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The Impact of the Great Recession on Workplace Stress Several months after the official onset of the Great Recession in December 2007,1 Elizabeth Bernstein, writing in The Wall Street Jowrnal, observed that “as th6 economy falters and layoffs sweep certain industries, many people are more worried than ever about job security- in addition to fretting over the value of their homes, the cost of college, and a host of other issues. Making matters worse: Stressed-out bosses and co-workers tend to pass tension on to others.”2 Moreover, as observed by Angela Scappatura, writing for the Canadian HR Reporter,when “[t]here is a lot of uncertainty in the workplace . . . [,] [i]t is important for rhe organization to focus on eliminating anxiety among employees because heightened emotions can be detrimental to the workplace.”3 “Put your ear to the ground nowadays and you hear a steady rumble of ‘stress-stress-stress-stress’, like a herd of bison in the distance. Whether it’s a consequence of recessionary cost-cutting and downsizing or the ever more cut-throat pace of change in the global marketplace, . . . huge chunks of the workforce seem to be stressed out by their jobs-and it’s getting worse.”4 Numerous reasons are cited for these elevated stress levels: lack of job security shrinking pensions, micromanagement and over-control of employees, de-skilled jobs, routine abuse by ill-informed and ungrateful customers, long work hours, and virtually nonexistent support from management.5 One of the common corporate solutions for dealing, at least partially, with the impact of the Great Recession has been downsizing. Although downsizing can help companies with cost reductions, such an action has substantial negative impacts on employee attitudes. Employees perceive the layoffs as a rupturing of the employer-employee contract; and those who survive the layoffs typically suffer from low morale and lack of trust in and loyalty to their employer.6 Yet all too often employers do not understand the impact of employee stress on companies’ success, particularly the overall customer experience and attainment of overall business objectives.T Hiring and salary freezes, layoffs, and bon reductions-all in an attempt to cut costs-can lead an increase in employees’workloads and adversely afft their ability to deal with work-related stress.8 Paula I len, vice-president of organizational solutions and trai ing at Shepell-fgi in Toronto, Canada, says that with t increased demands on employees, many of them are n taking care of themselves with respect to taking stock the situation and solving problems or with regard to g, ting enough sleep and relaxation. She continues, “‘[t]her always the feeling, if things are rough, [that] you should working 24 hours a day. If you are doing that, it’s going take a toll. You’re going to build resentment, fatigue.”‘e Commenting in October 2010 after the official er of the Great Recession in June 2009,10 Sarah Dobso writing in the Canadian HR Reporter, expressed a vir shared by many people in North America: “The rece recession was grueling, no doubt, and it’s not over y( So, it’s no surprise employees are complaining of high stress and heavier workloads.”11 According to Carole 51 ers, an occupational stress consultant, the Great Rece sion created dangerous, new levels of workplace anxier “People are more insecure in their jobs, so they’re puttir up with things they otherwise wouldn’r necessarily put r with. . . . As a result, employers are not getting the be out of their employees.”12 Spiers observes that when er ployees do not feel they are valued by their employers,, employees are working long hours or feel they are beir treated like numbers, those employees will not be loy to the organization, In addition, employee performan will suffer, and company productivity and profitabili will decline.l3 Discussion Questions 1. How has the Great Recession directly affected the magnitude of stress people experience? How have the responses of businesses to the Grear Recession affected employees’ stress levels? How can the Yerkes-Dodson law help in understanding the impact of the Great Recession on people’s stress levels? 2. 3. 270 PART 2 INDIVIDUAL PROCESSES AND BEHAVIOR

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