By Steven T. Padgitt, Ph.D.

As discussed in the last PAL REPORT, OTJS (On The Job Stress) impacts us all on an increasing basis. Given economic and technical trends in our society it is doubtful that this increase in environmental stress will soon end. It is necessary to deal with this phenomenon directly and effectively, both at corporate and individual levels. The quality of our business and personal lives has the power to contribute significantly to financial recovery or downfall by enhancing or diminishing our personal functioning.

The management of stress is crucial and must take into consideration individual differences. Some people tolerate stress well and even seem to thrive on it, while others seem to be dramatically and negatively impacted by the same stressful event. The factors which contribute to these differences number as many as there are individual response styles.

Individual differences in response to stress are marked by such factors as: self esteem, early emotional trauma , learned responses to stress , anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking, self degradation and "burn-out". While there are congenital predispositions to stress responses and emotional disturbances, what we experience as children plays a major role in both emotional development and how we handle stress. An individual's personal history and developmental experience must be considered when dealing with the management of stress.

Knowing how early relationships affect our adult interactions can provide us with valuable information that can be used to deal with stress. For example, the supervision resistant employee might learn that he developed rebellious feelings concerning those in authority as a direct result of his relationship with his abusive father. Working with this sort of information often results in less resistance, more productivity and less stress for all concerned. Furthermore, this is the kind of change that can turn an unhappy employee into a content and productive member of the company's team.

It is also important to identify the physical symptoms of stress. For example, recognizing chronic emotional agitation as a symptom of OTJS can lead to engaging in more relaxing activities and, in turn, can decrease the constant feelings of tension.

Finally, it is crucial to deal with the specific environmental stressors. Attending to and changing characteristics in the physical environment, such as a constant irritating sound, may provide an easy solution to environmental stress for a sound sensitive employee. Personal adaptation, be it internal or external, can remedy the emotional and even physical symptoms that accompany OTJS.

Since our ability to adapt to environmental challenges is largely a function of childhood and adolescent learning experience, we must consider individual differences between people when dealing with OTJS. Replacing maladaptive personal responses with productive adaptive behavior can play a crucial role in successful functioning of the individual on the job.