Stress in the workplace
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Stress in the workplace. py3103. Learning outcomes. At the end of this session and with additional reading you will be able to Describe different types and approaches to stress in the workplace. Why is it important. Stress affects health

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Stress in the workplace

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Stress in the workplace

Stress in the workplace


Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes

  • At the end of this session and with additional reading you will be able to

    • Describe different types and approaches to stress in the workplace

Why is it important

Why is it important

  • Stress affects health

  • Increased level of absenteeism due to stress symptoms (2007-8 15.5 million days lost)

  • Increase in reported levels 528% between the years 1955-1979

  • Cost of stress to organisations estimated at £5 billion a year (10% of Gross National Product)

Stress in the workplace

  • What are your experiences of stress in the workplace ?

What is job stress

What is job stress

  • Original definition was derived from engineering – the force/pressure on a person

  • A person can take an amount of pressure – but when that pressure becomes to much for an individual it may have serious negative affects

Types of work stress

Types of work stress

  • Job content

    • Job overload/under load

    • Job complexity/monotony

  • Working conditions

    • Dangerous conditions

  • Employment conditions

    • Shift patterns

    • Low pay

    • Job insecurity

  • Social relations at work

Stress symptoms

Stress symptoms

Approaches to stress

Approaches to stress

  • Stress can be viewed in 3 ways

    • As a stimulus

    • As a psychological or physiological response

    • Stress as a meditational process

Theoretical perspectives on job stress

Theoretical perspectives on job stress

  • Stimulus model

    • General Adaptation Syndrome (Selye)

  • Stimulus response

    • Cox

    • Cognitive appraisal (Lazarus

  • Process models

    • The Michigan model

    • The vitamin model

    • The demand-control model

General adaptation syndrome gas han selye 1907 1982

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS (Han Selye, 1907-1982)

  • 1) a set of conditions that could be physical or physiological and

  • 2) a set of non-specific biological responses including increase in heart rate, blood pressure and sweating.

General adaptation syndrome gas

General Adaptation Syndrome GAS)

  • The alarm stage refers to an organism’s fight-flight response suggesting that an immediate response to stress was to fight, or flight to safety

  • Resistance, would then unfold. In the resistance stage, in order to counteract the body’s reaction to alarm which caused depletion in the stores of the adrenal gland, the organism is able to regain some of the store of depleted glands to ensure that the fight for life can continue.

  • Finally, following continued exposure to stress, Selye suggests, the organism enters the third stage of GAS namely, exhaustion. Here, the last defences are used up and the body is no longer able to continue its fight.

The cognitive appraisal model

The cognitive appraisal model

  • Lazarus and Folkman (1984) believed that any conceptualisation of stress could not be independent of a person’s appraisal of the situation

  • It follows that any event may potentially be appraised, and thus experienced, by an individual as stressful, such as moving house, or a visit to the dentist.

The michigan model institute for social research

The Michigan model Institute for social research)


The vitamin model warr 1987 1994

The vitamin model (Warr 1987, 1994)

Consent effect

Additional decrement

  • Availability of money

  • Physical security

  • Valued social position

  • Opportunity for control

  • Opportunity for skill use

  • Externally generated goals

  • Variety

  • Environmental clarity

  • Opportunity for interpersonal contact

The vitamin model warr 1987 19941

The vitamin model (Warr 1987, 1994)

  • The model postulated that low levels of vitamins can lead to poor levels of mental health whilst at the same time, too high a level of vitamins ceases to be beneficial to the individual

    • In other words there is a point when increasing rewards will no longer render any significant improvements in the mental health of a worker

    • This was due to a saturation point akin to the process that often occurs within the body’s uptake of vitamins, in that after a certain point there is no benefit from increasing the dose.

The demand control model karasek 1979 1990

Psychological demands








Low strain

High strain



The demand-control model (Karasek, 1979, 1990)

The demand control model ii

The demand control model II

  • Work stress is an interaction between decision latitude (how much control a worker has over what they are doing and how they do it), and the demands of the job (an individual’s subjective perception of her/his capacities to meet the psychological demands of a task)

  • Those who are in highly demanding jobs and find themselves in high psychological demand are not without stress even though such individuals may also experience high control.

    • The control allows an individual to develop protective behaviours and manage stress in an active and more efficient manner

Social identity and stress

Social identity and stress

  • Haslam (2004) suggested that the experience of stress in the workplace can be linked to i) the activities of a particular occupation and ii) how that group/occupation is structured and managed, and ii) that group process which may be seen to help reduce stress in the workplace can also be the cause.

The role of social support

The role of social support

  • Social support is through to have a stress educing function:-

    • Social integration

    • Satisfying relationships

    • Perceive available support

    • Actually receive support

Individual differences

Individual differences

  • Do some occupations cause more stress than others ?



  • Chmiel, N (2000) Introduction to work and organizational psychology: A European perspective, Blackwell

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