Organisational Function and Culture

For many, working with the organisation is a major source of social psychological stressors, strains and subsequent ill health, Margolis et al (1974). Recent studies on employee’s perceptions and description of their organisations suggest that these are organised around three distinct aspects of organisational function and culture: the organisation as a task environment, as a problem solving environment, and as a development environment (Cox and Howarth, 1990; Cox and Leiter, 1992).

The available evidence suggests that if the organisation is perceived to be poor in respect of these environments, then this is likely to be associated with increased levels of stress. On the other hand, if the organisation is perceived to be good in these respects, then the relationship between the experience of stress and the report of systems of ill health is attenuated (Cox and Kuk, 1991) Much of the effect of organisation function and culture on workers would be transmitted through the behaviour of managers and supervisors.

There is evidence, for example, that management behaviour and supervisory styles have a substantial impact on the emotional well being of workers (Landy, 1992; Corey and Wolf, 1992). This may be as a result of their handling of the job context and content issues listed in Table 1. Role in Organisation A person’s role in organisation has been identified as a potential hazard, which relates to issues of role ambiguity and role conflict (Kahn et al, 1964; Kahn and French, 1970; Kahn, 1973; Jackson and Schuler, 1985).

Role Ambiguity Role ambiguity describes the situation where uncertainty exists concerning job duties and responsibilities. This often occurs when a worker has inadequate information about his or her work role. Often, this ambiguity results simply because the manager did not lay out for this person exactly what his or her role is. A wide range of events can create role ambiguity, many of them relating to novel situations and change (see Ivancevich and Matteson, 1980).

French and Caplan (1970) found that role ambiguity was related to increased blood pressure and higher pulse rates. Later research by Margolis et al (1974) found a number of significant relationships between role ambiguity and symptoms of depression and low job motivation and intention to leave the job. Role Conflict Role conflict exists any time there are differing expectations or demands placed upon a role. This occurs when conflicting job demands tears an individual: doing things he or she really does not want to do or things not considered to be part of the job.

As might be expected, studies have shown that people with high anxiety levels suffer more from role conflict than do people who are more flexible in their approach to life (Quick & Quick, 1984). Khan et al (1964) found out that role conflict and role ambiguity operate as intervening variables between organisational and personality variables. The magnitude of perceived role conflict and ambiguity is determined by organisational and task variable as well as by certain personality predispositions.

The experience of ambiguity and conflict in turn negatively affect job satisfaction, job related attitudes and performance. Hammer and Tosi (1974) suggested, for example, that role ambiguity has a greater negative impact on job behaviour than role conflict in higher organisational levels while role conflict was more stressful in the lower organisational levels. This suggested pattern was based on the assumption that in the lower level, roles are relatively clearly defined while there is likelihood that these employees will face conflicting role demand from others.

For employees in higher-level managerial position, the major problem is that of solving unstructured problems and operating under little clarity. However, Miles (1976) did not support this hypothesis. Abdel-Halim (1978) suggested that further research to examine this issue. Schuler (1977) offers partial support for this hypothesis that personality also moderate the relationship between stressors and job satisfaction, so that the negative impact of role stressors is relatively less pronounced when ability is high.

Other potentially hazardous aspects of role have been identified including role insufficiency and responsibility for other people. Role Insufficiency Role insufficiency refers to a failure of the organisation to make full use of the individual’s abilities and training. Such insufficiency has been reported to lead to feelings of stress (Brook, 1973), and be associated with psychological strain, and low job satisfaction and organisation commitment. Responsibility for People

Responsibility for people means being accountable for people in relation to their jobs, health, welfare, and career progress or development. It was identified that responsibility for people has a potential role-related source of stress associated with role issues. Wardell et al (1964) showed that responsibility for people was significantly more likely to lead to coronary heart disease, heavy smoking and elevated serum cholesterol levels than responsibility for things.

