Coping with Stress in an Organization

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Coping With Stress In An Organization

26 November 1994

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Defining Stress
III. Types of Stress
IV. How to Handle Stress
V. Recognizing Stress
VI. The Military and Stress
VII. Summary

I. INTRODUCTION

Since the beginning of mankind there has always been some kind of stress affecting how people feel, act and cope with situations. In this paper we will look at the definition of stress and what causes people to have stress. Then we will see how different people handle stress and show how not all individuals have the same tolerance for stress. The next thing that will be discussed is how managers in organizations can recognize and reduce the negative effects that stress has on the worker and the organization. Finally we will consider what kind of stresses there are in military organizations and how they can be controlled.

II. DEFINING STRESS

Robert C. Dailey, in his book Understanding People In Organizations, defines stress as "any demand made on the body that requires psychological or physical adjustment." Many people think of stress as always being something bad. However, stress sometimes can be good. Stress is part of our every day life. It can have a motivating effect or a demotivating effect. Each of us have our own level of how much stimulation or stress we need in our lives to keep us from getting bored.1 Others however, have a much lower tolerance for stress stimuli. So managers must be able to look at each individual and decide if the individual has a high or low tolerance for stress. Managers can do this only if they have a good understanding of what causes stress.

III. TYPES OF STRESS

Stress can come from a multitude of different reasons, but for simplicity lets break it down into two forms: individual induced stress and physical environment stress. Individual stress includes things such as role conflict, role ambiguity, work overload, and responsibility for others. Role conflict occurs when accomplishing one job inhibits or greatly reduces the chance at completing another assigned task. In this case the person who is tasked to do the jobs will incur some type of stress while trying to figure out how to get both tasks accomplished in the given amount of time. How much stress and if it will impact the individual positively or negatively will depend on the experience level of the individual. Role ambiguity is when an individual is not sure of what their job entails. It makes it hard for a person to decide on what their priorities are and how to manage their time. Ambiguity can come from a number of different things. A transfer, promotion, new boss, or new co-workers can all cause an individual to experience some type of role ambiguity and added stress. Both role conflict and role ambiguity relate to job dissatisfaction, lower level of self-confidence, and sometimes elevated blood pressures.2 When these occur an individual's motivation decreases, family problems surface, and depression sets in.

Another form of individual induced stress is work overload. There are two forms of work overload: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative occurs when a person has too many things to accomplish and not enough time to do them in. Qualitative overload on the other hand is when the individual doesn't have enough experience or expertise to accomplish the task(s) at hand. Both of these type of stressors are very detrimental to an individual's health. In fact because employees feel as if they are doing two or more jobs at once and have no time to themselves they experience elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, and pulse rate.3 Another factor which affects employees is when they have or feel they have the responsibility for other co-workers. This can happen not only to managers but also to other employees who may be group leaders or even union leader. When you start...
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