Organization Development

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Organization Development ­ MGMT 628
Lesson # 41
Developing and Assisting Members
Workforce Diversity Interventions
Several profound trends are shaping the labor markets of modern organizations. Researchers suggest that
contemporary workforce characteristics are radically different from what they were just twenty years ago.
Employees represent every ethnic background and color; range from highly educated to illiterate; vary in
age from eighteen, to eighty; may appear perfectly healthy or may have a terminal illness; may be single
parents or part of dual-income, divorced, same-sex, or traditional families; and may be physically or
mentally challenged.
Workforce diversity is more than a euphemism for cultural or ethnic differences. Such a definition is too
narrow and focuses attention away from the broad range of issues that a diverse workforce poses. Diversity
results from people who bring different resources and perspectives to the workplace and who have distinc-
tive needs, preferences, expectations, and lifestyles.42 Organizations must design human resources systems
that account for these differences if they are to attract and retain a productive workforce and if they want
to turn diversity into a competitive advantage.
Figure 55 presents a general framework for managing diversity in organizations.
Figure 55
First, the model suggests that an organization's diversity approach is a function of internal and external
pressures for and against diversity. Pro-diversity forces argue that organization performance is enhanced
when the workforce's diversity is embraced as an opportunity. But diversity is often discouraged by those
who fear that too many perspectives, beliefs, values, and attitudes dilute concerted action.
Second, management's perspective and priorities with respect to diversity can range from resistance to
active learning and from marginal to strategic. For example, organizations can resist diversity by
implementing only legally mandated policies such as affirmative action, equal employment opportunity, or
Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. On the other hand, a learning and strategic perspective can
lead management to view diversity as a source of competitive advantage. For example, a health-care
organization with a diverse customer base can improve perceptions of service quality with physician
Third, within management's priorities, the organization's strategic responses can range from reactive to
proactive. Diversity efforts at Texaco and Denny's had little momentum until a series of embarrassing race-
based events forced a response.
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Fourth, the organization's implementation style can range from episodic to systemic. A diversity approach
will be most effective when the strategic responses and implementation style fit with management's intent
and internal and external pressures.
Unfortunately, organizations have tended to address workforce diversity pressures in a piecemeal fashion;
only 5 percent of more than fourteen hundred companies surveyed thought they were doing a "very good
job" of managing diversity. As each trend makes itself felt, the organization influences appropriate practices
and activities. For example, as the percentage of women in the workforce increased, many organizations
simply added maternity leaves to their benefits packages; as the number of physically challenged workers
increased and when Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, organizations changed
their physical settings to accommodate wheelchairs. Demographers warn, however, that these trends are
not only powerful by themselves but will likely interact with each other to force organizational change.
Thus, a growing number of organizations, such as MBNA Corporation, Lockheed Martin, the St. Paul
Companies, Levi Strauss, Procter & Gamble, Monsanto, and Wisconsin Electric, are taking bolder steps.
They are not only adopting learning perspectives with respect to diversity, but systemically weaving
diversity-friendly values and practices into the cultural fabric of the organization.
Many of the QD interventions described in this book can be applied to the strategic responses and
implementation of workforce diversity, as shown in Table 21. It summarizes several of the internal and
external pressures facing organizations, including age, gender, disability, culture and values, and sexual
orientation. The table also reports the major trends characterizing those dimensions, organizational
implications and workforce needs, and specific OD interventions that can address those implications.
The average age of the U.S. workforce is rising and changing the distribution of age groups. Between 1998
and 2008, the category of workers aged twenty-five to fifty-four years will grow 5.5 percent and the fifty-
five and over age category is expected to increase almost 48 percent. This skewed distribution is mostly the
result of the baby boom between 1946 and 1964. As a result, organizations will face a predominantly
middle-aged and older workforce. Even now, many organizations are reporting that the average age of their
workforce is over forty. Such a distribution will place special demands on the organization.
For example, the personal needs and work motivation of the different cohorts will require differentiated
human resources practices. Older workers place heavy demands on health-care services, are less mobile,
and will have fewer career advancement opportunities. This situation will require specialized work designs
that account for physical capabilities of older workers, career development activities that address and use
their experience, and benefit plans that accommodate their medical and psychological needs. Demand for
younger workers, on the other hand, will be intense. To attract and retain this more mobile group, jobs will
have to be more challenging, advancement opportunities more prevalent, and an enriched quality of work
life more common.
Organization development interventions, such as work design, wellness programs (discussed below), career
planning and development, and reward systems must be adapted to these different age groups. For the
older employee, work designs can reduce the physical components or increase the knowledge and experi-
ence components of a job. At Builder's Emporium, a chain of home improvement centers, the store clerk
job was redesigned to eliminate heavy lifting by assigning night crews to replenish shelves and emphasizing
sales ability instead of strength. Younger workers will likely
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Table 21
Workforce Diversity Dimensions and Intervention
Work force
And Needs
up Health  care
mobility Wellness program job
distribution  of  ages security
Career  planning  and
Percentage of women
Child Care
Job design
increases Dual income
Fringe benefits Rewards
leave single parents
The number of people
Job challenge
with disabilities entering
Job skills
the workforce increasing
Physical space
Job design
Respect and dignity
Career  planning  and
Culture and Values
Rising  proportion  of
Flexible  organizational Career  planning  and
immigrant and minority
group workers shift in
Employee involvement
Reward system
Sexual orientation
Number of single sex
households up
More  liberal  Attitude
Fringe benefits
Education and training
Require more challenge and autonomy. Wellness programs can be used to address the physical and mental
health of both generations. Career planning and development programs will have to recognize the different
career stages of each cohort and offer resources tailored to that stage. Finally, reward system interventions
may offer increased health benefits, time off, and other perks for the older worker while using promotion,
ownership, and pay to attract and motivate the scarcer, younger workforce.
