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Effect of Stress on Job Performance


People react to stress in different ways. Some copy much better than others and suffering fewer of the harmful effects of stress. Just as stress differs as a function of the individual, it also differs as a function of one’s type of occupation. Some occupations are, of course, inherently more stressful than others. All of the stress-strain-health relationships have an obvious impact on the organization and industry. Both physical and mental illness renders the employee unlit for work, and combine both to lessen the satisfaction obtained from work and reduce job performance and productivity levels. There are various ways that stress symptoms or outcomes are reflected in the workplace. Evidence from a growing body of research suggests that certain individuals, in a variety of occupations, are increasingly exposed to unacceptable levels of job-related stress (Schultz & Schultz, 2002). Occupational stress is any discomfort which is felt and perceived at a personal level and triggered by instances, events or situations that are too intense and frequent in nature so as to exceed a person’s coping capabilities and resources to handle them adequately (Malta, 2004)
Occupational stress can be defined as the “harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or need of the worker” (Sauter and Murphy. 1999).
Performance is defined as the outcomes and accomplishments valued by the organization or system that one works in.
Each individual is exposed to a range of stressors both at work and in their personal lives which ultimately affect his or her performance. Pressure at work can be positive leading to increased productivity. However, when this pressure becomes excessive it has a negative impact. The individual perceive themselves as being unable to cope and not to possess the necessary skills to combat their stress. Stress is acknowledged to be one of the main causes of absence from work (Mead, 2000). The occupational stressors can be categorized into four major groups.

  • Firstly, the working conditions, including shift and week-end work, inadequate remuneration, hours of work, discrimination and safety at the work environment.
  • Secondly, relationship at work including quality of relationships with peers, subordinates and supervisors.
  • Thirdly, role conflicts and ambiguity including ill-defined role, functions, expectations, and duties.
  • Fourthly, organization structure and climate which includes communication policy and practice, major changes in the workplace, culture of the organization, and lack of participation in decision-making.

Another cause is career development including under utilization of skills or failing to reach full potential. Another contributing factor is the nature of the job which might amount to an immense amount of physical and emotional exhaustion (Parikh & Taukari, 2004)
The main objective of this study is to identify role of different contributing factors of job stress and to investigate level of stress on those factors in the organization. And also to find that how job performance is affected by job stress. There are different factors of job stress i.e. work overload, work under load, supervision role conflicts, career development, physical environment repetitive work, work family conflict and coworkers.


  • “There is difference in level of occupational stress among the employees of different departments of the organization.
  • High level of stress adversely affects the performance of the employees.


In today’s changing and competitive work environment stress level is increasing both in WORKERS as well as MANAGERS .As a result of this work stress, more and more managers are showing signs of chronic fatigue and burnout. Research has concluded that stressed out managers are not good for organization and shareholders also .In most case stress reduced efficiency among individuals as well as reduced productivity also. Stress is the problem in amongst all the countries of the world ,irrespective of whether the economy is strong or weak .To know about the actual work stress we should have to know about the behavior of the individuals ,causes of the stress, its consequences and then how it can be reduce .
“Considered from an individual`s points of view stress is our body`s physical, mental and chemical reaction to circumstance that frighten, confuse, endanger or irritate to any person”. If controlled stress, is a friend that strengthens us for the next encounter .if handled poorly, it becomes an enemy which can cause diseases like high blood pressure, ulcer, asthma, and over reactive thyroid. As per the medical explanation of the term “Stress is the body`s general response to environment situations.” it can lead to

  • Physiological discomfort.
  • Some kind of emotional unhappiness.
  • Strained relationship with other people.

