Stress: the ultimate cop-out for uncommitted employees

May 12, 2021 0 Comments

first_img Previous Article Next Article Stress: the ultimate cop-out for uncommitted employeesOn 21 Oct 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Despitebeing a genuine problem for many workers in the UK, we shouldn’t forget thatconcern over the delicate issue of stress is often abused by staff who simplywish to avoid their responsibilitiesWeall seem to be suffering from stress these days. Public sector workers seem tobe more prone to it than those working for private companies. But in both, theincidence is high. Arecent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development foundthat 38 per cent of NHS workers, 30 per cent of local government staff and 25per cent of corporate employees find their work either ‘stressful’ or ‘verystressful’.Buthow much of this is more fiction than fact? When they take part in surveys,what do people mean when they say they are ‘stressed’? Do they mean they areactually having to work for their living? What is wrong with that? Perhaps‘stress’ is actually a by-product of many employees’ expectations. What theyreally want is a boss who will give them an easy life. Iknow of many under-performing companies that are regarded by their staff as‘good places to work’. This is simply because they have comfortable jobs andrelaxed bosses. Adifferent management team is brought in – usually because of acquisition – andjobs are reorganised. New management controls are put in place, and employeeperformance targets are introduced. People have to start earning their wages.What is the outcome? Staff who complain of being bullied and harassed by theirbosses and working in a culture of fear, falling ill with stress. Muchof this is plain nonsense. It is entirely a result of new managers having toabolish old working practices for the company to survive.Ofcourse, there is harassment and bullying in the workplace. And the direction ofcorporate change offers greater opportunities for this to happen. Theshift to decentralised and devolved operating structures allows those in chargeto exercise almost total unfettered control over their staff. Still, the abuseof this autonomous authority is very much the exception rather than the rule.It doesn’t account for the 30-plus per cent of workers who feel they arestressed in their jobs.Perhapsa major contributory factor for the high incidence of recorded stress is theattitude of GPs. Many are overworked and stressed themselves. So when facedwith a patient who can’t sleep, can’t concentrate and feels irritable, an easysolution is to diagnose these symptoms as ‘work-related stress’, issue themwith a sick note and recommend they take a few weeks off work.Yet,the patient’s stress could be caused by suspicions of a partner’s infidelity,or anxieties about little Jimmy’s performance at school. Is he being bullied? Theproblem, of course, is that we have no quantifiable, scientific measure ofstress. Instead, we have subjective interpretation.Inthe former Soviet Union, whole factories almost came to a halt because of stafftaking days off work with backache. Why? Because if they complained theycouldn’t work because of backache, there was little anyone could do about it. Andso it is today with stress. If staff complain they are stressed and unable towork, what can either the medical services or employers actually do?Thereis another simple little matter that is often overlooked: stress can be a goodthing. Unless I feel under pressure, I under-perform. I must have adrenalinflowing to be effective in my job. Sowhat is the solution? Obviously, motivational and inspirational leadership cando a lot. People doing the most difficult and challenging tasks can feelcomfortable if they report to leaders with whom they have an open, consultativerelationship. Theyalso need clear personal targets. There is nothing more stressful than workingin a job without any clearly-defined goals. Supportive teams encourageflexibility, work-life balance and problem-solving, which mitigate some of thecauses of what many express as being work-related stress. Wecan help to put all these things into place. But we have to recognise that manywill still use ‘stress’ as a cop-out, and view it as a strategy for reneging ontheir duties as responsible employees. ByProfessor Richard Scase, Author and corporate keynote speaker Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more