WMU News

Stressed-out employees can be expensive

March 27, 2002

KALAMAZOO--Stressed-out employees may be affecting your company's bottom line.

At a Haworth College of Business presentation Friday, April 5, a Western Michigan University expert will tell managers how stress manifests itself in employee behavior and how efforts to ease frazzled nerves can boost productivity and help curb absenteeism, turnover and sabotage.

Dr. Christina Stamper will present "Coping with Stress: Reducing the Impact of Employee Stress on Business Effectiveness" as part of the Keystone Community Bank Breakfast Series. The free program, which includes a continental breakfast, will begin at 7:30 a.m. in Room 2150 of Schneider Hall on the WMU campus. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the Haworth College of Business dean's office at (269) 387-5050.

"There are two distinct philosophies about what kinds of relationships employers should build with their workers--one says to keep them at arm's length, the other advocates a softer, more family-like atmosphere," says Stamper. "Studies show that, in most cases, the better the relationship, the better the employee behavior. There's a competitive advantage for companies that can reduce employee stress by helping workers manage work-family conflict, encouraging physical activity, redesigning assignments and clarifying expectations. Employees who are stressed are significantly more likely to make mistakes and to participate in deviant workplace behaviors such as absenteeism, turnover, sabotage and aggression."

Despite the economic slowdown, many companies around the nation that provide benefits like onsite childcare and fitness facilities, pizza parties, tickets to sporting events, or chair massage are still thriving, according to Stamper. For example, Southwest Airlines, a company renowned for its employee-friendly policies and high worker morale, recently reported its 29th consecutive year of profitability and is proceeding with cautious growth plans--all in the post-Sept. 11 climate that has left most other airlines floundering with strike threats and talk of bankruptcy or demise.

"Southwest's founder, Herb Kelleher, built a wonderful culture at the company and employees love him for it--and they love Southwest," Stamper notes. "It's a place where employees have a lot of soft, seemingly-silly benefits--like employee parties, company bowling teams and training videos that feature rap songs--that at first glance seem to only add to corporate costs. But most managers would agree that these benefits help retain quality employees and keep their work forces satisfied."

Stamper, an assistant professor of management, joined the Haworth College of Business last fall after teaching for three years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and working for several years in the hospitality industry. Her research on such topics as compensation and diversity, corporate citizenship and workplace behavior has been published and presented in a variety of professional forums. She earned her doctoral and master's degrees from Michigan State University and her bachelor's degree from the University of Miami.

The Keystone Community Bank Breakfast Series at the Haworth College of Business features WMU faculty and alumni speaking about their research and teaching on a variety of timely business issues. The company and college formed the partnership two years ago to offer monthly presentations that are free and open to the public.

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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