“Over the Edge”: Managing Stress Among Employees

Executive Summary

Over the Edge is a classical case study of the threat that an organization exposes itself to by having highly stressed workers who feel less valued. Stress management is a concept that many organizations have ignored for a long time, but it turns out to be a critical aspect of human resource management. The analysis uses general adaptation syndrome to explain the path that it takes as one tries to resist stress to the level of exhaustion where they take radical and irrational actions. The path can be disrupted when different stakeholders take actions at the right time to manage the stress.

Stress management in the workplace environment is becoming an increasingly critical aspect of human resource management yet it is often ignored by those in positions of power. The need to meet strict deadlines and to meet customers’ expectations in a highly competitive business environment often forces managers to push their employees to the extremes to ensure that they register impressive performance. The case study ‘Over the Edge’ explains what happens when an employee’s stress is not managed effectively.

Contextualization of the Case Study to the Chosen Concept

The concept of stress management in the workplace is becoming increasingly important in modern-day human resource management. Employees form a critical component of an organization and their wellbeing should be given priority. The management unit should be committed to creating an environment where workers feel relaxed, and any issue that affects them is effectively addressed. The case about James Daniel Simpson demonstrates the dangers of unmanaged stress among employees. The case shows that a highly stressed employee is not only a threat to themselves but also their colleagues and those in positions of power.


The case study demonstrates the path that an individual takes as they are consumed by stress to the level when they are finally pushed over the edge. It also demonstrates that in most cases, people in the management do not even realize that their workers are highly stressed. Assessing the concept of stress management based on a specific theoretical concept can help in developing an appropriate solution that can avert similar undesirable scenarios.

Concept Identification Aligned With Relevant Theoretical Underpinnings

The primary problem presented in the case is the lack of stress management at Walter Rossler Company. According to Moorhead and Griffin (2001), companies are currently faced with the pressure of assessing the wellbeing of their employees to ensure that stressors are identified and eliminated. The concept of stress management is gaining relevance in the modern business environment. Successful organizations have learned the significance of working with highly satisfied and motivated employees. A stressed worker cannot be self-motivated, and sometimes they may act irrationally. The case of James Daniel Simpson demonstrates an employee whose stress levels were building up consistently and the management failed to take the necessary action. General adaptation syndrome is an effective theory that can help in assessing the path that Simpson took as his stress level worsened to the level of murder-suicide.

Stakeholder Perspectives

Stress management is the responsibility of all stakeholders within an organization. In the past, this concept was not considered relevant in an organizational setting (McCarty, 2016). It was viewed from the perspective of being responsible for the affected individual. However, the perception is changing based on events such as the one presented in the case study. A stressed employee can pose a major threat to different stakeholders within a firm. The human resource unit has the primary responsibility of assessing stress levels among every employee and finding ways of addressing them.

The source of the stress may not be of primary significance. The goal should always be to assist the individual to overcome the challenge so that they can focus on their work. Colleagues at work also have a role of engaging themselves often with the goal of discussing issues that affect their wellbeing and finding an individual or collective solutions for each. They have to understand that eliminating the threat of a stressed colleague is beneficial for everyone. The top management unit also has a role in enacting appropriate policies that would eliminate stress in the workplace. Discriminative policies at this company were identified as the primary stressor for Simpson.

Critical Analysis Connecting and Synthesizing Theory to the Case

General adaptation syndrome is a theoretical concept that explains the path an individual takes when exposed to stress within a given environment. When Simpson joined Walter Rossler Company, his focus was to lead a normal average life. However, he was already under stress after failing to graduate from the University of Texas at El Paso. This theory identifies 3 resistance levels to stress. Soon after joining the firm, he was shocked by some of the policies at the firm, especially the one that treated some workers as superior to the rest. His resistance to the stress dropped, and he shared his disgust with a few friends he had at work. He was able to recover from the shock as his resistance to the stress increased. He became used to the environment and started to adopt. However, there was continuous stress as the factors causing the concern remained unchecked. With time, Simpson went beyond the adaptation phase to exhaustion. As the condition degenerated and with no medical or social therapy, the outcome, as shown in the model in figure 1 below, was a murder-suicide.

General Adaptation Syndrome
Figure 1. General Adaptation Syndrome (Seaward, 2021, p. 67).


The case of Simpson demonstrates that stress in the workplace can no longer be ignored. This problem not only lowers the performance of employees but also creates a dangerous environment for all stakeholders within the firm. It is possible to address such a problem in a way that does not expose anyone to the dangers discussed in the case study. The following recommendations should be considered to help in addressing such a problem:

  • It is the responsibility of the top management unit to create policies that make all employees feel equal and respected within the workplace environment. Policies that make some stakeholders feel less valued should be reviewed and possibly replaced to eliminate discontentment;
  • The human resource department should regularly engage their employees to understand individual and collective concerns that affect their wellbeing at work;
  • It is necessary for a firm to have communication mechanisms that allow workers to pass their concerns to the management directly or anonymously to the relevant organs within the firm. The management should avoid cases where such workers are victimized because of their decision to raise a concern;
  • Human resource management should create a platform where employees can engage themselves in forums that allow them to discuss personal matters that affect them in different ways. Information gathered from such forums can be used to find ways of improving the workplace environment;
  • It is necessary for those in top managerial positions to engage their junior employees. Having disconnect between the management and the employees creates resentment, as was demonstrated in the case. Such engagement may enable the managers to identify and address concerns of the workers;
  • Organizations such as Walter Rossler Company should avoid oppressive or punitive policies that may push already stressed employees over the edge.

Action Plan and Evaluation of Risks and Consequences

The analysis above demonstrates the significance of identifying and diffusing stress among employees at the right time. Taking the example of the case study presented, the management should have taken some steps to avert the deaths. The first step in managing such stresses is to open up a communication platform. Information obtained should then be used to revise organizational policies. Where necessary, the management can explain why some policies may need to remain in action. Failure to take such steps may expose the firm to various risks such as reduced performance, mass murders, and suicide as presented in the case. The consequence of such risk may be the collapse of the firm.


McCarty, R. (2016). The alarm phase and the general adaptation syndrome: Two aspects of Selye’s inconsistent legacy. Concepts, Cognition, Emotion, and Behavior, 1(3), 13-19.

Moorhead, G., & Griffin, R. (2001). Organizational behavior: Managing people and organizations (6th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Seaward, B. L. (2021). Managing stress: Principles and strategies for health and well-being. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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