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David Baxter

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Problems with Workplace Stress Continue to Grow

Stress is an inevitable fact of life for employees who spend eight or more hours a day in cramped, anxious and hyper-competitive workplaces. But an inability to control one's response to such common irritants can only inflame an already delicate situation, leading to high levels of dissatisfaction, confrontation and, in extreme cases, physical violence. While high-profile examples of furious workers "going postal" and severely injuring or killing co-workers are rare, intimidation and conflict occur in nearly every workplace.

Power hierarchies often make for difficult relationships between superiors and those below them, and such perceived inequalities can lead to private resentment and outright bullish behavior. Those whose positions place them lower on the chain of command often feel powerless to confront others who could potentially put their job status at risk. Stories of pointedly unpopular bosses are unfortunately the norm, and some managers feel the need to refrain from niceties for fear of diminishing their status among employees. While productivity is, of course, the number one concern of most businesses, unrealistic expectations often come at the expense of

"Desk rage" is the newest catchphrase used to describe the angry worker phenomenon, and though it's hardly a recent development, news sources consistently report that the problem is spreading. Is this a sensational, alarmist response to the public outcry over outsourcing and its side effects? Does this sense of heightened competition for fewer and lower paying positions come from an unfounded fear or a neccessary drive for self-preservation? Perceptions aside, this is a very real issue. Its short-tempered symptoms can be expressed inwardly through self-loathing and depression or acted out in shouting matches and rude exchanges, mistreatment of office equipment, and actual fistfights.

Americans have some of the world's most demanding work schedules, with fewer days off on average than any other developed nation and a high rate of workers who choose not to take their available vacations. Dissatisfaction levels are disproportionately high. In a 2000 survey by the University of North Carolina, 45 percent of participants reported having considered career changes in order to avoid unpleasant people at the office. Of course, in such claustrophobic environments where employees often spend more time with co-workers than friends and loved ones, disagreements and strong opinions are inevitable. The options for combating desk rage are as varied as its causes. Because excessive individual workloads often sit atop the list, a more even distribution of responsibility can reduce anxiety and prevent potential conflicts. Many companies also encourage complimentary worker wellness programs that include structured relaxation and exercise classes. With an increasing number of employees seeking outside therapy, dedicated efforts to maintain a friendly, open workspace can serve to increase productivity. And despite an increased awareness and threats of legal action, sexual harassment is also a major source of work-related tension. Bosses must often resort to staff conferences on the particulars of appropriate behavior that may seem obvious but can be easily disregarded.

Self-help seminars on workplace efficiency constitute a considerable industry whose influence continues to grow. While some may scoff at such moralizing lectures, concerns over satisfaction and safety can make extraordinary measures neccessary. And for those whose jobs serve as sources of anxiety and depression, positive change is essential. Those who sacrifice employee satisfaction in the name of productivity may ultimately suffer for their decisions, as a happy employee is, of course, a more efficient worker.
 

Halo

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What an interesting article David, thanks for the post.

I went to the the actual full article on Deskrage and found this part to be of particular interest to me:

The people more likely to experience desk rage are those with the least power, says Enyeart, those ?who feel like they?re at the mercy of everyone else.?

I can definitely relate to this one. My deskrage tends to surface more and more when I am feeling overwhelmed and taken advantage of.

What I did find interesting also was that this article describes the three different types of reactions to deskrage:

During times of flooding, people react in one of three ways. They either a) blame others, leading to screaming and yelling, b) blame themselves, leading to depression and self-loathing, or c) react rationally (correct answer), realizing that stressful events are part of life and findings ways to problem-solve and handle them.

I definitely fit into the a) or b) category depending on how I am doing in my own personal life to start with. If I am already in a depressed or down mood then I normaly will resort to b) but if it has to do with being taken advantage of I definitely resort to a) which is when my temper and anger all comes flooding out and the destruction of office equipment as mentioned above in David's post happens as well.

Okay, so maybe I am not the model employee :eek:

Again thanks for the great thought provoking article David :)
 

cindylo

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Hi All

I have recently read a book called "Working with monsters:how to deal with the workplace psychopath" by John Clarke.

I work in an industry that is known to have very high levels of workplace bullying. I really believe that people that do not have the right personality for management are often in high positions because they enjoy the power OVER people as opposed to using power for the good of the organisation and individuals that work for the organisation. I have personally witnessed a manager almost destroy 3 lower level managers in a row. All three resigned. One of them may never be able to work again due to the psychological damage done to her. This manager was doing things like requesting these lower managers to research etc and then presenting their work as her own!!!! She was also defaming one of these managers by stating that the lower manager was "schizophrenic"etc etc. I really think there is a need to screen managers and other people in power positions for their suitability for being in charge of people. I believe not to many people are the right sort of people for these jobs. I understand desk rage completely. People that aspire to have power over people are usually manipulative enough to get into these positions. People that do not have a high need for power are probably better suited to be in the power positions but are just at work trying to do a good job. All that floats to the top is not necessarily cream!! And we need good people at the top to model good work behavior. Not how to destroy any person that gets in the way of your next promotion. (A few politicians are coming to mind)

Just my thoughts.

Cindy
 

David Baxter

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I agree, cindylo. That seems to be especially true in the public service and in the high tech sector.

There is a fascinating and almost frighteningly accurate book that was published a number of years ago called The Peter Principle. The general thesis of the book is this: As long as they exhibit some competence, people tend to get promoted repeatedly, until they reach a level which is in reality beyond their level of competence or expertise. After that, the promotions stop. And the goal for the individual, who by now is aware s/he is in over his or her head, is to hang on desperately to that position - at any cost and no matter who s/he has to run over.
 

ThatLady

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I agree, cindylo, with what you've said. Those who get promoted tend to be power-seekers, and that's a real shame. I try to keep in mind that, as one rises in an organization, one does not gain more people to work for them. One simply works for more people. If management would just focus on that thought, a lot of the problems we see in the workforce would disappear.
 

SS8282

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Whatever happened to work ethics, and teamwork? It's pretty ironic that the ability work as a team, as well as an individual, is almost a 'requirement', and yet, the politics and competition promote the 'ambitious' worker into working only for him/herself.

Then, there are those workers who work extra hard and work long hours in order to keep their jobs. The stress some people have to put up with is incredible.
 

Halo

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one does not gain more people to work for them. One simply works for more people.

I thought that I had posted this yesterday but I was wondering if you could explain what you meant by this statement TL. I have read it over and over and still don't understand it :confused:

Thanks
:)
 
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ThatLady

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I thought that I had posted this yesterday but I was wondering if you could explain what you meant by this statement TL. I have read it over and over and still don't understand it :confused:

Thanks
:)

Sure, Nancy. People who look at management positions with their egos instead of their heads think of their positions as ones that show their prowess. "I have 20 people working for ME!" Actually, that's a dumb statement. Those people are working for the company, not some individual within the company. They're doing their jobs to create whatever product or service the company produces. Yet, the egomaniac manager thinks of him/herself as the center of it all, with all these people laboring just for him/her.

In reality, and in my experience, the higher I've risen in a company the more people I worked FOR. I'm not producing product or service. I'm helping others to do so. It's my job to get the way cleared so they can do their jobs efficiently and with as little difficulty as possible, and to make that experience as enjoyable as possible, and as rewarding.

Now, who's working for whom? As I see it, it's ME working for THEM! It sorta takes the big-shot ego game out of the equation, don't you think? ;)
 

Halo

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Thanks TL. :)

I never really thought of it that way but what you are saying makes total sense and I completely agree with you.
 

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