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Organisational behaviour as defined by Brooks (2006) is µthe study of human

behaviour in organisational contexts with a focus on individual and group processes

and action¶ (p.2). Individuals are the foundation of the organisation¶s functions and

therefore what affects them, affects the productivity of the Organisation, in a good or

bad way.

I will be focusing on stress and assessing how it can be harmful to an organisation¶s

progress or be good for the organisation.

Stress can be defined as ³a combination of external stressors and our response or

the physical or psychological strain we experien ce as a result´ Fincham & Rhodes


It is the second biggest Occupational health problem in the UK, Tighe ( 2000).Health

and safety executive reported that every case of work related stress; it leads to an

average of 30.6 working days lost. and a total of 13.5 million working days were lost

to work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2007/08. Stress can therefore

damage the worker¶s health and also the organisation¶s production through the

worker¶s reduced performance. It is estimated that 10% of the UK¶s GNP is lost each

year due to medical cost, absenteeism, high labour turnover, lost productive value,

which are all effects of stress.

Hans Seyle (1946) described three stages that an individual faces in stressful


 Alarm reaction, the individual becomes aware of being subject to the effect of a

stressor which prepares the body for action and the defence mechanism become

 Resistance, the individual begins to fight the effect of the stressor .

 Exhaustion, the worker gives in to the stressor as all adaptive mechanism has

been exhausted.

It should be noted that stress from outside the workplace can also be spilled into the

work situation as people rarely leave their problems behind and so also stress within

the workforce can also be taken back into the outside world. So the causes of stress

does not limit to the workplace environment alone, it can be caused by personal

reasons as well but the effect can be disastrous to the organisation too.


The cost of stress to the individual is usually in terms of health; to the organisation , it

is in terms of performance, so the cause of this stress has to be nipped at the bud so

as not to be disastrous to the organisation.

Beehr and Newman (1978) defined Workplace stress as ³conditions arising from the

interaction of people and their jobs, which are characterised by changes within

people that force them to deviate from their normal functioning´, (pg 666) . It is

therefore fundamental that organisati ons find the cause of stress and alleviate them

so as to avoid the damage it can do to its progress.

Cooper and Marshall (1976) identified major categories of work stress: role in the

organisation, organisational development, organisational structure, cli mate,

relationship at work and external organisational sources of stress.


There is hardly any job that comes without stressors; however some jobs produce

particular stressors that have risks to their health and performance. Air traffic

controllers are an example of a stressful job as they are responsible for human


Job ambiguity occurs when the worker has not got a clear description of the job,

goals or specified responsibility. When this happens stress may result. This can be

reduced by having supervisors clarifying jobs and responsibilities for their

subordinates. . Ambiguity can be both "good" called eustress by Selye (1976) and

"bad" known as distress (Selye, 1976).

Boundary spanning roles involves taking the activities of the organisation to

customers, for example, travelling salesman who have to travel long distance and

hours to make sales and to meet targets set.

Role conflict is where there is a conflict between work and nonwork; the demand of

one role clashes with another. E.g. in the case of parents who have to juggle the

demands of work and family.

Greenberg (2002) noted that stress can also be caused where the worker is required

to do more than is possible in the specified time or actually doing too little. c

Responsibility for others: This is stress caused by a heavy burden; like in the case

of managers who are responsible for their subordinates, they have to motivate them,

listen to them, communicate, reward and punish them. Stress is experienced by

managers when they face the human cost of organisational policy changes, decision,

listening to complains, mediating between staff and management and being a leader .

All these factors which are intrinsic to job roles is a cause of stress and detrimental

to the organisation.

The nature of a person can also be a factor to an individual being susceptible to

stress; some individuals carry their stress with them. Furnham (1992) suggests that

people with µnegative effect¶ tend to be less productive, less job satisfied and more

prone to absenteeism, all these having a detrimental effect on the organisation.

Rosenman et al (1964 ) identified two types of personalities (Type A and B) to

determine which ones were prone to stress. c Type A behaviour patterns have been

identified as those most closely associated with stress related disease.


