THE NATURE OF JOB STRESS IN NIGERIAN BANKING SECTOR
BACKGROUND OF STUDY
There is increasing evidence which suggests that today more than ever before, employees are working in an atmosphere of anxiety and stress. A fundamental and dynamic shift is taking place in the world of work. Many have called this change the third revolution or ‘tidal wave’. Most experts have agreed, however that the situation is a transformation from an industrial economy to information or knowledge based economy. Structural changes (downsizing, mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring), changing social and working contexts and the introduction of new technology are all implicated in the stress process. Adding to the pressures that workers face are new bosses, computer surveillance of production and work activities, fewer health and retirement benefits, and the feeling they have to work longer and harder just to maintain their current economic status. Workers at every level are experiencing increased tension and uncertainty, and are updating their resumes. The negative impact of stress can be observed in the wide range of conditions that are associated with it. Stress has been associated not only with a variety of psychological conditions including anxiety and depression, but also with a number of important physiological conditions including heart attack, ulcers, and stroke. It is also considered to be a contributing factor to low back pain and repetitive stress injuries. The loss of a job can be devastating, putting unemployed workers at risk for physical illness, marital strain, anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Loss of a job affects every part of life, from what time you get up in the morning, to whom you see and what you can afford to do. Until the transition is made to a new position, stress is chronic.
While some work place stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. The ability to deal with it can mean the difference between success or failure. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless, even when you are stuck in a difficult situation. Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes or rethinking career ambitions, but rather about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control. Emotions are contagious, and stress has an impact on the quality of interactions with others. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you, and the less other people’s stress will negatively affect you.
Stress at work is a relatively new phenomenon of modern lifestyles. The nature of work has gone through drastic changes over the last century and it is still changing at whirlwind speed. They have touched almost all professions, starting from an artist to a surgeon, or a commercial pilot to a sales executive. With change comes stress, inevitably. In most cases, job stress is attributable to negative situations such as a formal reprimand by one’s superior for poor performance. Pleasant circumstances could also bring about job stress, such as job promotion and transfer to another location. Job stress has attracted considerable attention in recent times especially within the context or organizational behaviour (Kazmi et al 2008; Shahu and Gole 2008; Nilufar et al 2009).
Work involving cash handling is potentially stressful as it requires high attention and exposes employees to constant pressures related to avoiding mistakes. Furthermore, continuous contact with the public may exert psychological strain on workers. Sabir and Helge (2003) noted that the fear of violence is constantly on the minds of employees who handle cash on a regular basis and this fear can be a disturbing phenomenon that is a major cause of mental and physical stress. The peculiarity of the Nigerian context has also broadened the issue of job stress. Oke and Dawson (2008) in their study of workplace stress among Nigerian banking employees, found that the socio-political economic context of developing countries, the local history and culture of Nigerian communities, as well as workplace cultures and employer expectations, all influenced individuals and groups perceptions and attitudes towards workplace stress.
Over the last decade, developments in information technology and banking reforms have changed the banking landscape in Nigeria, especially in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and commercial practice. The stiff competition amongst banks in the industry that has ensued has led to an increase in banking services, ranging from an increase in the number of online services to the provision of various debit cards. Furthermore, the aftermaths of the 2008 world economic and financial crisis in Nigeria culminated in some banks laying-off some of their staff to reduce manpower cost. Therefore, employment relationship between the staff and the banks become more unstable. Many researches have pointed out that employees with instability in their job have reduced their commitment to their organizations, affecting their job manner, job involvement, and even job performance. Men and women do not seem to differ in the amount of stress they face, only in their reaction to it. Women seem to be slightly more reactive to stress and report higher amount of stress and related illness than men. Women tend to use more social support than men in dealing with stress, while men tend to use more avoidance than women. Research suggests that workers under the age of 30years feel stress because most of these workers are entering their first career related job and must excel. Workers between the ages of 31 and 40years have job related stress due to job dissatisfaction from lack of feedback and lack of promotion.
There is evidence to suggest that there are ways in which an organization can help to reduce instances of job stress, or better manage the issue when it arises. Effective people management, good two-way communication between employers and employees, suitable working environments and effective work organization are just some of the factors which can have an impact. However, there is the need to examine critically, the nature and effect of job stress in Nigerian Banking Sector before suggesting ways by which the management could deal with it. This is the main thrust of this study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
According to Jungwee (2007), there is no single cause of job stress. While stress can be triggered by sudden, unexpected pressures, it is often the result of a combination of stressful factors which accumulate over time. Some people can become so used to the symptoms of excessive stress that it goes unnoticed to their detriment. Most job stress is related to management of work, relationships at work, organizational setup and whether you feel you have power and control in your work. The experience of stress is different for every person (Jungwee, 2007). Some people are affected more than others, so what is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. It can depend on your personality type and on how have learned to respond to pressure.
