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STRESS An employee has worked very hard & express to be rewarded for this work. He or she does not get any reward, not even appreciation. He or she feels frustrated. Another employee has been promised a very exciting assignment but his or her work continues to be routine & dull. The employee feels disappointed. A salesperson visits a corporate customer who has promised to buy the product. But the customer refuses the product. The salesperson is frustrated. We can cite example after example of frustration & disappointment. Every day, we face situations which frustrate us. WHAT IS FRUSTRATION? Frustration is the blocking or slowing down of a goal – directed activity. Human behavior is purposive & goal – directed. We undertake a series of activities to achieve a goal. A goal maybe immediate or short term or distant e. g. seeing a movie & long term e. g. , becoming a physician. Movement towards a goal is not easy. Hurdles may appear between the starting point & the end state (goal). For e. g. , a person wanting to go to a movie maybe called upon by a parent or a spouse to do something else at that time. A student studying hard to enter medical school may face problems of insufficient funds, inadequate preparation in an important subject, etc. This may produce a sense of
deprivation in the individual. And this in turn may result in frustration. Frustration, then, is the resultant feeling caused by a sense of privation (lack of something), deprivation (blocking of or interference with a goal), or conflict in relation to goal – directed activities. Frustration can be thus produced by 3 categories of factors: privation, deprivation & conflict. If a person experiences the lack of something relevant to a desired goal, he or she may feel frustrated. For e. g. , take the student working hard to get into a medical school who does not have adequate financial resources. He or she will feel frustrated because he or she cannot pursue the goal. Similarly, frustration is caused if goal – directed activities are blocked or interfred with. For e. g. , an employee preparing for a career examination may fall to ill & be forced to take a long rest. He or she may then feel frustrated. Frustration can also be caused by conflicts between 2 goals: equally attractive goals (approach – approach conflict) or equally unattractive goals (avoidance – avoidance conflict). An employee’s conflict between taking up a high – paying assignment in a foreign country where he or she cannot take his or her family along & remaining at home with family in a poorly paid job is an example of approach – approach conflict. An employee asked to choose between lucrative assignment in a far - off place giving up his or her chances of advancement by continuing in his or her own hometown will face an avoidance – avoidance conflict (choosing between 2 equally undesirable end states).
When a goal is very attractive & at the same time has certain negative aspects, it produces an approach – avoidance conflict. A person getting an attractive offer of employment from a rather unpleasant country may feel conflicted about accepting the offer. THE CIRCULARITY OF FRUSTRATION: - When a person is frustrated or disappointed, he or she may react in a particular way which starts off a cycle – a cycle of frustration or a cycle of hope. The frustration cycle is as follows: adaptive deterioration – isolation – distorted perception – defensive behavior. The hope cycle is the opposite: realistic analysis – exploration – insight – problem solving. Disappointment may cause loss of flexibility & what maybe called “Adaptive Deterioration”. A person maybe preoccupied with disappointment, leading to neglect of work & signs of general deterioration in the standard of performance. A disappointment employee may thus neglect his work, may cause delays, may make errors, etc. The frustrated person maybe annoyed with himself or herself for such deterioration, but will continue in such a state. Often, others will not approve of such behavior. The person then feels & becomes isolated & tries to cope with the situation as well as he or she can. However, isolation often leads to exaggeration & a distorted perception of the situation. A frustrated employee may see his or her boss as being in “collusion” with others in creating the disappointment. He or she is likely to see himself or herself as a victim, misinterpreting normal happenings as a part of the frustration – producing events. In response to such distorted perceptions, the frustrated person is likely to show behavior which will help him
or her escape or defend himself or herself against anxiety as well as maintain & even enhance self – esteem by absolving the self of any responsibility in this deteriorating frustration cycle. These behaviors use what are called “Defense Mechanisms” (mechanisms that defend against anxiety) & the behaviors can be called “Defensive Behavior”. This does not solve the problem but helps to reduce anxiety. The frustrated person may deny that he or she is disappointed or may see “designs” by several people jealous of his or her ability or popularity persecuting him or her, & so on. Defensive behavior often justifies & reinforces adaptive deterioration, thus completing the frustration cycle. The cycle of hope is the opposite of this. A disappointed individual, instead of being overwhelmed by disappointment & losing interest in work, analyzes the situation with greater objectivity, understands what has caused what, where things went wrong, etc. This is likely to lead to exploration of the situation with others, collection of information & discovery of facts. With comprehensive information, the person is likely to get a better insight into the situation, leading to action that can deal with the situation. This problem solving behavior. Problem solving behavior reinforces realistic analysis, completing the cycle of hope. Both the cycles of frustration & hope, like all such continuous cycles, are self – perpetuating. As the cycle advances, it gets stronger, & is likely to repeat itself.