Another important trend is the increasing percentage of female workers in the labor force. By the year
2008, almost 48 percent of the U.S. workforce will be women, and they will represent more than half of the
new entrants between 1998 and 2008. The organizational implications of these trends are sobering. Three-
quarters of all working women are in their childbearing years, and more than half of all mothers work.
Health-care costs will likely increase at even faster rates, and costs associated with absenteeism and
turnover will rise. In addition, demands for child care, maternity and paternity leaves, and flexible working
arrangements will place pressure on work systems to maintain productivity and teamwork. From a
management perspective, there will be more men and women working together as peers, more women
entering the executive ranks, greater diversity of management styles, and changing definitions of managerial
Work design, reward systems, and career development are among the more important interventions for
addressing issues arising out of the gender trend. For example, jobs can be modified to accommodate the
special demands of working mothers. A number of organizations, such as Digital Equipment, Steel case,
and Hewlett-Packard, have instituted job sharing, by which two people perform the tasks associated with
one job. The firms have done this to allow their female employees to pursue both family and work careers.
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Reward system interventions, especially fringe benefits, can be tailored to offer special leaves to mothers
and fathers, child-care options, flexible working hours, and health and wellness benefits. Career
development interventions help maintain, develop, and retain a competent and diverse workforce.
Organizations such as Polaroid, Hoechst Celanese, and Ameritech have instituted job pathing, challenging
assignments, and mentoring programs to retain key female members.
A third trend is the increasing number of men and women with disabilities entering the workforce. The
workforce of the twenty-first century will comprise people with a variety of physical and mental disabilities.
For example, the high school dropout rate has remained above 4 percent throughout the 1990s, and
approximately 21 percent of the population over age 16 have only rudimentary reading and writing skills. In
a world of knowledge work, the lack of education or an inability to learn is a profoundly debilitating
condition. More and more organizations will employ physically handicapped people, especially as the
number of younger workers declines, creating a great demand for labor. In 1990, the federal Americans
with Disabilities Act banned all forms of discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability in the
hiring and promotion process. It also required many organizations to modify physical plants and office
buildings to accommodate people with disabilities.
The organizational implications of the disability trend represent both opportunity and adjustment. The
productivity of physically and mentally disabled workers often surprises managers, and training is required
to increase managers' awareness of this opportunity. Employing disabled workers, however, also means a
need for more comprehensive health care, new physical workplace layouts, new attitudes toward working
with the disabled and challenging jobs that use a variety of skills.
OD interventions, including work design, career planning and development, and performance
management, can be used to integrate the disabled into the workforce. For example, traditional approaches
to job design can simplify work to permit physically handicapped workers to complete an assembly task.
Career planning and development programs need to focus on making disabled workers aware of career
opportunities. Too often, these employees do not know that advancement is possible, and they are left
feeling frustrated. Career tracks need to be developed for these workers.
Performance management interventions, including goal setting, monitoring, and coaching performance,
aligned with the workforce's characteristics are important. At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, for
example, a supervisor learned sign language to communicate with a deaf employee whose productivity was
low but whose quality of work was high. Two other deaf employees were transferred to that supervisor's
department, and over a two-year period, the performance of the deaf workers improved 1,000 percent with
no loss in quality.
Culture and Values
Cultural diversity has broad organizational implications. Different cultures represent a variety of values,
work ethics, and norms of correct behavior. Not all cultures want the same things from work, and simple,
piecemeal changes in specific organizational practices will be inadequate if the workforce is culturally
diverse. Management practices will have to be aligned with cultural values and support both career and
family orientations. English is a second language for many people, and jobs of all types (processing,
customer contact, production, and so on) will have to be adjusted accordingly. Finally, the organization will
be expected to satisfy both extrinsic and monetary needs, as well as intrinsic and personal growth needs.
Several planned change interventions, including employee involvement, reward systems, and career
planning and development, can be used to adapt to cultural diversity. Employee involvement practices can
be adapted to the needs for participation in decision making. People from certain cultures, such as
Scandinavia, are more likely to expect and respond to high-involvement policies; other cultures, such as
Latin America, view participation with reservation. Participation in an organization can take many forms,
from suggestion systems and attitude surveys to high-involvement work designs and performance
management systems. Organizations can maximize worker productivity by basing the amount of power and
information workers have on cultural and value orientations.
