Stressful times!

Gary Rees

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    Within the last two years, the global economic crisis has prompted unprecedented change, with organizations traditionally considered as “solid”, crumbling and liquidating in front of incredulous stock brokers and global audiences (some examples include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Lehman Brother s Holding Inc.). Laffer (2010) predicts further economic gloom and organizational changes, even predicting the collapse of the US economy by 2011! Financial institutions in Europe are now undergoing “stress tests” in order to establish which financial institutions are “dangerously vulnerable and need to be strengthened, or even taken over” (BBC website, 2010). The essence of these stress tests is to assess whether banks are able to survive future economic shocks. There is no such equivalent “test” for organizations when it comes to organizational burnout. The concept of burnout may associate itself more readily with stressful occupations, such as nursing, fire and rescue, etc., and sometimes associated with individuals and personality types (e.g. Friedman’s Type A and Type B personality). This paper considers how continuous change impacts upon organizations and whether it ultimately leads to organizational burnout. Marks (2003) argues that multiple waves of change lead to a “saturation effect” within organizations, resulting in a deterioration of performance that emerges from dealing with stress and uncertainty. Abrahamson (2004) posits that there has been negative, not neutral impact upon employee spirit, work team performance and organizational effectiveness resulting from continuous changes and transitions in the workplace. Marris (1986), quoted in French (2008:562) equates change with bereavement, hence employees need time to recover from changes, and a period of acceptance of the changes. Whilst there are many contributory factors to burnout, the expectation may be that people will have to work longer, with a retirement age of 65, 70 or older if there is no statutory retirement age. Similarly, people may choose to have several career/occupational changes within their lifetime, and operate in more than one job at a time. If individual employees are taking on more work, and more stressful work, the question arises as to how much an organization that is going through continuous change can take before it collectively burns out.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
    EventThe 4th Australasian Caucus of the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism - Metropole Hotel and Conference Centre, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia
    Duration: 29 Nov 20101 Dec 2010


    ConferenceThe 4th Australasian Caucus of the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism
    CityMetropole Hotel and Conference Centre, Fitzroy, Melbourne


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