People experience stress in private life and at work place. People have to work effectively against time and within the parameter of various rules and regulations. It is not always possible to create an organizational climate conducive to work. Various departments, groups and external environment factors affect individual behaviour. Minimal level of stress is required for organizations to operate effectively. Excessive stress is harmful for the individual as it causes mental and physical disequilibrium and subsequently leads to physical and mental disturbance. People suffer from high blood pressure, heart attack when stress is beyond control of the human beings. It is therefore necessary to identify causes of stress and modify behaviour so that the individual energy is directed towards organizational productivity and healthy organization climate is created.

Hans Selye1, a medical researcher first used term “Stress” to describe the body’s

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biological response mechanism. He defined stress as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand”. He views that stress is the spice of life, the absence of stress is death.

Stress is usually considered to be negative and caused due to something bad. Thus stress refers to distress. Ivancevich and Matterson define stress as “the interaction of the individual with the environment” According to Beehr and Newman2, stress is a condition arising from the interaction of people and their jobs and characterised by changes within people that force them to deviate from their normal functioning. Stress is a dynamic condition in which a person is faced with lot of constraints while functioning in the organisation. Stress causes discomfort, which leads to disequilibrium in the individual’s mind set. Stress is not always negative in nature. In a broader sense it is discomfiture whether it creates problems.

Stress is also a source of inspiration. When there is a stress for any work it leads to

higher performance. When stress is gravest, it reduces employee productivity. But there

are example where people may get immune to stress having no negative effect on their

performance. Such people do not get tense. This type of immunity is achieved through

constant experience and training. John M. Ivancevich and Michael T. Matterson have

defined stress as “adoptive response, mediated by individual characteristics and/

or psychological processes, that is a consequence of any external action, situation or event that places special physical and/or psychological demands upon a person”. As it is clear from the definition that stress is caused due to external factors,situations or events. These have adverse impact on the individual characteristics and psychological processes. These together put an additional burden or demands on individual, hence the stress. External factors may include social setting, work ethics in the organization, leadership styles, availability of resources, workload, level of technology and the work environment. The internal factors that are effected are psychological in nature and includes emotions, ego state, attitude, perception, motivational factors, need and demographics. If employees feel that external factors are of not much consequence and have no compelling effect the stress is not formed within the minds of individuals. High desire, uncertainty, result of promotion examination, unrealized ambition may cause stress to the individual.

Stress should not be confused with anxiety or nervous tension and damaging. They

occur as regular features in many cases and have no long – lasting impact on the working capacities of the employees. Similarly, only physical impacts will not be stress unless it is felt by the mind and heart. The psychological and physical impacts are visible in the form of stress. Anxiety is the cause of stress but not stress itself.

Stress is generally of a mild nature and one recovers from it easily. Once a person gets

used to environmental factors and people with whom one generally works on a daily basis,there is no existence of stress. It is the work environment, plant, people and situations,which one is not used to, creates tension and resultant stress. The stress diminishes gradually when one get used to it. However the stress can be mild, stiff and chronic in nature. Mild stress is visible when person develops lack of appetite and high blood pressure.

The stress becomes stiffer if these are not carefully countered. When stress attains a

chronic stage, where a person develops instability, frustration and feel uncomfortable and can not cope up with problems. It affects physical efficiency and subsequently a psychological strength. This stage is called “Burn out”. In this stage individual is emotionally weakened.

The stage of burn-out is reached when an individual fails to achieve his objective. He

exhibits irritation, errors, frustration and apathy. Executives are highly prone to burn out due to high pressure in the work environment. In such situation they resort to change the job that further adds to existing chronic burn-out situation as they are not able cope up with the changed environment. In such situation employees should resort to neuro –

psycho treatment. In case of aggravation of this situation a state of “Trauma” is reached.

Trauma is a very serious form of stress. It occurs in the organization where employees find it difficult to adjust. This may be caused due to pressure of work, late working hours, inability of employees to fulfill social obligation and poor time management. The work place trauma is carried home by employees where they develop various psychological disorder. Non adjustment in work place for a long time leads to suspension and firing of employee. Stress can be avoided by adopting an approach of co-operation, help the fellow employee in distress and social interaction with affected individuals.


Organization, Group and individual have impact on the performance of a job. Enviornment also effects adversely on the efficiency of the individual.

