fallout of the country’s prolonged economic slump.
mass layoffs, pay cuts, seemingly endless workdays and disappearing
vacations, Americans are coping with an enormous amount of job stress.
Feeling unable to keep up with the demands of their jobs, many are
reaching burnout levels.
people suffer burnout because they are unable to handle stress;
others, such as police officers or firefighters, because their occupation
is very stressful; and others because their working environment
may be toxic or stressful.
Maslach, in her book The Truth About Burnout calls burnout
“the erosion of the soul.” She theorizes that organizations
unknowingly foster burnout by creating one or more of the following
overload. Many companies often reduce their work force
and increase the workload to remaining employees. This strategy
may backfire in that having too much to do and not enough time
to do it, is one of the primary causes of stress.
Lack of control. An employee needs some control
over job performance. An individual may feel powerless if a supervisor
dictates everything. Eventually the worker may simply stop caring.
Both productivity and interest in one’s job may decline
significantly if an individual feels inadequately compensated.
Breakdown in community.
Enthusiasm and energy wane if the workplace fails to provide a
community of caring or participation. If an office fails to work
collaboratively, an individual may become marginalized within
Unfair treatment. Favoritism may be a pernicious
influence in certain places of employment. It is important to
treat everyone fairly. This can be a major source of burnout.
Conflicting values. Sometimes burnout results
from a demanding boss requiring performance and duties that conflict
with personal honesty and social correctness.
are numerous ways to find relief from job stress and job burnout.
Maslach provides six strategies for coping by eliminating cynicism,
exhaustion, and stress-related problems:
• Cut back excessive hours.
• Get a personal life.
• Seek more control over your job.
• Get organized.
• Develop a comfortable pre-work routine.
• Ask yourself if you are being appropriately challenged.
Pfeffer, professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business,
says American companies that want to compete in a global economy
should follow the European model of shorter workweeks and month-long
vacations. “There is no evidence that excessive hours are
necessary for competitive success,” says Pfeffer. “But
somehow we’ve gotten in our minds that to succeed in this
world is to work yourself to death.”
the only recourse to finding a better job is to find a more able
or sympathetic supervisor, better working conditions, a higher salary,
or more compatible co-workers. Your long-term health is critical
and all options should be considered.
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