Impact of Job Stress on Health

 There is  OVERWHELMING research that workplace bullying can be devastating to one’s health, both emotional and physical. PGB
 

Job Stress and Health

Excerpt from a publication of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace:

Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which responds by preparing the body for defensive action. The nervous system is aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse, deepen respiration, and tense the muscles. This response (sometimes called the fight or flight response) is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations. The response is preprogrammed biologically. Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home.

Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or disease escalates.

In the past 20 years, many studies have looked at the relationship between job stress and a variety of ailments. Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family and friends are examples of stress-related problems that are quick to develop and are commonly seen in these studies. These early signs of job stress are usually easy to recognize. But the effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see because chronic diseases take a long time to develop and can be influenced by many factors other than stress. Nonetheless, evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.

Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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How does job stress contribute to cardiovascular disease, and what can be done to intervene?

 

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of death in the United States.

Considerable evidence has demonstrated that occupational stress contributes to CVD morbidity and mortality. It is estimated that up to 23 percent of heart disease related deaths per year could be prevented if the levels of job strain in the most stressful occupations were reduced to average levels seen in other occupations …

Job stress results from the interaction of the worker and the working conditions. Specific workplace features of concern include highly repetitive, monotonous tasks, excessive job demands and time pressure, racial or sexual discrimination; management style, interpersonal relationships, work roles, job insecurity, and environmental exposures such as constant background noise, or heat. One very widely used definition of stressful work is the combination of high demands with little or no leeway for decision-making about the job (also referred to as “high demand/low control” or “job strain”). A high demand with insufficient rewards (known as
“effort/reward imbalance”) has also been highlighted as problematic.

Evidence supporting the multiple mechanisms by which job stress contributes to cardiovascular diseases (and other chronic health conditions) comes from a vast body of international scientific literature that includes epidemiologic studies, patho-physiological studies of animals and humans, and behavioral studies. Stressful conditions on the job can result in at least three main mechanisms or pathways:

1. Changes in physiological processes that increase the risk for CVD—high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weakened immune response, high cortisol, and changes in appetite and digestive patterns.

2. Changes in behavior that increase the risk for CVD—low physical activity levels, excessive coffee consumption, smoking, poor dietary habits.

3. Development of mental health conditions (anxiety and depression) that independently increases the risk for a range of chronic health conditions, including CVD (obesity, stroke, atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, etc.).

… evidence from intervention research shows clear benefits for a “systems” approach that emphasizes primary prevention, and that combines approaches for improving working conditions with approaches for managing occupational stress-related illnesses.  Examples of primary prevention approaches include clarifying worker roles, increasing worker decision making opportunities, improving worker management communication, ensuring a respectful work environment, and increasing social interaction between workers. Examples of managing occupational stress-related illness include training on stress management techniques, providing space for exercise and medication, and providing access to employee assistance programs …

Authors: Suzanne Nobrega, M.S., and Manuel Cifuentes, M.D, Sc.D., University of MA Lowell

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STUDY: BAD MANAGERS POTENTIALLY LETHAL

In a groundbreaking 2008 study, Swedish researchers, led by Anna Nyberg at the Stress Institute in Stockholm, studied more than 3,100 men over a 10 year period in typical work settings. The researchers reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that employees who had managers who were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive and uncommunicative were 60 percent more likely to suffered a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition. Employees who worked with “good” leaders were 40 percent less likely to suffer heart problems.

Women Too Nice to Get Corner Office?

Or maybe we should examine the workplace and ask ourselves why it’s detrimental to one’s career to show respect, fair play and teamsmanship? PGB

Exhibit A: Women told not to be too nice

The Wall Street Journal writes about advice that Citigroup provided to women who wanted to succeed in their careers.  Laminated cards, distributed to some female Citigroup employees,  list some things women do to sabotage their careers.  According to the cards, women tend to:

1. Speak too softly and aren’t heard

2. Groom in public, which “deemphasizes…capability.”

3. Sit too demurely, rather than leaning forward at the table in meetings.

4. Speak last in meetings. Early speakers are seen as more assertive and authoritative.

5. Ask permission, while men inform.

6.  Apologize too much for every little thing.

7.  Smile too often, which can dilute a message.

8. Play too fair.

9. Operate behind the scenes, which enables competitors to take credit for one’s work.

10. Offer a limp handshake.

The WSJ took the position that took “the view that these suggestions were helpful ways for women to do well in finance. ”

The list emanated from a book, “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers,”  by Dr. Lois P. Frankel.

