How Positive Events Can Impact Work-Related Stress

Topic(s): Health & Safety, leadership, stress
Publication: Academy of Management Journal (December 2013)
Article: Building positive resources: Effects of positive events and positive reflection on work stress and health
Authors: Bono, J., Glomb, T., Shen, W., Kim, E., & Koch, A.
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Work-related stress is a problem that most (if not all) of us face. Daily events often affect our stress levels, which in turn can affect our health.

Has a doctor ever told you that you should reduce your stress level in order to lower your blood pressure, lessen your pain, or reduce your exhaustion? If so, the results of a recent study on work-related stress may be of great interest to you.

In “Building positive resources: Effects of positive events and positive reflection on work stress and health,” Joyce Bono and her colleagues were interested in how positive events and a positive reflection intervention impacted people dealing with work-related stress on a number of physical and mental levels.

The researchers found that positive events (such as a compliment from a supervisor, accomplishing a goal, etc.) directly reduced stress and improved overall health. Their study also found additional support for the negative effects of negative events on people dealing with work-related stress.

In addition, the researchers implemented an intervention in which participants were asked to report three positive things that happened each day, as well as their reasoning behind why these good things occurred. As a result of this intervention, the participants generally had better physical and mental outcomes (though not a reduction in blood pressure). These results suggest the important role of positive events and positive reflection in reducing work-related stress and improving overall health. While many organizations (and meetings) tend to focus on what has gone wrong, this study suggests that positive events should also be discussed.

Maybe you could start your meetings by talking about some recent team accomplishment, expressing gratitude for employee effort, or acknowledging a positive event. Who knows? You might actually be improving your own health in the process.