I’m not crazy; you’re not crazy.
Even if we are, it’s because we’re stressed out by our jobs and don’t have enough personal support at home to diffuse the problems we face at work.
And being crazy from job stress has nothing to do with gender.
That healthy conclusion was made after a two-year study of dual-career couples in the Boston area by Rosalind C. Barnett, a clinical psychologist and visiting scholar at Radcliffe College’s Murray Research Center in Cambridge, Mass.
The topic of Barnett’s in-depth research was job-related stress and gender differences. One of the questions the psychologist, also a researcher for Radcliffe’s Public Policy Institute, wanted to answer was whether women are more susceptible to certain kinds of job stress than men.
“The answer is no,” said Barnett, whose specialty is researching the roles of women in the family and workplace and the impact of job-related stress on mental health.
Her research was funded with a $1 million grant over a four-year period by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Barnett emphasizes that after analyzing the data for each couple and taking such issues as occupational prestige, control, job tenure, salary and household responsibilities “out of the pot” - she found the wife and the husband were equally stressed out by exactly the same working conditions.
“Most studies that purport to talk about gender issues confuse them with other issues that have nothing to do with gender,” said Barnett, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Harvard University. “Once you adjust for those factors - which we did with each couple - the gender issues go away. It’s the conditions that are to blame, not your gender.”
If you’re feeling stressed out, Barnett stresses - for women and men - “you’re not crazy, you’re just in a bad situation.”
She adds, however, that “we know that your family situation can be a positive buffer, even though the corporate line is to pretend the family doesn’t matter.”
Though women and men are under a lot of pressure these days on the job because of work force reductions and excess job demands, women more often also have the added stress of working for several bosses, lack of career paths, unequal pay and the notorious glass ceiling.
Since women are more subject to discriminatory practices at work, what can they do to avoid stress? Barnett says the real question is what will corporations do to change the situation.
“It is employers who need to create an environment of healthy work,” the psychologist said. “That may mean changing the way work is done to prevent both mental health and physical problems.
“It’s absolutely incredible that we have so little interest in this country - unlike Scandinavia - in prevention of job-related health problems.”