The Aftermath of Organizational Change

For many employees, change creates stress. A dynamic and uncertain environment characterized by restructuring, downsizings, empowerment, and personal life matters have caused large numbers of employees to feel overworked and stressed out. In this article we will specifically outline what is meant by the term stress how to identify it and what managers can do to reduce anxiety.

What is a stress?

Stress: A force of influence a person feels when he or she opportunities constraints on demands that he or she perceives to be both uncertain and important.

Stress is a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important. Stress is a complex issue, so let us look at it more closely. Stress can manifest itself in both a positive and a negative way. Stress is said to be positive when the situation an opportunity for one to gain something; for example the psyching up that an athlete goes through can be stressful but this process can lead to maximum performance. It is when constraints or demands are placed on us that stress can become negative. Let us explore these two features – constraints and demands.

Constraints are barriers that keep us from doing what we desire. Purchasing a new sport utility vehicle (SUV) such as Mahindra Scorpio my be your desire, but if you cannot afford the Rs 8 lakh price you are constrained from purchasing it. Accordingly constraints inhibit you in ways that take the control of a situation out of your hands. If you cannot afford the SUV, you cannot get it. Demands on the other hand, may cause you to give up something you desire. If you wish to go to a movie with friends on Tuesday night but have a major examination on Wednesday the examination may take precedence. Thus, demands preoccupy your time and force you to shift priorities.

Constraints and demands can lead to potential stress. When they are coupled with uncertainty about the outcome and the importance of the outcome and the importance of the outcome potential stress becomes actual stress. Regardless of the situation, if you remove the uncertainty or the importance you remove stress. For instance, you may have been constrained from purchasing the SUV because of your budget, but if you just won one in a radio sponsored contest, the uncertainty element is significantly reduced. Furthermore, if you are auditing a class for no grade, the importance of the major examination is essentially nil. However, when constraints or demands have an effect on an important event and the outcome is unknown pressure is added – pressure resulting in stress.

Although we are not attempting to minimize stress in people’s live, it is important to recognize that both good and bad personal factors may cause stress. Of course, when you consider the changes such as restructuring that are occurring in US companies, it is little wonder that stress is so rampant. Just how rampant? Stress related problems amount to costs of nearly $300 billion annually for US corporations in terms of lost productivity increased workers compensation claims, turnover and health care costs. And stress on the job knows no boundaries.

Karoshi: A Japanese term that refers to a sudden death caused by overworking.

In Japan, a concept called Karoshi means death from overworking. Employees who die after working more than 3,000 hours in a year – 18 plus hours each day with nearly every minute scheduled out in specific detail. Upwards of 10,000 individuals i.e. each year from heart attack or stroke — having karoshi listed as the cause of death. Many Japanese employees literally work themselves to death with one in six working more than 3,100 hours annually. Employees in Australia, Germany, and Britain too, have suffered the ill effects of stress costing their organizations billions of dollars.