3ifficulty with Interpersonal relationships at work is one of the greatest sources of

stress and can arise from difficulties in maintaining a relationship with colleagues or

having a critical boss


Major changes in the organisation will cause stress such changes could be re -

organisations, mergers with another company, changes to work systems and

managerial or personnel changes. Lack of communication of these changes and also

of the organisational objectives can lead to stress leading to job dissatisfaction for

the worker.

! "

These are forces outside of the environment of the organisation that causes worry to

the individual.

Economic factors: Looking at the economic situation at present with recession

looming and people not having money to spend, targets set may be difficult to meet.

Anything that threatens the stability or certainty of future employment can become a
stressor. From the company¶s point of view, news of low turnover and therefore job

cuts can evoke feelings of uncertainty and therefore lead to stress.

Political & Social factors: A change in political ideology also brings with it anxiety

Technological factors: Keeping pace with new technology developments is a stress it

self as it requires an individual to adapt.

Home / work interface is another cause of stress. As already mentioned stress from

outside the organisation can spill in to affect one¶s job. Examples of this are financial

difficulties and family problems also women who have juggle the stress of looking

after the family and stress with her role at work. The strain of this can affect an

individual and performance at work.


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The suggestion is that stress brings about negative effects on an organisation, it can

lead to negative task performance and productivity; the worker becomes irritable,

unable to relax, therefore making poor decisions and becoming a victim of u  a

process in which they become less committed to their jobs and begin to withdraw

from work; however in some individual high levels of stress seems to bring out the

best in them. They µrise to the occasion¶ and work exceptionally well at this time

therefore leading to higher productivity . This may be because they are experts at

what they do that they consider a stressful situation as a challenge and not a threat.

In most cases though, stress interferes with the job and causes the worker to lack

interest in their job leading to d emotivation and therefore no commitment to work

therefore reduced job satisfaction; it causes poor health and therefore absent eeism

leading to high turnover, it is therefore costly to an organisation.


Stress is a contributory factor to serious illnesses that can affect individuals such as

high blood pressure and migraine. Physical effects of stress on an individual include

tiredness, lack of appetite, and lack of concentration; all of which will render the

worker unable to be productive. Behavioural effects include constant irritability with

people, lack of interest in life, difficulties in concentrating, alcohol abuse and family

breakdown. Psychological consequences of stress include mental illness, anxiety

and depression.


3efrank and Cooper (1987) suggests that stress intervention can focus on the

individual, the organisation or the individual ± organisational interface. Murphy

(1988) emphasises on three levels of intervention: primary, reducing the cause of

stress, secondary or stress management training and tertiary, health promotion or

workplace counselling, (employee assistance programme).

By tackling the causes of stress, Organisations will benefit from high performance

and employees commitment to work, positive turnover and retention. Staff being

happy at their job will lead to good productivity and therefore customer satisfaction

which would therefore give the organisation a very good image.

Organisations can tackle stress by undertaking a stress audit then dire cting

resources to reduce or eliminate the sources of stress. They should look at terms

and conditions of employment, physical and psychological working conditions, work

content, communication systems and working relationships. From results they can

develop a supportive work ethos to encourage staff to discuss and seek support
when experiencing stress. Other methods that can be used are stress management

and relaxation techniques training, promoting wellbeing and personal counselling.

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Stress can be destructive and eventually lead to exhaustion and µburnout¶ i.e. where

everything seems too difficult that the individual cannot even be motivated to get the

work done. However, stress powers some people on and encourage them to work

harder which lead to high performance of the organisation; we all need some sort of

pressure to motivate us.

¦ ¦ 

Brooks, J. (2006). 

      London: Pearson Educational Limited.

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3efrank & Cooper (1987). Worksite stress management interventions: Their

effectiveness and conceptualisation. In: Arnold, J.   (eds) Work Psychology:
Understanding Human Behaviour in the workplace. London: Pearson Education, pg

Fincham, R., & Rhodes, P. (1999).   

Oxford University Press.

Greenberg, J. (2002).        

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Tighe, J. (2000, June). [online] Retrieved October 21, 2008, from

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