In very simple words stress refers to an individual`s reaction to a disturbing factor in the environment.
Different discipline and different professional have viewed it differently. Agarwala at 1979 believed that the confusion in definition is primarily due to the fact that the same term is used variously by scholars of different disciplines .Thus, in physic, stress is a force which acts on a body to produce strain.
According to Beehr and Newman “Job stress is a condition arising from the interaction of the people and their jobs, and characterized by changes within people and force them to deviate from their normal functioning.”
Stress can be defined as “Body’s non specific response to any demand made on it’. Stress is not by definition synonymous with nervous system tension or anxiety. On one side Stress provides the means to express talents and energies and pursue happiness, on the other side it can also cause exhaustion and illness, either physical or psychological”
One of the common accepted views of stress is provided by Selye through THREE STAGE MODEL OF STRESS. He called it General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
Selye defines stress as “an adoptive response to the external situation that results in physical, physiological, and behavioural deviation for organizational participant.” He has suggested a three stage model and states that when an organism is confronted with a threat the general physiological response occurs in the three stages
. Selye said that …There can be up to three phases that our resistance levels go through when we are exposed to a stressor. The first is the alarm phase.
The body’s resistance to physical damage drops for a short-time. This is so our bodies can prepare to cope with the stressor by using up available energy and normally protective stress hormones. Temporarily some of our defenses against physical damage drop so that our blood pressure increases, blood-sugar rises, muscle tension increases, we breathe faster and deeper and we get a surge of adrenaline-like substances to give us extra physical capabilities should we need them. If the stressor no longer exists the body returns to its normal level of resistance.
However if the stressor persists, (we can’t fight or flee from it or – and this goes beyond his original thinking – we are unable to apply counteracting psychosocial resources) our level of resistance increases beyond normal, relaxed levels
When our bodies start to run in higher gear. High levels of stress hormones continue to help us cope with the stressor. This is appropriately called the resistance phase. If there is no relief the body can continue for days, weeks, even years until either the stressor is suddenly removed or because it is very energy-consuming our body collapses often with more dangerous and extreme physical reactions. They are the same as in the alarm phase only more intense and more relentless. It is here in this third or exhaustion phase that our health suffers or even death can occur. Our level of resistance to physical disorder, disease and psychological pressure is at its lowest. It is characterized by feelings of lethargy – an absence of energy and bodily resources to cope.


In the context of India two measures have been developed by Indian researchers and have been extensively used in research in India. They are given below:


This instrument developed by Pareek (1983) this instrument based on the key concept t understand the integration of the organization .It is through this role that the individual interacts and gets integrated with the system. An n organization can be defined as system of roles, where role has been defined by the expectations various significant persons, including himself / herself, have from that position. The concept of role and the related concepts of ‘role space’ and ‘role set’ have a built- in potential for conflict and stress (Pareek 1999). From the point of view of an individual, two role systems are important: Role Space and Role Set.


Each individual occupies and plays several roles simultaneously. A person can be a son a father a member of a club and so on at the same time. All these roles constitute role space time. All these roles constitute role space. In the center of the role space is the self. Role space is the self. Role space thus can be defending as “the dynamic inter-relationship between the self various roles an individual occupies.”


The individual`s role in the organization is defined by the expectations of other significant roles and those of the individual himself .thus the role set is “the pattern of relationship between the role being considered and other roles.
The organization role stress scale consists of 50 items measuring ten different types of organizational role stresses. These roles stress are Following:

  • Inter role distance (IRD):-it is expected when there is a conflict between organizational and non organizational roles.
  • Role stagnation (RS):- it is the feeling of being stuck in same role.
  • Role expectation conflict (REC):- Stress is generated by expectation of different significant persons such as superior , subordinate, and peers ,about the same role and the role occupant`s ambivalence as to whom to please.
  • Role Erosion (RE); – Here stress is the function of the role occupant`s feeling that some function which should properly belong to her role are transferred to some other role.
  • Role Overload (RO) ; – when the role occupant feels that there are too many expectations from her.
  • Role Isolation (RI); – Stress refer to the psychological distance between the occupant role and other roles in the same role set.
  • Personal Inadequacy; – It arises when the role occupant feels that he does not have the necessary skills and training for effectively performing the function expected from his role.
  • Self Role Distance (SRD):- When the role the person occupies goes against his self concept.
  • Role Ambiguity (RA):- It refers to the lack of clarity about the expectation of the role.
  • Resource Inadequacy (RIN):- Stress is evident when the role occupant feels that he is not provided with the adequate resources for performing the function expected from his role.


It has been said that stress result form a misfits between environmental demands and personal adequacies to meet these demands .However, management of stress is not possible unless the individual is aware of the specific source of stress. Stress can be emanating from variety of sources. Pestonjee (1983) has identified three important sectors of life in which stress originates .These are (a) Job and organization (b) Social Factors (c) Inter Psychic sector .The first namely , job and organization, refers to totality of the work environment (task ,atmosphere, colleagues , compensations, policies ,etc.)The social factors refer to the social / culture context of life .It may include religion, caste, language, dress and other factors. The intra psychic sector encompasses those things which are intimate and personal like temperament, values, abilities, and health. It is contended that stresses can originate in any of these sectors or in combinations thereof.