DISAPPOINTMENT ADAPTIVE DETERIORATION ISOLATION DEFENSIVE BEHAVIOR DISTORTED PERCEPTION FRUSTRATION CYCLE PROBLEM SOLVING REALISTIC ANALYSIS INSIGHT EXPLORATION HOPE CYCLE THE FRUSTRATION & HOPE CYCLE
COPING BEHAVIOR: - In our everyday life, we face disappointment or frustration quite often. An individual does not get his or her breakfast on time to be able to make to work on time, misses the bus home, does not get the expected rewards, finds a son or daughter scoring low in an examination, finds important papers missing & so on. We can recount hundreds of such everyday frustrations. The critical question is how we deal with such situations. This we call “Coping Behavior”. A general manager, promoted from a production position & faced with the frustrating experience of a fall in productivity, may behave in a variety of ways. He or she maybe angry in general or with the staff (aggression); (regression); may explain away (justify) the problem to seniors (flight); or may sit down with his or her people, analyze the data, & take decisions to improve the situation (exploration). These 4 modes of coping are not simple. Each takes several forms, as follows: - 1. AGGRESSION: - Aggression is the most common & most frequent reaction to frustration. It may take any one of the following forms: • GENERAL AGGRESSION: - General irritation, restlessness & violent / destructive expressions of aggression (kicking, knocking, breaking things, etc. ) are the general forms of aggression. • TARGET – DIRECTED AGGRESSION: - Anger, blaming others & hostility
• • 2. • expressed towards people seen as causing disappointment (such as anger towards the boss or subordinate) – whether expressed in person or in absentia – are quiet common. SELF – DIRECTED AGGRESSION: - Sometimes the frustrated person may blame himself or herself for the situation. This is self – directed aggression. DISPLACED AGGRESSION: - When aggression is directed to a person other than the people seen as causing disappointment, it is called “Displaced Aggression”. A manager may express anger or resentment to a subordinate because he cannot express anger towards his or her own boss. Displaced aggression may find 3 types of targets: someone who is similar to the source of frustration (anger with a female boss being expressed towards all women employees), someone who is dissimilar, if the aggression cannot be expressed against frustrating people (e. g. , anger towards the father will not be expressed towards elderly persons but towards younger ones), or a new ‘weak’ target (anger is often thus expressed towards a spouse, subordinate, or minority group). REGRESSION: - Regression is characterized by primitive or previously used modes of behavior. Under emotional pressure, a person may revert to earlier behavioral modes which make him or her feel more secure. Regression may take 3 forms: RETROGRESSION: - An individual reverts to old behavior. For e. g. , a general manager (promoted from the position of production manager) may behave like
a production manager & straighten out production problems under the emotional pressure of frustration. • PRIMITIVATION: - Sometimes an individual does something he or she did not do in the past but which nevertheless shows primitive or immature behavior. An employee ay thus behave like a recalcitrant adolescent when tense or frustrated. • STEREOTYPE: - Frustration may make a person lose all flexibility & revert to fixated, receptive behavior. A manager feeling frustrated may deal with a situation in a known way, repeating the same behavior even if it is seen as dysfunctional. This is best demonstrated in a gambler’s behavior in a series of moves in which he or she loses. The person may thus repeat an approach (gambling) lose everything he or she has. 3. FLIGHT: - One reaction to frustration is flight or escape from the frustrating situation. This may take several forms: • APATHY: - A manager may not pay any attention to the frustrating situation & may neglect it. • WITHDRAWAL: - A frustrated employee in an organization may leave it or avoid attending meetings. In a conflict situation, one party may thus withdraw from the situation. • DENIAL: - A person may deny feeling any frustration. In order to escape the pain of frustration, one may repress the feeling of pain & deny experiencing any frustration in the situation. • FANTASY: - One way to escape unpleasant feelings is to daydream pleasant
