Employee Illnesses, Stress, and Burnout

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Due to an increasingly stressful economy, it is becoming more of a challenge for employers to make sure that their employees have balanced home and work lives. Despite these difficulties, it is management’s responsibility to foster employee motivation while guaranteeing that the outcomes benefit the entire company.

People flourish on things they perform well, mostly it is their job. On the other hand, personal problems can hinder employee performance. The effects on the employee will be different but there will normally be conspicuous change in attitude and behaviour. Person problems are major hurdles that everyone living in a modern society will have to face in one way or another. The complexity of the problem’s effect will be determined by how individuals address these problems and height of support they are given to deal with the issue.

Social support for employees is extremely important for them to cope with the many aspects of their positions. Social support offers a sense of security; belonging and avenues of coping that are not possible when an employee feels isolated and alone. For many individuals getting together to complain about the job is not enough to be considered support. Many times it only stirs up anger and frustration and offer no real solutions to relieving these issues. The support must be generally authentic, as large as possible in scope and offering affection.


The problem of employee sickness is a controversial issue whose effects is to be found around the globe. This report will however restrict itself to employees’ sickness (stress and burnout), its causes, proposed solutions, and human resource management and ethics. The aim is to illustrate that stress at work is among the contributing factors to the de-motivation among employees. The employee sickness (stress) could transform the person’s personality and attitude to the extent that he displays brutality, either in a physically violent, sexually abusive or get disinterested in work.

According to Cooper (2009), quality of life can be evaluated by four key traits, living conditions, health, “moral perfection”, and personal life satisfaction. If any of these conditions are poor, overall quality of life should drop. It is already widely accepted that excessive stress can cause health problems, both mental and physical, however it could be possible that stress effects the other three conditions for quality of life. The people with less wealth may feel the need to keep a job, work longer hours, and therefore having a lack of time or money to relieve stress through relaxing activities.

Critical analysis Ethics and human resources management

Improvement of employees’ efficiency, ethics and skill management is the most important role for Human Resource managers. Creating value of the organization through different strategies related to the employment management is an important job for Human Resource managers. They usually change their hiring process according to the company’s need for recruiting employees for the organization. Human Resource managers are efficient to manage employees and their skills and efficiency.

Benefits in human resources for employees are very tough to exercise in the present competitive market. Human Resource managers have to face several problems to provide benefits in human resources for employees of an organization. As they are handling many different types of problems from the global market, they have to be flexible in their work process. The main job for a Human Resource professional is to hire suitable employees for local and global needs and develop their skills and efficiency level for the sustainable development of organizations. With their flexibility in work process, they change their recruitment process to hire employees for an organization.

Issues of effectively incorporating ethics in human resource, is a key area facing today’s business leaders. Constant reports of unethical actions of corporations, government officials and corporate executives put into focus the necessity for solutions to the dilemma. Opinions on ethical business practices are varied due to the complexity in the current business environment.

It is crucial to comprehend what ethical behaviour entails before effective frameworks to put into force ethical behaviour are developed. Usually, an ethic is related to socio economic contexts. The principal notional approaches to ethics many a time conflict and appraisal of ethics may well depend to a large extent on the framework than the concern.

To compete with the global rivals, they have to recruit more effective and efficient employees. To make employees more efficient, HR managers provide good working atmosphere and incentives. HR managers encourage the employees to work efficiently for the company. HR managers always work for the total benefits of the employees of organization. The international human resource managers try to provide more benefits in human resources for employees of different organizational operations.

Only the Human Resource managers are not responsible for providing total benefits in human resources for employees of an organization. The employees should have to be more efficient which is required for their benefits for the company. Sometimes companies have to recruit efficient employees in the overseas branches to complete overseas assignments. The Human Resource managers are also very efficient to prepare employees to work in different countries through different types of training processes according to their different work procedures.

Those employees should have the ability to change their culture and customs according to the overseas branches of the company. Employees are being more efficient and effective through the advantages of working in different work culture and environment. The efficiency increases with the increase in the educational qualifications of the employees. Therefore, education is an important requirement for an efficient employee.

