STRESS, PERSONALITY AND WORK
Individuals belonging to the Type-A group are those more exposed to stress and present a higher chance of suffering from a physical or mental disorder on account of the pressure of stressful events (see also ‘Stress and Illness’). For example, Type-A people are very vulnerable with respect to cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, hypertension etc.). Those in the Type-B category on the other hand reveal a greater capacity to cope with potentially stressful situations, consequently reducing their risk of becoming ill. The difference between the two types does not depend on the fact they present two different and well-defined personality structures but rather on the way in which they organise their responses to stressful situations.
Type A Behavior
Type B Behavior
- A high degree of competitiveness pervading every aspect of life. The tendency to seek and accept challenges and a desire to work hard to overcome difficulties or obstacles.
- Aggressiveness (often repressed) constantly present in all personal and social interaction.
- Impatience and an intolerance towards the different rhythms and faults of others.
- Muscular tension, explosive speech, hypervigilance, difficulty in relaxing.
- Tendency to want to perform and obtain an unlimited number of things in a limited period of time.
- A strong need to always have situations totally under control.
- A drive to acquire things, objects and assets and to be a consumer.
- Smoking, alcohol and repetitive oral activities often present.
- Very limited physical activity.
- Few interests apart from work.- Irregular and excessive eating habits.
- A form of competitiveness which is selective and proportionate to the real importance of planned objectives.
- ‘Physical’ aggressiveness induced by stimuli that are adequately frustrating. Limited basic aggressiveness.
- A capacity to adapt to and tolerate the differences of others and their different rhythms.
- Muscular relaxation, tranquil speech and “phasic” vigilance (normal rapid mobilization of resources to process an unexpected stimulus). No difficulty in relaxing.
- Tendency to plan things that have to be achieved and obtained in accordance with available time.
- Very little need to be constantly in control in all situations.
- Relatively indifferent towards ‘consuming’ and acquiring useless things.
- Very limited use of tobacco and alcohol.
- Physical activity.
- Interests in activities other than work.
- Controlled eating habits.
Type A individuals also suffer to a higher degree from work stress. The pressures of work, deadlines, being overburdened with professional activities, conflicts with colleagues and duties or tasks that are difficult to cope with may in fact have a profound effect on the way in which a person perceives and considers his or her work. Feeling under great pressure is a negative outcome, while feeling challenged and feeling capable of responding to such challenges represents a positive result. In other words, the impact of work stressors (see previous page) and one’s personal response are modulated by the way in which an individual perceives stress factors. It is not exactly an easy thing to judge what impact stress may have in a professional or occupational context, however some estimates suggest that about half of the work days lost in the United States on account of absenteeism can be linked to the effects of stress (Elkin and Rosch, 1990). The characteristics of an occupational situation or context most easily associated with states of stress include the following:
The term “mobbing” was coined in the early 1970s by the ethologist Konrad Lorenz to describe a behaviour typical of certain animal species that may form a group and surround and noisily attack an animal so as to expel it from the herd. Two types of mobbing occur in the workplace: hierarchical mobbing and environmental mobbing. In the first case, the abuse is perpetrated by individuals that hold a position of superiority over the victim, who is forced to carry out humiliating tasks and duties. In the second case, the victim’s colleagues themselves will isolate the individual and openly deprive him or her of ordinary forms of collaboration, the customary dialogue and any kind of respect.
Another difficulty that workers may be exposed to is the so-called ‘burnout’ phenomenon, which can affect psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses etc or others working in the helping professions. People suffering from burnout, a state of malaise that derives from a work situation being perceived as stressful, may present a state of apathy and become cynical with their “clients” or indifferent and detached from the working environment. In extreme cases the syndrome can result in quite serious psychopathological damage (e.g., insomnia, marital or family problems, an increase in the use of alcohol or medication) and the quality of the treatment or service provided by those affected worsens, leading to absenteeism and high employee-turnover rates.
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