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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Body Reaction To Stress

 By: Dr Marlene Maheu


According to scientific research, having high levels of control over one's work stress and responsibilities can backfire if a person lacks confidence at work or has a propensity to take responsibility for negative outcomes on the job. A combination of control and responsibility-taking can make work more stressful and make a person more vulnerable to infections, like bronchitis, influenza or even the common cold.

A combination of personality and job factors seem to put some people at risk for getting sick but not others in similar jobs, said researchers John Schaubroeck, Ph.D., at Drexel University, James R. Jones, Ph.D., at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Jia Lin Xie, Ph.D., at the University of Toronto.

To find out which employees working for a survey research organization experienced stress from their demanding jobs when in a high or low job control situation, the researchers asked 217 employees about the following characteristics of their jobs:

Factors To Consider When Looking At Work Stress

* Being responsible for other people

* Dealing with complex issues and information

* Being able to control how tasks are carried out

* How much confidence they had in doing their job effectively and

their personal style for attributing responsibility when things go wrong on the job.

Some of the jobs studied were market researcher interviewer, data analyst and building maintenance deputy.

Furthermore, to determine whether employee's stress levels were making them more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, their levels of immunoglobulin-A (IgA) antibodies from saliva and respiratory symptoms were measured. The IgA antibodies attack disease cells that are associated with upper respiratory infections.

Employees who perceived they had control over their job responsibilities but didn't have confidence in their problem-solving abilities or who blamed themselves for bad outcomes were the most likely to experience the most stress.

Those type of job situations appeared to put these employees at a higher risk for getting infections indicated by their respiratory symptoms (sore throat, cough, flu) and saliva results that showed lower levels of the IgA antibodies, said Dr. Schaubroeck.

"Our findings show that employees who don't have confidence in their skills may find job control debilitating because they cannot utilize it effectively to cope with the demands of the job," explain the authors. "Rather than being an asset, job control becomes a source of continual frustration and vehicle for self-blame. The employees that have confidence in their skills seem to be more effective at utilizing job control to cope better with

stressful job situations."

In most cases, employees who saw themselves as having control over their working conditions and did not blame themselves for negative outcomes suffered the least amount of work stress even in a demanding job. They had higher levels of IgA in their saliva and did not have as many respiratory illnesses as the employees in similar job situations but who did blame themselves for bad outcomes.

 For these individuals who have proclivity for self-blame, say the authors, having less control in a high demand atmosphere may be beneficial because it makes it possible for them to attribute their failings to an external cause rather than take it on themselves. Schaubroeck and his colleagues have obtained similar findings in other studies that assessed blood pressure, psychological symptoms and illness-related absenteeism.

"The experience of stress seems to depend on whether the individual believes he or she should be able to prevent negative outcomes from occurring," said Dr. Schaubroeck. "For a long time studies have reported that having more control is desirable from the standpoint of coping with stress, but these studies did not examine particular subpopulations of people who may buck this trend. Our research shows that increasing job control can be harmful for individuals who lack the capacity to use it or for who the control deepens their self-blame when things go wrong."

Information supplied by the American Psychological Association, located in Washington, DC.

Article: "Individual Differences in Utilizing Control to Cope With Job Demands: Effects on Susceptibility to Infectious Disease," John Schaubroeck, Ph.D., Drexel University; James R. Jones, Ph.D., University of Nebraska at Omaha; and Jia Lin Xie, Ph.D., University of Toronto and City University of Hong Kong; Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 86, No. 2.

Dr. Marlene M. Maheu is the Editor-in-Chief of SelfHelpMagazine, an award winning online electronic-zine. Visit and read more articles from Dr. Marlene and other professionals on how to reduce stress.
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