The same stressful events may lead to distress and strain for one person and to excitement and healthy results for another. Even when all employees agree that a source of stress is negative, some will cope better than others. Individual differences play a central role in the stress-strain relationship. Several factors that help explain these individual differences are:

  1. Life Events: Some employees are affected by work place stress because they experience life events requiring change outside of work. The stress of coping with the changes away from the workplace leaves these employees less able to cope with work-related stressors. Dr. Thomas H Holmes and his colleagues have developed a stress scale measured in life change units (LUC), and have predicted that people whose LCU points exceed 300 run the risk of becoming seriously ill within the next two years.
  2. Holmes Scale of Stress Values.

    Holmes Scale of Stress Values

    If, in the course of a year, a person experiences life events whose points total 150 to 300, that person has a 50% chance of a serious health problem in the following year. The risk rises to at least 70% among people whose total points exceed 300. In other words, life events requiring readjustment appear to be a source of stress.

  3. Type A Behaviour Pattern: Type A behaviour pattern is a complex of personality and behavioural characteristics, including competitiveness, time urgency, social status insecurity, aggression hostility and a quest for achievements. Type A people set high standards, push themselves to achieve and worry about time pressure. They try to get more and more done in less and less time.
  4. Type A Behaviour Pattern

    Type A Behaviour Pattern

    According to M Friedman and R. H Rosenman, Type A individual is "aggressively involved Stress in a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and if required to do so, against the opposing efforts of other things or other persons". These characteristics tend to be highly prized and positively associated with ambition and the successful acquisition of material goods.

    The medical advice to hard-working Type As is to slow down and learns to relax. Organizations face ethical and practical challenges in managing these individuals. The need to accomplish work and the Type A person's need to achieve might suggest that managers should assign Type A employees to difficult projects. Type A behaviour has been linked to high performance in academic settings, but the evidence for such a link in other settings has been mixed. So far, the research literature does not provide firm conclusions to help managers resolve this ethical dilemma. Other things being equal, it might be best to select Type A employees for the less complex jobs or at least to notify them of the risks.

  5. Type B Behaviour Pattern: The alternative to the type A behaviour pattern is the Type B behaviour pattern. According to M Friedman and R. H Rosenman, Type B's are "rarely harried by the desire to obtain a wildly increasing number of things or participate in an endless growing series of events in an ever decreasing amount of time".
  6. Type B's behaviour pattern is l Never suffer from a sense of time urgency with its accompanying impatience;

    • Feel no need to display or discuss either their achievements or accomplishments unless such exposure is demanded by the situation;
    • Play for fun and relaxation, rather than to exhibit their superiority at any cost; and
    • Can relax without guilt.

    Type B people are less coronary prone, but if they do have a heart attack, they do not appear to recover as well as those with type A personalities.

    Organizations can also be characterized as Type A or Type B organizations. Type A individuals in Type B organizations and Type B individuals in Type A organizations experience stress related to a misfit between their personality type and the predominant type of the organization. However, preliminary evidence suggests that Type A individuals in Type A organizations are most at risk of health disorders.

    Type A or Type B characteristics reflect an individual's desire for achievement, perfectionism, competitiveness, and ability to relax.

    Excerpt from Type A - Type B scale

    Excerpt from Type A - Type B scale

  7. Personality Hardiness: Instead of looking for what makes people susceptible to the effects of stress, some psychologists have focused on identifying and describing people. Who resist illness when exposed to stressors. This view considers people's appraisal to stressors as well as the stressors themselves. People who have personality hardiness resist strain reactions when subjected to stressful events more effectively than do people who are not hardy. The components of personality hardiness are
    • Commitment (versus alienation)
    • Control (versus powerlessness) and
    • Challenge (versus threat).
  8. Commitment: Commitment is a curiosity and engagement with one's environment that leads to the experience of activities as interesting and enjoyable. Commitment therefore refers to a person's belief in the truth, importance and interest value of self and work.

    Control: Control is a person's belief that he or she can influence events, coupled with the tendency to act accordingly. Control therefore is an ability to influence the process and outcomes of events that lead to the experience of activities as personal choices.

    Challenge: Challenge is the belief that people seek change rather than routine and stability. The hardy personality appears to use these three components actively to engage in transformational coping is actively changing an event into something less subjectively stressful by viewing it in a broader life perspective, by altering the course and outcome of the event through action and / or by achieving greater understanding of the process.

    The alternative to transformational coping is regressive coping, a much less healthy form of coping with stressful events characterized by a passive avoidance of events by decreasing interaction with the environment. Regressive coping may lead to short-term stress reduction at the cost of long-term healthy life adjustment.

    People experiencing significant stressors are less likely to become mentally or physically ill if they have a high level of hardiness. These people are likely to use such coping strategies as keeping the stressors in perspective, knowing that they have the resources to cope, and seeing stressors as opportunities rather than threats.

  9. Negative Affectivity: A person who is high in negative affectivity has a mood state characterized by anger, fear and depression. This type of person tends to focus on the negative side of life, including the bad traits of self and others. People with negative affectivity tend to perceive themselves as being under stress and in poor health. Organizational attempts to alleviate stress may have relatively little mpact on employees with negative affectivity.
  10. Self-Reliance: Self-reliance is a personality attribute related to how people form and maintain supportive attachments with others. Self-reliance is a healthy secure, interdependent pattern of behaviour. It may appear paradoxical because a person appears independent while maintaining host of supportive attachments.
    • Self-reliant people respond to stressful, threatening situations by reaching out to others appropriately.
    • Self-reliance is a flexible, responsive strategy of forming and maintaining multiple, diverse relationships.
    • Self-reliant people are confident, enthusiastic and persistent in facing challenges.
  11. Self-reliance results in a secure pattern of attachment and interdependent behaviour. The two insecure patterns of attachment are counter dependence and over dependence.

    Counter dependence: Counter dependence is an unhealthy, insecure pattern of behaviour Stress that leads to separation in relationships with other people. Counter dependence may be characterized as a rigid, dismissing, denial of the need for other people in difficult and stressful times. Counter dependent people exhibit a fearless, aggressive and actively powerful response to challenges.

    Over dependence: Over dependence is also an unhealthy, insecure pattern of behaviour. Over dependence may be characterized as a desperate, preoccupied attempt to achieve a sense of security through relationships. Over dependence prevents a person from being able to organize and maintain healthy relationships and thus creates much distress.

  12. Social Support: Social support system is the circle of people who care about the individual. A person's resistance to stress also may be strengthened by his or her social support system. A strong social support system provides a place to share problems and put them in perspective. To make the social support system effective, the person must perceive that the support system enhances self-esteem, is available when needed and provides relationships that are satisfying. A person's social support system includes spouse, relatives and friends.

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