Causes of sickness

Over working is a decent base line for work related stress. A study conducted by Ng et al. (2008) investigated the workers’ stress through the contextual analysis of wealth and their well-being at both individual and national levels. It has been found that the stress has a positive correlation with well-being and wealth. It was further indicated in this study that the level of stress was found variable at individual and national level. A discussion paper was developed by Bradshaw (2008) in which the stress phenomenon was tried to reveal in the UK universities pertaining to workers’ well-being and wealth.

Various predictors were found in this multiple regression analysis among which ‘work overload’ was found as the most prevalent. Taking worker’s psychological health into special consideration, Leka, Griffiths and Cox (2003) conducted a multivariate analysis of health issues emerging from stress at work and it was found that the incompetence of workers and work pressure usually lead them to stress at work. In addition, the unfavourable environment of the organizations also causes a heavy stress for workers especially when a work pressure pushes them to work exhaustion.

The organizational hardiness for its workers is a world-wide tactic to decrease stress at work as mentioned in the article “creating a hardy work environment: can organizational policies help?” by Judkins and Furlow (2003). This study was conducted in the context of health care arena and the leadership of this segment was persuaded to develop such organizational policies that must enhance the elements of hardiness among the workers in order to avoid stress at work. The financial review was also made in this study and was found that the American organizations were losing a major amount of total revenue due to stress at work. That is why; the organizations were in dire need to enhance hardiness among the workers for achieving sustainable healthy job performance.

It has always been tried to determine the job satisfaction level among the workers in various regimes of the world and the phenomenon of stress at work has always been indicated during such investigative studies. The same phenomenon was found at rise among the emergency workers because of their frequent exposure with traumatic events, resulting in increased complaints of posttraumatic stress disorder, sense of being low profile and emotional tiredness.

That is why; the quality of emergency workers’ life has become a great concern for the scientific research in this arena and has a close relationship with their traumatic experiences of everyday life. However, the impacts of traumatic incidents on the mental health of emergency workers not only result from their own exposure but also from the secondary sources during their jobs to help out the persons directly influenced by traumas (Cicognani et al., 2009).

Previously, Cowman et al. (2004) had also showed their deep concern about this particular issue of stress because they found that the people serving as emergency workers contributed a significant portion of workers and their stress at work might cause serious damages for the sustainable societal developments. In other words, emergency workers’ quality of life was at great risk and traumatic events were found as the major rationale behind their stress at work.

The etiology of the stress at work became the major debates among various scholars. The post traumatic stress disorder was the major concern found in the initial literature and this disorder was also the common symptom among the emergency workers feeling stress at work. In addition, the secondary exposure of the emergency workers with traumatic incidents was also found critical for their mental health, causing compassion fatigue Cicognani et al., 2009). Another stress symptom indicated was burn out syndrome, which was termed as the mixture of heavy fatigue, scepticism and job disinterestedness. This syndrome was the most prevalent issue among the emergency workers due to heavy workload and other job-related stresses (Maslach et al., 2001).

That is why; the recent literature has focused this burnout syndrome at the large during investigation of stress at work in relation to ambulance workers. The distinguishing feature between burnout syndrome and compassion fatigue noted was that burnout syndrome resulted due to overwhelming and continued job stress, while the unexpected contact with traumatic incidents increased the probability of compassion fatigue among the emergency workers (Cicognani et al., 2009).

During the current period, the research has aimed to investigate the relationship between the traumatic events and emergency personnel in terms of their reflexes and it was found that job dissatisfaction was the core mandate of every traumatic stress diagnosed in the diseased emergency workers. In addition, the emergency workers’ quality of life was also accommodated in the recent literature in order to develop understanding about the economic aspects of stress at work. For this purpose, the concept of collective efficacy was introduced for comparative analysis of organizational aims accomplishment and workers’ satisfaction level.

