Work Overload

Topics: Occupational health psychology, Stress, Coping skill Pages: 7 (1994 words) Published: April 4, 2005
This paper will examine the common organizational stressor known as work overload. To begin, the stressor will first be defined and explained in terms of its causes. The paper will then focus on how to deal with the stressor by suggesting a variety of organizational approaches. Individuals who have specialized training in the field of work overload will then be introduced. Unique approaches designed by these professionals as a method of dealing with work overload will be examined. The paper will conclude by describing how scientific literature and research might be of assistance to the specialists.

Having too much to do with too little time to do it is a common perception in the workplace. This problem, often referred to as work or role overload, can be caused by a variety of factors. Things such as unrealistic deadlines, lack of appropriate break periods, and increasingly heightened expectations are common causes of work-related stress that exist throughout a wide variety of occupations (Shimazu & Kosugi, 2003). Other harmful factors that are related to work overload include rapid change, disordered multitasking, uncertainty, and interruptions during work. While it is possible for many hours of concentration on a well-defined job to have a positive effect on a person's mental state, it is also possible for less than an hour of chaos in the workplace to have a hazardous effect on a person's health (Zohar, 1999).

People who serve as managers and supervisors are most susceptible to work overload. One potential explanation for this is the open-ended nature of the managerial job (Johns & Saks, 2001). The difficulties encountered when trying to juggle the demands of superiors with the needs of subordinates has the potential to provoke a lot of stress. Different personality types can also result in different ways of handling a heavy workload. For example, research indicates that introverts have notably different coping mechanisms for stress than extroverts (Dormann & Zapf, 2002). These mechanisms can vary in effectiveness when handling organizational stressors such as work overload. Another factor that relates to how people are influenced by heavy workloads is sex. For males, work stress is more strongly related to concerns about roles in the power structure of an organization, whereas female employees experience more severe stress when a conflict exists between job requirements and family relationships (Vagg, Spielberger, & Wasala, 2002).

Early warning signs of work overload include headaches, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, short temper, upset stomach, and low job satisfaction (Dormann & Zapf, 2002). These symptoms are common among anyone who is subjected to high levels of stress. However, if the stressor is allowed to develop a variety of more serious conditions can surface. These conditions can be psychological (anxiety, depression, anger), physical (headaches, hypertension, ulcers), behavioral (sleeping disorders, emotional outbursts, violence and aggression), and even organizational (absenteeism, low morale, reduced productivity) (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). When left unchecked, these consequences can debilitate a person. This is why it is essential to effectively be able to deal with work overload.

There are a variety of approaches that can be used to deal with excessive work demands. Research suggests that one of the most essential techniques is to identify the causes and symptoms of job stress (Shimazu & Kosugi, 2003). It is important to recognize personal responses to stressors such as work overload so that solutions can be tailored to specific problems. One such solution to the problem of having excessive work is to speak to management or colleagues before work overload becomes a serious problem (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). This type of communication can help to eliminate unnecessary stress. Another solution involves pacing work based on potential (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). This requires taking on...

Bibliography: Dormann, C., & Zapf, D. (2002). Social stressors at work, irritation, and depressive
symptoms: Accounting for unmeasured third variables in a multi-wave study
Ettner, S. L., & Grzywacz, J. G. (2001). Worker 's perceptions of how jobs affect health:
a social ecological perspective
Johns, Gary & Saks, Alan M. (2001). Organizational Behaviour: Understanding and managing life at work. Toronto: Addison, Wesley, Longman.
Shimazu, A., & Kosugi, S. (2003). Job stressors, coping, and psychological distress
among Japanese employees: interplay between active and non-active coping
Vagg, P. R., Spielberger, C. D., & Wasala, C. F. (2002). Effects of organizational level
and gender on stress in the workplace
Zohar, D. (1999). When things go wrong: The effect of daily work hassles on effort,
exertion and negative mood
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