  • Factor intrinsic to the Job: These are related to poor working conditions shift work, long hours, poor technology, travel, risk and danger, work over load.
  • Role in the organization: When a person’s role in an organization is clearly defined and understood, and when expectation place upon the individual are also clear and non- conflicting, stress can be kept to a minimum. Ivancevich and Matteson (1980) have identified three critical factors- role ambiguity ,role conflict , and degree of responsibility for others are major source of stress.
  • Relation -ship at work: The working relationship which one has with people working in the same organization can also be a major source of stress.
  • Career Development : A host of issue such as job security , fear of job loss, obsolescence or retirement and numerous performance appraisals can create pressure and strain.
  • Organizational structure & climate: just being part of an organization can present threats to a person’s sense of freedom and autonomy. It seems that the position in the organization has something to do with stress. However the research evidence its inclusive .some studies have found that position in the organization does make a difference in job stress.
  • Nature of Profession: The research evidence suggests that certain kind of occupations cause greater stress. Than others in a study of comparative degree of stress amongst professionals Mishra(2001)collected data from 144 doctors and 82 nurses drawn from various hospitals , their result show that nurses experience greater stress in their job as compared to doctors.

Predispositional stress:

The degree of stress seems vary with the personality and predispositional factor. Some individuals experience greater stress than others. Doctors with internal locus of control reported higher organizational stress than the internal . (Kumar 1988)
The below chart shows one example of the structure of a department in an organization, indicating typical causes of stress that may effect stress at certain levels in the structure, and particular.
Causes that are affecting individuals. Stress is contagious; anyone who is not performing well due to increases the amount of pressure on their colleagues, superiors, and subordinates.


As stated earlier Stress is caused by or reaction to the external events and bring about changes in our response and our general behavior. The presence of Stress can be estimated by the analysis of certain symptoms an individual shows. These symptoms can be divided into three different categories. They are Feelings ,Behavoiur and pshysological . When the individual experience Stress, one or more of the following symptoms can be exhibited:


  • The individual becomes anxious about the outcomes and is scared. The person feels that he has got something to loose or something wrong will take place.
  • In an anxious state the person does not want to be corrected or interrupted. He looks out for other areas where he can forget about the stress-causing event for a while. The person becomes irritable and moody.
  • During high level of Stress the individual develops a negative frame of mind and suffers from low self-esteem. The person loses faith in his capabilities and is afraid of the failures. The individual does not have a focused approach and is not able to concentrate and is involved in his own plans and thoughts.

Physiological and Behavioral Changes

  • Speech problems.
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Crying for no apparent reason.
  • Laughing in a high pitch and nervous tone of voice.
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Increasing smoking and use of drugs and alcohol.
  • Being accident-prone
  • Perspiration /sweaty hands
  • Increased heart beat
  • Trembling/Sleeping problems
  • Diarrhea / indigestion / vomiting/ nausea
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Headaches
  • Premenstrual tension
  • Pain in the neck and or lower back
  • Susceptibility to illness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervous ticks
  • Dryness of throat and mouth.
  • Tiring easily
  • or over eating

The effect of stress is closely linked to individual personality. The same level of stress affects different people in different ways & each person has different ways of coping. Recognizing these personality types means that more focused help can be given.
Stress shows itself number of ways. For instance, individual who is experiencing high level of stress may develop high blood pressure, ulcers, irritability, difficulty in making routine decisions, loss of appetite, accident proneness, and the like. These can be subsumed under three categories:

  • Individual consequences
  • Organizational consequence
  • Burnout

Individual consequences:

Individual consequences of stress are those, which affect the individual directly. Due to this the organization may suffer directly or indirectly, but it is the individual who has to pays for it. Individual consequences of stress are broadly divided into behavioral, psychological and medical.
v Behavioral consequences of stress are responses that may harm the person under stress or others. Behaviorally related stress symptoms include changes in productivity, turnover, as well as changes in eating habits, increased smoking or consumption of alcohol, paid speech, and sleep disorders.
v Psychological consequences of stress replace to an individual mental health and well-being from or felling depressed. Job related stress could cause dissatisfaction, infact it has most psychological effect on the individual and lead to tension, anxiety irritability, and boredom.
v Medical consequences of stress affect a person’s well being. According to a research conducted, it revealed that stress could create changes in metabolism, increase heart and breathing rates, increases blood pressure bring out headaches and induce heart attacks.