1. Environment Factors

There are innumerable environmental factors that have caused a great deal of work stress on the employees. Ivancevich and Matterson have identified societal, economic, financial, cultural, familial and technological factors which have tremendous influence on mental health of the employees. Societal factors have forced both husband and wife to do the job to maintain a high level of life style. Government NGOs and other voluntary organizations have introduced various schemes for the welfare of the people. Though the life span in general has increased but the immunity in the body has decreased to a great level and large number of people are suffering from various disease caused by work stress. People have become more ambitious. They want their children to do well in life this causes stress.

Environmental stressors like family demands and obligation, economic and financial

conditions, race, caste, creed, ethnic identity, relocation due to transfer cause adverse

effect on individuals. Recent communal violence around the world have changed political scenario, defence affiliations of nations have siphoned off the large resources toward defence preparedness. People are living in a fearful environment. These problems have to be solved by educating people and diverting their energies to the basic objective of the organisaion.

Science and technology should be used for the development and progress of human race and not for destruction purpose. All family problems should be resolved by assisting each other and that the people should learn to live in an atmosphere of peace co-existence should be the keyword.

2. Organizational Stressors

Organizational stressors can be classified into mission statement, strategies, policies, organizational structure and design, reporting channels, communication, various processes,

systems and last but not the least the working conditions. Organization mission and

subsequent departmental goals have a long lasting impact on the employees. Over ambitions

goals leave employees more streached for attaining the same. Good organizational polices,

procedures, rules, regulations keep employees in high spirit. On the contrary, adhockism,

inadequate compensation, rigid rules, ambiguous organizational policies and faulty job

design cause tremendous amount of stress.

Job related policies must be sound and updated. Task design should include job

autonomy, task variety so that employee derive pleasure while at work. Work place, and

work environment are two very important factors. Poor hygiene in work place, inadequate

space, light, lack of physical security at work place are stressors. Stress is caused by

inadequate support from subordinates, conflicting job requirements, inadequate and poor

performance measurement, and lack of empowerment. Managerial style, role of superior

boss, command and control mechanism leave much to be desired from Indian organizations.

Policies should be sound and employee participation must be ensured at each level. It

must be understood that wisdom and innovativeness is widely spread in the workers, it is

the ability of mangers to identify and canalize for organizational betterment.

3. Group Stressors

Hawthorne studies have established the impact of group cohesiveness, group norms and

importance of group objective for attainment of organizational goals. Lack of cohesiveness

creates conflict. Employees must be given full opportunities to develop themselves. People

join group for social security that should be provided. Managers must ensure that job well

done is recognized, omission on this account creates stress like situation in the minds of

the employees. Group social events and group activities must be organized on a regular

bases. Managers should form the part of group, which should not be based on rank and

position. Employee morale must be kept high to avoid group stress.

4. Individual Stressors

Personal life and events of official life cannot be separated. Events of marriage, divorce,

death in the family has a remarkable impact on work situation. Personal life difficulties

are highly stressful.

(a) Job Security

Job and career enhancement can become a source of stress. Job security is one of the major reasons for an employee. Insecurity increases during times of recession. The prospect of losing job, specially when an employee is the sole bread earner for the entire family is very stressful. Another reason for job related stress is promotion or enhancement of appointment.

A person must have a job commensurate with his qualification. Promotion must be related to efficiency and due care should be exercised in this regard. Nothing is more stressful that a junior employee being appointed as a senior to an equally competent person.

(b) Relocation

Relocation is related to transfer of a person to a different place. Transfers upsets the daily routine of individuals. The fear of working at new location with different people itself is stressful. Unpredictability about new work environment and creating new relationship cause anxiety. Transfer also creates problems for family members. It may be admission in schools, adjustment to social environment, house and may even be language. In case a person has to search a new job at a different location, the stress is even greater.

(c) Changes in life structure

Span of life has many facets. Some of these are socio-economic environment, culture,

systems, religion, race, education and person’s interaction with society in different roles.

If all these aspects are favorable, then the stress is minimal, stress is also determined by ability of a person to cope up with it and the faith. If a person’s life is stable and move with a slow pace, there are less stress and more ability to cope with stress. While a person who has great ambition and moves with fast pace is not able to cope up with stress.

(d) Stress and Behaviour

Stress is a state of mind which reflects biochemical reactions in the human body.

Environmental and internal forces cause sense of anxiety, tension and depression to human being. As stress is the non specific response of the body to any demand, it is necessary to understand specific or routine activities that cause stress. There are two types of activities.

Desirable activities and undesirable activities. Both these activities create stress. The

stress created by desirable and successful effects is called “eustress”. Eustress is a positive, healthy and developmental stress response. It leads to better performance and a more adjusted personality. In eustress situation, we learn how to deal with the situation better.

