Investigating the Efficacy of Mind-Body Therapies and Emotional Intelligence on Worker Stress in an Organizational Setting: An Experimental Approach

By Burnett, Melissa; Pettijohn, Charles | Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, January 2015 | Go to article overview

Investigating the Efficacy of Mind-Body Therapies and Emotional Intelligence on Worker Stress in an Organizational Setting: An Experimental Approach


Burnett, Melissa, Pettijohn, Charles, Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict


INTRODUCTION

In the organizational environment numerous factors interact to influence worker productivity, attendance, turnover, morale and ultimately the organization's culture. One factor receiving increased focus in organizational settings is worker stress (Pipe, et al., 2009). Research has determined that organizational stress is negatively related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, productivity and morale. Further investigation has correspondingly revealed that stress is positively related to dysfunctional workplace behavior and turnover in an organizational environment (Pipe, et al., 2009). According to the American Psychological Association, one in every four U.S. citizens reported they are under "extreme stress" (Landau, 2012). The physical effects of stress are revealed in the cost of healthcare where there exists a 50% greater expense for workers who report high levels of stress (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2012). Given the wide-ranging adverse impacts of employee stress on organizational performance and the corresponding negative impacts of stress on the employee's physical and psychological well-being, it should not be surprising that companies are seeking ways to alleviate the impact of stress on their workers and that stress reduction has become one of management's key concerns. Based on these facts, firms are increasingly attempting to devise strategies designed to ameliorate worker stress.

Over the years, organizations have engaged in what may be described as a quixotic quest to obtain increased levels of productivity, morale, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment by engaging in a wide array of initiatives. From MBO to Who Moved My Cheese--managers have sought methods of enhancing organizational life and experiences. However, many of these initiatives, while undoubtedly well-intended, were not supported by empirical research assessing their relative effectiveness at attaining their goals/objectives. Too often, organizations have faithfully followed the latest organizational fad/imperative to little or no avail in contributing to their goals relating to the attainment of organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

Studies have examined both psychological and biological effects of stress. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes stress as an agent who "sets off an alarm response in the body in preparation for 'fight or flight'" (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1999). When an individual faces stress that is brief or infrequent, it presents little threat to the body. However, continual stress results in damage to the biological system that eventually inhibits the "body's ability to repair and defend itself' (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1999). Research has found that chronic stress can impair communication skills, memory loss, attention reduction, aging, work satisfaction, and employee retention (Shirey, et al., 2008; Shirey, 2006; Judkins, 2004; Epel, et al., 2004; Struss, Levine, 2002). In contrast, few studies have looked at specific programs designed to reduce stress (Pipe, et al., 2009).

When it is recognized that stress negatively affects numerous aspects of organization performance, while simultaneously having numerous adverse physiological and psychological effects on employees, one can understand management's desires to discover methods that may be used to reduce stress levels. This research is designed to evaluate the relative efficacy of two somewhat disparate approaches designed to reduce employee stress levels--Mindfulness-based, stress-reduction therapy (MB ST) and emotional intelligence (EI). These two stress-reduction alternatives are unique to the degree that MB ST represent a specifically designed stress-reduction technique, and EI represents a more generalized method of enhancing numerous aspects of individual behavior/performance.

Originally created by Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990), MBST was an educational treatment designed to improve the lives of chronically-ill patients by helping them cope with pain and depression (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Pipe, et al. …

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