You’ve seen it in the movies or read in the books: a supervisor –often a police official— bawls out his underlings then takes three or four pills once the men have gone. The pills were for his stomach ulcer that acts up everytime something in his department goes awry, which is lamentably often. This scenario appears to be so common as to even be a de rigueur in such stories.
Stress-related problems can be divided largely into three categories: personal, which can be subdivided into psychological and physiological, and social.
Despite the common misconception as helped by the above scenario, ulcers are not actually caused by stress, they are a symptom of the bacteria H. Pylori. Other problems range from lower body immunity to heart attacks. Fatigue, sexual disorders, tension, headaches, muscle pains, sleep disorders and frequent mild ailments are listed also by medical professionals as known problems resulting from stress.
Among the personal psychological problems considered stress-caused are anxiety, depression, panic attacks, feelings of inadequacy, irritability, pessimism, apathy, and inability to concentrate. The first two are likewise often associated with suicide or great tendency towards alcoholism, drug use and other anti-social behavior as end-results.
A stressed person’s social problems usually result from his personal problems, either as an extension or response. Studies have shown that many employees or workers who exhibited negative aggressive behavior in the workplace also displayed prior signs of social withdrawal, unjustified suspicion of coworkers, and quick irritability among others. Such aggressive behavior can turn into violence including killing of coworkers, as what happened in Edmund, Oklahoma in 1986 where a postal employee shot 14 coworkers before shooting himself.
Such incidents are, thankfully, extreme. Much more common are assault on other people such as taxi drivers, store clerks, or anyone ‘at the wrong time and place’, so to speak. Even police officers are not exempt from such eruptions of anti-social aggressiveness caused by stress.
Experts, however, claim that the most prevalent result as well as symptom of stress is passive aggression, such as late attendance to meetings and refusing to answer phone calls, themselves minor when taken singly, but can have profound negative effects if they occur constantly. Even one employee’s apathy towards his work or person can bring about substantial harm and loss to the organization he belongs to or works with in terms of productivity.
The price of stress
Beyond the personal, organizational and social problems emanating from stress, loss can be expressed in quantifiable dollars and cents. In Australia, about AU$134 million were paid towards stress-related claims in the 2004/5 year. In the United States, workplace violence accounts for an estimated US$55 million a year on lost wages. If the total range of stress-related loss of productivity is quantified, the figure can reach up to US$300 billion each year due to absenteeism, lowered productivity, and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.
Thus, stress as a serious concern for everyone to study, prevent and manage cannot be stressed enough.
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This was an article by Stacey from Rivo Software – a provider of quality audit software and audit solutions to help ensure your company is managing its risk effectively.