Stress in organizations: between efficiency and the institutionalization of fear


BAR - Brazilian Administration Review




Sometimes organizations described as benevolent, focusing on stable procedures and cordial relations are regarded as examples of collective indolence and likely to be out-competed by aggressive, merciless and stress-prone organizations. In this paper we suggest that some managers and organizations follow a requisite stress principle, according to which stress inside organizations is treated as a variable to be equated to the stress level perceived to prevail in the institutionalized environment the organization operates. We thus predict the relationship between stress-inducing practices, individual responses and performance to be recursively explained. When organizations induce stress at levels that are different from those admitted institutionally as normal levels, there will be a negative response to this induction. When induced stress levels are considered excessive, activities will be inhibited because fear will control the capacity of people to deal with situations and act in an appropriate manner. The validity of this principle implies that control of stress in organizations is as complex as the level of stress in society: it will depend on the control of stress levels coming from society. The principle consequently puts an end to any management aspirations to use stress as a managing mechanism and for inducing behavior.

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