Stress and performance curve

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Stress and performance curve


Below analysis will be focused on the influences that stress management and occupational health and safety issue have on the achievement of the corporate goals. On one hand stress has severe influence over the fulfillment of the strategic business goal via its close relationship with employee performance and obviously high quality performance is essential to the fulfillment of the corporate goals in the competitive business environment. Such relationship is displayed in the figure below. The so call “Yerkes-Dodson Stress and Performance Curve” was developed by two famous two psychologists, Yerkes and Dodson (1908) proposing that there is an inverse-U shaped relationship between arousal and performance in which performance grows with the increase of arousal and when the volume exceed the optimal level which is in the middle of the curve.

So there are three phrases divided according to different stress levels in the curves. In the first phrase, stress is necessary to motivate employees to achieve better performance. This phrase is also very important and has strategic important as most people would easily acknowledge the negative side of stress such as causing mental illness to people but the positive side of the stress is usually forgot. As we know work is different from life and many tasks might even be very professional and need to be finished with time bound and such characters of tasks require the employees to be very serious and focused while they are dealing with the tasks and to achieve this, relative employees need to be under pressure and stress which keep them focusing on the tasks in careful manner. In this phrase, sufficient stress is helpful to achieve better performing in the work. But one thing that needs to be taken note is that it is necessary to differentiate the stressors that caused the stress to happen as some stressors will only have negative impact over the work performance of the employees. For example, terrorism could be an external stressor that would only disorders and mental suffering in term of causing fears the work environment in most cases resulting in the decreases of employee motivation and performance. With this view of point stressors could be divided into two major kinds: positive ones and negative ones. And within the stress and performance curve, the stressors refer to the positive ones.

When the stress level has reached to the status of sufficiency, the curve comes to the second stage which is the most desired stage named as optimal zone in which enough of positive stress help the employees to focus on tasks resulting in creativity, problem solving and work progress as mentioned in the curve. One thing that needs to be taken into consideration is that different individuals may have different threshold for stress and when stress level is closing to the threshold employees are highly motivated to achieve the performance, in other words, the goals of the company. Such thresholds may differ by races, corporate cultures, personal backgrounds, work experiences and other various. And to distinguish the second stage from the previous stage and the next stage that will be elaborated later, it is important to keep a closing eye on the changes of performance of the employees because both increase and decrease of the stress level based on the optimal level will result in the decreases of the actual performance.


And in the next stage marked by a descending limb as just mention, the growth of the positive stress will in return cause ineffectiveness and lower quality of work. At this stage when the stress level characterized by anxiety and even fear (Pont 2003, p84) has exceeded the quantity that employees could sustain due to both work relative and non-work relative stressors, higher the stress level is the lower the performance will be suggesting that the stress has become an obstacle on the way to success. So the main task in this stage will be to reduce the stress level and provide assistance to the employees involved.

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