Organisational Stress: Meaning, Causes and Consequences, Symptoms, Types, and Approaches to Stress Management

  • Post last modified:30 April 2022
  • Reading time:25 mins read

What is Organisational Stress?

Organisational stress can be described as a cognitive, behavioural and emotional response to the harmful and aggressive aspects of the work, organisational climate and work environment.

When an employee feels uneasy and helpless in solving tasks, such a condition comes under organisational stress. In a work setting, people face various job-related issues, such as discrimination, job dissatisfaction, and so on, which result in stress.

The term ‘stress’ refers to various kinds of pressures that people feel in life. It can be defined as a reaction that people have towards excessive pressures caused by demands imposed on them. It is created when individuals are not able to deal with changes happening around them.


Causes and Consequences of Stress

There can be many different situations or life events that can cause stress and there are also some consequences to those stress.

So now we discuss the different Causes and Consequences of Stress:

  1. Environmental Factors
  2. Organisational Factors
  3. Individual Factors

Environmental Factors

These indicate various internal and external environmental factors, which are explained as follows:

Economic uncertainties: These involve changes in the business cycle that may lead to stress. For example, the COVID-19 Pandemic outbreak led to the nationwide lockdown, which adversely impacted the businesses of many organisations and created a huge job crunch in the economic system. As a result, employees faced lay-offs, pay cuts and delays in appraisals. Such market conditions led to stress and anxiety among employees.

Political uncertainties: Political sources can also cause stress, directly or indirectly. For example, in the COVID-19 Pandemic, the government has imposed various restrictions on the functioning of public transport services and restaurants, which adversely impacted the revenues of the affected parties/businesses. Therefore, political bans and restrictions also cause stress in a business environment.

Technological uncertainties: These indicate changes taking place in the technology of an organisation. If there is a sudden change in technology in an organisation, it may lead to stress among employees. This happens because employees fear that they would be replaced with people better acquainted with the new technology or with machines. For instance, the installation of recharge vending machines at metro stations has reduced the need for manpower.

Organisational Factors

They signify factors that influence employees within the organisation. These factors are:

Pressures to avoid errors: An expectation of doing a job with perfection can make employees stressed.

Completion of tasks in a limited time period: Time limits given to employees to achieve the targets create pressure on their minds to work hard. As employees reach the end of the time limit, they become more and more stressed, which also impacts their personal lives.

Demanding and insensitive boss: This indicates that a strict and demanding attitude of the boss can make the subordinate stressed.

Too much competition: A fierce competition between colleagues can also be a source of stress. Employees tend to behave unethically and are more likely to avoid creative behaviours to solve problems.

Role ambiguity: It happens when employees lack clarity about their job role and are not sure what they are expected to do.

Organisational structure: Too much distance between employees and employers, excessive rules and regulations and absence of participative decision-making can make employees stressed.

Reward system: This states that rewards are the most encouraging factors for any employee. The employees continuously put in their best efforts for rewards due to which they always remain under pressure and feel stressed.

Career development: This signifies that a lack of job security, promotion or demotion and failure in the attainment of one’s career objectives can be a source of stress.

Individual Factors

These indicate inherent factors of an individual, which lead to stress. Such factors include the following:

Family issues: These issues state that any kind of relationship problem or issue with family can make an individual stressed. For instance, if an individual’s child is suffering from some medical issue, it will affect his peace of mind, which will lead to stress and anxiety at his/her workplace.

Personal economic problems: Any kind of financial problem can make an individual stressed. The financial state of an individual affects his behaviour, attitude and perspective. For instance, an individual in debt is more likely to get frustrated compared to the one who is financially stable and healthy.

Inherent personality characteristics: The personality traits of employees can also be a source of stress. For instance, when a person has anger issues, he/she may behave arrogantly with colleagues which can lead to a stressful situation at the workplace.


Symptoms of Stress

Following are the symptoms of stress explained which occur due to the consequences of stress:

  1. Physiological Symptoms
  2. Psychological Symptoms
  3. Behavioural Symptoms

Physiological Symptoms

These state the effects of stress on the health of an individual. Such effects can be high blood pressure, exhaustion, muscle cramps, stomach problems, change in appetite, weakness, headache and back pain.

Psychological Symptoms

These signify the effects of stress on the mental and emotional condition of an individual. Examples of psychological symptoms are nervousness, irritability, tension, anger, depression, difficulty in making decisions and anxiety.

Behavioural Symptoms

These indicate the effects of stress on the behaviour of an individual. Behavioural symptoms include a change in productivity, an increase in absenteeism and employee turnover, rapid speech, and sleep disorders.


Types of Stress

It is important to be aware of various types of stress faced by individuals. The following are the types of stress that we will discuss:

  1. Eustress
  2. Distress

Eustress

It is a positive kind of stress that motivates individuals to prepare their minds and body to face whatever is going to happen in the future with a competitive spirit. It helps in developing energy, strength and creativity for achieving organisational goals and performance.

Distress

It is a negative outlook that affects one’s routine temporarily. It imposes a negative impact on people’s lives. There are two types of distress:

Acute Stress

It is an intense type of stress that passes very quickly. It arises when a change transforms one of the usual works which an individual performs. The symptoms of acute stress are hypertension, headaches, rapid heartbeats and stomach problems.

Chronic Stress

It is defined as a critical and serious type of stress that puts a harmful effect on the health of people. It occurs when something transforms a routine for a long period of time, from weeks to years. It usually appears when an individual faces several work or personal failures.


