A Critical Study of the Effect of Job Stress on Nigerian Workers
1.1 BACKGROUND STUDY
The workplace of the 21st century is a fast-paced, dynamic, highly stimulating environment that brings a large number of benefits and opportunities to those who work within it. The ever-changing demands of the working world can increase levels of stress, especially for those who are consistently working under pressure such as bank workers, medical workers etc. Whilst pressure has its positive side in raising performance, if such pressure becomes excessive it can lead to stress which has negative consequences (Issa, et al. 2009; Al-khasawneh and Futa, 2013; Santiago, 2003).
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 6th Edition, stress could among other things, refer to pressure, tension or worries arising from problematic situations in an individual’s life. Where the incidence of such stress is traceable to a job or work situation, it is known as job stress (Narayanan et al 1999). As Narayanan et al (1999) further observed that job stress could in fact be identified with almost any aspect of a job or work situation such as extremes of heat, noise and light, or too much or too little responsibility etc. According to Irene (2005), job stress is a pattern of reactions that occurs when workers are presented with work demands that are not matched to their knowledge, skills or abilities, and which challenge their ability to cope. It is evident from this Irene’s definition that job stress is mostly associated with under-employment.
Stress at work is a relatively new phenomenon of modern lifestyles. According to Beheshtifar and Nazarian (2013), it is an unavoidable consequence of modern living. The nature of work has gone through drastic changes over the last century and it is still changing at whirlwind speed. They have touched almost all professions, starting from an artist to a surgeon, or a commercial pilot to a sales executive. With change comes stress, inevitably. In most cases, job stress is attributable to negative situations such as a formal reprimand by one’s superior for poor performance. Beheshtifar and Nazarian (2013) submit that stress is much more common in employees at lower levels of workplace hierarchies because they have less control over their work situation. However, pleasant circumstances could also bring about job stress, such as job promotion and transfer to another location. Job stress has attracted considerable attention in recent times especially within the context of organisational behaviour (Kazmi et al 2008; Shahu and Gole 2008; Nilufar et. al. 2009).
Most research findings suggest that when an individual comes under stress, his cognitive performance and decision-making may be adversely affected. Kazmi et al (2008) investigated the effect of job stress on job performance and found that there is a negative relationship between job stress and job performance. Shahu and Gole (2008) inquired if there was any relationship between job performance, job satisfaction and job stress and found that higher stress levels are related to lower performance. Sabir and Helge (2003) note that the major changes that have been implemented in the financial sector have caused major negative effects on workers’ working and personal lives. Santiago (2003) examined the negative effects of internal stress on police performance and found that the negative stress that often results from organisational settings through poor management can be debilitating.
There is evidence to suggest that there are ways in which an organisation can help to reduce instances of job stress, or better manage the issue when it arises. To reduce or avoid job stress, Fako (2010) points to the importance of role clarity, a reasonable workload, the need for employees to maintain a healthy diet, and the need to avoid regularly putting in extra hours at work. Effective people management, good two-way communication between employers and employees, suitable working environments and effective work organisation are just some of the factors which can have an impact (Mbadou and Mbohwa, 2013). However, there is the need to examine critically, the nature and effect of job stress in the Nigerian Banking Sector before suggesting ways by which the management could deal with it and this is the main thing this study is addressing.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
For most people, work is a significant feature of life with the majority of them spending around 25% of their adult lives working. While work can provide people with structure, purpose, satisfaction, self-esteem and spending power, the workplace can also be a set of stress and worry.
According to Jungwee (2007), there is no single cause of job stress. While stress can be triggered by sudden, unexpected pressures, it is often the result of a combination of stressful factors which accumulate over time. Some people can become so used to the symptoms of excessive stress that it goes unnoticed to their detriment. Most job stress is related to the management of work, relationships at work, organizational setup and whether you feel you have power and control in your work. The experience of stress is different for every person (Jungwee, 2007). Some people are affected more than others, so what is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. It can depend on your personality type and on how you have learned to respond to pressure (Fako, 2010).
