Debilitating Work Conditions

Pfifferling and Eckel (1982) listed their own debilitating work conditions, which included the following:
    1. Expectations of extra effort with minimal rewards
    2. No reinforcement for suggestions on improving morale
    3. Discouragement of mutual participation in decision making
    4. Frequent and/or unexplained policy changes
    5. Rigid role expectations for workers
    6. The belief that playfulness is unprofessional
    7. Pervasive 'isms" (sexism, ageism, etc.)
    8. Minimal emphasis on positive feedback

More recently, the American Institute for Preventive Medicine (2001) cited several categories of debilitating workplace conditions that result in increased stress on site:

    1. the nature of the job, including poor working conditions, low pay, and physical demands
    2. work relationships, including with supervisors and co-workers
    3. organizational role, including unclear job descriptions, conflicting work demands, and too much responsibility
    4. career development, including lack of job security and lack of recognition for job accomplishments
    5. organizational structure and atmosphere, including office politics, little control over decision-making, and discouragement of personal expression
    6. non-work factors, including family issues or health status, money problems, or life satisfaction issues

In general, jobs that involve high performance demands (a large workload that must be attended to quickly) yet allow for very little decision-making autonomy on the part of the worker are among the most stressful (Karasek, 1988). Cashiers and cooks fit these criteria.

Other good resources on work stress, if you would like to explore further, include the following: American Institute of Stress, 2013; Greenberg, 2011; Humphrey & Humphrey, 1986; Pelletier, 1984; Perrewe', 1991; Veninga & Spradley, 1981).

Finally, the work of McLean (1979) and others is an important reminder of the importance of a balance of not too much or not too little of a variety of work variables which must be dealt with by you at work. The basic premise is that if there is too much to cope with, you risk being overwhelmed, but if there is too little going on, you may face the risk of boredom (OK, we realize that most of you would like to give the latter a try, even for a short period of time).

The graph below is another way to look at the importance of balance. The horizontal axis refers to the amount of stress at work, with the extremes being "too little stress" and "too much stress." The curved line graphs work satisfaction (high to low), which is highest when there is neither too little nor too much stress to contend with.


The point is that a certain amount of stress is motivating, challenging, even exciting, and that for each of us this level may vary. And each of us will probably have a somewhat different "comfort zone" related to these variables, and which will have an impact on how satisfied we are with our experience at work.