Stressed At Work? Blame Your Genes, Not Your Employer, Study Says

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Stressed? Blame your DNA, claims a new study
Stressed? Blame your DNA, claims a new study

Do you feel your boss is causing you no end of stress? About to march to HR with a least of grievances?

Before you do, it might be worth considering the findings of a new study that claims that work stress, job satisfaction and health problems due to stress may be the fault of your own genes.

Lead author Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business in Indiana, studied nearly 600 twins – some identical, some fraternal – who were raised together, and apart.

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He found that being raised in the same environment had very little effect on personality, stress and health, but that shared genes turned out to be around four times as important as a shared environment.

"Assume James and Sandy both work in the same organisation," Judge said. "James reports more stress than Sandy.

"Does it mean that James' job is objectively more stressful than Sandy's? Not necessarily. Our study suggests strong heritabilities to work stress and the outcomes of stress.

“This means that stress may have less to do with the objective features of the environment.”

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The battle of nature vs nurture shows that even at work, nature wins. Changing a job to free yourself of stress is probably not going to do the trick unless you appreciate your own predispositions toward stress, Judge argued.

"This doesn't mean we shouldn't do things as employers or individuals to avoid stressful jobs," Judge said.

"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. More of it has to do with what's inside of us than what we encounter outside in the work environment."

Results of the study appeared in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

 
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