Organizational consequences:

Organizational consequences of stress have direct affect on the organizations. These include decline in performance, withdrawal and negative changes in attitude.
¯ Decline in performance can translate into poor quality work or a drop in productivity. Promotions and other organizational benefits get affected due to this.
¯ Withdrawal behavior also can result from stress. Significant form of withdrawal behavior is absenteeism.
¯ One main affect of employee stress is directly related to attitudes. Job satisfaction, morale and organizational commitment can all suffer, along with motivation to perform at higher levels.


A final consequence of stress has implementation for both people and organizations. Burnout is a general feeling of exhaustion that develops when an individual simultaneously experiences too much pressure and few sources of satisfaction.


So far, we have seen that stress is a negative experience. We have seen the short-term burnout.

The Positive Effects of Pressure

Sometimes, however, the pressures and demands that may cause stress can be positive in their effect. One example of this is where sportsmen and women flood their bodies with fight-or-flight adrenaline to power an explosive performance. Another example is where deadlines are used to motivate people who seem bored or unmotivated. We will discuss this briefly here, but throughout the rest of this site we see stress as a problem that needs to be solved.

The Negative effect of pressure

In most work situations jobs, our stress responses cause our performance to suffer. A calm, rational, controlled and sensitive approach is usually called for in dealing with most difficult problems at work: Our social inter-relationships are just too complex not to be damaged by an aggressive approach, while a passive and withdrawn response to stress means that we can fail to assert our rights when we should.
Before we look further at how to manage stress and our performance, it is important to look at the relationship between pressure and performance in a little more detail, first by looking at the idea of the “Inverted-U”, and second by looking at “Flow”. This is the ideal state of concentration and focus that brings excellent performance.

Pressure & Performance – the Inverted U

The relationship between pressure and performance is explained in one of the oldest and most important ideas in stress management, the “Inverted-U” relationship between pressure and performance. The Inverted-U relationship focuses on people’s performance of a task.
The left hand side of the graph is easy to explain for pragmatic reasons. When there is very little pressure on us to carry out an important task, there is little incentive for us to focus energy and attention on it. This is particularly the case when there may be other, more urgent, or more interesting, tasks competing for attention.
As pressure on us increases, we enter the “area of best performance”. Here, we are able to focus on the task and perform well – there is enough pressure on us to focus our attention but not so much that it disrupts our performance.
The right hand side of the graph is more complex to explain.

Negative Thoughts Crowd Our Minds

We are all aware that we have a limited short-term memory: If you try to memorize a long list of items, you will not be able to remember more than six or eight items unless you use formal memory techniques. Similarly, although we have huge processing power in our brains, we cannot be conscious of more than a few thoughts at any one time. In fact, in a very real way, we have a limited “attention capacity”.
As we become uncomfortably stressed, distractions, difficulties, anxieties and negative thinking begin to crowd our minds. This is particularly the case where we look at our definition of stress, i.e. that it occurs when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” These thoughts compete with performance of the task for our attention capacity. Concentration suffers, and focus narrows as our brain becomes overloaded.
As shown in the figure, this is something of a slippery slope: the more our brain is overloaded, the more our performance can suffer. The more our performance suffers, the more new distractions, difficulties, anxieties and negative thoughts crowd our minds.
Other research has shown that stress reduces people’s ability to deal with large amounts of information. Both decision-making and creativity are impaired because people are unable to take account of all the information available. This inability accounts for the common observation that highly stressed people will persist in a course of action even when better alternatives are available. It also explains why anxious people perform best when they are put under little additional stress, while calm people may need additional pressure to produce a good performance.

Notes on the research behind the Inverted-U:

While this is an important and useful idea, people’s evaluations of stress and performance are by necessity subjective. This has made it difficult to prove the ‘Inverted-U’ idea formally. Also, for ease of explanation, we show a smooth curve here. In reality, different people have different shaped and positioned inverted-Us at different times and in different circumstances. This is all part of “life’s rich tapestry”.

Entering a State of “Flow”

When you are operating in your “area of best performance”, you are normally able to concentrate, and focus all of your attention on the important task at hand. When you do this without distraction, you often enter what Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of Chicago University describes as a state of ‘flow’. This involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”.
You perform at your best in this state because you are able to focus all of your efforts, resources and abilities on the tasks at hand. While you are sufficiently motivated to resist competing temptations, you are not so stressed that anxieties and distractions interfere with clear thought.
This is an intensely creative, efficient and satisfying state of mind. It is the state of mind in which, for example, the most persuasive speeches are made, the best software is developed, and the most impressive athletic or artistic performances are delivered.

