Stress & Stress Management – Meaning, Definitions, Features, Causes, Burnout, Rustout

Causes of Stress

There may be numerous conditions in which people may feel stress. Conditions that tend to cause stress are called stressors. Although even a single stressor may cause major stress, like death of near one, usually stressors combine to press an individual in a variety of ways until stress develops. The various stressors can be grouped into four categories:

1. Individual Stressors
2. Group Stressors
3. Organizational Stressors
4. Extra Organizational Stressors

1. Individual Stressors
There are many stressors at the level of individual which may be generated in the context of organizational life or his personal life. There are several such events which may work as stressors. These are life and career changes, personality type, and role characteristics.

i. Life and Career Changes
A life change is any meaningful change in a person’s personal or work situation. Stress is produced by several changes in life and career. Holmes and Rahe reasoned that major changes in a person’s life can lead to stress and eventually to disease. Several of these changes even relate directly (fired from work, retirement) or indirectly (change in residence)) to work. A life trauma can also alter person’s attitudes, emotions or behaviours. This emotional turmoil can cause stress, much of which may spill over into the workplace.

ii. Personality type
Personality characteristics, such as authoritarianism, rigidity, masculinity, femininity, extroversion, supportiveness, spontaneity, emotionality, tolerance for ambiguity, locus of control, anxiety, and need for achievement are particularly relevant to individual stress.

iii. Role characteristics
A role is a set of expected behaviours associated with a particular position in a group or organization. Role demands related to pressures placed on a person as a function of the particular role he or she plays in the organization. Role demands can be stressful to people in organizations. Stress inducing problems related to role can be role ambiguity, role conflict and role overload. Role ambiguity is created when role expectations are not clearly understood and the employee is not sure what he she is to do. Role conflicts create expectations that may be hard to reconcile or satisfy. Role overload is experienced when the employee is expected to more than time permits.

2. Group Stressors
Group interaction affects human behavior. Therefore, there may be some factors in group processes which act as stressors. Following are the major group stressors:

i. Lack of Group Cohesiveness
Group cohesiveness is Important for the satisfaction of individuals in group Interaction. When they are denied the opportunity for this cohesiveness it becomes very stressing for them as they get negative reaction from group members.

ii. Lack of Social Support
When individuals get social support from members of the group, they are able to satisfy their social needs and they are better off. When this social support does not come, it becomes stressing for them.

iii. Conflict
Any conflict arising out of group interaction may become stressing for the individuals, be it interpersonal conflict among the group members or intergroup conflict.

3. Organizational Stressors
An organisation is composed of individuals and groups and, therefore, individual and group stressors may also exist in organisational context. However, there are macro level dimensions of organizational functioning which may work as stressors. The major organizational stressors are as follows:

i. Organizational Policies
Organisational policies provide guidelines for action. Unfavourable and ambiguous policies may affect the functioning of the individuals adversely and they may experience stress. Thus, unfair and arbitrary performance evaluation, unrealistic job description, frequent reallocation of activities, rotating work shifts, ambiguous procedures, inflexible, inequality of incentives, etc. work as stressors.

ii. Organisation Structure
Organisation structure provides formal relationships among individuals in an organisation. any defect in organisation structure like lack of opportunity for advancement, high degree of specialisation, excessive interdependence of various departments, line and staff conflict, etc., works as stressors as relationships among individual and groups do not work effectively.

iii. Organisational Processors
Organisational processes also affect individual behaviour at work. faulty organisational processes like poor communication, poor and inadequate feedback of work performance, ambiguous and conflicting roles, unfair control systems, inadequate information flow cause stress for people in the organisation.

iv. Physical Conditions
Organisational physical conditions affect work performance. Thus, poor physical conditions like crowding an lack of privacy, excessive noise, excessive heat or cold, pressure of toxic chemicals and radiation, air pollution, safety hazards, poor lighting, etc., produce stress on people.

4. Extra organizational Stressors
These comprise rapid technological changes, social upheavals, political, racial and other agitations including terrorist activities, upsets in family and neighbourhood conditions, mishaps among kith and kin and so on. In recent years, the world-wide petroleum crisis and persistent inflationary pressures have taken away the sleep of many top managers and businessmen. Rising cost of living and demonstration effects of the luxurious life styles of affluent people have forced m any housewives of the middle class to take up employment, leading to problems in housekeeping. Since an organization interacts continuously with its environment, events happening outside the organization also work as stressors. Thus, social and technical changes, economic and financial conditions, social class conflicts, community conditions etc. work as stressors.

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