Study links work-related stress to inadequate compensation

A recent study on work-related stress has found that some employees in Barbados who do not believe they are being adequately compensated at work, are experiencing sustained stress reactions and negative attitude toward their jobs.

The recent study, conducted by Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies Dwayne Devonish, found that effort-reward imbalances led to sustained stress reactions and negative attitudes such as reduced job satisfaction, increased job burnout or fatigue, increased propensity to quit the job, and depleted mental health.

The greatest effects of this stressor were the propensity to quit the job and the mental health of employees, the study revealed.

Effort-reward imbalance (ERI) is a phenomenon that occurs when employees are not sufficiently compensated for thier efforts or contributions to their work.

Rewards could include adequate compensation and benefits, respect and social support, job security and adequate developmental and career opportunities.

The study was conducted among 320 employees – 55 per cent from the private sector and 45 per cent from the public sector – across various industries in Barbados.

Devonish said the evidence strongly confirmed that a perceived imbalance between work and rewards could produce “the same effects as any harmful work-related stressor.

“The study also revealed that imbalances affect women and men differently. In particular, a female employees’ health was more adversely affected than male employees by perceived imbalances or inequities at work resulting in poorer physical and mental health states,” he said.

In outlining the key recommendations, Devonish said efforts should be made to promote wellness and health at work, while ensuring that organizational rewards were distributed equitably according to level of productivity and performance of employees.

Acknowledging that cost cutting measures could limit the attention given to the welfare of employees and the work enviroment, Devonish said managers should be vigilant in order to preserve equity in the provision of rewards to fit employees’ efforts.

This, he said, would promote positive attitudes and outcomes at work at the individual level.

“The current findings also suggest that ERI does indeed contribute to a number of strain outcomes directly and indirectly via employee satisfaction with the job. The design, execution and enforcement of human resource policies in the organization are important for equitable distributions of rewards based on employee performance in order to prevent or mitigate stressful work environments for employees,” he said.

The researcher said while the countries had enacted legislation governing conditions at work and requirements for protecting workers’ welfare and well-being in the workplace, it was also necessary for there to be policies at the organizational level.

“Hence, the various organs and functions of HR should be appropriately aligned, including selection procedures, training, performance assessment and compensation to help curb any negative concerns with inequity and unfair treatment and reward distribution.

“Finally, the design and implementation of appropriate primary, secondary and tertiary interventions aimed at preventing and/or addressing burnout and mental health problems emanating from stressful work environments should be a vital part of management’s responsibilities in enhancing the overall quality of psychosocial work environment and promoting the welfare of the workforce,” he explained.

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