The father of stress studies, Hans Selye, feels that complete freedom from stress is death. Stress is still one of the most important and serious problems facing the field of organizational behavior. Stress can be comprehensively defined as an adaptive response to an external situation that results in physical, psychological, and/or behavioral deviations for organizational participants. The causes of stress can be categorized into extraorganizational, organizational, and group stressors, as well as individual stressors and dispositions. In combination or singly, they represent a tremendous amount of potential stress impinging on today's jobholder-at every level and in every type of organization.
In addition to stress, the dynamics of interactive behavior at interpersonal and group levels, and the resulting conflict, play an increasingly important role in the analysis and study of organizational behavior. Conflict and stress are conceptually and practically similar, especially at the individual level. Conflict at the intraindividual level involves frustration, goal conflict, and role conflict and ambiguity. Frustration occurs when goal-directed behavior is blocked. Goal conflict can come about from approach-approach, approach-avoidance, or avoidance-avoidance situations. Role conflict and ambiguity result from a clash in the expectations of the various roles possessed by an individual and can take the forms of role conflict, intrarole conflict, or interrole conflict.
Interpersonal conflict is first examined in terms of its sources (personal differences, information deficiency, role incompatibility, and environmental stress). Then the analysis of interpersonal conflict is made through the response categories of forcing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising, and collaborating. Intergroup conflict has also become important. The antecedents to intergroup conflict are identified as competition for resources, task interdependence, jurisdictional ambiguity, and status struggles.
The effects of stress and intraindividual conflict can create physical problems (heart disease, ulcers, arthritis), psychological problems (mood changes, lowered self-esteem, resentment of supervision, inability to make decisions, and job dissatisfaction), and/or behavioral problems (tardiness, absenteeism, turnover, and accidents).
A number of individual and organizational strategies have been developed to cope with these stress-induced problems. Exercise, relaxation, behavioral self-control techniques, cognitive therapy techniques, and networking are some potentially useful coping strategies that individuals can apply to help combat existing stress. Taking a more proactive approach, management of organizations can try to eliminate stressors, reduce work-family conflict, and implement employee assistance programs (EAPs).
A special concern for organizations today is to deal with the stress resulting from downsizing that affects both those laid off and the survivors. To manage this stress, downsizing organizations must fully communicate and display fair procedural justice for those let go. To counter survivor syndrome, downsized organizations can follow such guidelines as being proactive, acknowledging survivors' emotions, communicating after the cuts, and clarifying new roles. In any case, whether on an individual or an organizational level, steps need to be taken to prevent or reduce the increasing job stress facing today's employees.
Going beyond industrial relations and conflict management, negotiation skills are becoming increasingly recognized as important to effective management and personal success. Traditionally, negotiators have depended on distributed and positional bargaining. Relying on simplistic hard or soft strategies, this traditional approach is now being challenged by more effective alternative negotiation skills. Practical low-risk strategies include flattery, addressing the easy points first, silence, inflated opening position, and "oh, poor me." High-risk strategies include unexpected temper losses, high-balling, Boulwarism, and waiting until the last moment. In addition, alternatives to traditional distributed and positional bargaining are the integrative approach, which uses a problem-solving, collaborative strategy, and the principled, or negotiation on the merits, approach, which emphasizes people, interests, options, and criteria. These negotiation skills go beyond hard versus soft strategies and change the game, leading to a win-win, wise agreement.
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