Stress & Stress Management – Meaning, Definitions, Features, Causes, Burnout, Rustout

Consequence/Effects of Stress

Selye has used two separate terms to distinguish between the positive and negative effects of stress on the individual even though bodily reactions to the two forms of stress are similar. Based on the degree of stress it can be classified as :
i. Eustress
ii. Distress

i. Eustress
Eustress is ‘positive’ stress that accompanies achievement and exhilaration. Eustress denotes the presence of optimum level of stress in an individual which contributes positively to his performance. This may lead employees to new and better ways of doing their jobs. In certain jobs, such as sales, creativity, a mild level of stress contributes positively to productivity. Eustress is the stress of meeting challenges such as those found in a managerial job or physical activity.

ii. Distress
Distress is when we feel insecure, inadequate, helpless or desperate as the result of too much or too little, pressure or tension. Distress denotes the presence of high level of stress in an individual which affects job performance adversely and creates many types of physical, psychological and behavioural problems discussed below:

(a) Physiological Problems
It has been found by empirical studies that high-level stress is accompanied by high blood pressure and high cholesterol and results in heart disease, ulcers and arthritis. In U.S.A., medical practitioners have opined that 50 to 60 per cent of physical illnesses among executives is due to stress. Link has also been established between heart failure and persistent stress.

(b) Psychological Problems
Impact of stress on mental health is also very hurtful. It produces anxiety, irritability, depression, nervousness, boredom and tension. It may result in loss of self-confidence and self-esteem and job dissatisfaction.

(c) Behavioural Problems
A man under stress may suffer from sleeplessness. He may take to drinking and excessive smoking and even turn a drug addict. As a result, he may become quarrelsome with his co-workers, and harsh towards his subordinates. He may find escape from this agonising condition in absenteeism and finally in resignation. Employees under constant stress are ultimately a liability to the organization. Behavioural related stress symptoms include in productivity, absence, and turnover as well as changes in eating habits, increased smoking or consumption of alcohol, rapid speech, fidgeting and sleep disorders.

Selye’s stress and job performance model applies this conception to job performance. It suggests that optimum stress(eustress) may be achieved at work and reflected in job performance when jobs provide adequate challenges, but not too little or too much pressure as shown in the following figure by the inverted U-shaped curve. Though the optimum stress level is different for different individuals, each individual can sense and determine how much stress is functional for him to operate in a productive manner.


Burnout is a general feeling of exhaustion that develops when a person simultaneously experiences too much pressure and has too few sources of satisfaction. Quite often, people with high aspirations and strong motivation to get things done are prime candidates for burnout under certain conditions. They are especially vulnerable when the organisation suppresses or limits their initiative constantly demanding that they serve the organisation’s own ends.
Some of the symptoms of burnout include :
(1) chronic fatigue,
(2) angler at those making demands,
(3) self-criticism for putting up with demands,
(4) cynicism, negativism, and irritability,
(5) a sense of being besieged, and
(6) trigger display of emotions.
Other symptoms might include recurring health problems, such as ulcers, back pain, or frequent headaches. The burnout victim is often unable to maintain an even keel emotionally. Unwarranted hostility may occur in totally inappropriate situations. Subsequently, burnout is harmful to the individual’s mental and physical health, resulting in performance problems both individually and organizationally.


Rustout is a syndrome wherein a person is chronically under-worked and his skills are under-utilised in perfroming the job. This syndrome is a problem for employees. Like a rusting tool, there is continuous erosion in employees and over the period of time, they become useless. Rusting in employees occurs in two situations:

i. Sidelined
In sidelining, an employee is isolated by his superior either due to lack of confidence, prejudices or due to demonstrated misdeeds/incompetence.

ii. Misemployment
In misemployment, the employee is placed on a job which requires much lesser skills than what he possesses.
In both these situations, the employee develops one or more of the following feelings or behaviours:
(a) He no longer engages in workplace events.
(b) He does not identify with his job the way he used to do earlier.
(c) He begins to feel that he is not needed or valued.


Click on the link below for study material on stress management:

Stress Management – Individual and Organizational Coping Strategies


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