Category Archives: Stress

The Rising Underemployment Rate and its Emotional Impact

In a previous post called The Cost of Unemployment, I wrote about the toll, on health and well-being, that unemployment had on people.

One aspect of unemployment that rarely gets mentioned is underemployment. Gallup defines underemployment as people who are “unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 3). According to the latest Gallup poll, the underemployment rate is at a staggering 20% as of March 15, 2010, compared to the 9.7% unemployment rate reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Underemployed Americans are 2x more likely to have been told that they suffer from depression (21% vs. 12% employed Americans)(Marlar, 2010, para. 5).

These findings, both the rate of underemployment and the well-being index score, “underscore why Americans say the most important problem facing the nation today is jobs and unemployment” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 2).

Interestingly, the Gallup data indicates that a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate might be attributed to an increase in the unemployed taking on part-time work and adding to the underemployment rate.

“It is also often suggested that a growth in part-time jobs may indicate future growth in full-time work — that companies hire part-time workers before committing to hiring new full-time employees. While this is sometimes the case, it may not be so at this point in the U.S. economy: Gallup data show that one in three part-time employees who are wanting full-time work are currently “hopeful” about finding a full-time job in the next 30 days — not much of an endorsement of the idea that today’s new part-time work will progress to full-time jobs” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 8).

References

Jacobe, D. (2010, March 19). Underemployment hits 20% in mid-March. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/126821/Underemployment-Hits-20-Mid-March.aspx

Marlar, J. (2010, March 9). The emotional cost of underemployment. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/126518/Emotional-Cost-Underemployment.aspx

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov

Consumerism & Affluenza – How Society Shapes Our Thinking about Happiness

Within the past several decades, an alarming trend has developed, one that goes far beyond just “keeping up with the Joneses.” You see, no longer is it enough to simply “keep up.” It seems that in today’s microwave mentality, we have to have things, and we have to have them right now. Everything becomes a necessity. We no longer eat to live. We live to eat. We no longer shop to survive. We survive to shop. Or as I heard it on the radio – shop til you drop, then crawl!

We have, in fact, become a society of conspicuous consumption [spending lavishly on goods and services for the sole purpose of showing off] and consumerism [equating happiness with buying and consuming goods].

There is a name/description/label to this madness. It’s called AFFLUENZA, formed from the words affluence (wealth) and influenza (also known as the flu).

Affluenza is defined as (1) The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses; (2) An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream (Affluenza, n.d.). Affluenza is the term used to explain the problems that occur “when individuals are in pursuit of money, wealth, and material possession at the expense of other sources of self-esteem and contentment” (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006, p. 1).

Although I originally wrote about this topic of affluenza (several years ago while working in the school system) to address the madness that parents go through to feed into their children’s demands to have the latest and greatest material things, I am presenting it here now to shed light on this epidemic and its impact on adults.

Affluenza affects people across all age groups and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. “Contemporary affluenza researchers contend that if we do not begin to reject our culture’s incessant demands to work harder, spend more, and buy more, our society will begin to pay later with significant effects thrust upon our offspring” (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006, p. 1).

The incessant pressure to acquire material goods can result in the following (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006): As you go through the list below, notice that it easily applies to both children and adults.

  • Inability to delay gratification or tolerate frustration
  • Difficulty maintaining interest in anything requiring effort
  • False sense of entitlement
  • Expectation of material goods without responsibility
  • Loss of future motivation
  • Life activities don’t seem very real and nothing matters much
  • Low self esteem, self worth, and loss of self confidence
  • Approval dependent on possessions and status rather than on personal values
  • Preoccupation with externals and habituation for more material goods
  • Difficulty believing people like them for themselves rather than for possessions and status
  • Inability to trust prevents true friendships
  • Emotional energy becomes invested in material gains and sensitivity toward others declines

Here are some interesting tidbits (Affluenza…Diagnosis, n.d.):

  • Americans carry $1 trillion in personal debt, approximately $4,000 for every man, woman and child, not including real estate and mortgages. On average, Americans save only 4 percent of their income, in contrast to the Japanese, who save an average of 16 percent.
  • Since 1950, Americans alone have used more resources than everyone who ever lived before them. Each American individual uses up 20 tons of basic raw materials annually. Americans throw away 7 million cars a year, 2 million plastic bottles an hour and enough aluminum cans annually to make six thousand DC-10 airplanes.
  • Even though Americans comprise only five percent of the world’s population, in 1996 we used nearly a third of its resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste. The average North American consumes five times as much as an average Mexican, 10 times as much as an average Chinese and 30 times as much as the average person in India.
  • Americans on average spend only 40 minutes a week playing with their children, and members of working couples talk with one another on average only 12 minutes a day.

