Workplace stress is commonly experienced by employees when faced with hectic schedules, tight deadlines and demanding superiors. True enough, stress is defined as the resulting condition when something or someone is forced to act either psychologically, physically or economically. In the case of workplace stress, one or all of these factors is working in the employee’s system.
Stress can be positive (such as when it urges a person to do or perform) or negative (such as when it leads to physical or emotional breakdown). More often than not, severe office stress (to which some may refer to as office harassment or discrimination) is believed to be more of the negative type especially when it leads to a hostile working environment.
An employee can be subjected to workplace stress through any of the following:
- Too much work responsibility (which may include the ability to make your own decisions)
- Shifting schedules
- Work isolation (such as in the case of call center employees)
- Physical work environment (such as noise or temperature)
- Lack of clear-cut office policy
- Job security
- Dissatisfaction with the job
- Rude managers or co-workers
- Harassment (discriminatory or sexual)
- Office bullying
Office stress can have negative effects on the health of a worker especially if he is forced to deal with stress regularly. The body is programmed to deal with irritants like stress (called the fight or flight reaction) but when it is forced to deal with workplace stress for a long period then this response is constantly ‘switched on’ and the person remains alert or tense. Among the physical indications and effects of stress are:
- An increase in blood pressure
- Inflammation or swelling
- Fast heartbeat
- Decrease in digestion and response to allergies
- Increased production of stomach acids
When workplace stress is caused by discrimination (which affects work conditions like assignments, promotions, demotion, salary increase or even constructive discharge), an employee can file a grievance or even file a case for a hostile work environment. This applies even if the condition is caused by a superior or a co-employee.
If you are the victim of workplace stress and it comes as a result of harassment or discrimination (provided it is specifically directed at you and not the whole company) then you can consult an attorney and plead your case. Getting legal advice is the best option because a lawyer can help you attain a better work environment or better treatment from your employers or co-workers. He can help you file your case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Among other things, the EEOC takes on discriminatory and harassment cases under:
- The American with Disabilities Act
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Equal Pay Act
- Civil Rights Act of 1991
Workplace stress can work both ways; meaning it can work to the benefit of a worker by pushing him to work harder and perhaps get a promotion. On the other hand, workplace stress that results in a negative work outlook and performance should be kept in check.