Five unnoticed sources of work stress
By: Pulkit Sharma

It is a well-known fact that in today's fast-paced competitive world all jobs have become very demanding that creates an unwarranted stress at workplace for the employees. Stress is a normal part of life. Some degree of stress gives us the drive to get going and enhances our performance. However, too much of it spoils our performance and has the potential of causing a gamut of physical and psychological problems.

In order to help employees deal with workplace stress better, we need to carefully understand the various sources of work stress. Often, when psychologists and other experts look for top causes of workplace stress, they restrict themselves to the work environment. This approach does provide a relevant understanding; however, it is largely limited. Many a times stress at job is not really stress due to the job but due to personality factors and personal life of the employee. Much has been talked about the stress that awaits us on the job but little about the stress that unfolds from within when we are at workplace. The latter contributes significantly to major causes of stress in the workplace.

A few months ago, a Gurgaon based MNC approached me to provide psychological help the employees suffering from job stress. A large number of their employees were losing interest in work, having physical problems without a clear medical reason, using alcohol and drugs and indulging in heated arguments. Their in-house expert had carried out a thorough psychological analysis of major causes of stress in the workplace. After that they came up with a plan to make significant alternations in the work environment. Although the plan was executed, it did not reduce the stress that employees were experiencing.They were exasperated, having tried all standard techniques to understand and deal with stress. A close interaction with each of the stressed out employee revealed that the mindset that they were bringing to the job was creating stress.

Five unnoticed and yet common sources of stress in the workplace include:

. Fear of Loss: Although, it is desirable to strive to win and achieve one should not dread loss. People who consider losing synonymous with 'end of the world' are dead scared of even the minor ups and downs. In order to avoid even the slightest loss, they easily overwork often sacrificing their health and mental peace. This causes physical and mental fatigue and leads to burnout.

. Disturbed interpersonal Relationships: If a person is having a hard-time in any close interpersonal relationship they are bound to be overwhelmed by emotions which adversely affect their work performance. Separations, break-ups, intense conflicts, small arguments, insecurity, dominance- all breed frustration and generate distress. If a person's mind is flooded by intense emotions, their cognitive abilities lie dormant. This leads to errors and underachievement at work. As a result the person feels frustrated and ashamed and finds work stressful.

. Envy: It is absolutely human to compare oneself with others and feel either better or worse in the process. However, some people harbor excessive envy towards others- they wish that they should solely possess all the good things in the world. Envy makes a person enraged and empty from inside leading to a loss of constructive psychological resources. This has an adverse impact on the person's relationships within the organization creating conflicts and stress.

. Broken Self: Some people have an extremely low self-esteem. They feel worthless, helpless and hopeless. They are never able to give their 100% to the job out of a sense of relentless fear and shame. This is a circular process: low self-esteem leads to fear and shame which further tarnish the self-esteem. When the person's confidence is low, even the most basic tasks appear to be a marathon. This becomes a major source of stress at workplace.

. Lack of Clarity: It is unadvisable to have rigid goals in life but a certain degree of clarity along with flexibility is necessary. People who do not know where they wish to go are never able to give their 100% to the job. Rather than recognizing their fickle-mindedness they wrongly see the work as too demanding. This generates a negative mind-set towards the job and leads to stress.

Therefore in order to deal with job stress, for both individual employees and organizations it is important to create space where an inward personal introspection is possible. Through individual and group psychological work personal and interpersonal factors that causework stress need to be understood and resolved. Only then one can effectively deal with stress at workplace.

Pulkit Sharma is Clinical Psychologist & Spiritual Therapist in private practice at Pondicherry (Puducherry), near Auroville. Email:- info@thepsychologistindia.com