Back in December 2009, I wrote about the hyperactive workplace. I believe what lies at the root of the hyperactive workplace is affluenza – the “epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream” (Affluenza, n.d.). We work long hours and remain in a state of frenzy to pursue that elusive dollar to buy the things we and our families desire. And we do this day in and day out like the hamster running in circles in a cage.

In “Success Intelligence,” (2005) Robert Holden wrote, “The rise of consumerism has certainly influenced our thinking about happiness and success…We are making every effort to ‘buy, buy, buy!’ our way to happiness and success” (pp. 110, 111). While buying things can temporarily bring short-term pleasure, our prior levels of happiness soon return. In other words, we can’t buy our way to happiness.

“[W]e place all our faith in external things to make us happy. The danger here is that we lose sight of inner happiness…We forget how to be happy” (Holden, 2005, p. 112).

Imagine what your own work and workplaces would be like if you changed your views about overconsumption and what it means to be happy.

References

Affluenza. (n.d.). In Affluenza: PBS Program on the Epidemic of Overconsumption. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/

Affluenza…Diagnosis (n.d.). In Affluenza: PBS Program on the Epidemic of Overconsumption. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/diag/what.html

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

Koplewicz, H.S. & Williams, K. (2006). Affluence-Benefit or Handicap? New York University Child Study Center Letter, 11(2), 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.aboutourkids.org/files/articles/dec.pdf

Workplace Violence, Organizational Justice, and Wounded Pride

Recently, a Harvard-educated Ph.D. professor at the University of Alabama, Huntsville was accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others during a faculty meeting because she was denied tenure. But why is this topic getting attention here on WorkplacePsychology.Net? We normally don’t think of college and universities as organizations, but they are.

In industrial-organizational psychology, the topic of organizational justice is important because it plays a critical role in workplace violence. The manner in which employees see themselves being treated (fairly or unfairly) by their companies affects how these employees will behave (emotionally and behaviorally) in the work environment. In the case of the accused professor, being denied tenure might have caused her to feel that she was unfairly treated by the university.

There are three types of organizational justice: distributive (perceived fairness in allocation of rewards to employees); procedural (perceived fairness of the process/procedure by which rewards are distributed); and interactional (sensitivity with which employees are treated & degree to which employees feel respected) (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Colquitt, Colon, Wesson, Porter, & Ng).

Cohen-Charash and Spector (2001) found that regardless of age, gender, race, and education, all people view justice similarly. In their examination of 190 studies totaling 64,757 participants, these researchers discovered that job performance and counterproductive work behaviors were mainly related to procedural justice (the perceived fairness of the process or procedure by which ratings are assigned or rewards are distributed) and that perceived injustice causes negative emotional reactions in the forms of mood and anger. Cohen-Charash and Spector (2001) further predicted that procedural justice will be more important than distributive justice (perceived fairness in allocation of rewards to employees) under certain contexts, especially in situation involving difficult decisions that might hurt or be of great significance to the person affected by them (e.g., layoffs).

Another factor related to workplace violence is a wounded pride (ego threat). Challenging the myth that low self-esteem is an important cause of violence, Baumeister, Smart, & Boden (1996) discovered that violence usually results from egos that felt threatened.

People whose favorable self-conceptions are inflated, uncertain, or unstable may become quite sensitive to unflattering feedback and may react with hostility…[H]ighly sensitive individuals may react with considerable hostility to seemingly minor ego threats (Baumeister et al., 1996, p. 11).

In this context, the college professor might have felt that those individuals who denied her tenure threatened her ego (how dare they deny someone with my intelligence and educational background) and violated procedural justice (it’s unfair how they treated me).

Research says that it takes an individual’s personality, a threatened ego, and a view of injustice to contribute to workplace aggression (Baumeister et al., 1996; Hershcovis et al., 2007). Tragically, the mixture of the professor’s personality, her wounded pride, and her perception that others had treated her unjustly resulted in workplace violence that left three people dead, three others injured, and a community in shock and mourning.

