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How to Manage Stress in the Workplace

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Managing Stress in the Workplace
ORG 300- Applied Organizational Psychology
Colorado State University – Global Campus
September 30, 2013

Managing Stress in the Workplace

In 1994, during my junior year of college at West Virginia University, I began working at a golf resort as a switchboard operator. I needed the money to help pay for school. I was taking a total of 16 credit hours and working 40 hours a week. This was not an easy schedule to manage but I somehow managed to make it all work. After working as a switchboard operator for about one year, I applied for a position at the front desk. I was offered the position and came to love my job very much and was starting to learn a great deal about the hospitality industry. I truly loved my work so much so that I decided that I wanted a career in the industry and earning a degree in Journalism became secondary. I eventually quit school to devote all of my time to working in the hotel business. Three years after starting at the golf resort, I was offered a job at a much smaller, limited service hotel as a Front Desk Representative. I accepted the position knowing that in a smaller setting, I would have the opportunity to work more closely with the General Manager, Tracey. Tracey had been in the hotel business for many years and was considered to be one of the best within the property management company that owned the hotel. Tracey taught me the ins and outs of managing a small property. I learned about excellent customer service to how to read a profit and loss statement and everything in between. I was eventually promoted to Front Desk Supervisor and given a raise. I had the preferred schedule as well. I worked Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. I worked for Tracey for five years. I left my position there and West Virginia to move back to Pennsylvania to be closer to my family and friends that I had grown up with. I moved to Pennsylvania before I had secured a job. Upon arriving and getting settled into my new home that I shared with my older sister and her two young daughters, I updated my resume and sent it out to every hotel and resort within a reasonable driving distance. I went on several interviews and was offered a couple of positions but none of them really appealed to me and the pay rate they were offering was not what I was hoping for so I held out for one particular hotel to contact me for an interview. This particular hotel was owned by a Philadelphia based hotel management company that I was somewhat familiar with. They dozens of large hotels and resorts up and down the east coast and were known primarily for buying out hotels that needed to be remodeled and the staff retrained or replaced. It had become my goal to one day become an Operations Manager and to be involved in the takeover/remodel process. The Call I finally got the call I had been waiting for from the Front Office Manager asking me to come in for an interview. I was offered a position and immediately accepted. I would be starting out at the Front Desk to learn the Front Office operations. At the same time I was hired, they hired another person who was equally as qualified as I was and I knew immediately that there was going to be a power struggle between us and management also quickly realized this. We were both vying for the same position which was Front Office Manager. Management’s solution was to have us share the role and duties and we would each work a different shift. It was more optimal for me and my preference to work the early shift. Monique preferred the later shift so it worked out perfectly. This arrangement worked for us as well as management and this is what we did for almost four years until we discovered that one of our night auditors was stealing from the hotel. David was fired and we no one to work his shift so the General Manager, Paul and the Operations Manger, Brad called a meeting with Monique and I to explain that one of us would have to work the night audit shift until we were about to hire and train the right person. Monique had two very young children and was a single parent. This left no other option that for me to work the night audit shift in addition to other day time shifts.
Tired and Stressed Out I eagerly accepted the challenge of working the night audit shift in addition to several other day time shifts under the belief that it would only be for no more than a month. A month turned into three months and almost a year later I was still working the same schedule. Management had decided that in an effort to save some payroll dollars, they would hold off on hiring and training someone specifically for the night audit shift because I was on salary so regardless of how many hours a week I worked, my pay would remain the same. My typical schedule looked something like this:
I had little time for family and friends let alone consistent, quality rest. I began to suffer from depression and was irritable all of the time, even when I was home. As Aamodt states, this was a classic case of “role overload”. Role overload is defined as, “the extent to which an employee is able to psychologically handle the number of roles and tasks assigned” (Aamodt, 2013, p. 548). For months I was able to handle my schedule and my new role as well as all the responsibility that I had been given because I believed that if I stepped up to the plate, management would take notice and it would propel me into the position I desired. The reality of it was that I was being taken advantage of. This was something that I began to resent. Just as our text suggests, this was a situation that I had no control over nor did I understand why I was being forced to continue with such an unrealistic and almost cruel schedule.
Health-related negative effects. Aamodt lists several health related effects that this type of schedule was having on me and has on approximately 25% of all employees that work a “swing” shift or “graveyard” shift. Both of which I was working. Aamodt reviewed research (Smith, Folkard, Tucker, & Evans, 2011) that indicated working these shifts can cause the following: “Sleep problems, chronic fatigue, accidents and injuries, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, increased cancer risk, increased absenteeism from work, lower job satisfaction, lower job performance and increased social and family problems” (Aamodt, 2013, p. 559). I experienced some of these negative effects like sleep problems, chronic fatigue and was diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorders that required testing and medication. I also began taking an anti-depressant and a prescription sleep aid. Eventually I become so physically ill, that I was out of work for a month. My doctor wrote a letter to my employer explaining that I would not be able to return to the same work schedule due to my health. I was eventually pushed out of the company six months later with no opportunity to meet with management to discuss my situation or the option to return to work with a more “normal” schedule that would accommodate both me and the company. I never returned to the hotel industry after that.
Solutions to Reducing Stress Work related stress is inevitable but there are many ways that one can reduce or even eliminate stress. Exercise is one way that I have been able to drastically reduce both physical and mental stress from my life. Aamodt says, “Exercising not only keeps your heart strong and resistant to the effects of stress, but can also help reduce your stress levels during particular stressful moments.” Today, more and more organizations realize how important it is to help their employees deal with stress. A company sponsored exercise program would be a solution that I would implement by offering company paid gym memberships or even building a gym on-site for employee to work out before or after work or even on their lunch breaks. I would encourage employees to form a group that could get together during lunch breaks or after work to go for a walk or a jog together. In an effort to help facilitate this idea, I would extend the time allowed for lunch breaks from 30 minutes to an hour to give employees enough time to eat their lunch and go for a walk or work out in the gym. Another solution that I would implement in the workplace would involve diet. For example, in many organizations, there is an employee cafeteria, especially in hotels. I would require that fresh fruits and vegetables be available for employees at all times. These are foods that have been proven to help reduce or counteract the effects of stress on the human body. I would set up a program that offered nutritional information and even easy, healthy recipes for employees. I would also make sure that there were plenty of water coolers or bottled water available to employees for free. Our text states that staying hydrated helps to combat the effects of stress.

CONCLUSION Workplace related stress is something that we all experience and it can manifest itself in different ways in different people. While some people are able to manage the stress on their own, employers and their organizations would benefit from taking on a more active role in assisting their employees with reducing stress by offering educational programs, support networks and the space and time to get sufficient exercise and healthy meals. There are some people that need the support and the education in order to know how to best take care of themselves so that they can be healthy, happy and more productive workers.

REFERENCES

Aamodt, M. G. (2013). Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.…...

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