things & create fantasies of doing something one cannot do in real life. • RATIONALIZATION: - Even if one acknowledges frustration, one can explain it away, giving a ‘reason’ for it. An employee failing to get a coveted reward may see the reward as not worthwhile (sour grapes) or may justify not getting the reward on some other basis. 4. EXPLORATION: - All the 3 behavioral modes mentioned above are dysfunctional. They may reduce anxiety & tension in an individual but do not help in solving a problem. The exploration mode, however, is a problem solving mode. An individual explores the issues with others, takes steps to analyze the situation & prepares alternative strategies of action. Exploration may take the following forms: • ALTERNATIVE GENERATION: - A frustrated individual may search for alternative avenues. An employee excelling in another area rather than pursuing one in which he or she has failed several times shows a special mode which is called “Compensation”. • SELF – ACTION: - All explorations are action – oriented. A frustrated person may search for solutions, working alone. • ACTION BY OTHERS: - An employee may alternatively except others to solve the problem or request others for help. • JOINT – ACTION: - Often, a better coping mode is joint exploration, collaborating with others in analyzing the problem & working out alternative action plans.
MANAGING FRUSTRATION: - Managers are frequently required to deal with the frustration of their subordinates. Following steps help to manage frustration: 1. LISTEN TO THE FEELINGS OF THE STAFF: - The manager should try to understand the feelings & views of the frustrated subordinates. This can be done by asking the subordinates to state their problems, their feelings, & their perceptions. Instead of being defensive if subordinates express negative impressions, the manager will do well to patiently listen to them. One test of listening & desirable behavior assuring subordinates that the manager listens to them, is to restate their point of view, feelings & perceptions at the end of the session before taking the next step. 2. SHARE OWN FEELINGS OF DISAPPOINTMENT: - If a manager is able to level with the subordinates, he or she maybe able to reach out to them. In most situations causing frustration to the subordinates, the manager is also experiencing disappointment. If a subordinate is not rewarded, the manager is also disappointed. It may help in building rapport with the subordinates if the manager shares his or her own disappointment. This should not be done as a gimmick but only if he or she has some feelings he or she needs to share. 3. SHARE FEELINGS OF GUILT (IF ANY): - Sometimes the manager may partly contribute to the disappointment of the subordinates. He or she may build high expectations & subordinates may feel frustrated because the expectations are not met. Or he or she may promise something to an employee
who does not eventually get it. In such situations, a manager’s usual tendency is to explain the reasons for the disappointment. Before any explanation is given the manager may share any feelings of guilt for arousing expectations. 4. HELP THE EMPLOYEES TO OWN UP THEIR FEELINGS: - The manager’s modeling behavior in sharing feelings & owing up feelings of guilt may help the subordinates own up their own feelings of disappointment, anger, etc. This may help in taking constructive steps. STRESS: - Modern life is full of stress. As organizations become complex, the potential for & amount of stress increases. Urbanization, industrialization & the increase in scales of operations are causing increasing stresses. These are the inevitable consequences of socio – economic complexity. People feel stressed as they can no longer have complete control over what happens in their life. The telephone goes out of order, the power is shut off, the water supply is disrupted, an expected promotion is denied, a son or a daughter does not do well in school, prices of essential commodities increase disproportionately to the income & so on & so fourth - & we feel frustrated & then stressed out. There is no escape from stress in modern life. Hence we need to find ways of using stress in a productive way, reducing dysfunctional stress & dealing effectively with it. LIFE STRESS: - Stress is produced by several happenings in life. In general, every transition or change produces stress. Young adults between 20 & 30 years of age have been found to report twice as many stressful events compared to older subjects. Stress disorders have been found to be more present in the urban
