Stress is the emotional, physical, psychological strain which can have an adverse impact on a human being and organisational performance.
It is, therefore, important for organisations to have mechanisms for managing stress.
Stressed employees hardly concentrate on their job. In the long run, this may affect their performance and organisational targets.
In other cases, stress leads to sicknesses, accidents, withdrawal and even deaths among employees. Research shows that stress leads to frequent headaches, digestive disorders, depression, blurred thinking, tiredness, anxiety and dissatisfaction with work or pay.
Others resort to alcoholism and substance abuse in short term. In the long run, this leads to gastric ulcers, high blood pressure, stroke and mental illness.
Stress could emanate from one’s behaviour, family, relations, work environment or senior supervisors, workmates and even low pay and lack of tools for the job.
Nowadays, it is common to see people committing suicide or resorting to alcoholism, violent behaviour and drug abuse.
Recently, Malawi has experienced an increase in number of suicides. The police report 56 people took their lives last month and 52 of them were men.
Suicide often occur among people who are in marriages or are employed to abusive bosses or spouses.
Most of these deaths are linked to stress in one way or another.
In workplaces, stress is usually fanned by those who are powerful and in control of resources. Some of them tend to abuse their juniors, thinking their victims have nowhere to complain.
Stress manifests itself in the way employees participate in meetings.
They are usually inactive or restless during meetings and tea breaks. They lack appetite and often stay in isolation.
Many times, a human resource manager knows that employee X does not talk to manager Y, but just ignores it while the strained relationship worsens.
At times, I have heard some bosses say that attitude does not matter as long as an employee is working perfectly and delivering shared goals.
How one can work perfectly when all subordinates or workmates are complaining about him or her?
It is high time organisations have mechanisms of investigating and disciplining staff members who stress others provided there is evidence.
Employees should be encouraged to complain when they feel a particular employee is stressing them up regardless of the abusers’ positions or influence.
It is common to see supervisors harassing or torturing subordinates verbally, emotionally and physically, but many organisations do nothing about it.
Stress can be managed if organisations establish clear mechanisms to detect and mitigate the problem.
Organisations should therefore open pathways for identifying and removing stress enablers. These include programmes that help staff to cope with stress regardless of the source so that it does not affect their performance and erode organisation goals.
One mechanism is by conducting periodic confidential surveys to assess each employee’s stress level.
In some organisations, they conduct regular meetings to discuss issues of stress, focussing on sources, impact and how to mitigate.
Team building is another avenue to lift the lid on stress enablers so that staff can understand how stress can be managed or where they can report it.
It should be responsibility of each supervisor to manage stress levels of his subordinates to enhance productivity. Lastly, employees are supposed to get their remuneration and benefits when they are due. Unnecessary or unexplained delays may lead to stress in workers haunted by financial uncertainties.
Stress is a complex issue that needs to be managed at workplace to reduce cases of stress related deaths.
It is upon each and every employee and employer to take responsibility and monitor each other’s change in behaviour and attitude towards work.