References

Baumeister, R., Smart, L., & Boden, J. (1996). Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103(1), 5-33. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.103.1.5

Cohen-Charash, Y. & Spector, P.E. (2001). The role of justice in organizations: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 86(2), 278–321.

Hershcovis, M. S., Turner, N., Barling, J., Inness, M., LeBlanc, M. M., Arnold, K. A., Dupre, K. E., & Sivanathan, N. (2007). Predicting workplace aggression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(1), 228-238.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (2nd Ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

What Really Motivates Employees

In an article titled, “What Really Motivates Workers” in the January-February 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Amabile & Kramer (2010) invited over 600 managers from dozens of companies to rank the impact on employee motivation and emotions of five workplace factors:

  1. recognition,
  2. incentives,
  3. interpersonal support,
  4. support for making progress, and
  5. clear goals

The #1 ranking of the managers was “recognition for good work.”

However, and this surprised me, from their multiyear study in which they tracked the day-to-day activities, emotions, and motivation levels of hundreds of knowledge workers in various settings, Amabile & Kramer (2010) discovered that the #1 motivator for employees is progress.

You read that right folks, the top motivation for workers is making progress.

On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. (Amabile & Kramer, 2010, p. 44.)

Ironically, progress was the factor ranked dead last by managers as something that motivates employees.

The researchers analyzes nearly 12,000 diary entries, along with the writer’ daily ratings of their motivation and emotions. The analysis indicated that “making progress in one’s work – even incremental progress – is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event” (Amabile & Kramer, 2010, p. 44).

The HBR article offered this advice to managers:

Avoid impeding progress by changing goals unilaterally, being indecisive, or holding up resources (Amabile & Kramer, 2010).

How managers can help facilitate progress (Amabile & Kramer, 2010):

  • Clarify overall goals
  • Ensure employees’ efforts are properly supported
  • Refrain from exerting time pressure so extreme such that minor glitches are seen as crises
  • Cultivate a culture of helpfulness
  • Roll up your own sleeves and help out
  • Celebrate progress, even small ones

Reference

Amabile, T.M. & Kramer, S.J. (2010). What really motivates workers. Harvard Business Review, 88(1), 44-45.

Feeling Refreshed and Back to Work

Photo: Hammock BVI by T Dominguez

The Christmas and New Year holidays forced people who are employed to take pause in their work. Earlier today one person commented on Twitter that the tweets (what people post about) were so great that she didn’t want to sign off/log off because she was so interested.

I wondered if people’s rest due to the holiday season was the reason for this level of activity.

Binnewies, Sonnentag, and Mojza (2009) conducted a study involving 358 employees who worked with people with special needs (those who were mentally or physically disabled). I can say, based on experience, it’s a stressful area.

Two questionnaires were given six months apart. The researchers found that when people feel recovered (mentally and physically refreshed) during their leisure time their performance on the job increased.

“[H]ighly recovered individuals showed increased task performance after 6 months because they felt more capable of successfully accomplishing work-related tasks” (p. 252).

They clarified that feeling recovered during leisure time is about how much a person feels refreshed mentally and physically. This feeling of recovery (feeling recovered during leisure time) is positive compared to a need for recovery and mental fatigue. The need for recovery represents a negative recovery because a person is forced to rest due to work-related demands and/or work-induced fatigue.

Put simply, deciding to rest before you’re stressed and exhausted is a good thing.

Although this sounds like common sense, I thought it was important to cite reputable research and therefore this study was worth mentioning.

I think this quote from Ralph Marston perfectly summarizes today’s post…

Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.

Reference

Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., & Mojza, E.J. (2009). Feeling recovered and thinking about the good sides of one’s work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(3), 243-256.

The Cost of Unemployment

In an earlier post, I talked about job loss and its impact on an employee’s health.

When people are employed, common stressors at work include physical/task stressors (e.g. heat, noise, pace of work, workload, and number of hours worked) and psychosocial stressors (e.g. role ambiguity, interpersonal conflict, and lack of control) (Landy & Conte, 2007). Workplace stress takes an incredible toll resulting in physical/medical (e.g. heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure), psychological (e.g. burnout, anxiety, family problems), and behavioral (e.g. absenteeism, substance abuse, accidents, violence) (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Quick, Quick, Nelson & Hurrell) and research has shown a connection between job stress and depression (Dragano, He, Moebus, Jockel, Erbel, & Siegrist, 2008).

