Organizational factors as a potential source of stress


There is no shortage of factors within the organization that can cause stress. Pressures to avoid errors or complete tasks in a limited time, work overload, a demanding and insensitive boss, and unpleasant coworkers are a few examples. We’ve categorized these factors around task, role, and interpersonal demands; organizational structure; organizational leadership; and the organization’s life stage.

Tasks demands are factors related to a person’s job. They include the design of the individual’s job (autonomy, task variety, degree of automation), working conditions, and the physical work layout. Assembly lines, for instance, can put pressure on people when the line’s speed is perceived as excessive. Similarly, working in an overcrowded room or in a visible location where interruptions are constant can increase anxiety and stress.

Role demands relate to pressures placed on a person as a function of the particular role he or she plays in the organization. Role conflicts create expectation that may be hard to reconcile or satisfy. Role overload is experienced when the employee is expected to do more than time permits. Role ambiguity is created when role expectations are not clearly understood and the employee is not sure what he or she is to do.

Interpersonal demands are pressures are pressures created by other employees. Lack of social support from colleagues and poor interpersonal relationships can cause stress, especially among employees with a high social need.

Organizational structure defines the level of differentiation in the organization, the degree of rules and regulations, and where decisions are made. Excessive rules and lack of participation in decisions that affect an employee are examples of structural variables that might be potential sources of stress.

Organizational leadership represents the managerial style of the organization’s senior executives. Some chief executive officers create a culture characterized by tension, fear, and anxiety. They establish unrealistic pressure to perform in the short run, impose excessively tight controls, and routinely fire employees who don’t “measure up.�

Organizations go through a cycle. They are established, grow, become mature, and eventually decline. An organization’s life stage that is, where it is in this four-stage cycle creates different problems and pressures for employees. The establishment and decline stages are particularly stressful. The former is characterized by a great deal of excitement and uncertainty, while the latter typically requires cutbacks, layoffs, and a different set of uncertainties. Stress tends to be least in the maturity stage, during which uncertainties are at their lowest ebb.

According to the results of a survey conducted by Cubiks which involved 450 organizations across the world of which 5% had their offices in Asia, more than 26% respondents described their average stress levels at work high or very high. Almost 41% expected their stress levels to increase in the next 12 months slightly more than half, 53% described stress as having a negative influence on their performance, and 47% said stress positively had an impact on their ability to perform their role.