Criticized, ignored, intimidated, undermined, never recognized, high stress level? Could be negative stress caused by bullying ... read this
"Clearly, chronic and prolonged exposure to unremitting life stress is
associated with a cluster of vascular, hormonal, immunological, neuronal and
degenerative diseases that are largely attributable to exposure to abnormal
amounts of glucocorticoids."
(Robert C Scaer, MD, The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma Dissociation and Disease, The Haworth Medical Press, NY, ISBN 0-7890-1246-4)
Stress. It's on everyone's mind. Or rather their body. But what causes stress? If you've been sent on a stress management course, or its cheaper alternative, a stress awareness course, the chances are you'll have not learnt much about the causes of stress. You may know how to clench your buttocks then release as you breath out (hopefully not requiring a change of underwear), but the only way of dealing with stress is to identify the cause and then work to reduce or eliminate the cause of stress. Despite the need for risk assessment and stress audits, many employers are coy about the causes of stress. Encouraging employees to endure prolonged negative stress - such as by forcing them to attend a stress management seminar or stress awareness seminar - could be setting them up to sustain further injury to health and stress-related illness.
It's often not recognised that there are two types of stress: positive stress results from a well-managed workplace and can be harnessed to enhance performance, whilst negative stress - which results in stress-related illnesses and causes injury to health - results from a badly-managed workplace in which inadequate employees bully to hide their inadequacy. When people use the word "stress" on its own, they usually mean "negative stress".
Stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload or the unwelcome attentions of bullying co-workers and managers; stress is a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
UK Health and Safety Executive Management Standards for Stress
May 2005: Stress costs 10% of the UK’s Gross National Product (GNP) but fewer than 10 per cent of companies have official policy to tackle it. [More]
April 2005: HSE updates its stress standards web pages.
In July 2003 the UK Health and Safety Executive rolled out its blueprint for
tackling stress. Named Management
Standards for Stress, the pilot project sets out six principles of good
stress management in the workplace and, if a clear majority of staff – between
65% and 85% - agree that the business does not meet these, it could form the
basis of a legal claim against the employer.
The six standards seek to tackle the most likely sources of stress for employees and are as follows:
Demands: at least 85% of employees should feel that they can cope with the demands of their jobs.
Control: at least 85% of employees should feel that they are able to have a say about the way they do their work.
Support: at least 85% of employees should feel that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors.
Relationships: at least 65% of employees should feel that they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours (eg bullying) at work.
Role: at least 65% of employees should feel that they have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
Change: at least 65% of employees should feel that the organisation or business engages them frequently when undergoing an organisational change.
See Firms could face action over stress and 'Stress code' for firms launched and the HSE's own press release and HSE's page on stress
September 2003: West Dorset Hospitals NHS Trust becomes first employer to be given official stress warning under the HSE management standards. [More | more]
July 2003: already under fire for doing little to address bullying - mainly due to insufficient budgets - the UK HSE is now having its budgets cut even further whilst the union Prospect says the HSE is playing Russian Roulette with workers’ safety:
October 2002: Prolonged negative stress causes injury to health: Those with high job strain and a perceived lack of control over their job have more than a doubled risk of heart disease according to a new report from the Finnish Institute for Occupational Health
September 2002: Communication Workers Union (CWU) stress survey of 20,000 workers
In November 2001 a survey revealed that more than half of British workers are suffering from stress and the problem is getting worse. Carole Spiers, chair of the International Stress management Association (ISMA) commented, "Each year we conduct research into stress and each year the figure just keeps on getting worse."
In November 1999, BUPA's Occupational Health Medical Director Dr Kevin Holland-Elliott, speaking at a World Health Organization sponsored conference on depression, stated his belief that companies are hiding the cost of stress from their shareholders as a way of preventing the causes of stress from being identified. Dr Holland-Elliott's went on to echo the HSE's Head of Health Directorate Dr Peter Graham, who stated in September 1998 that "Poor management is a major cause of stress". See BBC News Online article.