Unfortunately, when an individual becomes unemployed, he/she may still experience many of the same symptoms of stress (as when employed) such as poor psychological health, depression, insomnia, irritability, and general anxiety (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Warr).

Recently, the New York Times wrote an article about the emotional and financial toll of being unemployed (Luo & Thee-Brenan, 2009). The NY Times polled 708 unemployed adults between Dec. 5 to Dec. 10, 2009. Here is what they found about unemployed Americans:

EMOTIONALLY

  • 69% are more stressed.
  • 55% have had trouble sleeping.
  • 48% have experienced emotional or mental health issues (e.g., anxiety or depression).
  • 46% have felt ashamed or embarrassed about being unemployed.

FINANCIALLY

  • 53% have borrowed money from family members or friends since losing their jobs.
  • 54% have reduced visits to doctor or medical treatments.
  • 47% is without health care coverage.

In this difficult time, I encourage each one of us to take care of ourselves and one another. Do what you can, where you’re at right now to reach out and help someone else – emotionally and/or financially. Remember, it’s not the amount of the gift, but the heart in which it is given.

“How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” -George Washington Carver

References

Dragano, N., He, Y., Moebus, S., Jockel, K., Erbel, R., & Siegrist, J. (2008). Two models of job stress and depressive symptoms: Results from a population-based study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43,72–78.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Luo, M. & Thee-Brenan, M. (2009). Poll reveals trauma of joblessness in U.S. The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/us/15poll.html

Hyperactive Workplace

This is part II – Hyperactive Workplace – of a 2-part series on Dr. Robert Holden’s book, “Success Intelligence: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success.” In his book, Dr. Holden discusses the impact that a Manic Society, Busy Generation, and Hyperactive Workplace have on our lives.

Hyperactive Workplace

In today’s workplaces, we’re required “to work faster and better, to do more with less, to change continuously, and to invent new ways of working” (Holden, 2005, p. 28). Our work is dominated by long hours, a permanent state of busyness, goals and to-do lists, attitudes and incivility, and no downtime. In the hyperactive workplace, we’re always “doing” but never getting enough “done” (Holden, 2005, p.29).

“We are ‘doing’ all through the day, ‘doing’ in our free time, and ‘doing’ ourselves out of a life…We’re ‘doing’ to the point of exhaustion [and] literally ‘doing’ ourselves to death-killing ourselves for our careers, [and] in the name of success” (Holden, 2005, p.29).

In a 2008 Quality of Working Life survey among managers in the UK and Australia, over half of managers felt that the hours they work negatively affected their health (53.4% in the UK, 55.6% in Australia); around 45% thought that the hours they worked had a negative impact on their productivity and over half thought that the hours they worked had a negative impact on their social lives and their relationships with their spouse or partner. However, despite this awareness, over 90% of managers in both countries insist on working over their contract hours.

Across the Atlantic, the Conference Board (2007) found, in a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, that less than half of all Americans say they’re satisfied with their jobs, down from 61% in 1987.

Sound bite: “In the hyperactive world of work, we end up overworked and overspent, and our lives are over before we know it. If we are not careful, we get so lost in our constant activity that we fail to recognize what the real work of our lives is about” (Holden, 2005, p. 34).

References

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

The Conference Board (2007). U.S Job Satisfaction Declines, The Conference Board Reports. Press Release/News Feb. 23, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2009 from http://www.conference-board.org/utilities/pressDetail.cfm?press_ID=3075

Worrall, L., Lindorff, M. & Cooper, C. (2008). Quality of working life 2008: A survey of organisational health and employee well-being. Comparisons of the perceptions of UK managers and managers in Victoria, Australia. Chartered Management Institute, UK.

Manic Society

Today, I’ll be doing part I – Manic Society – of a 2-part series on Dr. Robert Holden’s book, “Success Intelligence: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success.” Dr. Holden talks about our Manic Society, our Busy Generation, and our Hyperactive Workplace, where people work without vision and joy.