There is also evidence from the study of mental health referrals, by occupation, that those occupations involving continual contact with and responsibility for people are high risk (Colligan et al, 1977) Career Development The lack of expected career development may be a source of stress, particularly in organisations, which emphasise the relationship between career development and competence or worth. Marshall (1977), identified two major sources of stress: first, lack of job insecurity and obsolescence (fear of redundancy or forced early retirement); and second, status incongruity (under or over promotion).

With status incongruity, Brook (1973) provided four very interesting case studies of individuals showing behavioural disorders as a result of being either over promoted (that is, not given the responsibility that commensurate with ability level) or under promoted. In each case, the progression of the status disorder was from minor psychological symptoms. Job insecurity and fear of redundancy can be major sources of anxiety, stress and depression, particularly if organisations expect at the same time commitment from their employees. The sense of inequity may exacerbate the experience of stress.

Taylor (1969) suggested that this “career development” stress is rooted in Freudian theory, which suggests that work has value solely as a utility for individualistic motives of getting on in the world and the desires of fame and success. This was confirmed by Kleiner and Parker (1963), who proposed a general theory which linked frustrated work aspirations to mental disorder and their results, from a later and larger study with Negroes. Decision Latitude and Control Decision latitude and control are important issues in job design and work organisation.

These are often reflected in the extent to which employees are allowed to participate in decision-making affecting their work. Margolis et al (1974) found that non-participation at work among a national representative sample of over 1,400 employees, was the consistent and significant indicator of strain and work related stress. They found that non-participation was significantly related to the following health risk factors: overall poor physical health, escapist drinking, depression, low self esteem, low motivation to work, intention to leave the job and absenteeism from work.

This research seems to indicate that greater participation leads to lower staff turnover, higher productivity, improved performance, (French and Caplan, 1972). Warr (1992) have argued that employees should ideally, be empowered to plan their work, and control their workloads, make decisions about how that work should be completed and how problems should be tackled. However, it has been argued by Neufeld and Paterson, (1989) that control can also be a double-edged sword: the demands implied by the choices involved in controlling work situations can themselves be a source of stress.

Interpersonal Relationship at Work Relationship with others is a critical part of organisational life and a potential source of stress. Good interpersonal relationships facilitate the achievement of many personal and organisational goals, and poor interpersonal relationships cause considerable stress and other unpleasant outcomes. Good relationship between members of a work group is a central factor in individual and organisational health.

French and Caplan (1972), define poor relations as those, which include low trust, low supportiveness, and low interest in listening to and trying to deal with problems that confront the organisational member. The most notable studies in this area are by Kahn et al (1964); French and Caplan (1972); and Buck (1972). They all came to the conclusion that mistrust of persons one worked with was related to high role ambiguity, which led to inadequate communications between employees and to psychological strain in the form of low job satisfaction and to feelings of job related threat to one’s well being.

Buck (1972) focused on the attitude and relationship of employees and managers to their immediate boss using Fleischmann’s leadership questionnaire on consideration and initiating structure. The consideration factor was associated with behaviour indicative of friendship, mutual trust, respect and certain warmth between the boss and subordinate. He found that those employees who felt that their boss was low on consideration reported feeling more job pressure.

Employees who were under pressure reported that their manager did not give them criticism in a helpful way, played favourites with subordinates, pulled rank, and took advantage of them whenever there is a chance. Buck (1972) concluded that the considerate behaviour of supervisor appears to have contributed significantly to feelings of work pressure. Home/Work Interface This relates to domestic life, family, and other life outside work. Problems relating to the interface between work and the family either involve resolving conflicts of demand on time and commitment, or revolve around issues of support.

The difficulties that might be faced is further enhanced when young children are involved; again this may be particularly so for women workers (Larwood and Wood, 1979). Also, spill over effects from work might account for possible wasting of constructive leisure time among some group of employees (Gardell, 1973; Cox, 1980) suggested that employees can adjust to non-challenging work by lowering their expectations, changing their need structure and making the most of social opportunities on and off the job.