population than rural & greater in higher educational categories. Generally, in developing countries, events which threaten the basic biological needs are ranked higher for stress than events which create socio – cultural conflicts. In one study involving executives, the events producing stress were: pressure to work harder, major festivals, change in health of a family member, change in work responsibility, arguing with a spouse, loud noise & finally several changes for e. g. , in living conditions, habits, reaction & work hours. Such life events stress scales also provide information about the respondent’s total stress score & how harmful it could be. COPING WITH STRESS: - When individuals experience stress, they adopt ways of dealing with it. An individual cannot remain in a continual state of tension. Therefore, even if a deliberate & conscious strategy is not used to deal with the stress, some strategy is adopted. We call this “Coping”. The word ‘coping’ has been used mainly in 2 senses: in general sense of ‘ways of dealing with stress’ & the sense of an effort to ‘master’ conditions of harm, threat or challenge. We shall use the term coping in the first sense (ways of dealing with stress), distinguishing effective & ineffective coping. Generally, effective coping strategies are ‘approach’ strategies to confront the problem of stress as a challenge & to increase one’s capability of dealing with it. Ineffective strategies are ‘escape’ or ‘avoidance’ strategies, to reduce the feeling of stress or through use of alcohol, drugs, or other escapist behavior, distract oneself from it.
The various coping strategies or styles used in role stress have been studied & findings show that the approach styles have a strong relationship with internality, optimism, role efficacy, job satisfaction & effective role behavior in organizations. Two contrasting approaches for some role stresses (avoidance or dysfunctional & approach or functional) are as follows: 1. SELF – ROLE DISTANCE: - Many individuals find a conflict between their self – concept & the role they occupy in an organization. They may then play that role in a routine way to earn their living – they take no interest in their role & this is indicative of self – role distance. They have rejected the role. On the other hand, some individuals may occupy their roles seriously & in due course of time, completely forget their original self – concept. They play the role effectively but reject their self. Both these approaches are avoidance approaches & dysfunctional. If an individual rejects the role, he or she is likely to be ineffective in the organization. Yet if he or she rejects the self he or she is likely to lose effectiveness as an individual & this is likely to be bad for his or her mental health. 2. ROLE EXPECTATION CONFLICT: - Similar is the case of role expectation conflict. When various expectations from the role one occupies conflict with one another, role stress may develop. One way to deal with this stress is to eliminate those expectations from the role which are likely to conflict with other expectations. This is the process of role shrinkage. Role shrinkage is the action of pruning the role in such a way that some expectations can be given up. Role
shrinkage may help to avoid the problem but it is a dysfunctional approach since the advantage of a larger role is lost. 2. ROLE STAGNATION: - Role stagnation is a common stress in organizations when individuals get into new roles as a result of their advancement in the organization or as result of taking over more challenging roles. In such cases, there must be a feeling of apprehension because the role is new & may require skills which the role occupant may not have. In such situation, the usual way is to continue to play the previous role about which the individual is sure & which he or she has been doing successfully. Many people after getting to top positions continue to play the role of lower level managers. A workshop supervisor for e. g. , may in due course become a general manger & may still continue to play the role of workshop supervisor, with consequent frustrations to the new supervisor & to others who expect him or her to devote time to more productive aspects of new role. 3. ROLE OVERLOAD: - To deal with stress overload, that is, a feeling of too many expectations from several sources, the role occupant usually prepares a list of all the functions in terms of priorities. He or she gives top priority to those functions which are most important. This kind of prioritization may help to put things in order of importance. However, the problem maybe that the functions with which a person is less familiar & less comfortable may try to be pushed lower down the priority list & be neglected. Those functions which a person is able to perform without any effort get top priority. Since those which are at lower level of priority always tend to remain neglected, this approach maybe dysfunctional. This is an avoidance strategy.