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Why is the level of workplace stress increasing with such velocity? To a great extent, it has to do with the acceleration of the rate of change (change=stress) in the world at large. There are three driving forces behind this ever-increasing speed of change:
  1. Population growth. Although humans have inhabited the earth for millions of years, our total population didn't hit one billion until the 1860s. Within seventy-five years, the earth's population had doubled. By 1975 it had doubled again, this time only taking fifty years. And it continues to build. The more people living on our planet, the more competition we will face and more new ideas, changes, and developments will bombard us daily. Why? Because people are the major change agent.

  2. The information explosion. More information was produced in the thirty years from 1965 to 1995 than had accumulated in the entire previous history of civilization, in the roughly five-thousand-year period spanning 3,000 B.C. through 1965! It now appears that the amount of available information is doubling every five years, further accelerated by our capacity for instantaneous communication via TV, the Internet, wire services, and so on. The more we learn and are exposed to, the more we must change or risk falling more and more behind.

Workplace Stress Test

Instructions: Rate your answer to each question according to the following scale:

1=Never 2=Rarely 3=Some of the time 4=All of the time
1.I feel tired at work, even with adequate sleep. 1 2 3 4
2. I feel frustrated in carrying out my responsibilities at work. 1 2 3 4
3. I am moody, irritable, or impatient over small problems. 1 2 3 4
4. I want to withdraw from the constant demands on my time and energy. 1 2 3 4
5. I feel negative, futile, or depressed about work. 1 2 3 4
6. My decision-making ability is less than usual because of my work. 1 2 3 4
7. I think that I am not as efficient at work as I should be. 1 2 3 4
8. I feel physically, emotionally, or spiritually depleted. 1 2 3 4
9. The quality of my work is less than it should be. 1 2 3 4
10. My resistance to illness is lowered because of my work. 1 2 3 4
11. My interest in doing fun activities is lowered because of my work. 1 2 3 4
12. I feel uncaring about the problems and needs of my co-workers, customers, clients, patients, and others at work. 1 2 3 4
13. Communication with my co-workers, friends, or family seems strained. 1 2 3 4
14. I am forgetful. 1 2 3 4
15. I have difficulty concentrating on my job. 1 2 3 4
16. I am easily bored with my job. 1 2 3 4
17. I feel a sense of dissatisfaction with my job— that there's something wrong or missing. 1 2 3 4
18. When I ask myself why I get up and go to work, the only answer that occurs to me is, “I have to.” 1 2 3 4

Scoring

If your score is 0 to 34, you are not stressed.

If your score is 35 to 55, you are moderately stressed.

If your score is 55 or more, you are definitely stressed.


  1. Technological advances. The rate of technological change is a direct outgrowth of population growth and information expansion. It is estimated that well over 80 percent of the world's technological advances have occurred in the last hundred years. Technology feeds on itself—one breakthrough leads to a host of other advances, which then spur on even more developments. This cycle is never-ending, and the pace will keep accelerating.

The Effects of Accelerating Change

One of the first places where accelerating change is often apparent is in the workplace. Businesses must constantly shift and adapt to stay competitive. We must continually upgrade our skills and knowledge, master new equipment, and make sense of new procedures if we are to keep pace and remain competent and secure in our positions. Sometimes the burden seems overwhelming.

One common result of job stress overload is burnout. But job stress alone does not inevitably result in burnout. Often a worker's perceived lack of control over the job situation leads to anxiety, frustration, decreased motivation, and burnout. It has often been said that jobs that combine maximum responsibility with minimal control are the most stressful. Middle managers (who shoulder lots of responsibility without the power of top management) often fall into this category. Health care workers involved with high-risk populations also fit here. But this can occur in any job—for example, if you cannot meet unrealistic expectations held by your boss, if your co-workers are undermining you, if you own your own business and can't pay the bills, or if your level of skills and training are not adequate for the demands of your position.

Minor factors can also add up to greatly increase your level of job stress. A long commute to and from work each day through rush-hour traffic can definitely contribute. Working in a job where you must continually deal with red tape and bureaucratic inefficiency can lead to frustration. Having to deal with frequent interruptions or multiple simultaneous demands on your time and attention can also take its toll. A very unpleasant work environment (for example, noisy, dirty, too hot or cold, or cramped) can also wear you down. The cumulative effect of annoyances such as these can raise your stress level significantly. Sometimes a job can be stressful because it is overly boring, failing to challenge your intelligence or to provide enough variety of tasks to keep things interesting. That is, being underloaded can be as hard to take as being overloaded.

Many times we add to our stress level by how we perceive a situation. Remember, stress is caused not by what happens to you but by what you tell yourself about what occurs. This self-induced job stress is fueled by a number of faulty assumptions, as highlighted by Price Pritchett and Ron Pound in their pamphlet, A Survival Guide to the Stress of Organizational Change (1996). Review the following misguided expectations and see which currently apply, have applied, or could apply to you in the future. Pay careful attention to the tips on how to neutralize these faulty assumptions and cope with stressful work situations more effectively.

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