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Organizational Stress

Organizational Stress: Positive or Negative?
Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1:

The atmosphere at a small technology firm in California is always confusing and chaotic. Employees are
under constant pressure to meet deadlines, and expectations frequently and suddenly change. Despite
the lack of clarity, supervisors frequently reprimand employees for failure to perform. Supervisors often
give these reprimands publicly. Employees constantly compete for supervisor attention.

Scenario 2:

Workers at a business-consulting firm in Massachusetts do the same job they have done in the same way
they have done it for the past ten years. Employees receive almost no supervision or feedback.
Leadership does little to promote change or foster creativity. Employees rarely communicate with those
outside of their departments. Employees work quietly in an orderly manner but receive little stimulation.

It is likely easy to identify which of the scenarios is less stressful. But is either environment desirable or

indicative of a healthy organization?

Normally, the term organizational stress is a negative concept. The majority of stress researchers have
focused on personal distress rather than on examining the positive aspect of stress called eustress
(Gibbons, Dempster, & Moutray, 2008). Scholars and practitioners need to give more attention to the

question of if and when organizational stress can be beneficial.


Organizational Stress: Positive or Negative?

The Impact of Organizational Stress
Given that the employees in scenario 1 were always under stress because of the confusing
and chaotic environment that exists at the firm, it is evident that organizational stress had a
negative effect on the company. However, just as scenario 1 indicates that organizational stress is
negative, scenario 2 indicates that a lack of organizational stress is not entirely positive and that
it can also have a negative impact on organizations given the lack of employee motivation.
According to my work experience in several high pressure environments with highly skilled
employees, I noticed that there was a lot of pressure and stress at these organizations, yet this did
not affect employees negatively as they were performing way above the expectations of their
employers (O’Sullivan, 2010). Although, these employees were under significant stress when
doing their jobs, they did not mind the stress and it actually motivated them to work harder and
achieve more success (eustress). Therefore, I conclude that organizational stress cam be both
positive and negative depending on the existing conditions at the workplace.
As the leader of my organization, I would strive to increase positive organizational stress
(eustress), while at the same time limiting negative stress mainly by setting challenging goals for
employees and encouraging them to work collaboratively to accomplish the work goals
(Fullagar, Knight & Sovern, 2013). However, I will also keep in mind that chronic stress whether
negative or positive is not good for the organization or its and its people, therefore, I will also
include periods of relaxation and fun in the activities of employees at the organization
(Hargrove, Nelson & Cooper, 2013). By implementing breaks and fun time within the workers’
daily routines where they suspend their projects and engage in fun activities such as playing

indoor games, playing video games, or listening to music, the employees relieve stress and are
able to work effectively.



Fullagar, C. J., Knight, P. A. & Sovern, H. S. (2013). Challenge/Skill Balance, Flow, and
Performance Anxiety. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 62(2), 236–259.
Hargrove, M. B., Nelson, D. L. & Cooper, C. L. (2013). Generating eustress by challenging
employees. Organizational Dynamics, 42(1), 61-69.
O’Sullivan, G. (2010). The Relationship Between Hope, Eustress, Self-Efficacy, and Life
Satisfaction Among Undergraduates. Social Indicators Research, 101(1), 155–172.

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