Individual And Organisational Approaches to Stress Management

Two approaches to stress management are as follow:

  1. Individual Approach
  2. Organisational Approach

Individual Approach

The individual approach indicates that an employee can try to reduce stress at his/her personal level. Some effective stress-buster strategies at the individual level are:

Time Management Techniques

These signify the methods that can be adopted to avoid stress caused due to pressure related to time limits. The examples of time management techniques are given as follows:

  • Making a list of activities that are to be done on a day
  • Prioritising activities as per their importance and urgency
  • Maintaining a diary in which all future appointments are listed
  • Trying to deal with the most important work when you are most alert

Increasing Physical Exercise

This signifies that physical exercise not only makes an individual fitter but also helps reduce stress. Besides, it also helps in building stamina, which keeps stress at bay. For instance, a person with good physical health is more likely to stay active and confident at the workplace and in life as compared to the one who does not indulge in physical exercise.

Relaxation Training

This indicates certain ways with the help which an individual can relax his/her body and mind. For example, yoga and meditation.

Expanding Social Support Network

This refers to the social circle that comprises an individual’s relatives, friends and colleagues. A social support network can help an individual in reducing stress.

Keeping a Stress Diary

This indicates maintaining a diary that can be helpful in managing stress. Many individuals maintain a diary to express their feelings by writing them. The following things can be noted down in a stress diary:

  • What are the things that made me stressed?
  • How does it make me feel physical?
  • How do I feel mentally?
  • How did I react to the situation?
  • What did I say to myself about the situation?
  • How can I avoid being stressed if a similar situation arises again?

Organisational Approach

The organisational approach includes different methods that can be used within an organisation to manage stress among employees. These approaches make use of certain strategies that are explained as follows:

Improved Personnel Selection and Job Placement

This signifies the fact that an organisation should judge the personality of personnel while selecting them for a job. Some jobs are more stressful than others and different people respond to a particular situation in a different ways. In case the organisation does not select a candidate who is suitable for the job, the candidate may become stressed.

Realistic Goal Setting

This indicates that the performance-related goals of employees should be realistic. The selection of realistic goals would lower the pressure on employees. For instance, a sales employee if given an unrealistic target would be more likely to remain under stress. Therefore, an organisation should always set realistic goals.

Redesigning of Jobs

This signifies a strategy according to which if the causes of stress are present in the job itself, then the job needs to be redesigned to reduce the stress level. For redesigning a job, job rotation or job enrichment can be carried out. For instance, if an employee is not performing well in operations but possesses good technical knowledge of Excel and accounting, he/she can be transferred to the finance department in order to utilise his/her skills better.

Increased Employee Involvement

This indicates that the more the involvement of employees, the more stress-free they would feel. Increased employee involvement increases the motivational level of employees and makes them feel less stressed.

Improved Organisational Communication

This states that the better the communication between employees and the top management, the better would be their interpersonal relationships. This would make employees comfortable and get rid of misunderstanding and confusion, which would result in lesser stress. For instance, employees having trust and clarity of thoughts are more likely to communicate clearly with colleagues which also improves organisational communication.

Establishment of Corporate Wellness Programs

This indicates the need for a strategy to make programmes focused on the employ- ee’s total physical and mental conditions. Organisations organise various wellness programmes and yoga sessions for employees to reduce mental stress. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations organised wellness sessions over videoconferencing in order to make employees feel motivated and stress-free.

Supportive Organisational Climate

This indicates the act of getting rid of faulty organisational practices and processes that act as stressors. For instance, employees working in organisations with an open-door policy tend to face less stressful situations at the workplace. Therefore, every organisation should try to imbibe a positive and supportive organisational climate.

Career Planning and Counselling

This indicates strategic activities that help employees gain professional advice for their career growth. Organisations having free training sessions and educational support for employees are more likely to get successful as their employees are less stressed and more motivated to perform better.

Stress Control Workshops and Employee Assistance Programs

These signify programs that can help individuals manage stress properly to avoid its ill effects.


FAQs

What is Organisational Stress?

Organisational stress can be described as a cognitive, behavioural and emotional response to the harmful and aggressive aspects of the work, organisational climate and work environment.
For instance, When an employee feels uneasy and helpless in solving tasks, such a condition comes under organisational stress.

What are the Different Types of Stress?

The following are the different types of stress:
1. Eustress: It is a positive kind of stress that motivates individuals to prepare their minds and body to face whatever is going to happen in the future with a competitive spirit.

2. Distress: It is a negative outlook that affects one’s routine temporarily. There are two types of distress:
(a) Acute stress
(b) Chronic stress

What are the Organisational Approaches to Stress Management

Organisational approaches to stress management are as follow:
1. Improved personnel selection and job placement
2. Realistic goal setting
3. Redesigning of jobs
4. Increased employee involvement
5. Improved organisational communication
6. Establishment of corporate wellness programs
7. Supportive organisational climate
8. Career planning and counselling
9. Stress Control Workshops and Employee Assistance Programs

How can Stress be Reduced?

An individual can try to reduce stress at his/her personal level. Some strategies at the individual level are as follows:
1. Time Management Techniques: These signify the methods that can be adopted to avoid stress caused due to pressure related to time limits.
(a) Making a list of activities that are to be done on a day
(b) Prioritising activities as per their importance and urgency

2. Keeping a Stress Diary: This indicates maintaining a diary that can be helpful in managing stress. Many individuals maintain a diary to express their feelings by writing them. For Instance;
(a) What are the things that made me stressed?
(b) How does it make me feel physical?
(c) How did I react to the situation?

3. Increasing Physical Exercise
4. Relaxation Training
5. By Expanding Social Support Network

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