O Conflict and Stress in Organizations


Conflict and stress can prevent individuals from performing at their best. Stress can be caused by a variety of factors and can lead to numerous consequences. Stress is a frequent cause of conflict, and conflict can increase stress.


The Nature of Conflict.

Conflict is a disagreement among two or more individuals, groups, or organizations. Conflict can be superficial or strong. It can be short-lived or exist for long periods of time. Although conflict can be a major problem, certain kinds of conflict can be beneficial.

When conflict is handled in a cordial and constructive manner, it is probably serving a useful purpose.

What constitutes the optimal level of conflict varies with both the situation and the people involved.

Causes of Conflict.

Conflict can arise from interpersonal relationships, from intergroup relationships, and between the organization and its environment.

Interpersonal conflict:

Conflict between two or more individuals is almost certain to occur in organizations. Differences in perceptions, goals, attitudes, and values set the stage for interpersonal conflict. Personality clashes and competitiveness are other sources of interpersonal conflict.

Intergroup conflict:

Intergroup conflicts typically arise from organizational causes. Increased interdependence among groups increases the potential for conflict. Also, different groups may have goals that are incompatible. Competition for scarce resources can also lead to intergroup conflict.

Conflict between organization and environment:

Plain old business competition creates some interorganizational conflict. This type of conflict can become extreme in certain environments. Conflict can also arise between an organization and other elements in its environment, such as between a company and corporate affairs.

Managing Conflict in ORGANISATIONS.

Stimulating Conflict.

Managers and organizations may actually stimulate conflict by setting up competitive situations. As long as the ground rules are fair and all participants perceive the competition as fair, the conflict created by competition is likely to be constructive.

Another way to stimulate conflict is to bring in outsiders who will shake things up and present a new perspective on organizational practices. Conflict can also be stimulated by changing established procedures.

Controlling Conflict.

One way to control conflict is to expand the resource base. Another way is to enhance coordination among interdependent groups.

Setting supraordinate, or higher-level, goals is another way to control conflict because employee attention will be focused on these goals. Finally, managers can try to match personalities and work habits of employees to avoid conflict between individuals.

Resolving and Eliminating Conflict.

If conflict is disrupting the workplace, creating too much hostility and tension, or otherwise harming the organization, it will need to be resolved. Some ways to resolve conflict include avoidance, smoothing or minimizing the conflict by telling all involved that things will improve, compromising by striking a middle-range position between two extremes, or confrontation by bringing the parties together to deal with the issue. Regardless of which approach is used, managers must realize that conflict must be addressed so it doesn't turn destructive.


Conflict and stress are closely related behavioral phenomena. Conflict may increase stress, and stress may lead to workbased conflict.

The Nature of Stress.

Stress is an individual's adaptive response to a stimulus that carries excessive psychological or physical demands. The stressor is the stimulus that induces stress. Stress generally follows a cycle known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).

According to this idea, individuals have a normal level of resistance to stressful events: some individuals can tolerate a great deal; others can handle much less. When a stressor is present, the first stage is alarm the individual becomes concerned about the stress. During the second stage, the person attempts to resist the effects of the stressor.

In many situations, the resistance phase may end the GAS. However, prolonged exposure to a stressor without resolution may bring on exhaustion with its consequences. Some stress is necessary for optimal performance, but too much stress can have very negative consequences. It is also important to understand that stress can be caused by good as well as by bad things.

Stress and the Individual.

People handle stress differently. Some thrive on pressure. Others panic at the slightest pressure and do anything to avoid stress. Cultural backgrounds can affect a person's response to stressors.

Type A and Type B Personality Profiles.

Type A individuals are extremely competitive and very devoted to work, and they have a strong sense of time urgency. They are likely to be aggressive, impatient, and very work-oriented. Because of these personality characteristics, the Type A person is much more likely than the Type B person to experience stress.

Type B individuals tend to be less competitive and less devoted to work, and they have a weaker sense of time urgency. The Type B person is much less likely than the Type A to experience stress. Few people are purely Type A or Type B.

Causes of Stress in ORGANISATIONS.

Stress can be caused by a wide variety of things. Common causes are organizational stressors and life stressors.

Organizational Stressors.

There are four broad categories of organizational stressors: task demands, physical demands, role demands, and interpersonal demands.

1. Task demands are stressors associated with the specific task or job the person is performing. Some occupations are naturally more stressful than others.

2. Physical demands are stressors associated with the job setting. Environmental temperatures, poorly designed offices, and threats to health can lead to stress.

3. Role demands are stressors associated with a particular position in a group or organization. Examples are role ambiguity and the various role conflicts that people experience in groups.

4. Interpersonal demands are stressors associated with the characteristics of the relationships that confront people in organizations. Examples are group pressure, personality style, and leadership style.

Life Stressors.

Causes of stress may reside in events that are not directly connected to people's daily work lives. Life change, any meaningful change in a person's personal or work situation, can lead to stress. The top 10 life stressors are:

Consequences of Stress in ORGANISATION.

Positive stress may result in increased energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. Negative stress has more serious consequences.

Individual Consequences.

Stress can have behavioral, psychological, and medical consequences for individuals. Stress can lead people to engage in harmful behaviors. Stress can adversely affect an individual's mental health and well-being as well as his or her physiological well-being.

Organizational Consequences.

Individual stress has direct consequences for organizations. Performance declines and withdrawal behaviors such as absenteeism and turnover may occur if there is too much stress. People may exhibit poor attitudes when they are under too much stress.


Burnout is a general feeling of exhaustion that may develop when an individual simultaneously experiences too much pressure and too few sources of satisfaction. Effects of burnout are likely to be constant fatigue and feelings of frustration and helplessness.

Managing Stress in ORGANISATIONS.

Individuals and organizations need to learn how to manage stress. Numerous ideas and approaches have been developed.

Individual Approaches to Managing Stress.

People have different ways of managing stress. One way is exercise. Another method is relaxation. Individuals can use time management techniques to help them manage time. Role management can be used to avoid role overload, ambiguity, and conflict. Finally, people can manage stress by developing and maintaining support groups.

Organizational Approaches to Managing Stress.

Organizations have a vested interest in helping their employees manage stress. Firms can use institutional programs and wellness programs. Institutional efforts to manage stress are based on established organizational mechanisms.

Organizations can redesign especially stressful jobs, rearrange work schedules, and eliminate rotating shifts. Also, the organizational culture can help manage stress. Wellness programs are specifically created to help individuals deal with stress. Stress management programs, health promotion programs, and other kinds of programs can be part of an organization's wellness focus.

Career development programs can help minimize stress by showing managers clearly where they are in their career relative to where they would like to be. In developing any type of stress management program, managers need to balance costs and benefits