It improves our capacity to deal with stressful situations. Stress created by undesirable

outcomes is known “distress”. It is primarily the distress form of stress which causes

undesirable effects on physical and psychological well – being of the person. Highly stressful activities weakens individuals ability to cope up with various situations. Just as extremely high level of stress is harmful and damaging, extremely low level of stress is also equally harmful. It causes boredom, reduces innovativeness and ability to face challenges. Thus moderate level of stress is desirable for higher level of performance.

Physiological Response

When stress appears, immediate biochemical changes take place. Heart beat and heightening of all the body senses. Serious health problems occur as body faces stress for long period of time. Baron5 concluded that stress could lead to breakdown of body’s immune systems and may result in serious health problems such as high blood pressure, ulcer and even heart attack. High level stress can result in physical changes that threaten our health and well-being.

Psychological Response

People have different levels of handling stress. Those who are highly affected by stress

tend to be depressed and display lack of self confidence. They believe that they have lost the battle in handling a situation and develop a feeling of helplessness and elicit sympathy from others. They have a greater fear of unknown, display irritating behaviour, become impatient and tend to blame others for the inefficiency. Workers who are seriously affected loose confidence in themselves and display a low productivity. To overcome this situation, individuals should be kept busy, put through promotional cadres and subjected to regular physical exercises. This reduces work stress and help individual to develop.

Behavioral Response

Chohen6 carried out studies on the impact of stress on human-being. As per the study

people under constant stress behave differently as compared to the people who are

emotionally balanced. High level of stress is usually associated with smoking, increased

use of alcohol and consumption of drugs. They are either defensive or offensive in their

behaviour. Stress induces irrational interpersonal behaviour. They withdraw from the

social environment and confine themselves to isolation.


Frustration is a form of behaviour which occurs when a person is prevented from achieving a goal or objective. It refers to obstruction or impediment to goal oriented behaviour.

Frustration is caused firstly due to delay in getting advancement or recognition through

a promotion is insight. One even get frustrated waiting for some one to meet at a scheduled time and date. Secondly non availability of various resources. A faculty member may not be able to carryout research work because he is over burdened with other responsibilities.

He may get frustrated due to non – availability of time resource. The third cause of

frustration is non attainment of goal. For example failure in the examination, non

attainment of production or sales target, failure to get promotion are some of the causes

of frustration which are manifested in stress.


Jit S Chandan7 explains “anxiety” as a feeling of inability and helplessness in formulating appropriate responses for dealing with the anticipated negative outcome. It occurs when a decision has to be made but the outcome of the decision could have positive as well as negative consequences. Anxiety also occur when there is situation when one does not know as to what is right. For example, an employee is serving in an organization for over ten years and fully satisfied with the organizational culture but asked to move on promotion to a different organization and to a far away place. Hammer and Organ8 explains various causes of anxiety in the work environment. They explained that “difference in power in the organization which leave people with a feeling of vulnerability to administrative decisions adversely affecting them. These are as under:-

(a) Frequent changes in organizations, which make existing behaviour plans obsolete.

(b) Competition, which creates the inevitability that some persons lose “face”, esteem and status.

(c) Job ambiguity (especially when it is coupled with pressure).

(d) Lack of job feedback, volatility in the organizations’ economic environment, job insecurity and high visigibility of one’s performance (success as well as failures).

(e) Personal problems such as physical illness, problems at home, unrealistically high personal goals and estrangement from one’s colleagues or one’s peer group.

Stressors Intrinsic to Job

The nature of the job will determine the level of stress it carry with it. A railway engine dreiver’s job is more stressful as it does not have control over the time and attached with it is a high degree of responsibility due to number of passenger travelling in the train. The driver does not have control over the safety of passengers hence it is more stressful. High stress jobs are those in which the employees have little or no control over the operations, work under time constraints and have major responsibilities for human beings and other resources. There are high stress jobs like defence services, police, foreman, mangers, inspector, etc. On the contrary there are low stress jobs like teachers, craft worker, farm labour. Studies carried out by Karasek9 has indicated higher risk of coronary diseases to those who work under high stress jobs. He identified two job factors that affect the level of such risk. These factors are firstly “level of psychological demand” and the “level of decision control” over the work. According to this study jobs are categorized in the following manner:

(a) Low psychological demand/ Low decision control. Eg. Watchman, truck driver.

