Stress is not a recent phenomenon, but the modern work environment seems to highlights its detrimental effects on employees. This is no more obvious than during times of organisational change. Research published in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, considers the impact of such changes on workers in a healthcare authority in New Zealand, highlighting the problems that any organization might face under such circumstances and pointing to possible methods to cope and remediate employee stress.
Stress is present to some degree in any organizational context as employees, including managers, grapple with a host of work demands, suggests Roy Smollan of the Department of Management, at Auckland University of Technology. Individuals all have different coping strategies although ultimately not everyone copes. It all depends on the specific stressors, the individual’s personality, emotional intelligence, and their social identity. Moreover, specific stressors need tailored coping strategies, suggests Smollan. He reports that stress is exacerbated when processes, such as organizational change exist in a cloud of ambiguity and uncertainty, when those processes are undertaken without consultation with employees, and when changes are either miscommunicated or not communicated at all.
Smollan’s case study of a New Zealand healthcare authority undergoing major restructuring represents a quite unique qualitative examination of the stresses of work life as those involved are caught up in the tumultuous processes of organizational change. It focused on how individuals attempted to maintain their psychological wellbeing during these changes and learned to cope with the stress. Fundamentally, while many people involved eschewed help from others and relied more on their strengths, in part for fear of appearing weak, accessing support networks was critical for others. For all involved being proactive in problem solving and managing one’s thoughts and emotions during stressful times were nevertheless important for everyone involved.
“Managers have a key role to play in anticipating when organizational change may elicit stress and in helping those affected to cope with it,” concludes Smollan.
Smollan, R.K. (2017) ‘Learning to cope with stressful organisational change’, Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.148–167.