In October 1999 Gee Publishing, authors of Absence, an Audit of Cost Reduction Methods (£129, 020 7393 7666), reported that stress has overtaken the common cold as the Number One reason for sickness absence. However, old attitudes such as stress being an excuse for skiving are still prevalent according to the British Safety Council. Around 20% of companies responding to a BSC survey did not treat stress as a health and safety issue. Highest rates of absence were in the public sector, utilities and health, reflecting a similar pattern to callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line.
Time spent identifying and dealing with the causes of stress might cut the cost of stress management consultants and the like - as well as averting a stressful personal injury claim.
The 1999 CBI report put the cost of stress-related employee absence at between £530 per employee in small businesses and up to £545 in organisations of over 500 employees. The CIPD puts the annual cost of job stress at around £7 billion.
In 1997 the 20 most stressful jobs were: Prison service, Police, Social Worker, Teaching, Ambulance, Nursing, Doctors, Fire brigade, Dentistry, Mining, Armed Forces, Construction, Management, Acting, Journalism, Linguist, Film producer, Professional sport, Catering and hotel, Public transport. Between 1985-1997 the jobs which showed major increases in stress were: Armed forces, Social work, Linguist, Teaching, Ambulance, Local government, Nursing, Occupational therapy, Biochemist, Farming, Youth and community worker, Water work, Radiographer, Brewing. All these job areas have produced calls to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line; the top four groups of Advice Line enquirers are: Teaching, Nursing and healthcare, Social work, Voluntary / charity / not-for-profit sector. After that comes Local government, Management, and Finance sector. Click here for Advice Line statistics.
To see how stress - negative stress, that is - causes injury to health, including thoughts of suicide, click here. Prolonged negative stress can cause trauma with symptoms congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Bully OnLine is a gold mine of insight and information on stress and reveals the main, but least recognised, cause of negative stress and exposes the main person causing that stress, the serial bully. Everyone, stressed or not, knows at least one person in their life with the profile of the serial bully. Click here to see who this reminds you of.
Browse this web site to recognize the effects - and causes - of stress in your life ... start with Am I being bullied? then move on to What is bullying and Why me? To find out what you can do about bullying, click Action to tackle bullying. Have a look at the profile of the serial bully which is common to harassers, stalkers, rapists, violent partners, abusers, pedophiles, even serial killers of the organized kind.
Court cases on stress are covered on the case law page.
UK Health and Safety Executive management standards for stress
The UK National Work Stress Network (part of the Hazards Campaign) aims to raise the profile of work-related stress, its causes and how we can move towards eliminating it.
Channel 4's Stop, Go Home offers a confidential one-to-one stress counselling service, a magazine section full of news and features, stress-busting tips, an ABC of stress, and a comprehensive directory of where you can get help in dealing with work-related stress. The site even has in-built background music to help you chill while you check out how to reduce your stress levels.
The Stress Monitor provides free contact information to charity, voluntary and support groups in the UK.
Job stress can result in reactive depression.
Stress, injury to health, trauma and PTSD
How bullying, harassment and abuse damage health and cause trauma
Stress, trauma and PTSD Home Page
The cause of stress revealed
Stress at work, injury to health, fatigue, depression, suicide
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Complex PTSD
Bullying, stress and self-harm | Stress and debility
Bullying and suicide | Cases of suicide caused by bullying
Bullying shame | Bullying fear | Bullying embarrassment | Bullying guilt
Bullying and denial | Trauma | Shell shock: PTSD in WW1
David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury
validates and relieves the silent unseen suffering of trauma
Profile of David Kinchin | PTSD workshops by David Kinchin
Neil Marr and Tim Field's book Bullycide: death at playtime reveals the
secret toll of children who attempt or commit suicide because of bullying
The Field Foundation | Bully OnLine
Workplace bullying | School bullying | Family bullying
Bullying news | Press and media centre
Bullying case histories | Bullying resources
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Action to tackle bullying | Related issues
Books on bullying and related issues
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