Stress is not always negative or harmful and indeed, the absence of stress is death (Arbabisarjou, et al., 2013). Luthans (1989) asserts that we all need some degree of stress to function normally. Thus, in his opinion, mild levels of stress may not be completely bad for employees as a means of enhancing their job performance. However, empirical studies carried out on the incidence of stress among Nigerian workers by Olugbile (1982); Asika and Ade-Serrano (1985) and Akinnusi (1995) have shown that consistently high levels of stress in conjunction with other socio-political and economic factors have contributed to the declining performance and productivity of the Nigerian workers (Nwaroh 1991). Apart from the grave national economic consequences of such declining performance and productivity, job stress also poses serious health problems (Cox, et. al. 1996).
The current turbulent Nigerian business environment requires workers and organizations to reexamine their practices. Banking is an inherently stressful profession with long working hours, serious competition, ethical dilemmas, regulatory bottlenecks and difficult customers. Sharma, et al. (2010) opine that people in the human service profession, such as banking, are often required to spend considerable time in intense involvement with other people and when customers’ problems are not solved immediately, the situation may become more ambiguous and frustrating. An empirical study of the existence of stress in the Nigerian Banking Industry by Akingunola and Adigun (2010) confirms the existence of stress-causing factors in the Nigerian banking sub-sector with higher levels of stress found among the executive than the non-executive. The issue of job stress among Nigerian bank workers could be better addressed if the factors responsible for such stress were properly identified and evaluated. The question of how job stress affects workers’ performance is a relevant one given the nature of today’s banking environment and the challenges faced by Nigerian workers.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Individuals are well adapted to cope with short-term exposure to pressure – in fact, this can often be positive – but there will be greater difficulty in coping with prolonged intensive pressure. A key point to recognise is that individuals will react differently to pressure in different situations and at different stages in their working lives. Based on the foregoing, it is worthwhile to research this nature to reveal specific facts about job stress in the Nigerian working environment.
The specific objectives of the study can be stated as follows:
1. To investigate the effect of job stress on employees’ performance in Union Bank, Uyo.
2. To examine the nature of job stress faced by Nigerian Bankers.
3. To identify the factors that are responsible for job stress for Nigerian bankers.
4. To ascertain the strategies for dealing with job stress among Nigerian bankers.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The research questions that would guide this study are stated below:
1. What is the effect of job stress on employees’ performance in Union bank, Uyo?
2. What is the nature of job stress faced by Nigerian Bankers?
3. What are the factors that are responsible for job stress for Nigerian bankers?
4. What are the strategies for dealing with job stress among Nigerian bankers?
To enable the researcher to ascertain the relationship between the variables involved in this study, he has to postulate the following hypothesis:
Ho: Job stress does not affect Nigerian bankers.
HA: Job stress does affect Nigerian bankers.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The desire of every employer is optimum productivity. This can only be achieved when the employees work at their best. But one major factor that has been identified in the literature to affect the performance of employees is job stress. Therefore, the employers and/or management cannot ignore the influence of job stress in attaining the organizational set goals.
The focus of this study is to understand how job stress affects workers’ in terms of productivity and also to identify the factors that are responsible for job stress. With that knowledge, it may be possible to adjust/modify these factors to improve the performance of the employees as well as that of the organization.
The application of the findings of this study is mainly for the design and implementation of the most effective strategies for dealing with job stress in the Nigerian Banking Sector. However, it is hoped that the key ideas can be transported to any workplace wishing to increase or enhance workers’ productivity.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is an attempt to provide employers and employees with a framework of measures that will identify and prevent problems of job stress and help to manage them when they do arise. Although stress is associated with several factors, the scope of this study will be limited to only work-related stress. Furthermore, the impact of job stress on the productivity of employees would be investigated empirically. This will help to put to rest the controversy surrounding the likely effect of job stress on workers’ performance.
Job stress is a common phenomenon in every occupation, the focus of this research shall be on the Nigerian Banking Sector with a special interest in Union Bank Plc. Uyo. The selection of this sector was purposeful because of the work challenges that workers in the sector face daily especially in recent times with workforce cutbacks which could have resulted in greater pressures on remaining workforces with increased work overloads or stress (Akingunola and Adigun, 2010).
The research is intended to be elaborate to gather diversified opinions on the subject matter and to allow for precision in the identification of job-related stress-causing factors for every individual respondent.
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