It was further derived that the job performance may be enhanced through increasing professional competence of workers and ultimately, the success probability will be increased in terms of jobs (Price, 2007). Accomplishments- In addition, the organizational policies were mandated to keep pace with the workers’ mental health. This argument was also supported by Brown et al. (2002) who studied the mental health of fire fighters and the impacts of organizational strategies upon their health because it was maintained by Brown et al. that the fire fighters working in a harmonious environment manifested low levels of stress and high spirits of job accomplishments.

They have also indicated that the emotional compliance between the organizational strategies and workers was another positive experience for lowering the stress at work. Similarly, the behavioural deviance in the form of societal avoidance has also been found as the consequence of stress at work. The findings of these successive studies have also successfully maintained that the workers’ quality of life and job performance are both directly and indirectly related to each other (Cicognani et al., 2009).

Violence at the place of work can be caused by burnout, stress on the job or at home, or relationships that are not working. A middle-aged man who is a loner, with few out of the job personal contacts, and he is frustrated by problems of his job is the classic workplace killer. Ninety eight percent of most violence at workplace is committed by men indicated in one study. If this issue is not looked at, fear among workers, great cost to the companies, discontent or loss of lives could occur.

There is evidence from case that indicate that there are common practices amongst employee perceptions about the existence of desirable rewards and those intrinsic rewards, which address the inner feeling of accomplishment, fulfillment, self actualization, self determination and competence levels, as experienced by employees while working, are valued on a higher basis as compared to extrinsic rewards.

This is suggestive of the fact that intrinsic rewards that relate to the structure and design of the employee’s working environment and the extent to which he or she can be in control over his or her activities have considerable influence over motivation levels as compared to extrinsic rewards. It is also known that the feelings of recognition and achievement are important rewards.

Organizations that frame their rewards systems only on the basis of monetary incentives do not maximize the motivational values in the context of their compensation cost. While examining the pattern of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in a company, it is observed that promotion is considered a major and sought after extrinsic reward. Opportunities in the context of added responsibilities and personal development opportunities are considered as important intrinsic rewards by employees in the UK.

In considering extrinsic rewards systems it is found that they are effective when employees perceive the performance appraisal processes as being transparent. They desire clarity of links amongst the extended efforts and the related rewards that should also be well demonstrated by the management.

There is a definite association amongst the value of extrinsic rewards and rewards transparency, which implies that the value perceptions of extrinsic rewards and thus the resulting motivational effect are both strongly associated with the manner in which rewards are managed in the rewards systems. For organization to acquire influential motivational characteristics they need to frame the rewards program in a way that they are distributed by way of incentive programs that do not rely on performance, while the relationship between rewards and performance is assumed to be transparent (Porter et al, 1985 ).

Proposed solutions to the sickness

The organizational policies related to stress at work will be the independent variable because it will be checked to verify the compliance between the policies and workers’ job satisfaction levels. On the other hand, the cope-oriented organizational policies will be the dependant variable because these policies will help to reduce the stress among the workers. In his book “Organizational Behaviour”, Robbins (2001) has found the same strategy helpful to manage stress at work, while discussing in chapter 19 “organizational change and stress management”. In other words, it is strongly recommended that the organizational policies should be devised according to the workers’ needs so as to increase compliance within the working environment and to reduce the stress at work. The most important resource for support to the entire organization is the existence of well-operating counsellors, apart from the individual customer who is given direct services (Ng, Diener, Aurora and Harter,2009).

Staff associates of in-house counsellors are expected by both employee and managers to be proficient in equating an employee’s wants with resources that offer effective and prompt intervention. The procedures of administering the internal services are different from the referral function (Mannion, 2004).

The process of allocating one or more external providers to the manager to provide continuing services to deal with worker problems is called referring. The external sources may take responsibility for all a customer’s wants or they may be auxiliary to the work being carried by counsellor.

Counsellors should enlighten them about available services, their advantages and how these resources are analyzed in the community. Applying for any kind of assistance is threatening and it is hard for the inexperienced to realize inappropriate and appropriate requirements. Employees should be informed that if they feel that a resource is not adequate they may go to the counsellors for better options (Blakely, Srivastava and Moorman, 2005).

