Why do we get stressed? When our mind or body senses a threat, urgency or danger, it jumps into the ‘fight or flight’ response mode. The purpose of this fight or flight response is to make us work more efficiently in an attempt to tackle the “threat” or “danger” – this is called positive stress or ‘Eustress’. But when this stress makes one feel unable to perform or cope with a situation, it leads to negative stress or distress.
It is commonly believed that to make one work efficiently, employers keep their employees on their toes; constantly vigilant and under stress. However, prolonged stress results in burnout, which leads to mental and emotional exhaustion, fatigue, headaches, lowered immunity and of course, increased absenteeism and poor productivity.
In a workplace, hierarchy is needed only to maintain smooth functioning and coordination in the organization. Unknowingly, hierarchy can be misused in various ways, which adds a burden to the employees working low in the hierarchy. Therefore, the ones on the lowest posts are the ones with the most negative stress, increased anxiety, low job satisfaction, and high burnout.
Employees experiencing stress and burnout experience perceived lack of control, low productivity, deteriorating social skills, low motivation, physical and emotional exhaustion as well as body ache. Frequent errors at work, forgetfulness, and disturbed sleep are a part and parcel of this stress. This results in Depression and Anxiety as well as other physical illnesses.
As mentioned before, hierarchy is necessary only to maintain the smooth functioning of the organization, but not to induce negative stress. Positive stress is necessary to be more efficient than usual, but positive stress is not a constant state; it varies. In work organizations, hierarchy tends to induce negative stress by maintaining strict deadlines, increasing workload and orders. It is understandable to have deadlines and workload, but there are ways to manage the negative outcome of it. Some of them are as follow:
- Communication: Make an effort to communicate with a clear description of the task. If further clarification is requested, it should be provided to avoid errors and increase independent work
- Teamwork and decision-making: Quite often employees are just told to finish a task without any background information; they are ‘expected’ to know. Nevertheless, providing background information makes employers feel included in the process and will be more involved to carry out the assignment
- Role models: In a large organization, it is difficult to cater to everyone’s needs. Individuals higher in the hierarchy also experience stress and may have a greater responsibility. In such a case, maintain professionalism, managing stress calmly and expressing your stressors to employee’s leads to transparency. It showcases a role model, and employees may start adopting professionalism, transparent communication and stress management. This leads to a sense of belonging in a team and increases coordination.
Inputs by Ms. Niharika Mehta, Psychologist, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi- A Fortis Network Hospital