The WSJ quotes her stating the list was taken out of context BUT:

“The women who say they don’t have to do these things are naïve,” Frankel said. “There are different rules for men and women in the workplace. To be successful, you have to figure out the boundaries on the playing field and figure out where to play your game on the edge. All games are won at the edge.”

U of Virigina clears itself of fault in alleged bullycide

Excerpts from an article by The Chronicle of Higher Education about the suicide of  Kevin Morrissey (pictured below), the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, who was allegedly bullied by his boss.  See: http://chronicle.com/article/UVa-Audit-Finds-Questionable/125034/ for the full article.

October 20, 2010

But Finds ‘Questionable’ Management by  Editor

By Robin Wilson

An audit of The Virginia Quarterly Review released on Wednesday by the University of Virginia says that Ted Genoways, the journal’s editor, had “questionable” managerial skills and spent magazine money without approval to publish a book of his own poetry. But the audit report stops short of saying that Mr. Genoways was guilty of workplace bullying, which some journal staff members say contributed to the suicide of the journal’s managing editor, Kevin Morrissey.

The internal investigation, which was commissioned in August by the university’s new president, Teresa A. Sullivan, also found that while UVA should streamline its procedures for dealing with employee complaints, the university took “appropriate actions” in dealing with complaints from journal’s staff about  Genoways. “Because some individuals were not aware of all that was going on,” says the eight-page report, “they incorrectly concluded that things were not being done.”

A spokeswoman said the university is “committed to publishing VQR,” although she said the university will make several changes in the way the journal is managed.
The report does not specifically mention accusations of workplace bullying made against  Genoways by some staff members, and subsequently by  Morrissey’s sister, Maria Morrissey, but it does say that such behavior can be hard to discern. “It is sometimes difficult to define where the line gets crossed between a tough manager and an unreasonable one,” says the report, which points out that “no laws exist” banning workplace bullying, as they do banning sexual harassment.

The report says that, by his own admission,  Genoways’s “capacity to supervise and lead his staff well and to operate his department in accordance with university policies is questionable.” It recommends that the university establish a panel “to strengthen the institution’s policies and structure with regards to acceptable workplace conduct,” something the university has agreed to do.

Genoways came to Virginia as editor of VQR in 2003 and brought Morrissey in as his deputy. By all accounts, the two were quite close until about a year ago, when  Genoways hired Alana Levinson-LaBrosse, a young UVA graduate and donor, to help raise money for the magazine. Morrissey, who had suffered from serious depression for which he had taken medication,  reportedly felt he was being pushed aside.  In the months before Morrissey took his life, people close to the magazine say that Genoways barely communicated with Morrissey and other members of the journal’s small staff,  frequently working from home instead of from the VQR offices. In a letter that Genoways sent to contributors and others after  Morrissey’s death, he said it was Morrissey who had been distancing himself—and he blamed the behavior on  Morrissey’s depression.

Last July, after becoming angry about an exchange that Morrissey and another staff member had with Levinson-LaBrosse,  Genoways banished  Morrissey to work from home.  Morrissey, worried that he might lose his job, made 17 calls to the university’s human-resources department, the president’s office, and university officials responsible for employee assistance and faculty-staff relations, said his sister. Other staff members also complained to university officials about Genoways and told UVA administrators that they worried that Morrissey was so distraught he might kill himself.

In late July, Morrissey shot himself in the head, leaving a note that said: “I just couldn’t bear it anymore.”

Although the report did not find fault with the university itself, it said the institution’s way of dealing with complaints from employees should be re-evaluated. Under the management response, President Sullivan wrote that a new structure will be established for complaints to be taken, registered, and tracked—and for them to be investigated and have the findings reported.

Critics argue that UVA might have prevented the alleged bullycide of Morrissey by addressing the obvious dysfunction of the journal operations.