Series on Stress Management: Stress related to productivity

How critical it is to understand the effect of stress and morale and productivity, is demonstrated by the story below.

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A 47-person government agency had a 40 percent turnover rate and was experiencing deep problems with employee morale and poor productivity. A manufacturing section within the agency was particularly hard hit, and had fallen far behind schedule. Management was quickly reaching a dead end in their search for solutions, and job security was on the line for management. The agency head thought high stress in the manufacturing section was the likely cause of its problems.

All agency employees were administered the Personal Stress Navigator to determine whether the high turnover was indeed related to job stress. Grouped results did show the manufacturing group to be higher in susceptibility to stress, sources of stress, and symptoms of stress. But the group also differed demographically from the others peers in many significant respects. For example, their average employee was five to ten years younger than workers in the other two sections of the agency, and the entry-level jobs typically represented their first foray into the labor market.


Further analysis revealed that the manufacturing workers had several likely causes for higher stress and job dissatisfaction. Compared to co-workers in the regulation and communication sections, they had less seniority, earned less money, were more vulnerable to seasonal layoffs, were restricted to their work stations, and had no access to phones.

In addition, they were isolated from the other sections by a wall with a single door that remained open so they were constantly aware of the contrast between their working conditions and the others’.Manufacturing scored highest in all stress categories, but not for the anticipated reasons. In-depth analysis made it evident much of the workplace stress stemmed from the employees’ youth and financial insecurity.

The turnover had as much to do with conditions outside the agency – career level, maturity and financial security – as those within the workplace. Using the information from the Company Stress Report, the agency corrected many of the internal conditions cited above, implemented stress-management training for supervisors, and changed its hiring patterns to select stable, more mature workers who would not see the job as a career opportunity. Productivity increased 23 percent and turnover rates were cut from 40 percent to 15 percent in just under three years.