Credit: Stressed worker image via Shutterstock
Stressed-out workers who blame their employer for their anxiety should think again, a new study shows.
Research by Timothy Judge, a professor of management at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, found that work stress, job satisfaction and health problems due to high stress have more to do with genes than most realize.
Judge studied nearly 600 identical and fraternal twins who were raised together and reared apart. He found that being raised in the same environment had very little effect on personality, stress and health. Instead, shared genes turned out to be about four times as important as shared environment.
As an example, Judge said two employees at the same business may report different levels of stress. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that one's job is objectively more stressful.
"Our study suggests strong heritabilities to work stress and the outcomes of stress," Judge said. "This means that stress may have less to do with the objective features of the environment than to the genetic 'code' of the individual."
The research shows those trying to lessen the stress in their life shouldn't think changing jobs is going to do the trick, unless they appreciate their own predispositions toward stress. Judge says that doesn't mean that employees shouldn't try to avoid stressful jobs.
"However, we also shouldn't assume that we're 'a blank slate' and therefore be overly optimistic about what the work environment can and can't do as far as stress is concerned," he said. "More of it has to do with what's inside of us than what we encounter outside in the work environment."
The study, "Genetic Influences on Core Self-Evaluations, Job Satisfaction, Work Stress, and Employee Health: A Behavioral Genetics Mediated Model," was recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.