(b) Low psychological demand/ High decision control. Eg. Mechanic, sales clerk.

(c) High psychological demand/ High decision control. Eg. Sales manger, bank officer.

(d) High psychological demand/ Low decision control. Eg. waitress, telephone operator,

cook etc.

Role Ambiguity

Role of every individual must be clearly defined. According to Kahn* role is a set of activities associated with certain position in the organization or in the society. If these work activities are ill defined, then the person will not perform his duties as others expect him to do so.

When there is ambiguity about role expectation. Then people in the organization experience certain amount of stress. Generally, role of a person is associated with the appointment he holds and duties of various appointments are well laid down and time tested. If a person is holding station masters job, his duties are clear and there is a little scope for ambiguity. This is only possible in bureaucratic or traditional organizations. Role ambiguity is more pronounced with the organizations which are fluid in nature and subject to change with environment factors. Role ambiguity is also noticed in managerial cadre where job specifications and roles are not clearly defined because of the general nature of the job. Principle of unity of command is not followed strictly and therefore there is always a conflict about reporting channels. French and Caplan10 in their studies concluded that role ambiguity causes.


(1) Psychological strain and dissatisfaction.

(2) Leads to under utilization of human resources, and

(3) Leads to feeling of futility on how to cope with the organizational environment

Role Conflict

Role conflict occurs when individuals have a variety of expectation from another individual who is not able to meet their demands placed on him. A person may not be capable of handling two or more pressures at any one time. Employees may be demanding rise in salary, which a manger feels as genuine but he cannot recommend to the management due to latter’s pressure. Role conflict occurs when contradictory demands are simultaneously placed upon an employee. Role conflict also occur when an individual has to play more than one role simultaneously. A manager can not permit his wife (an employee) to go home before time or he may not accept lower quality of work on one hand, but may neglect quantity on the other. There is stress due to inter – role conflict. Robert Kahn and his colleagues at University of Michigan concluded that contradictory role expectations give rise to opposing role pressures (role conflict) which generally have the following effects on the emotional experience of the focal person : Intensified internal conflicts, increased tension associated with various aspect of the job, reduced satisfaction with the job and its various components, and decreased confidence in superiors and in the organization as a whole. The strain experienced by those in conflict situations lead to various coping responses as social and psychological withdrawal among them. “Finally the presence of conflict in one’s role tends to undermine his relations with his role senders to produce weaker bonds of trust, respect and attraction. It is quite clear that role conflicts are costly for the person in emotional and interpersonal terms. They may be costly to the organization, which depends on effective coordination and collaboration, within and among its parts”.


Burnout is a type of existential crisis in which work is no longer a meaningful function. Workers who experience burnout may no longer view their job as meaningful. They feel work as tedious, redundant, and insignificant. They experience total fatigue which may show itself in the form of boredom, depression and a powerful sense of alienation. Work related behaviour of executives indicate very little concern for quality, creativity, enthusiasm and contribution to organizational goals.

Morely and Katherine (1982) in their work on the subject have identified the pattern of behaviour burned out executives. They concluded that predictable behaviour is as under:

(a) Tendency to balance others in the organization for their burnout.

(b) To complain bitterly about aspects of work which in the past were not areas of concern.

(c) To miss work because of non-specific and increasingly prevalent illness.

(d) To daydream and sleep on the job.

(e) To be last to come and the first to leave.

(f) To bicker with co-workers or appear unco-operative and to become increasingly isolated from others.


Causes of Burnout

1. Work Estimation: Overwork is generally considered to be a major cause for burnout. But it not so. Burnout take place in a chaotic, unstable environment. It often happens when there is a confusion about duties and future managerial directions. Burnout takes place when there is management by crisis. Low work estimation may also cause burnout. When executives feel that there is no challenge and innovativeness in the work, burnout take place.

2. Job Mismatch: It has been observed that executives choose and accept jobs which has higher extrinsic reward like high salaries and power. These hygiene factors generally fail to motivate executives for a longer time. Decision to choose extrinsic reward over intrinsic rewards results in unhappiness. Job mismatch may be observed in personal value and organizational value system and autonomy provided by organization in work environment. Lack of gratification from the work generally leads to burnout.

Organizational Productivity

When executive are not able to meet organizational objective due to external environmental factors like shortage of raw material, government rules, market demand etc., they experience a burnout. They feel a sense of helplessness. Burnout may also be noticed where there is a strict bureaucratic way of doing things and very little scope for exploitation of personal skills, innovation and creativity.

