A Little Bit of Stress Is Useful

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“A little bit of stress is useful - it keeps people in their toes.” Discuss.

In order to answer this question one must first define the various elements in the question. Stress can be defined as ‘The harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker’ . One can define useful, as stress making a person happy, productive and efficient. Also in terms of an organisation making it successful, efficient and effective. You should use more industrial words here eg producing more units

Millions of people suffer from stress on a daily basis. Stress can affect a person’s physical health such as increased heart rate and rise in blood pressure, and can affect a person mentally such as depression. This in turn for organisations can be devastating and potentially detrimental, as this can lead to poor industrial relations and high absenteeism, ‘IHC estimates that 13.4 million working days a year are lost to stress’. On the face of it this would suggest that stress is indeed a bad thing.

Indeed a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that those participants who experienced chronic high stress on the job had a considerably greater chance of suffering another heart attack than did those in less stressful jobs. Furthermore there were many cases in world war one of sudden deaths to soldiers who had not endured any wounds, these men probably died of shock when responding to stress.

In 1967 Holmes and Rahe carried out a study now called the stress scale where they looked at 5,000 medical patients’ medical records as a way to determine specifically which stressful events caused illnesses, in hierarchical order from the most stressful events to the least. Death of a spouse topped the list followed by, divorce, martial separation and a jail sentence. All these events are intrinsically negative and as such it would be easy to conclude that stress is bad for anyone as it is caused by bad events.

However Hooshmand conversely states that ‘stress is just another misunderstood term in the medical practice’ he goes on to say that ‘the phrase any stress is bad (is) nothing further from the truth’. Indeed Lazarus mentions how ‘Hans Selyve suggested two types (of stress) distress and eustress. Distress is the destructive stress illustrated by anger and aggression and it is said to damage health. Eustress is the constructive type, illustrated by emotions associated with emphatic concerns for others... compatible with or protective of good health’ This is significant, according to Selyve and Lazarus there is, as mentioned above, a ‘distress’ type of stress which is bad- this is where there is too much stress. For example if a manager were to give a deadline which was impossible this may over stimulate and de motivate an employee causing them to do no work. But also mentioned is a ‘eustress’ type of stress which can be seen as ‘useful’ and healthy ‘keeping people on their toes’. This would be where there are small amounts of stress for example if a manager was to set a strict but reasonable deadline it may push the employee on to work harder, stimulating an increasing the employees energy levels to meet the challenge . This shall be mentioned in more detail later on in the essay. Although Lazarus goes on to mention that this hypothesis ‘has not been adequately supported.... by empirical research’ there is other evidence to support this claim of eustress. In 1908 Robert M. Yerkes and J. D. Dodson created an experiential relationship between performance and pressure, now known as ‘Yerkes-Dodson Law ’. The law shows that performance actually increases with pressure i.e. stress: the eustress that Selyve went on about, but only up to a point. When levels of pressure become too high, performance decreases, this is known as distress. The process is illustrated graphically as a rounded, inverted U-shaped curve...
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