Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Occupational Health Stress in the Service Sector

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Occupational Health Stress in the Service Sector

Article excerpt

Background of Research

Stress may be defined as an imbalance in an individual's personality due to external factors resulting in psychological, physical, and behavioral change. According to this definition, occupational stress can be defined as the change in psychological, physical, and behavioral response due to workplace challenges and threats posed to employees (Colligan & Higgins, 2006; Krantz, Grunberg, & Baum, 1985; Mount, 2002; Zimbardo, Weber, & Johnson, 2003). We face different challenges and threats at every step of our lives, such as when meeting household tasks, while driving on the road, while shopping, studying in school/college/university, and while working in an office. In all of these situations, stress is a driving force arousing the most primal "flight (escape) or fight (defensive)" response (Cannon, 1929), and in some situations, stress leads to mental and physical illness. In recent years, the relationship between stress and health has become a very popular topic for occupational health psychology researchers (Hall, 1998).

Stress is divided into two forms: "eustress" and "distress." "Eu" is a Greek word, which is defined as "good", therefore "eustress" is known as positive or good stress. An example of "eustress" can be achieving personal as well as organizational goals, winning a bonus, job promotions, scoring an "A" grade in school, etc. The second and more prominent category of stress is "distress," this has negative effects on an individual's psychological and physical health. "Distress" is faced by a person when he/she is under unpleasant conditions, such as when losing a competition, scoring a low grade, failing to achieve goals and objectives, job demotions, privatization, downsizing, or job loss. These circumstances may lead a person to burnout, experience emotional instability, and undergo physical and mental illness (Zimbardo et al., 2003). Occupational health scholars focus on "distress" in working environment and employees face this situation many times throughout their work-life. It is the responsibility of the organization to identify the reasons of employee stress and to develop strategies to reduce the stress level of employees.

Another important debate about stress is the level of stress that one undergoes. Whenever an individual faces a stress, regardless of whether it has positive or negative effects, the physiological response will be the same as bodily defensive mechanisms are activated due to sensation and perception (Lazarus, 2000). If duration of stress is long, it would negatively affect the mental and physical health of a person. Lazarus (2000) explains that there are three levels of stress: acute stress, episodic stress, and chronic stress. Acute stress is generally experienced for a shorter time period as it is caused due to the incompatibility of a person's handling of work tasks, such as when employees are given an unrealistic work demand, which they cannot perform and which cause frustration. In acute stress, physical and emotional symptoms are often reported, such as headaches, fatigue, muscular pain, high pulse rate, nausea, low concentration levels and dyspepsia. Emotional disturbances such as frustration, sadness and worry (Colligan & Higgins, 2006; Zimbardo et al., 2003) as well as anxiety and threatened self-esteem (Sato, Takenaka, & Kawahara, 2012) are also reported. The second level of stress is episodic stress; this is when a person feels stress most frequently and in multiple episodes. The emotional symptoms of episodic stress are impatience, less tolerance, and aggressive behavior while the physical symptoms are hypertension, asthma, chest pain, heart disease, and migraine (Lazarus, 2000). The third level of stress is chronic stress and lasts for the longest period of time. Chronic stress can be caused by family problems, financial problems and long-term illness (Lazarus, 2000); chronic stress is also associated with job strain (Broadbent, 1985; Warr, 1990). …

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