One of my dearest friends recently experienced extreme pain and acidity in her abdomen which gave her a scare.  Her doctor diagnosed her with acid reflux which was caused by too much stress in her life.  She was advised to slow down and take a break.  She was told to change her lifestyle because her stress levels are causing her to get really sick.  It was an urgent call to take dramatic steps to manage her stress levels or else, it would cause irreparable damage to her body—a situation that you wouldn’t want to be in when you are nearing 40.

I must admit, I’ve experienced moments of stress in my life but never to the extent of it badly affecting my health.  They say that Stress in itself is not necessarily bad because there are positive and negative types of stress.  Some types of stress, like that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling that you go through when you are about to talk in front of a crowd, walk down the aisle or get interviewed for a job are what you might consider good stress because it makes you feel more alive and alert.

The bad types of stress make you want to lie down and curl up in bed feeling vulnerable, sick and tired.  There are many causes of bad stress like major catastrophes and crises (i.e. loss of a loved one, major floods, medical emergencies, etc).  But often, the types of stress that make people sick are not as dramatic.  In fact, the bad types of stress that make people sick are often nagging unfinished or unresolved issues that chip away at one’s wellbeing such as troubled relationships, financial worries and insecurities.

In the workplace, stress is an issue that is often disregarded until someone breaks.  Like diseases, I believe, it is smarter to take preventive steps to avoid extreme stress, rather than deal with it when the last straw breaks.  In order to prevent and manage stress, it is therefore important to understand the causes of stress.

Causes of Stress in the Workplace

Let me share with you an excerpt from a report that my colleague, Ms. Lita Buendia-Aguila (in-house HR consultant of HR Club Philippines), made on Stress in the workplace.

Ms. Lita shares…

“Stress, it seems, is everywhere – across the language of our everyday lives – and it has grown rapidly in the workplace in the recent years. Research studies show that almost 80% of health problems are related to work. When left unchecked, stress can bring great havoc to the overall performance of both the employee and company as well.

Modern definitions of stress recognize that it is a personal experience caused by pressure or demands on an individual, and impacts upon his ability to cope. Work-related stress occurs when the demands of the job and the capabilities and resources of the employee to meet those demands do not match. Whatever it is, the negative effects of stress should never be ignored.

In order to deal with work stress, it is necessary to know what really causes it. Awareness of its possible sources can help managers and employees focus on the same and handle work problems with confidence. The following factors have been identified as potential causes of stress that employers should manage properly:

  1. Workload – Workload is the most pervasive factor linked to work-related stress. Too much work, coupled with a need to meet deadlines, exerts a lot of pressure on the individual worker and impacts his well-being.
  2. Relationships – Relationships with superiors, subordinates and peers can all play a part in an employee’s stress levels. Problems in the workplace, such as: favoritism, lack of feedback, bullying, rumor-mongering, cliques, difficult co-workers and bosses, and the feeling of being an outcastcan be one of the greatest sources of stress.
  3. Support – Employees who do not receive adequate information and support from their superiors and colleagues may feel neglected and will most likely feel anxious in their daily work performance, resulting to stress.
  4. Change – Ever changing rules and other company policies are found to be major work stressors. Change does not have to be at an organizational level to have a strong impact on individuals or workgroups. Changes in team members, line supervisors and managers or the type of work or technology can be just as stressful.
  5. Recognition – Employees who work hard for the welfare of the company deserves recognition in either monetary or non-monetary form. However, some managers do not express their appreciation for the improved performance and good deeds of their employees. Non-acknowledgement of such actions can cause stress on employees, thinking that their hard work is just being put into waste.
  6. Job Security – Uncertainty about keeping their job and the feelings of being out of control in situations related to work are proven causes of stress. Talks about the possibility of having lay-offs, transfers, mergers, acquisitions and the idea of outsourcing will definitely put employees on a stress button.
    Role – Stress may be triggered when an employee does not have a clear understanding of his role within the organization, or when there is ambiguity with regards to his position and degree of responsibility over others.
  7. Working Conditions – The work shift, long or unsociable hours, noise, lighting, temperature, office lay-out, furniture and equipment, and employee facilities are just some examples of potential work stressors.”

How can you relieve yourselves of stress?   Do check out my next column article on “Stress Management in the Workplace”

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy and HR Club Philippines.  Her organization offers public seminars and in-house training on Human Resource Management and Business Skills Development.   You may email your comments and questions to: