Work Related Stressors

Overview

Job Stress: Physical and emotional responses that emerge when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, skills, resources, or needs of the Sailor.

Job stress can lead to fatigue, poor health, injury, decreased performance and poor morale. Differences in personality, situations and coping style are important factors in predicting whether certain job conditions will result in stress.

Sailors suffering from job stress may experience inattention, decreased motivation, apathy, anger, irritability, disinterest, fatigue, depression, anxiety, inadequate sleep and poor hygiene. As job stress escalates, the typical consequences of work stress begin to appear.

Common sources of work stress include:

Work Stressors
  • Conflict with supervisors
  • Conflict with shipmates
  • Conflict in work conditions
  • New job position/carrer field
  • Work overload
  • Lack of job challenge
  • Exposure to harassment
  • Fear of job loss
  • Disciplinary action
  • Being bypassed for promotion
  • Being promoted
  • Role ambiguity
  • Inadequate job training
  • Poor physical work conditions
  • Traumatic events (major disasters, toxic exposures, witnessing severe injuries, suffering severe injury, etc.)

Other potential sources of stressors that may stem from military life include:

  • Frequent relocations, frequent, prolonged, deployment and short-notice TAD's, long and irregular duty hours, and difficulty sharing home and childcare responsibilities

Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the workplace. Depression, sleep problems, and disrupted relationships with family and friends are examples of stress related problems that may arise from or be exacerbated by job stress.

The demands on individuals in the workplace often reach out into the homes and social lives of unit members. Taking work home, high levels of responsibility, job insecurity, and relocation all may adversely affect family life. In addition, domestic pressures such as childcare responsibilities, and financial worries, may adversely affect a person's work.

Impact of Job Stress

The impact of life stressors may show up in Sailors at work in a variety of ways:

  • Reduction in the quality or quantity of work produced.
  • Frequently coming to work late or leaving early.
  • Increases in frequency of accidents and mishaps.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Difficulty with supervisors.
  • Unwillingness by the sailor to perform certain tasks.
  • Tendency to question and challenge previously accepted command and management practices.
  • Preoccupation with non-work related activities such as personal finances.
  • Reduced morale.

Interpersonal Stress in the Workplace

Personality conflicts and work style differences are an inherent and often normal part of interpersonal diversity in the workplace. However, some people are inherently difficult to work with and other workers may have problems developing a positive relationship with them. Tactics that peers can employ to deal with stress from being around people they find difficult to interact with include:

  • Developing a support system. The support system helps provide a perspective of how to deal with the person.
  • Developing strategies that reduce the conflict such as meeting periodically with peers to reflect on the conflict and get feedback and direction.

Shift Work and Job Stress

Workers engaged in irregular schedules, duty and shift work may have increased levels of stress. The stress of shift work can cause fatigue and irregular sleep patterns.

  • When possible, consider Sailor preferences when determining shift schedules.
  • People adapt more easily to forward shift rotations, that is, day-to-evening, evening-to-night.
  • Having an adequate amount of sleep can help in the transition between shifts.
  • Allow at least two days between changes to give the Sailor time to adjust to the new schedule.
  • When working irregular schedules or long hours, sailors should be encouraged to avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other substances used to assist them in staying awake, falling asleep, or relaxing.

TYPES OF WORK STRESS: INTERPERSONAL STRESS

Personality conflicts and work style differences are an inherent and often normal part of interpersonal diversity in the workplace. However, some people are inherently difficult to work with and other workers may have problems developing a positive relationship with them.

Tactics that peers can employ to deal with stress from being around people they find difficult to interact with:

  • Develop a support system. The support system helps provide a perspective of how to deal with the person.
  • Develop strategies that reduce the conflict such as meeting periodically with peers to reflect and get feedback/direction.

Types of work stress: Shift Work

Tactics that leaders can employ to reduce stress associated with shift work:

  • Consider Sailor preferences when determining shift schedules
  • People adapt more easily to forward shift rotations (e.g., day-to-evening, evening-to-night)
  • Adequate amounts of sleep can help in the shift transitions
  • With shift work, Sailors should be encouraged to avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that may assist in staying awake, falling asleep, or relaxing

Resources that help personnel with job stress

Supervisor support has been shown to decrease job stress and increase performance. People who feel supported are also more likely to take actions that are favorable to the organization and that go beyond assigned responsibilities. It is important that Sailors have access to resources to help them meet the pressures and demands faced at work. Assistance is available at each base for improving coping skills, problem-solving, assertiveness, time management, a good working environment, and social support, through the following agencies:

  • Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC)
  • Chaplains
  • MTF Health Promotion
  • Mental Health

Work Related Stessors

What Leaders Can Do to Help

As a general rule, actions to reduce and to manage job stress need to be given high priority. Specific suggested measures include:

  • Foster general awareness about job stress (causes, costs, control)
  • Improve communications:
    • Reduce uncertainty about career development
    • Monitor progress and share that progress with your Sailors
    • Share up to date information with your team
    • Set up meeting for unit members to vent any concerns and ask pertinent questions
  • Ensure that the workload is in line with unit members' capabilities and resources
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities of Sailors
  • Give unit members opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction among workers
  • Assess the risk of stress among Sailors. This involves:
    • Looking for pressures at work which could cause high and long-lasting levels of distress
    • Deciding who might be affected by these factors
    • Deciding what can be done to decrease the stressors
  • Maximizing flexibility can help prevent and reduce work stress Actions may include:
    • Providing flexible work hours
    • Giving time off for appointments
    • Giving Sailors a voice in the decision-making process when appropriate
    • Clarify expectations from the start

Organizational characteristics associated with low-stress work and high levels of productivity include the following:

  • A safe and healthy work environment
  • Recognition of Sailors for good work performance
  • An organizational culture that values the individual unit member as well as a team approach
  • Management actions are consistent with organizational values

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