An organisation of the current time is naturally exposed to a stress environment. The recent economic downturn has just made it more comfortable for accommodating such a condition in the organisation. This is illustrated through the following case involving a situation in an 'Accounting & Auditing' firm. The organisation is well reputed for its big size and to have achieved great heights in short period. The organisation depends on technology for all sorts of communication across all levels of hierarchy. There is a belief of saving time and efforts by doing so. The words that may suit the overall ambience surrounding the employees here are- being dynamic, demanding, high expectations, achieving targets, deadlines etc. This, like most other big organisations in this sector, has erratic working hours. Of course it is also known for the comparatively high monetary compensation it offers for the same.
Since recently, the organisation has been undergoing change in work policies according to the changing needs of the environment. Parallel to which, we can observe a rise in the number of employees quitting the organisation and many being absent or showing a poor performance. The increase in employee turnover has started to worry the top management. They realised the importance of giving attention to these issues which puts their social reputation and status at stake.
Under this situation, one can guess that the employees are exposed to diversified behavioural issues. But also to be considered is the rise of giving importance to managing them effectively. As the first line of this part hints, the backbone of the following report will analyse the case with respect to the stress levels of its employees and also relate it to one other issue viz. Communication process. This will be done by defining and deploying the appropriate theory with relation to the organisational behaviour. Following which, the possible recommendations and conclusions will be discussed to manage the current situation effectively.
Relationship between Stress and Communication process:
To begin with, one has to understand and identify whether the organisation, the employees in particular, are going through stressed situation. Stress can be defined as "a response, consequence of any action, situation or event that places special demands on a person; and all such actions/situations/events that places special demands are called Stressors" (Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly and Konopaske, 2006, p.199).
Health care claims
Poor decision making
Lack of concentration
Increased blood pressure
Coronary heart disease (CHD)
Stressors, Stress and Outcomes model:
Ambiguity in job description
Pace of change
Intra group conflict
Change in policies
Lack of career opportunities
Relating few of the above to the current scenario:
Change in policies- fluctuating targets than the usual because of changing needs
Role conflicts- multiple level hierarchies; An individual handling varied projects at the same time may have to report to new/multiple managers leading to role conflicts
Role overload- closer deadlines, erratic working hours
Environmental changes- whether it is economic changes or technological advancements, the employees view it as a source of replacements. And feel insecure about layoffs & uncertain about their jobs
Communication- when it is ineffective, it leads to role ambiguity, intra group conflicts
The above list of stressors may increase/decrease according to the employees and the organisation. These need not be stressors to all. An individual in a demanding position may be affected by stress, while the other may not be though both belong to the same organisation. It depends on the individual's characteristics and perspectives. (Gibson et al, 2006). Wilson (2004) identifies these two types of individuals as "Type-A": sustained drive towards poorly defined goals, preoccupation with deadlines, competitiveness, desire for advancement and achievement and "Type-B": relaxed, unhurried and satisfied. Type-A individuals encounter with high risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), and other physiological outcomes compared to Type-B individuals. The actual issues of concern in the mentioned case are employees quitting the organisation, poor performance and absenteeism. And these can be traced to the outcomes in the above 'stress defining' model. All these confirm a stressed atmosphere prevailing in the organisation.
"Communication process becomes very important in organizations that deal with uncertainty, that are complex and that have a technology that does not permit easy routinization. The more an organisation is people and idea oriented, the more important communication process becomes" (Hall, 1999, p. 167). All the job related information is communicated to the subordinates by the managers. There is delegation of work running through all levels. Communication process is carried out by adopting various technological channels like Email, Fax, and Telecommunication etc.
The question to be answered at this point is- whether appropriate channel/medium is adopted? For example: The targets/goals/job description for the lower level employees is determined by the managers. And the same is being communicated to them through emails. Now, if the message is similar to what is done in the past then this is an appropriate channel. This way, the organisation will save time and efforts as they believe so. However, if the message relates to new responsibilities/project, the employee at the execution level may need more clarifications and may prefer personal/telecommunication channel. When the sender of the message (managers) fail to use the appropriate channel, the message often tend to get distorted leading to ambiguity among the employees about their role & responsibilities. This causes stress. Also, Wilson (2004) notes Hilpern's (2003) finding that excessive dependency on technology at work contributes to rising stress levels, referred as 'digital depression'. This implies that, an effective communication process in place will support a stress free environment. Consequentially improve the situation and performance of the employees and organisation.
As we have discussed so far, it can be inferred that the outcomes of a stressed situation or an ineffective communication adversely affect the performance and life of the individual, thereby the organisation.
According to national mental health association, the cost of depression is $43billion a year in medical bills, lost productivity, and absenteeism;
Depression is the seventh most common cause of adult deaths
(Gibson et al, 2006 noted Sharon Johnson's, "Depression: Dragging millions down" The New York Times magazine, October 29, 2000 pp39, 47)
It is estimated (Wilson, 2004) around 13.5 million working days a year being lost to companies in the UK because of stress, anxiety or depression of employees.
Therefore, it becomes very important to address these issues so as to improve the situation and save various costs to the organisation.