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Stress in Context:
Albrecht's Four Common Types of Stress

Dr. Karl Albrecht, a management consultant and author of more than twenty books on professional achievement, organizational performance, and business strategy, is a pioneer in the development of stress-awareness training for businesspeople. He defined four common types of stress in his 1979 book, Stress and the Manager.

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❖ Time and Attention


❖ Anticipatory and Projection

❖ Encounter


❖ Situational

Albrecht’s four types of stress is a basic model of understanding the root causes of stress and taking actions specifically aligned to them. What's fascinating is that while it is highly unlikely Dr. Albrecht foresaw some of the particular types of stressors within each category we are contending with in the workplace and in society today, these four models still hold true over forty years later.

 

Unfortunately, the model itself only really considers responses the individual can take themselves in relation to stressful events in both their personal and professional lives. Sometimes these reactions can cause ethical conduct to occur in reaction to workplace stressors. When addressing the adverse impacts of workplace stress, leaders must also be accountable for their harmful behaviors as well as those of all employees and stakeholders, and antiquated stress-inducing cultural norms and operational/policy issues must be reviewed with corrective actions taken.

WHAT IS TIME/ATTENTION STRESS?

includes performance and 
productivity pressure

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❖ anxiety reaction about time, or the lack thereof.

❖ anxiety about the number of things that you have to do, and fear that time is running out and something terrible will happen.

❖ can lead to feeling trapped, desperate, miserable, helpless and hopeless.

❖ includes worrying about deadlines or rushing to avoid being late for a meeting.

 WHAT IS DISTRACTED ATTENTION STRESS?

❖ comes from both external and internal sources and contributes to the interference of cognitive focus. 



❖ external = includes visual triggers, social interactions, music, text messages, phone calls, and “notification pings” (increased dopamine hits) 


❖ internal = hunger, fatigue, illness, worrying, and daydreaming.

❖ distractions are disruptive to performance and induce errors

❖ increases time stress when we waste time on distractions instead of important tasks

❖ distraction creates relationship stress by not paying attention to people

❖ anxiety & obsessive and compulsive “phone checking” - people, regardless of age, check their smartphones every 15 minutes or less and become anxious if they aren’t allowed to do so (Cheever, Rosen ,Carrier, Chavez, 2014)

❖ multitasking (aka “task shifting”) = distracted attention

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HYPERVIGILANCE: OVER-FOCUSED ATTENTION STRESS

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❖ Hypervigilance is chronic stress accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. (seeing more of this with COVID anxiety)

❖ Addiction to the hyper-readiness fight/flight state, in which the amygdala and adrenals are cued to pump out stress hormones: (adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol) into the body.
❖ Estrogen and testosterone (hormones) that affect how we react to stress, and dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters)
❖ Drugs: Caffeine, ADHD meds, Meth, Other amphetamines

WHAT IS ANTICIPATORY STRESS?

includes mental projection stress

❖ Commonly known as “excessive worry”

❖ Feeling of anxiety about an impending event

❖ Generalized anxiety with no specific basis

❖ Fear that some horrible but unnamed catastrophe is about to happen

❖ can also be caused by a lack of confidence

❖ “Free-floating fear”

❖ Types of things that can cause anticipatory stress include upcoming how deliverables, presentations and meetings will be perceived - when we don’t even know❖ ❖ Reactive vs. responsive

❖ Is a form of Self-Created Stress

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WHAT IS SITUATIONAL STRESS?


❖ a situation that you don’t have (or feel you don’t have) control over: uncertainty, fear of unknown, change, loss of autonomy, a sense of unfairness
❖ potentially unpleasant situation
❖ a situation that involves conflict; a loss of status or acceptance or relatedness in the eyes of your team/group/clients/customers/other stakeholders
❖ often appears suddenly: a situation that you didn’t anticipate; an emergency or crisis
❖ brings up difficult and challenging emotions

*** ORG CHANGE STRESS – loss

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WHAT IS ENCOUNTER STRESS?

"It's about people, man!"

❖ anxiety about dealing with one or more people whom one finds unpleasant and possibly unpredictable
❖ a vague but intense feeling of apprehension when one discovers that the conventional rules for social interaction and human civility no longer govern the behavior of other
❖ “contact overload” – comfort zone is exceeded: you feel overwhelmed or drained from interacting with too many people
❖ need and preference for human contact differs depending on gregarious or introverted
❖ human contact is built into most jobs
❖ typical daily encounters: depressed, inarticulate, frustrated, angry, too absorbed in their own pain to relate humanely with you

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❖ history of crime and antisocial behavior
❖ you represent ________ to them
❖ receive the brunt of anger & hostility
❖empathy and compassion overload
❖ state of overload may prompt coldness
❖ dismissed as “bad attitude” – may simply be one’s attempt to escape unpleasant yet largely unrecognized gut feelings

 

Additionally:
❖ contagiousness – can take on the negative energy of others
❖ also shows up as social avoidance behavior by people who rely on texting and online interaction instead of face-to-face communication – dehumanizing contact

❖ infighting, drama, destructive, passive aggressive, manipulation, persuasion, coercion, actively toxic boss, no remorse or ownership of behavior

❖  passively complicit allows abusive episodes to happen,
enables with silence, is uncoachable, 
unhealthy boundaries

 

❖  Fear is the first sign of weak leadership

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Featured Resource:

WORKPLACE STRESS, PRESSURE AND RETALIATION

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The following is from the ECI 2020 Global Business Ethics Survey: Pressure in the Workplace: Possible Risk Factors and Those at Risk, where we rank workplace retaliation as our 5th leading trend, and the disturbing fact that it is on the rise.

 

"Retaliation against reporters is one of the most intractable issues that organizations must address. Retaliation can take many forms, and it is often difficult to isolate and prevent. However, it is imperative that organizations investigate retaliation and make it clear that there is no tolerance for it within their organization.

 

"ECI has been tracking employee perceptions of retaliation due to the reporting of misconduct since 2007. Since that time, retaliation has been increasing, with a jump from 22% in 2013 to 44% in 2017. In 2020, the rate of retaliation against employees for reporting wrongdoing in the U.S. was 79% an increase of 35 percentage points. If left unaddressed, high rates of retaliation can erode ethical culture and undermine efforts to encourage employees to speak up and raise

concerns."