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What are the effects of stress on work performance?

Written By

Loran Northey

Head of Training & Development at Paramount Coaching

Briefly Speaking

Find out how the effects of stress can lead employees, teams, and whole companies into a downward spiral as performance at work plummets.
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Negative stress can have a detrimental affect on an individual’s performance at work as well as progressing into negatively affecting teams and whole companies. Stressed individuals may suffer from low concentration which translates into a sub-standard delivery of service.  They may experience fatigue and/or low motivation which in turn will affect moral and productivity.

Stress may mean that there are increased ad-hoc sick days taken as well as extended sickness from diagnosed stress related illnesses. This not only negatively impacts the company as a whole, but also on individual staff morale. Extra workloads have to be undertaken, sales areas or locations shared out, and temporary placements are given, often without sufficient training or clear expectation or goals explained. This can cause resentment, stress and overwhelm, leading to a decline in performance at work.

The effects of stress can involve negatively impacting workplace relationships and interactions where advancements may be made out of necessity rather than merit. There may be promotions given within teams that cause a decrease in service and performance at work (instead of the opposite as intended) due to implied favouritism or by over stressed employees feeling undervalued.

When employees are suffering from the effects of stress they can become lethargic, have low concentration and limited communication skills. This in itself affects performance at work as the employees can become underproductive and isolated as they communicate less and suffer under the burden of being overwhelmed. Low concentration affects staff morale as they begin to feel useless or unworthy of being given tasks or projects. Both of these effects contribute to employees becoming lethargic as they become complacent and begin to not bother making the effort; they do not think that what they ultimately produce will be good enough, so they stop trying.

Employees that are suffering with undue negative stress may lose their grip on acceptable social skills when dealing with others which also causes a bigger problem. They may become highly charged or unpredictable when given instructions or  feedback. They may become defensive and their performance at work will suffer as they refuse to take on board the suggestions given or procrastinate over tasks. They may become more difficult to manage which in turn affects their performance at work as they become unapproachable and, therefore, do not use their full potential.

Poor time keeping may also be a side effect of employee’s stress. Because of a lack of concentration they may ‘ lose’ time and, therefore, become regularly tardy. This adds to their stress as well as the negative effects of stress.

They may also become clock watchers which will affect their productivity and performance at work plus create strains on relationships with other work colleagues. The relationship with other colleagues will affect all performance at work and have a negative knock on effect to the company as a whole. If employees become clock watchers who work out what they can do decided upon the time available, they will not be productive because they underestimate time given generally. This will only enhance their procrastination.

When stress is channelled in a positive way, however, it creates interest, motivation, a common goal or group values, an eagerness to learn and progress, and the want to deliver their best individual and combined efforts. By arranging staff stress management programmes (which can be in varying degrees), operating an open door policy, and encouraging employee forums and 360 degree communication on all levels, negative stress in the workplace will be lessened. 

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