Personal Problems

Personal problems like unhappy married life, financial instability, children education, job security may cause stress leading to burnout. Persons with a predisposition to burnout may be badly affected by problems unrelated to work.

Prevention of Burnout

As seen in the preceding reading, burnout emanate from organizational policy, structure, practices, nature of the work and personal characteristics of the individual. Probability of burnout increases if there is a mismatch between individual and job fit. Preventive measures include diagnosis, prevention and treatment.


It is the responsibility of all individuals to ensure that his subordinate is not subjected to burnout. This can be identified from the early warning by observing clinical signs that include the following:

(a) Feeling of lethargy.

(b) Lack of productivity.

(c) Lack of interest in the present job and feeling that change of job and place may change the present situation without even considering upward mobility.

(d) Feeling of loneliness, forced isolation and acute discomfort.

(e) Feeling of direction less.

(f) Traumatic personal problems like death in family or major accident.



Morley and Katherine have suggested the following preventive and treatment strategies:

(a) Seeking a fit between characteristics of the individual, complexity of the job and type of organizational structure.

(b) Developing programmes which help individuals cope with the causes of stress that lead to burnout.

(c) Teaching and supporting self – diagnosis and individual adaptation strategies for addressing burnout symptoms.


(a) Evaluate and understand the cause of burnout.

(b) Determine change both personal and organizational to return to normal work – related functioning.

(c) Develop sensitivity to the signs of burnout to cope with likelihood of the same in future.

(d) Develop skills to deal with feelings and emotions to avoid burnout to fellow employees.

Role Overload / Under Load

It has been observed that organizations are resorting to promote employees to take voluntary retirement (VRS). In addition employees are being retrenched to cut down on the production cost to be able to be competitive in the market. This has led to excessive work-load to the employees. In this situation they feel that they do not have adequate time or ability to meet such requirements. When targets have to be met, employees have to work over time.

At times they even have to handle more than one job to cater for absent workers. Role overload occurs when there is too much work, too little time or lack of skills. Role underload is an opposite phenomenon to role overload. It occurs when person’s skill and ability is under utilized, there is a lack of job variety or the contents of the job is so small that the person feels that his potentials are not been fully utilized. Workers who suffer from work underload experience lack of interest in the job and leads to excessive absenteeism. It ultimately results in low self-esteem and lack of job satisfaction.


Responsibility is a factor for work stress. People who are in finance department have to complete accounts of the organization before a scheduled date. This increases work load and stress merely because it has to be computed before a particular time. It causes a sense of burden upon an individual. Efficiency of a manager is greatly affected by the efficiency and quality of work produced by subordinates. If anything goes wrong, it is a leader who is accountable for it. This aspect causes stress upon a manger. French and Caplin state. If there is any truth to the adage that “man’s greatest enemy is himself”, it can be found in these data – it is the responsibility which organizational members have for other organizational members, rather than the responsibility for impersonal aspects of the organization, which constitutes the more significant organizational stress”.


Individual Level Strategies

Minimum level of stress is required to stimulate individuals to higher productivity. Excessive stress is harmful to both individual and organization. It is a common practice to evolve various stress reduction strategies in the organizations. Individuals must take steps to reduce stress to a acceptable level. It is clarified that every individual has different capacity to cope with individual stress. Some of the individual stress reduction strategies are as under:

1. Define objective for Self: Setting up of objective for self is a continuous process right from the childhood where parents generally decide as to the stream of learning, institutes and the like. When you join an organization, it is important to study organizational structure, job involved and the prospects of growth. Every person must set for himself the object vis – vis the ability and skill one possesses. It is generally observed that individuals set high objective for themselves to be achieved in short span of time. They inhibit inbuilt fear of failing. Setting up of high standard without analyzing resources available leads to stressful situation. People must modify their goals based upon various resources available, ‘time’ being the most important resource.

2. Plan your life: Work stress has an impact on personal life at home and vice – versa. It is therefore important to plan various aspects of life as is possible. This will include increasing professional competence by way of acquiring additional qualification and skill, sound financial planning, home, children education and so on. Contingency plan must also be evolved in case of uncertainty. If this is done, a person is physically and mentally prepared for events to come. Investment in insurance for children education may make you free from ‘stress’ if it was planned well in advance.

3. Social Support: A man is becoming isolated like an island in vast ocean due to breaking of joint family system, requirement of moving out of home for service purposes and thereby losing physical contacts with kith and kin. It is important to keep close rapport with relatives. At closer to work place develop friendship with fell

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