3dSince we began our work together with the assumption that stress is a fact of life, it's fitting that we give you some things to consider about the kinds of normal and abnormal stressors in your daily work life.

The early work of John Adams (no, not the Founding Father, the organizational development expert) (1978, 1980) is where we would like to start. His research was with middle managers in hospitals (people with many demands being made on them both from their own bosses and from the many people for whom they were directly responsible).

First, he and his colleagues gathered information that made it possible to build an easy-to-use "map" of the types of stress anyone faces in their life. It is a 4-part matrix based on two different criteria:

  1. Is the stress experienced at work or away from work?

  2. Is the stress a recent event or an ongoing condition ?

The four cells on the matrix then were labeled Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV stress:


So stress at your place of work would fall into the Type I or Type III categories. In keeping with our initial forewarning, Type I stress is simply a fact of life at your place of work – it happens from time to time.

Type III stress, however, is where the problems lie. If a stressor is a one-time event, then it is time-limited, has a beginning and an end, and at least in theory can be dealt with effectively, allowing you to move forward (We say "in theory" because a huge one-time stressor like a major storm or a physically or emotionally violent event of course can have serious longer-term consequences for a any organization and everyone in it.).

The relentless nature of Type III stress, however, has the effect of leaving an organization perpetually beleaguered, since the stress never ends. That's why it is so important for individuals as well as organizations to do everything possible to deal effectively with stressful events so that they do not become stressful conditions.

Adams (1978) and his associates processed questionnaires from large numbers of people, created categories of stressors, then gathered information from many more persons to determine the most debilitating kinds of stressful working conditions.

Our adaptation of the Adams questionnaire is available by clicking on the "Work Place Stress Rating" button below. The other two buttons will provide you with additional information about stress in the workplace.