Stress in the Workplace: Definition, Sources & Meaning

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  • 0:05 Definition of Stress
  • 1:02 Stressors
  • 2:07 Source of Stress
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
The workplace is a constant source of stress for individuals. Managers need to understand the different sources of stress. Work demands and nonwork demands are the two major sources of stress that individuals face daily.

Definition of Stress

Sonny is a marketing manager for Intestinal Distress Taco Restaurant headquarters. He's having a very bad day. Sonny's heart is pumping, sweat is pouring down his face, and his head is pounding. Sonny didn't just finish eating a Grand Jalapeno Taco. Instead, he's suffering from enormous stress courtesy of his boss.

It seems that the deadline for Sonny's marketing plan was moved up two weeks. He needs to provide a detailed promotional plan for the company's new product: the Suffocated Burrito. In addition, his boss insisted on yelling at him for not being aware of the deadline change. Poor Sonny!

Stress is the emotional feeling of an individual to fight or flee when faced with a problem or demand. Sonny's stress will be our example of how stress and sources occur in an organization.


Sonny would have had a great week if it were not for his boss and the deadline change. A stressor is an individual or event that causes the stress to occur. In the Intestinal Distress Taco example, the stressor would be both an individual and an event. The deadline change is an event and Sonny's boss is the person who has caused Sonny significant stress.

Challenge and hindrance are the two specific types of stressors. Challenge stressors are positive in nature and help employees acquire personal growth and achievement through time restrictions on projects or complex work. Hindrance stressors negatively impact the individual through conflict and poor resources, which result in bad attitudes, behaviors and productivity.

Sonny's change in deadline would be a challenge stressor, but his abusive boss would be a hindrance stressor. Unfortunately, Sonny has stress creeping into his life from many different sources. Let's take a look at why Sonny is on the path to Prozac!

Sources of Stress

Work demands and nonwork demands are the two major sources of stress that Sonny faces on a daily basis. Work demands consists of task, role, interpersonal, and physical demands.

Sonny has been working for five years at Intestinal Distress Taco Restaurant. He started at the company working in a local restaurant making tacos for hours and has undergone each of the work type stresses.

Task demands consist of stresses such as a change in work responsibilities, technological changes, and time pressures. Sonny is constantly hit with this type of work stress, as in the deadline example previously discussed.

Sonny has been confused about his job responsibilities and the role of his work. Role demands occur when inconsistent or confusing expectations are presented to the employee. Sonny thought that he would have help in building the marketing plan for the Suffocated Burrito. His confusion in his role has caused even more stress, as now the entire project is relegated to his desk.

Sometimes, the work environment can cause interpersonal demands such as harassment, poor leadership, or inappropriateness. Sonny has had to deal with his abrasive boss for over one year. The man yells, screams, and calls Sonny names for no apparent reason. This type of stress can disrupt work relationships and productivity.

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