Managing Workplace Stress

Posted: October 16th, 2022

As current and future business managers, University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium students need to understand that behaviors among organizational leaders can either exacerbate or alleviate stress in the workplace for employees and themselves.

"The goal is to create a healthy workplace, and it is amazingly possible in many organizations," says Dr. Nancy Hanson-Rasmussen, emeritus associate professor of management at UW-Eau Claire who teaches the UW MBA Consortium course. "Healthy workplaces have a competitive advantage. There is a plethora of research on how prevalent chronic stress is in the workplace and how it has increased in recent years, making workers ill. Knowing that, who would want to work somewhere that puts their health at risk?"

The UW MBA Consortium's MBA 757: Managing Workplace Stress course is a unique elective offering that is proactive rather than reactive, teaching students how to create a work environment with less stress and worker burnout.

Students taking the course work with the well-known Maslach Burnout Inventory, which determines areas of concern that students can investigate and propose ways to adjust their own work systems.

"As in many MBA courses, students work in groups, helping each other solve problems," Hanson-Rasmussen says. "The students are working professionals and can share valuable experiences and ideas for change. Each student develops a plan to help alleviate at least one source of stress."

Logan Brecklin took the course this summer and enjoyed reflecting with classmates on stress at his workplaces and across various industries. As part of the course, students developed action plans to manage workplace stress and encourage action by company management.

"Honestly, I don't think you can gain any more relevant, applicable knowledge in a three-week span than with MBA 757," says Brecklin, who works as an electrical engineer for an electric utility company in Wisconsin. "It was almost therapeutic to know that you and your industry are not isolated with recent increases in stress. And one of the most important lessons was realizing that companies can take a meaningful action with input from employees to reduce stress, improve workplace efficiency, and exemplify an inclusive culture."

Dr. Barbara Rau, dean of the UW Oshkosh College of Business and Economics, has been involved with the UW MBA Consortium Executive Committee since 2015 and has taught students about managing workplace stress.

"Learning how to think about workplace stress, spotting the warning signs early, modifying workplaces to reduce stress and understanding how this benefits the organization and its people is a core competency of management," Rau says.

The UW MBA Consortium always has offered multiple elective courses that allow students to explore specific areas of interest, Rau says. The Program provides timely content that allows students to customize their elective experience.

The Consortium regularly reviews its courses for content currency and can quickly redesign or redevelop classes as required.

"Our instructional designers are phenomenal partners to our faculty," Rau says. "Their expertise allows the latest and best learning tools to be integrated quickly, rather than requiring each faculty member to be an expert not only in their subject but in the growing array of online learning tools. All of these elements means that the Consortium is very nimble in moving to cover emerging topics that are top of mind for students in management."

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