Manic Society

The word “manic” comes from “mania” meaning a state of frenzy. In the U.S., we’re taught to believe the idea that everyone can be richer and happier if we would just go faster and work harder. We live and work in a constant state of mania, of frenzy madness. But for what? We speed through time spent with others that we never truly connect with them (Holden, 2005). We work like mad only to come back to houses wall-off by ten-foot high fences and our children already in bed. In the end, this manic lifestyle and our manic workplaces take their toll on our health, our relationships, and ultimately our happiness.

“The National Institute for Occupational safety and Health estimates that 40% of the U.S. workforce is affected by stress, making it the top cause of worker disability…Around the globe, stress-related illnesses are a major financial drain on organizations, $200 billion per year for treatment alone” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 72).

The Manic Society sells the myth that everyone can be an “instant winner” and an “overnight success” if we would just go faster and work harder. But our nonstop busyness can easily cloud our vision. We’re living faster and working faster, but what for? “Without vision, we can so easily confuse speed with progress, adrenaline with purpose, and urgency with importance” (Holden, 2005, p. 9).

“’We all pay for our mad rush, our blind push, our hurried lives,’ wrote Jonathon Lazear, author of Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much…Vision must always lead the pace, otherwise we are simply fast-forwarding to nowhere in particular” (Holden, 2005, p. 10).

If we don’t get off the Manic Society bus every once in a while, we will lose our sanity while letting life go by. In the process of chasing the “dream”, whatever it may be, we’ll miss out on actually living and experiencing it.

Sound bite: “If we never stop, we end up skimming the surface of life; our time disappears and we miss the richness, depth, and texture of each occasion” (Holden, 2005, p.13).

References

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

A 24/7 Mindset about Work is Bad for Your Health

Companies and organizations want employees who are fully engaged at work. Work engagement has been shown to be related to positive organizational outcomes (Sonnentag, Mojza, Binnewies, & Scholl, 2008, citing Salanova et al., 2005). However, if you are someone who is always thinking about work (even during time off work) your health might be negatively affected.

Work engagement is defined as ‘‘a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption’’ (Sonnentag et al., 2008, p. 259, citing Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006).

Sonnentag et al. (2008) studied 159 workers from five German organizations in various industries. Workers were asked to complete surveys twice a week, at the beginning and the end of four consecutive working weeks. The researchers confirmed earlier findings that engagement at work and disengagement from work during time off the job both predicted workers’ affective states.

The study found that detaching psychologically from work, when you’re off work, is especially important when work engagement is high. It makes common sense to understand that employees who are highly engaged need time off the job to unwind and distance themselves from their work. The researchers recommend focusing on activities not related to work.

Sound bite: Being able to balance between high engagement at work (being “on”) and high disengagement from work (being “off”) will help protect employees’ well-being. Approaching work with a 24/7 mindset “is a double-edged sword that in the end might threaten employee health and well-being” (Sonnentag et al., 2008, p. 273.)

References

Salanova, M., Agut, S. & Peiro, J.M. (2005). Linking organizational resources and work engagement to employee performance and customer loyalty: The mediation of service climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1217-

Schaufeli, W.B., Bakker, A.B. & Salanova, M. (2006). The measurement of work engagement with a short questionnaire. A cross-national study. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66, 701

Sonnentag S., Mojza, E.J., Binnewies, C., & Scholl, A. (2008). Being engaged at work and detached at home: A week-level study on work engagement, psychological detachment, and affect. Work & Stress, 22(3), 257-276.

Positive Emotions Are Good for Business

In today’s tough economy, when resources and rewards are few, creating and maintaining positive emotions in the workplace (e.g. making workers feel valued and engaged) can be a valuable investment that an organization can make.

Shapiro (2009) maintains that this emotional investment improves relationships in the workplace and encourages satisfying, long-lasting agreements. When companies fail to foster these types of relationships, negative communications and conflicts arise.

Shapiro noted in his work with organization and government leaders that there are FIVE predictable core concerns:

  1. Appreciation: recognition of value
  2. Affiliation: emotional connection others
  3. Autonomy: freedom to feel, think, or decide
  4. Status: standing compared to others
  5. Role: job label & related activities

He said that once these concerns are appropriately and proactively addressed, companies “can steer a potentially negative conversation to a positive place” (Shapiro, 2009, p. 30).

Sound Bite: By promoting and modeling emotional well-being in your organization, you’ll get more value out of the good times and do a better job of overcoming the bad.

Reference

Shapiro, D. (2009). Why repressing emotions is bad for business. Harvard Business Review, 87(11), 30.