Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Do Organisations Create Stress in the Workplace?

I was fascinated when I found there’s a journal entitled ‘Work and Stress’ and in a 2009 article Raymond Randall, Karina Neilsen and Sturle Tvedt wrote that “organizations and researchers often encounter difficulties when evaluating organizational level stress management interventions. When interventions fail, often it is unclear whether the intervention itself was ineffective, or whether problems with implementation processes were to blame.” They highlight how “in current European legislation there is a clear emphasis on the use of organizational-level interventions (changes in the design, organization, and management of work) as a way of improving working conditions and tackling problems such as work stress.”
Stress is a topic that is rarely discussed in most businesses and would be considered a ‘negative’ reaction to ‘normal’ work pressures by many managers throughout the world. With the world still struggling from the global financial crisis and further economic recessions on the horizon – should employees feel more stressed anyway, and what should organisations be doing about it if anything?
Individual reactions to stress will always vary and will be determined by many influencing factors at a specific point in time – remembering that employees will bring personal issues to work that if not identified can lead to stress at work depending on the organisational culture and how ‘safe’ they feel discussing personal issues that may affect performance.
Randall et al highlight how “several studies have discussed the importance of employees’ perceptions of involvement and participation in determining the success of an intervention. These constructs appear to be multi-faceted since they appear to be important at both the design stage and the implementation stage, and at a local level and an organizational level (e.g. Nytrø et al., 2000). Participation also plays a major role in well-known stress intervention theories such as the German Health Circles (Aust & Ducki, 2004) and risk management approaches to work stress (e.g. Cox et al., 2000). Participation may help to ensure employee buy-in and commitment and make use of employees’ expertise, thus improving the chances of intervention success (Kompier, Cooper, & Geurts, 2000; Kompier, Geurts, Grundemann, Vink, & Smulders, 1998).”
What I find fascinating with this work is that it takes all this research to determine what most would think is very obvious when it comes to change and minimising stress – it's all about communication, communication, communication. Letting people know what’s going on and keeping them involved are the cornerstones for successful implementation of anything – and by being transparent and keeping involved any stresses, both real and perceived, are reduced.
Around the world management for some odd reason miss the very basic concept that stress will always be minimised in an organisational environment where employees feel ‘safe’ to speak their mind – to discuss issues in a non-threatening, transparent environment.
A lot of organisational stress is caused by the failure of management to communicate on key issues that affect employees and instead for some misguided reason prefer to leave them in a state of uncertainty where many stresses are in fact ‘non-founded’ perceptions driven by a way too creative grapevine – creating too many negative self-fulfilling prophecies that end up not only harming individuals but the organisation as well.
Unfortunately it’s poorly run organisations where stress exists and but is not recognised by the management as anything other than the sign of a weak employee – someone who can’t hack-it in a tough business world. These organisations are often run by command and control leaders who have no empathy for an individual who feels any form of stress – even when the stress is created by an employee who only wants to do their very, very best.
In a healthy organisation there should be healthy levels of stress – that means that employees like the organisation are being pushed to be the very best they can be. Most of the time this should be exciting and motivational, but there’s no denying that at some points in time there will be levels of stress, but these should be recognised and embraced.
Randall, R., Nielsen, K. and Tvedt, S. D. (2009). The development of five scales to measure employees' appraisals of organizational-level stress management interventions. Work and Stress, Vol. 23, Issue 1, p. 1-23.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Nigel, thanks for sharing your ideas about this important topic that seems to get little to no attention in most workplaces.