Motivation being the best to solve the sickness perhaps of the most famous motivational theories is Abraham Maslow’s theory of employee motivation. The theory states that hard work should always be rewarded and employees should also be awarded for their efforts as well as outcomes (Accel-Team, 2010). The theory maintains that needs such as workplace satisfaction is a vital aspect of a human’s overall life satisfaction. Furthermore, if an employee is satisfied at work, it gives their life further meaning and purpose.

When designing jobs, managers need to consider the level of work that every employee performs and consider whether or not that workload is challenging enough for them. If employees are constantly challenged and praised for their efforts, it will boost satisfaction and create a stronger organization. Management needs to understand that employees have different needs thus should take time to get to know and understand the goals of each person. Similar to Maslow, Herzberg’s theory of employee motivation is based on meeting the common needs of all employees. Herzberg argues that man has two different sets of needs which are animal and human.

Animal needs include things such as working conditions and salary while human needs consist of factors such as advancement and respect (Accel-Team, 2010). According to this theory, shorter work days and more money are not the only employee motivators. In order to ensure true employee satisfaction, managers need to design jobs appropriate for employee’s individual needs.

Managers can sustain employee motivation by creating custom jobs that target specific employees within the organization. A custom job must be challenging so employees can use their full potential, individual skills as well as abilities. When an employee’s abilities grow, they should be given more responsibility. If a position no longer fits an employee’s abilities it should be given to another and more appropriate employee. Jobs and employees should never be treated as entities which are nameless and faceless. Each position and person in the organization needs to be treated as an individual.

Planning is important to any organization regardless of its size or function and needs to be used strategically when considering employee motivation. In relation to employee motivation, mangers consider how employee performance can affect business. Sales figures should never be calculated solely on marketing plans and past sales records. Instead, managers need to understand that employee satisfaction and overall motivation levels do have an impact on future sales and should be included in the formula. Managers need to devise methods to prepare for unexpected fluctuations in employee motivation levels in relation to sales (McClintic and Cengage, 2006).

Organizing is crucial to a company and employee motivation because it provides employees with direction and clarity as to what their position is within the organization. If a company does not have a solid framework in which every employee fills a certain task, employees will not understand why their position holds any importance to the organization thus may not be motivated to work as hard.

To effectively establish a company in which employees understand their positions, mangers must set strict guidelines that enforce each employee’s role in relation to the organization. Setting goals for each employee and recording results so they can get a picture of their improvement is crucial. If employees are not provided with a picture of their contribution to the company and how it is having a positive impact, they will be more likely to feel dissatisfied with their current position. Dissatisfaction will lead to lower motivation levels as well as a loss in overall productivity (McClintic and Cengage, 2006). Managers need to act as leaders to motivate and inspire employees to reach their goals. If managers are not inspirational and excited about the work that they do and the goals they set, employees will be just as unmotivated.

Managers must work alongside with employees to ensure that they reach personal work related goals as well as working to meet the overall goals of the organization (McClintic and Cengage, 2006). The importance of employee motivation should not be viewed as of secondary importance. Employees are the backbone of all organizations and need to remain motivated in order to adequately fulfil their responsibly. Without employee motivation, organization’s will suffer losses that will hurt them both in the long-term and short-term. Managers need to make motivation strategies a priority to ensure the growth of their organization.

Burnout results from constant demands from the work environment that the staffs have no control over. Burnout is the emotional and physical reactions to the job. On the job, an employee may not be able to react to a loss before another loss is felt. Taking stock of one’s personal and work habits often helps the employee to assess what needs to be done to reduce stress. In its very simplest manner it is looking at an employee’s ability to set boundaries at work and at home. Guilt from not having enough time away from work with family can add to burnout. Not being able to say no to taking on additional shifts can also cause great stress in the work place.

