Business of Stress: Organizational Change

Kandinsky_YellowRedBlue In the turbulence created by organizational change, there is a virtual certainty that employees and managers will come under significant stress and strain.

Putting operating processes in place for people to carry out their work together may prevent or at least mitigate unhealthy levels of stress. These processes can act as safeguard that will allow the task to be achieved in a way that is as efficient and as effective as possible.

Both participation in all of the processes of the work group and the development of a collaborative approach are at the heart of effective group work. Because of the tradition of autocratic leadership, neither participation nor collaboration are natural or automatic processes. Both require some learning and practice.

Glaser, R., & Glaser, C. Team effectiveness profile. King of Prussia, PA: Organizational Design and Development, Inc.

Without appropriate operating processes in place, it is not uncommon to experience negative outcomes in the functioning of a team:

  1. Pressures and priorities can push people into silo mentality and away from the team.
  2. Individual stress can rise to unhealthy levels.
  3. There is a tendency to focus more on the task than on people processes.
  4. Tensions, conflict, and stress can lead to insufficient focus on task accomplishment.
  5. Increases in stress and mistrust can occur if a coercive leadership style is overused in an attempt to correct imbalances.
What team changes are needed to better manage change?

Putting in place sound team operating processes can act like a lubricant, enabling healthy team functioning to resume. High levels of trust within a team are the bedrock for coping with conflict.

Typical trust-building areas that the leader must promote and the  team needs to address by discussing and agreeing include:

  1. Frequency, timing and agenda of meetings.
  2. Problem-solving and decision-making methodologies.
  3. Ground rules.
  4. Procedures for dealing with conflict when it occurs.
  5. Reward mechanisms for individuals contributing to team goals.
  6. Type and style of the review process.

Stresshack #4: Cognitive Stress Management

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned that you feel that you can never feel safe again. How strongly do you feel this?
VICTIM: I know that for a fact. I will never ever feel safe again.
INTERVIEWER: OK. On a scale of 0–100, how sure are you of that?
VICTIM: Oh, very sure. I’d say about a 90.

This psychopathological response to highly stressful situations is enabled by two core cognitions: the maladaptive appraisals of the stressor and its aftermath, and disturbances in autobiographical memory that involve impaired retrieval and strong associative memory.

There is ample research evidence that people who suffer from acute and chronic stress exaggerate both the probability of future negative events occurring and the adverse effects of these events. Other research shows that acute stress triggers a cognitive bias for events related to physical harm, negative bodily sensations, and concerns about social relationships.

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Stress Software: How Fear and Exercise Are the Same

Dali_1951_RaphaelesqueHeadExploding When it comes to stress, exercise and sheer terror are one and the same.

An adaptive and vitally important characteristic of the nervous system is its ability to increase arterial pressure almost instantaneously. This can take place in times of good stress (exercise, getting out of the way of an incoming bus), but also in times of bad stress (loss, grief, calamity, adversity, job strain).

During dangerous situations (real or perceived as they may be), arterial pressure rises to as high as twice its normal value within a few seconds. This spontaneous alarm reaction triggers a dramatic increase of arterial pressure that can immediately supply blood to any or all muscles of the body needed to respond. This translates into an enormously increased ability to fight against or to flee from the cause of danger.

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Business of Stress: CHD At Work

PointLobosLExp Researchers have substantially defined the specific characteristics of stressful occupations and have examined whether they promote the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), which is the progressive and often fatal hardening of the blood vessels that surround the heart.

Specifically, the question of whether high job strain can be used to predict job stress-related CHD is worth asking in this era of constant communication and information flow.

What constitutes high job strain?

Although many subjective and environmental factors can determine the level of strain in any one individual, the accepted common-sense definition is circumstances of high demand and correspondingly few opportunities to control outcomes. 

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