Stress is not always negative or harmful and indeed, the absence of stress is death. Luthans (1989) asserts that we all need some degree of stress to function normally. Thus, in his opinion, mild levels of stress may not be completely bad for employees as a means of enhancing their job performance. However, empirical studies carried out on the incidence of stress among Nigerian workers by Olugbile (1982); Asika and Ade-Serrano (1985) and Akinnusi (1995) have shown that consistently high levels of stress in conjunction with other socio-political and economic factors has contributed to the declining performance and productivity of the Nigerian workers (Oke and Dawson 2008; Nwaroh 1991). Apart from the grave national economic consequences of such declining performance and productivity, job stress also poses serious health problems (Cox, et. al. 1996).
The current turbulent Nigerian business environment requires workers and organizations to re-examine their practices. Banking is an inherently stressful profession with long working hours, stiff competition, ethical dilemmas, regulatory bottlenecks and difficult customers. The issue of job stress among Nigerian bank workers could be better addressed if the factors responsible for such stress were properly identified and evaluated. The question of how job stress affects workers performance is a relevant one given the nature of today’s banking environment and the challenges faced by Nigerian workers.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The specific objectives of the study can be stated as follows:
1. To examine the nature of job stress in Nigerian Banking Sector.
2. To investigate the effect of job stress on employees performance in Nigerian Banking Sector.
3. To identify the factors that is responsible for job stress in Nigerian Banking Sector.
4. To ascertain the strategies for dealing with job stress among Nigerian workers.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESIS
The research questions that would guide this study are stated below:
1. What is the nature of job stress in Nigerian Banking Sector?
2. How does job stress impact on employees productivity in Nigerian Banking Sector?
3. What are the factors that cause job stress in Nigerian Banking Sector?
4. What strategies could be adopted by banks’ management to deal with job stress among their workers?
STATEMENT OF HYPOTHESES
Three hypotheses are proposed to explain the relationship between job stress and employees’ performance:
Job stress adversely affects the performance of employees
Job stress positively affects the productivity of employees
There is trade-off between job stress and employees’ performance
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The desire of every employer is optimum productivity. This can only be achieved when the employees work at their best. But one major factor that has been identified in the literature to affect the performance of employees is job stress. Therefore, the employers and/or management cannot ignore the influence of job stress in attaining the organizational set goals.
The focus of this study is to understand how job stress affects workers’ productivity and also to identify the factors that are responsible for job stress. With that knowledge it may be possible to “adjust” these factors in order to improve the performance of the employees as well as that of the organization.
The application of the findings of this study is mainly for the design and implementation of the most effective strategies for dealing with job stress in Nigerian Banking Sector. However, it is hoped that the key ideas can be transported to any workplace wishing to increase or enhance workers’ productivity.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is an attempt to provide employers and employees with a framework of measures which will identify and prevent problems of job stress and help to manage them when they do arise. Although stress is associated with a number of factors, the scope of this study will be limited to only work-related stress. Furthermore, the impact of job stress on the productivity of employees would be investigated empirically. This will help to put to rest the controversy surrounding the likely effect of job stress on workers performance.
Job stress is a common phenomenon in every occupation, the focus of this research shall be on the Nigerian Banking Sector with special interest on Zenith Bank Plc. The selection of this sector was purposeful because of the work challenges that workers in the sector face on a daily basis especially in recent times with workforce cutbacks which could have resulted in greater pressures on remaining workforces with increased work overloads or stress.
The research is intended to be elaborate, in order to gather diversified opinions on the subject matter and to allow for precision in the identification of job related stressors for every individual respondent.
1.7 BRIEF HISTORY OF ZENITH BANK PLC
Zenith bank has in 23 years, grown to be one of the biggest and most profitable banks in Nigeria. It has total assets plus contingents of #2.60 trillion as at the end of December 2012. The bank was established in May 1990 and started operations in July same year as a commercial bank. It became a public limited company on June 17, 2004 and was listed on the Nigerian stock exchange on October 21, 2004 following a highly successful initial public offering (IPO). The bank presently has a shareholder base of over 900,000 comprising of Nigerian individuals and institutions and total shareholders fund of over #438 billion as at December 2012, an indication of the strength of the Zenith brand.
The bank’s main service delivery channels remain its local and foreign subsidiaries and its business offices (branches and cash offices) which currently stand at over 500 while offering electronic banking services, such as internet banking, bills payment and telephone banking services amongst others. These business offices spread across all state capitals, federal capital territory (fct), major towns and metropolitan centers in the country.
The Board of Directors is made up of a non Executive chairman, six (6) non Executive Directors and six (6) Executive Directors. It comprises persons of mixed skills and experience in different fields of human endeavor. The Zenith Bank’s management is made up of seasoned professionals headed by Godwin Emefiele, the Group Managing Director and CEO, who is a pioneer staff member and has been on the board for almost two decades. The team is determined to deliver superior financial solutions to both businesses and individuals.
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