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Work Overload

Essay by review  •  October 31, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,021 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,672 Views

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This paper will examine the common organizational stressor known as work overload. To begin, the stressor will first be defined and explained in terms of its causes. The paper will then focus on how to deal with the stressor by suggesting a variety of organizational approaches. Individuals who have specialized training in the field of work overload will then be introduced. Unique approaches designed by these professionals as a method of dealing with work overload will be examined. The paper will conclude by describing how scientific literature and research might be of assistance to the specialists.

Having too much to do with too little time to do it is a common perception in the workplace. This problem, often referred to as work or role overload, can be caused by a variety of factors. Things such as unrealistic deadlines, lack of appropriate break periods, and increasingly heightened expectations are common causes of work-related stress that exist throughout a wide variety of occupations (Shimazu & Kosugi, 2003). Other harmful factors that are related to work overload include rapid change, disordered multitasking, uncertainty, and interruptions during work. While it is possible for many hours of concentration on a well-defined job to have a positive effect on a person's mental state, it is also possible for less than an hour of chaos in the workplace to have a hazardous effect on a person's health (Zohar, 1999).

People who serve as managers and supervisors are most susceptible to work overload. One potential explanation for this is the open-ended nature of the managerial job (Johns & Saks, 2001). The difficulties encountered when trying to juggle the demands of superiors with the needs of subordinates has the potential to provoke a lot of stress. Different personality types can also result in different ways of handling a heavy workload. For example, research indicates that introverts have notably different coping mechanisms for stress than extroverts (Dormann & Zapf, 2002). These mechanisms can vary in effectiveness when handling organizational stressors such as work overload. Another factor that relates to how people are influenced by heavy workloads is sex. For males, work stress is more strongly related to concerns about roles in the power structure of an organization, whereas female employees experience more severe stress when a conflict exists between job requirements and family relationships (Vagg, Spielberger, & Wasala, 2002).

Early warning signs of work overload include headaches, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, short temper, upset stomach, and low job satisfaction (Dormann & Zapf, 2002). These symptoms are common among anyone who is subjected to high levels of stress. However, if the stressor is allowed to develop a variety of more serious conditions can surface. These conditions can be psychological (anxiety, depression, anger), physical (headaches, hypertension, ulcers), behavioral (sleeping disorders, emotional outbursts, violence and aggression), and even organizational (absenteeism, low morale, reduced productivity) (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). When left unchecked, these consequences can debilitate a person. This is why it is essential to effectively be able to deal with work overload.

There are a variety of approaches that can be used to deal with excessive work demands. Research suggests that one of the most essential techniques is to identify the causes and symptoms of job stress (Shimazu & Kosugi, 2003). It is important to recognize personal responses to stressors such as work overload so that solutions can be tailored to specific problems. One such solution to the problem of having excessive work is to speak to management or colleagues before work overload becomes a serious problem (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). This type of communication can help to eliminate unnecessary stress. Another solution involves pacing work based on potential (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). This requires taking on tasks that do not exceed ability as well as working at a rate that is comfortable. Maintaining a balance between work and personal life is also essential (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001).

The problem of excessive work demands can also be remedied by an entirely different approach. Instead of learning how to deal with work overload as it happens, steps can be taken to avoid the stressor altogether. For example, one technique is to speak to superiors and understand what kind of output is expected from certain positions (Shimazu & Kosugi, 2003). In this way, it becomes easy to understand when certain tasks are out of the realm of expectation. This can help to develop motivation and a positive outlook on work. As a final resort after trying all of the stress management techniques, the best option may be to leave the stressful environment when demands become unreasonable (Ettner & Grzywacz, 2001). This may involve quitting the job or taking a leave of absence.

In addition to these methods, author and scholar Dr. Piotr Wozniak has developed some simple techniques that can be used to cope with excessive workloads. These techniques can be very effective because Wozniak has designed them to handle specific situations. For instance, work overload may occur when superiors are constantly assigning new projects without considering work that has to be done on current tasks. Similarly, subordinates may constantly hinder work progress by making various inquiries about needs of their own. In cases like these, Wozniak stresses the importance of discussing the inefficiencies related to constant change and interruptions by co-workers. It is suggested that a set of rules be proposed to co-workers in order to regulate when interruptions can occur and when it is appropriate to assign new projects (P. Wozniak, personal communication, March 12th, 2004).

Another common cause of work overload are situations where some sort of unfortunate incident sparks the need to chart an emergency plan. Under these circumstances, Wozniak asserts that it is important to accept the possibility that a complete change in work may be necessary as a result of uncertainties. In this way, a person must learn to effectively plan for a variety of situations and change priorities if necessary (P. Wozniak, personal communication, March 12th, 2004).

The most fundamental cause of work overload has always been the idea of having too much work to do at once. This is when multitasking becomes chaotic and stress levels begin to peak. At times like these, Wozniak claims that it is best to 'focus' and 'specialize' because attempting to complete too many tasks at the same time is bound to affect quality (P. Wozniak, personal communication, March 12th, 2004). At this point, it may be important to learn to delegate jobs to others.

Author and motivational speaker Dr.

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