Stress Impact on Motivation in a Workplace

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One of the major responsibilities of a manager in a workplace is to keep the morale and motivation of the employees working under them, as high as possible. This should be done in order to ensure that they employees are performing their best. A lot of research has been put into the matter; theories have been put to work. However, the task is easier set than done. Motivation involves the psychological aspects of the employees and how they respond to different variables present in the environment. To a huge extent employee motivation is misunderstood as being a simple and achievable phenomena; its complex and there is no one way of achieving employee motivation. Every individual is different and the variables through which they are motivated depend highly on their needs and wants at that particular course of time.

Stress, something part of our daily life, is one of the very important factors that have an impact on employee motivation. Stress, can be considered to provide a negative impact on employee motivation if it exceeds a certain level. It is said to hamper the productivity and morale of an individual if administered more than desired. The catch here is the fact that a certain level of induced stress makes an individual work harder towards their goal, only if the goal is coupled with the required benefits. If the level exceeds, then it can greatly hamper the way employees work and their efforts in the workplace.

The problem

Stress and employee motivation are two issues that the management has to handle tactfully. The tradeoff between the two variables is highly crucial in bringing out the best out of an individual. Basically stress is a variable that is to an extent important to create motivation in an employee. If that stress gets out of hand, then the problem arises. Therefore, it is important to outline the various levels of stress and their effect on the respective employees. (Lou, 1999)

If the employee doesn’t feel at ease while working for your organization due to any factor, he or she is bound the leave that place if the environment doesn’t improve in his or her favor, or the productivity ought to decrease that would in turn harm the organization in achieving a competitive advantage.

In today’s organizations, in times of the economic breakdown that the world is facing, coping with stress and effectively utilizing capabilities to bring out the best for the organization is becoming extremely important. The effect of employee turnover is also detrimental to an organization if the flow of employees in and out of the organization is high. Highly de-motivating factors such as a low pay scale, log job security is increasing the job related stress in today’s organization. The employees are subjected to high levels of stress over the job status all over the world, hence analyzing its impact on employee motivation and the willingness to work would help us understanding how to cope with the problem.

Literature review

Understanding the cause of loss of productivity in an employee is of prime importance to managers in today’s competitive world. The pressure of achieving and sustaining competitive advantage in today’s organizations is more than ever. As more and more resources are becoming available to all, all the world markets are converging on the effective utilization and maintenance of a stable yet diverse workforce. As organizations are going global, they are striving to achieve competitive advantage through factors other than raw materials and sanctions. They are focusing on developing a force of motivated employees which would serve them for a longer time in a much more profitable way.

Occupational stress is more or less related to employees working in organization which are going through an era of change. That change might be technological up gradation or the development of economic activity in the environment the organizations are working. in times of turmoil of the economic activity, the employee might not consider the link between the organization climate and the work he or she is performing. Rather they would attribute the poor performance to the organization and not to personal self-esteem that can be detrimental to an individual (Nico, 2002).

Many models have been development in due time over occupational stress and how to cope with it in order to increase employee motivation. Out of all, Karasek’s occupational stress model is one of the most popular. While studying two major organizations, he came across two variables that worked when it came of occupational stress. These two variables are the sheer quantity of work while the other one is concerned with the degree of control that the person can exercise of the task given. Research was put more into the topic and it was found out that both the variables are independent and providers of different symptoms of stress. Given these two important variables, there were four major types of categories in which jobs can be classified. High strain jobs are jobs which demand more quantity of work and where the discretion is low; low strain jobs have low demand for work and enjoy high control over their work; active jobs require more of work and dedication, coupled with high control over the job; and the last one is passive jobs, the ones what require low working hours and also low control over their jobs. High demand works well when coupled with high control and the adverse effects of reduced as employees are getting more control on their work. The major examples of this kind would be physicians and electrical engineers, who enjoy control in their demanding lives.

