Stress is Common in the Life of a Professional

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Stress is not uncommon for professionals. Quick, Nelson and Quick (1990) emphasized the “occurrence of stressful events is a universal part of life, particularly in the working world” (p. 22). Frost (2003) cited Neuman of the State University of New York at New Paltz who indicated that “job stress is estimated to cost U. S. industry $300 billion annually, as assessed by absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, direct medical, legal, and insurance fees, and workplace violence” (p. 14).

There are a number of stressors that complicate the lives of professionals. For example, “although the process of relocation may favorably affect the attainment of career and financial goals, it is experienced as a stressful situation by many corporate families and may create trauma for individual family members” (Ammons, Nelson, & Wodarski, 1982, p. 207). Ammons et al. (1982) found the transient nature of the corporate executive’s lifestyle “was reflected by the fact that 66% had lived in their previous residence less than five years” (p. 209). Anderson and Stark (1988) referred to repeated job relocation as “mobility syndrome” (p. 38). Stressors manifested from this include depression, marital discord, loss of support networks, interruption of personal growth and development. They further intimated that teenagers in the home may be negatively affected due to impaired social relationships.

A second category of stress for professionals is related to role expectations and time demands. Marshall and Cooper (1979) identified four pressures that operate through a mix of influences: company structure and practices, restraint of individual independence and control of rewards, form and informal norms against which work performance and social behavior are judged, and the individual’s personality characteristics poorly suited to the job demands. Quick, Nelson, and Quick (1990) noted the “two major sources of stress for an executive are internal and external demands” (p. 10). Internal demands represent the personality and the self-imposed pressures to achieve promotions or achieve specific social status. External demands include elements in the external environments such as customers, interpersonal demands in the workplace, informational demands, and personal demands. This is similar to the triangle of forces that a pastor may face in a church. One CEO characterized these demands “like being the center of an hourglass” where the “pressure pours in” through the top from the board with the leader in the middle and the “open funnel at the bottom pouring out” to everyone else (Frost, 2003, pp. 32-33).

Small and Riley (1990) explored a third variety of stress as the intrusion of work into the family. The effects of four major non-work role contexts were seen as negatively influenced for married male bank executives with children. These included the marital relationship, the parent-child relationship, involvement in leisure activities, and household responsibilities. The processes involved included the amount of time spent at work and away from home, the psychological absorption of the worker, and the physical and psychological challenges of work which fatigue the individual. The data indicated that when work spillover occurred in male executives, it interfered and affected every domain of their personal life equally. Davidson and Veno (1990) studied policemen and found “an interaction with stressors at work being able to affect family life and vice versa, with one often exacerbating the other” (p. 136).

A fourth classification of professional stress is the lack of social support. Marshall and Cooper (1979) believed the two most important dimensions as far as the manager and his or her work are concerned appear to be those of time management and social support. The research of Quick, Nelson, and Quick (1990) indicated that of all the stress prevention techniques suggested by executives, “social support was the one strategy which they argued for vigorously and adamantly” (p. 54). What complicates this for executives is the often transient nature of their lifestyle and their relocation to new neighborhoods. Ammons et al. (1982) posited “one reason members of the community do not reach out to its new members is that they realize many of them will move again in a short time period, and therefore do not think it prudent to become involved with them either civically or socially” (p. 208).

Clergy not only experience these common stressors, but those endemic to their profession. The combination of pressures from unrealistic expectations, parish and family demands, member migration, professional comparisons, dysfunctional people, sexual temptation, loneliness, and financial pressures, along with the ordinary mandates of life, makes ministry a high stress vocation. Even though these nemeses may be common to other professions, they are multiplied for clergy since they are expected to live exemplary lives as a standard for others. “In my early years as a parish pastor, migraine headaches, an upset stomach, fatigue and depression were my daily bread and butter. Today, things are different, to be sure, but I still have difficulty managing the work and responsibility I undertake” (Oswald, 1991, pp. 26-27).

William K. Westafer, Ed. D.

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Notes

  • Friedman, L. R. (1985). Role-related stress in the rabbinate: A report on a nationwide study of Conservative and Reform rabbis. Journal of Reform Judaism, 32(1), 4-6.
  • Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.
  • Lindner, E., (Ed.), (2004). Yearbook of American and Canadian churches. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • London, H. B., Jr., & Wiseman, N. B. (2003). Pastors at greater risk: Real help for pastors from pastors who’ve been there. Ventura, California: Regal Books.
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