Helping Yourself to Get Into Flow

One of the frustrations of management is that managers can feel that they lose the ‘right’ to these periods of deep concentration when they must be readily available to others, and be able to deal with the constantly changing information, decisions and activities around them. Studies of good managers show that they rarely get more than a few minutes alone without distraction. This alone can be frustrating, and can contribute strongly to managerial stress.
In jobs where concentration is a rare commodity, there are various solutions to creating the periods of flow that sustain good performance. Solutions include working from home, or setting aside parts of the day as quiet periods. Another solution might be to delegate the activities that require the greatest levels of concentration, allowing the manager to concentrate on problems as they arise, serving to create a flow of its own.
One of the key aims of this site is to help you manage stress so that you can enter this state of flow, and deliver truly excellent performance in your career.


Every responds to stress in a different way, it is only by understanding the nature of individual responses that you can start fighting stress yourself and others.
Reduction or elimination of stress is necessary for psychological and physical well being of an individual. Efficiency in stress management enables the individual to deal or cope with the stressful situations instead of avoidance. Strategies like tie management, body-mind and mind-body relaxation exercise, seeking social support help individual improve their physical and mental resources to deal with stress successfully.
Apart from helping employees adopt certain coping strategies to deal with stress providing them with the service of counselor is also useful.
Many strategies have been developed to help manage stress in the work place. Some are strategies for individuals, and other is geared toward organizations.

Individual coping strategies:

Many strategies for helping individuals manage stress have been proposed.
Individual coping strategies are used when an employee under stress exhibits undesirable behavior on the jobs such as performance, strained relationship with co-workers, absenteeism alcoholism and the like. Employees under stress require help in overcoming its negative effects. The strategies used are:


One method by which individual can manage their stress is through exercise. People who exercise regularly are known to less likely to have heart attacks than inactive people are. Research also has suggested that people who exercise regularly feel less tension and stress are more conflict and slow greater optimism.


A related method individual can manage stress is relaxation. Copying with stress require adaptation. Proper relaxation is an effective way to adopt.
Relaxation can take many forms. One way to relax is to take regular vacations; people can also relax while on the job (i.e. take regular breaks during their normal workday). A popular way of resting is to sit quietly with closed eyes for ten minutes every afternoon.

Time management:

Time management is an often recommended method for managing stress, the idea is that many daily pressures can be eased or eliminated if a person does a better job of managing time. One popular approach to time management is to make a list, every morning or the thins to be done that day. Then you group the items on the list into three categories: critical activities that must be performed, important activities that should be performed, and optimal or trivial things that can be delegated or postponed, then of more of the important things done every day.


Some what related to time management in which the individual actively works to avoid overload, ambiguity and conflict.


This method of managing stress is to develop and maintain support group. A support group is simply a group of family member or friends with whom a person can spend time. Supportive family and friends can help people deal with normal stress on an ongoing basis. Support groups can be particularly useful during times of crisis.


In ultimate analysis, effective management if stress presupposes exercise of self-control on the part of an employee. By consciously analyzing the cause and consequences of their own behavior, the employees can achieve self-control. They can further develop awareness of their own limits of tolerance and learn to anticipate their own responses to various stressful situations. The strategy involves increasing an individuals control over the situations rather than being solely controlled by them.


The cognitive therapy techniques such as Elli’s rational emotive model and Meichenbaum’s cognitive strategy fir modification have been used as an individual strategy for reducing job stress.


Personal counseling help employees understand and appreciate a diverse workforce, the holistic approach adopted by the counselor gives him a comprehensive view of the employee as client and enable him to deal the issues of work related problems in a larger context with his awareness of the inter-relationship among problems in adjustment with self, other and environment and that a work concern will effect personal life and vice-versa, the employee would receive help regarding the problem in all life.
One of the advantage of the individual interventions is the individual can use these skills to improve the quality of life in offer domains like family, social support and self, thus reducing the negative carry of experiences in these domains into the work life which might effect his occupation mental health.


The most effective way of managing stress calls for adopting stressors and prevent occurrence of potential stressors.’
Two basic organizational strategies for helping employees manage stress are institutional programs and collateral programs.
Work Design Stress Management programs
Work schedules Health promotions programs
Culture Other programs

Institutional programs:

Institutional programs for managing stress are undertaken to established organizational mechanism

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