According to the Karesak’s model, it is the high demand of work coupled with low control over the job that causes the deterioration of human motivation in a work. When an individual is asked to undergo major work and is not allowed control over the decision regarding the work, the employee might feel neglected with their views not being addressed properly. Therefore, occupational stress creeps in and decreased motivation. The decline in motivation can further lead to turnover or conflicts at the workplace (Jayaratne & Chess, 1984).

However, the development of this model was in the 1960s and since then the dynamics of work and environment have changed dramatically. These changes have led to the critical analysis of the theory. The work environment is more challenging and requires greater input of productivity and betterment of work place sanity. One of the biggest criticisms lies in its specificity. The fact that stress can be triggered by multiple factors and one single factor can trigger a variety of emotions in different kinds of people is not considered in this theory.

Herzberg’s theory can also be a possible method of understanding employee motivation and how they would react under certain situations if they belong to the intrinsic category or extrinsic category. The theory further relates the two aspects to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction (Anthony, 2006).

Another important factor that helps decrease occupational stress and relieves the employees of their hard time at their jobs is the working conditions and communication factors present between the different employees working in an organization. The importance of social support in today’s emerging dynamic organization is tremendous and is proved to reduce stress levels by many folds in many (Douglas, 1971).

There is another way of looking at stress as well. The other side of coin states that continued external stress on an employee or an organization can help the organization in achieving the competitive edge they need, the productivity boost they require and to shine in the industry. It has been researched that externally applied stress helps a lacking system to become more structured and capable of coping with stress. There have been researches that have been conducted on groups that lead to the conclusion that the mediocre level of stress is good for an employee’s morale building and development. However, as the stress levels are increased, the impact on the productivity and employee morale goes down. It is important to understand the level of stress which is fruitful in inducing positive elements in an individual.

Another important variable that needs to be taken into account is the job involvement that an individual show towards the work he or she does. This work may not change much in times of organization stress of worker who have this characteristic as a personal trait. In other words, organizational stress can work as a detector of such a trait as a result of personality or work experience and dedication. However, if such a trait is responsive to external factors, then it would respond negatively to organization stress. A similar argument can be put forward for intrinsic motivation. The fact that the intrinsic motivation is based on how the higher order needs of an individual are fulfilled depends of the kind of performance that they give. However the responsiveness of this variable would highly depend upon the variable of organizational stress.

Root cause

The root cause of such problems that occur in organizations is the underestimation of importance of induced stress in organizations. When stress is induced over employees in a certain quantity, it would help them become more structured and task oriented, bringing a level of commitment to the table. Much of the stress is occurring because in this every changing world, as environments are becoming more competitive, advantage is time bound. The person who takes the best decision at the right time is the winner and not the person who falls short in the rat race. Therefore, in such a dynamic environment, jobs should become less authorized and authority should be transferred to employees so that their moral increases in the right level (Christane, 2006).

The economic turmoil would make you think the control should be decreased however, this is the right time to give control to the employees, to make them creative and motivated in their own way so that they are able to perform for the organization in the best possible way.

Result and conclusion

Stress factors is a working environment aren’t just because of bad working conditions. Although many of such stress related problems are because of a bad boss, high demand of working hours, or fear of job security, lack of safety at work other reasons for job anxiety may include bad financial condition at home, health related issues of oneself or relatives amongst other external factors. The important thing in stressful conditions is realizing that stress is not only harmful for that particular employee, it has a negative impact on the whole organization (Van Yperen, 2002). The top level management should induce stress relieving practices and regular counseling sessions for employees so that their motivation is high and they continue to be productive in their professional lives (Percival, 2005).

However a basic conclusion that can be drawn considering the extensive research and the literature review is that a certain level of stress is important for employee motivation and dedication towards the organization (MacDonald, 2003). Until an employee is put under pressure, the maximum utility of the employee would not come out. The important factor lies in understanding the optimum level of induced external stress that brings about the best in an organization. Increased level of stress would make an individual less functional and more uncomfortable with the working conditions. High turnover rate of organizations which require much effort and are low on providing authority to their employees is a fine example of such a situation and this should be taken into account in order to understand the complexities of occupational stress and employee motivation. The right mix is required to work for the organization.


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