What is not always made clear, it is not the money that causes an employee to take on an additional shift as much as the connection between the work, their family and colleagues (Price, 2007). If the workload is overwhelming, if management is not defined and consistent and if staff are not professional; an employee can feel emotional battered. This can certainly effect how the employee finds value in their work. It can also affect how quickly an employee can rebound after an event or a series of events in their position.

Therapy may assist employees to deal with emotional turmoil, alcoholism, or conjugal, kinship, customer, official, and monetary problems. A number of employers propose professional counselling as well as the outplacement services. In few corporations, other managers synchronize definite programs, such as those dealing with material safety or information expertise, in different departments of a business chain (Mary & Hazen, 2009).

People should be employed in their proper job in a proper place. This will be beneficiary for employees and the company also. This proper allocation and distribution will help employees to increase his efficiency level. Staffing is different by the effect of the difference in supply of labour in different labour market. A company recruits people for different sector of labour market for different requirement of the company. This depends mainly on the growth and reduction in the employee requirement of companies.

A company should conducts performance appraisals at regular intervals as performance appraisals can ensure that the recruiting and selection processes are adequate, that training programs are relevant and help in effectively linking performance with rewards. Moreover, these appraisals justify employment related decisions and promotions, thereby providing motivation and development to the employees.

The ultimate goal for any organization using performance appraisals is to be able to improve performance on the job. The manager must remember that performance appraisals can lead to higher employee motivation and satisfaction if done right and thereby enhance performance. Feedbacks could be collected from other managers, subordinates, and even the customers. These propositions may be counted as the ideals for a proper orientation of a managerial task in the sector of human resource management (Byars and Rue , 2004).

Changes That Brought the Sickness

Environmental forces include technological issues, cultural issues, political issues and economic issues have changed. These are the issues which are external and an organization does not have any control upon them. The human resource strategy needs to incorporate these unforeseen environmental issues, because an organization does not have any control over them. What maximum HR people can do is they can forecast the political and the economic situation of the country and hence formulate some strategies according to it. It is very important to consider the environmental factors in the strategy formulation (Price, 2007).


From the foregoing, it can be established that the employees sickness, can contribute to the success or failure of the organisation. It should also be noted that the structure of the organization could easily contribute to the sickness in the organisation as well overlapping of roles and responsibilities. Quite often, conflicts that arise from communication breakdown, structural misunderstandings and personal factors, but a skilful human resource manager know how to diffuse them.

Employees’ sickness (Stress and burnout) is very common in employment environment, but it does not have to be as severe as it often is. One of the important steps to take is to learn about what burnout is and how an employee can take steps to overcome burnout. Building a support system is critically important as it will help identify stress before it becomes too difficult to manage. Taking time to determine what boundaries are necessary to prevent stress is the first step. However, one must be willing to make clear what the boundaries are and ask for assistance in keeping boundaries intact.


It is recommended that when an organization wishes to employee sickness, it should identify causes of sickness from within and should commit resources to the solving the sickness. Though the sickness may be from sources outside the organisation, the management might need to source for a human resources counsellor who will be responsible for solving the problems. Employers can use numerous strategies, tricks, skills, and models of problems solving to make employees comfortable and improve working environment. The tricks and strategies should however not offend the employees since they may not be will to participate. It is however advisable to develop good relationship between the employee and the management so that some degree of trust is attained.

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Bradshaw, A 2008, “What predicts stress at work?” Quality of Working Life Ltd.

Brown, J., Mulhern, G., & Joseph, S 2002. “Incident-related stressors, locus of control, coping, and psychological distress among firefighters in Northern Ireland”. Journal of Traumatic Stress 15, 161–168.

Cicognani, E, Pietrantoni, L., Palestini, L, & Prati, G 2009. “Emergency workers’ quality of life: The protective role of sense of community, efficacy beliefs and coping strategies”. Soc Indic Res 94, 449-463.

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Cowman, S, Ferrari, B, & Liao-Troth, M 2004. “Mediating effects of social support on fire fighters’ sense of community and perceptions of care”. Journal of Community Psychology 32, 121–126.

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Price, A 2007. Human Resource Management in a Business Context. Thomson Learning, New York.

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