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


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


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.


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 adding up all of these individual responsibilities the
potential for employees having some sort of job related stress is very high.
Now lets move on to physical work environment stressors.
When people think of physical work environment they usually think of
some type of hard labor. But its not confined only to physical labor, it also
encompasses other factors such as noise, temperature, lighting, and pollution.4
So that means even people in business and people in construction both have some
kind of physical work environment stressors. Stress from noise doesn\'t have to
be caused from loud sounds. It could be the sound of the air conditioner or
maybe even the silence of some one who is sitting next to you and you know they
are watching