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Dealing with organisational stress

Stress is unavoidable because it’s part of human life. The most important factor is how we deal, handle or respond to stressful situations.

By Jonah Nyoni

SOME people spend most of their time at work and get most of their stress from there. Stress is unavoidable because it’s part of human life. The most important factor is how we deal, handle or respond to stressful situations. In this article, we tackle stress at organisational level.

What is stress? “Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure placed on them from extraordinary demands, constraints, or opportunities” (Robbins & Coulter) In addition to that Clarke & Watson,(1991) say “Stress is more often associated with constraints and demands. A constraint prevents you from doing what you desire; demands refer to the loss of something desired.”  Stress is considered to be an internal state or reaction to anything we consciously or unconsciously perceive as a threat, either real or imagined. There are many causes of stress as I will explain below:

Organisational change

When there is a change at work, this might cause stress for some people because they would have become used to their norms.  They are walking into uncertain waters. Clearly, change of any kind — personal or job-related — has the potential to cause stress because it can involve demands, constraints, or opportunities.

Organisational structure

There are leadership styles that cause stress such as bureaucratic, despotic, and autocratic. Other types of leadership — transformational, transactional, laissez-faire, charismatic — are  positive as they encourage openness, participation, and involvement of employees.

Organisational leadership

Management leadership creates a culture and the gravitas of any organisation. As John Maxwell usually says, “everything rises and falls on leadership”. Clarke & Watson (1991) said “organisational leadership represents the supervisory style of the organisation’s managers. Some managers create a culture characterised by tension, fear, and anxiety. They exert unrealistic pressure on surbodinates, impose excessively tight controls, and routinely fire employees who don’t measure up. This style of leadership filters down through the organisation and affects all employees.”

Task demands

Deadlines, time constraints, perfectionism (in a bid to avoid errors), leadership pressures, un-accommodative co-workers,  and working conditions lead to stress. “Unfair treatment at work, unreasonable deadlines, unmanageable workload, lack of support from managers and the added stress from having to respond to emails and texts during off-hours are primary drivers of job burnout.” (Kraft, 2018, CNBC)

Role mismatch

The greater fulfillment one can have is to work in a job that fits their God-endowed purpose. Wrong role (blocked career), role conflicts, role overload, and role ambiguity lead to stress. If your job does not fit your skills, it’s easy to become frustrated and stressed. It is more fulfilling to work where it’s in tandem with your skills and above that, in line with your purpose.

Interpersonal demands

Stress can come from co-workers, team conflicts, and lack of emotional intelligence. People skills become important at work. People have unique and different personality traits, which demands one to be able to deal with different people.

Personal demands/ issues

Family matters, background baggage, or historical socialisation, and personality type (introverts/ extroverts), past failures unresolved can lead to stress. Managers should be attentive and be able to pick the vibrations of those personal issues.

People don’t come pure at work but can bring their past which at times taints and cripple their current situation at work.


Studies show that alienation at the workplace can also lead to stress. Feelings of alienation are likely to result when employees are required to work alone.  The problem with alienation is that the job separates you from people and that leads to a sense of frustration.