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Genes may be at the heart of work stress, job dissatisfaction and health problems. According to new research by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, you may not be able to blame your environment or your ogre boss.
Judge studied nearly 600 twins, both fraternal and identical, raised together and apart. His research 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 sharing a similar environment.
“Assume James and Sandy both work in the same organization,” Judge suggested. “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 than to the genetic ‘code’ of the individual.”
It appears that in the never-ending battle of nature versus nurture, even at work nature wins. Changing a job to free yourself of stress will likely fail. You must appreciate your own predispositions to stress which may be genetic and thus difficult but not impossible to fight.
“This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do things as employers or individuals to avoid stressful jobs,” Judge explained. “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.”
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