Occupational Stress and its causes

Occupational Stress: Ever since the hoary past, one of the important goals of mankind has been in the pursuit of happiness, peace, and stress-free life. The process has led us from stage-to-stage till we find ourselves caught in a dynamic technological whirlpool which has ‘spawned mega-bureaucracies’ microtask specialization and greater urbanization’. Phenomenon like these is closely linked with work settings which have numerous systems such as production, finance, marketing administration as well as macro-organizational levels of goals, strategies, climates, cultures, structures, management styles, and performance. These are considered to be essential for the growth of the organization and its role incumbents on the one hand and society at large on the other. Very often the human in the system is reduced to a mere insignificant cog in the wheel of the total technological setup. This tends to generate feelings of powerlessness, meaninglessness, and consequent cause for the stress. Occupational stress

When we consider work stress in particular, research indicates six major sources of pressures (Cartwright and Cooper, 1997)1. These are as follows:

  1. Factors intrinsic to the job: These are related to poor working conditions, shift work, long hours, travel, risk and danger, poor technology, work under load, and work overload.
  2. Role in the organization: When a person’s role in the organization is clearly defined, stress can be kept to a minimum. An individual will undergo stress when his role in the organization is not clearly defined. Cartwright and Cooper mentioned only three types of this stress, whereas Pareek (1993)2 has provided a fairly comprehensive list of stresses commonly encountered with reference to one’s role in the organization.
  3. Relationships at work: As early as 1946 Selye had pointed out that ‘good relationships between members of a group are a key factor in individual and organizational health’. There are three critical interpersonal relationships at work, i.e., relationships with one’s boss, those with one’s subordinates, and those with one’s colleagues.
  4. Career development factor: This includes the degree of job security, fear of job loss, obsolescence of one’s skills and capabilities, and approachment of retirement. For many workers, career progression is of overriding importance. Performance appraisals (actual or even the fear of potential appraisal) can be an extremely
    stressful experience.
  5. Organizational structure and climate: Non-participation at work and a general lack of control in the organization will generate a variety of stress-related symptoms.
  6. Non-work pressures: This includes pressures on the home front due to job stress. Another commonly seen effect is manifested due to dual careers, especially for women. The dual-career family model may be a source of stress for men as well. The amount of time they are able to devote to their jobs, the degree of mobility they have, the acceptance of transfers if the wife is also working are some of the factors creating stress.

The extent of stress is however a matter of degree. Some organizations manage to generate a more harmonious work atmosphere whereas others have greater friction and tension. Human behavior in an organization is influenced or directed by several physicals, social and psychological factors.

For Citing this article use:

  • Sudhakar, M. V. S. (2012). Impact of occupational stress: A case study on call center agents working for Indian international call centers. http://hdl.handle.net/10603/8366


  1. Cartwright, S. and Cooper, C.L. (1997). Managing Workplace Stress. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Pareek, U. (1993). Making Organisational Roles Effective. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.

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