What Is the Role of Stress in Organizational Behavior?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2019
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The role of stress in organizational behavior refers to the manner in which stress may affect the behavior of individuals within an organization. Stress in organizations is described as work stress and may manifest in several ways, all of which may have an impact on the overall organizational behavior. Recognizing that work stress is not only due to stressors from work, but also includes outside stressors that may be carried by the individual into the work environment, goes a long way in understanding the role of stress in organizational behavior as well as the possible remedies.

A key to understanding the link between stress in organizational behavior and individuals is the understanding that some degree of stress in the normal workplace cannot be avoided and is not necessarily a negative factor. This is due to the fact that varying degrees of minor stress at work may indeed help an individual to perform better. In this way, a link between stress and organizational behavior is the fact that mild stress may help to keep an employee from becoming too complacent and encourage such an employee to be more alert. This will affect the effectiveness and productivity of the employee, in turn affecting the bottom line of the company in a positive manner.


When stress in the workplace becomes excessive, or becomes elevated to the degree that it will have a negative effect on the health and behavior of the employee, then such stress may not be beneficial to the organization and may negatively affect the equilibrium of the organizational behavior. One manner in which stress in the workplace might negatively affect organizational behavior is when it influences the relationship between the stressed individual and other members of the organization. For example, an individual under stress may become moody and irritable, prone to lashing out at fellow employees due to the effects of stress. Where this is the case, it might put an unnecessary and distracting strain on the relationship between employees, consequently affecting their productivity.

When the pressure from a job exceeds the capabilities of employees, they may not be able to perform at their optimum. Individuals in organizations must be analyzed and given duties that are related to their human capital. If employees are given jobs that far exceed what they are capable of executing, they may buckle under the pressure from the crushing mental and physical strain, which will be reflected in their social relationship within the organization. Sometimes the stress may come as a result of the failure by management to follow some ergonomic practices, which will alleviate the stress of the employees. This often leads to a feeling of resentment among workers and also shows the role of stress in organizational behavior.


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Post 3

@MrsPramm - I hate that human behavior in the workplace basically just comes down to that kind of calculation.

Although I suspect that one day most of these jobs will be done more cheaply by computers and we might wish we'd been able to handle the stress better.

Post 2

@pastanaga - That would increase my stress levels by quite a bit. Not just because supervisors could look over my shoulder (and let's face it, they can do that when you're in a cubicle anyway) but because there would just be no way to tune out the rest of the office.

I wouldn't be able to get any work done if I was constantly hearing other people's conversations and seeing them wandering around. And having to stop and start work would definitely increase my stress levels.

But I've got a touch of social anxiety so I probably wouldn't even like a cubicle that much. I guess it's just a matter of measuring whether the loss of productivity from stress from open plan outweighs the loss of productivity when people don't feel like they are under constant surveillance.

Post 1

One thing I've been reading about lately is how stress levels have risen overall in a lot of offices among certain sections of workers, and they believe it's because of the popularity of open plan offices. The cubicle got a bad rap for a while because it was so impersonal and supposedly made it difficult for people to connect with their workmates, but apparently it's a far superior design to just making everyone give up any semblance of privacy.

I doubt most organizations are going to pay that much attention to this finding though, because an open plan office makes it much easier to check up on employees and make sure they are actually working (which might be why they are finding it stressful!).

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