Reward systems can focus on increasing flexibility. For example, flexible working hours that permit
employees to arrive at and leave work within specified periods enable them to meet personal obligations
without sacrificing organizational objectives. Many organizations have implemented this innovation, and
most report that the positive benefits outweigh the costs. Work locations also can be varied. Many
organizations (e.g., Pacific Telesis, Eddie Bauer, and Marriott) allow workers to spend part of their time
telecommuting from home. Other flexible benefits, such as floating holidays, allow people from different
cultures to match important religious and family occasions with work schedules.
Child-care and dependent-care assistance also support different lifestyles. For example, at Stride Rite
Corporation, the Stride Rite Intergenerational Day Care Center houses fifty-five children between the ages
Organization Development ­ MGMT 628
of fifteen months and six years as well as twenty-four elders over sixty years old. The center was established
after an organizational survey determined that 25 percent of employees provided some sort of elder care
and that an additional 13 percent anticipated doing so within five years.
Finally, career planning and development programs can help workers identify advancement opportunities
that are in line with their cultural values. Some cultures value technical skills over hierarchical advancement;
others see promotion as a prime indicator of self-worth and accomplishment. By matching programs with
people, job satisfaction, productivity, and employee retention can be improved.
Sexual Orientation
Finally, diversity in sexual and affectional orientation, including gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals and
couples, increasingly is affecting the way that organizations think about human resources.
The primary organizational implication of sexual orientation diversity is discrimination. People can have
strong emotional reactions to sexual orientation. When these feelings interact with the gender, culture, and
values trends described above, the likelihood of both overt and unconscious discrimination is high.
Interventions aimed at this dimension of workforce diversity are relatively new in OD and are being
developed as organizations encounter sexual orientation issues in the workplace. The most frequent
response is education and training. This intervention increases members' awareness of the facts and
decreases the likelihood of overt discrimination. Human resources practices having to do with Equal
Employment Opportunity (EEO) and fringe benefits also can help to address sexual orientation parity
issues. Some organizations have modified their EEO statements to address sexual orientation. Firms such
as Advanced Micro Devices, Fujitsu, Ben & Jerry's, and Dow Chemical have communicated strongly to
members and outsiders that decisions with respect to hiring, promotion, transfer, and so on cannot (and
will not) be made with respect to a person's sexual orientation. Similarly, organizations are increasingly
offering domestic-partner benefit plans. Companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Lotus Development
Corporation, and Inprise Borland have extended health-care and other benefits to the same-sex partners of
their members. A 1992 Newsweek poll found that 78 percent of the respondents favored extending
employee benefits to the domestic partners of lesbians and gay men.
Workforce diversity interventions are growing rapidly in OD. A national survey revealed that 75 percent of
firms either have, or plan to begin, diversity efforts. Research suggests that diversity interventions are
especially prevalent in large organizations with diversity-friendly senior management and human resources
policies. Although existing evidence shows that diversity interventions are growing in popularity, there is
still ambiguity about the depth of organizational commitment to such practices and their personal and
organizational consequences. A great deal more research is needed to understand these newer interventions
and their outcomes.
Employee Wellness Interventions
In the past decade, organizations have become increasingly aware of the relationship between employee
wellness and productivity. The estimated cost to industry from stress-related ailments is more than $200
billion per year and is an increasingly global phenomenon. In the United Kingdom, stress and stress-related
illness cost industry and taxpayers £12 billion each year. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) and
stress management interventions have grown because organizations are taking more responsibility for the
welfare of their employees. Companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Weyerhaeuser, Federal Express,
Quaker Oats, GTE, and Abbott Laboratories are sponsoring a wide range of fitness and wellness programs.
In this section, we discuss two important wellness interventions--EAPs and stress management. EAPs are
primarily reactive efforts that identify, refer, and treat employee problems (e.g., drug abuse, marital
difficulties, or depression) that affect worker performance. Stress management, both proactive and reactive,
is concerned with helping employees alleviate or cope with the negative consequences of stress at work.
Employee Assistance Programs
Forces affecting psychological and physical problems at the workplace are increasing. The 1992 National
Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported that 66.5 percent of current illicit drug users then 18 years or
older were working full- or part-time. Similarly, alcohol and other drug use costs U.S. business an estimated
$102 billion per year in lost productivity, accidents, and turnover. Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists
suggested that up to 30 percent of employees in British companies would experience mental health
problems and that 115 million workdays were lost each year as a result of depression. Other factors, too,
have contributed to increased problems: altered family structures, the growth of single-parent households,
the increase in divorce, greater mobility, and changing modes of child rearing are all fairly recent
phenomena that have added to the stress experienced by employees. These trends indicate that an
increasing number of employees need assistance with personal problems, and the research suggests that
EAP use increases during downsizing and restructuring.
Organization Development ­ MGMT 628
EAPs help identify, refer, and treat workers whose personal problems affect their performance. Initially
started in the 1940s to combat alcoholism, these programs have expanded to deal with emotional, family,
marital, and financial problems, and, more recently, drug abuse. EAPs can be either broad programs that
address a full range of issues or more focused programs dealing with specific problems, such as drug or
alcohol abuse.
Central to the philosophy underlying EAPs is the belief that although the organization has no right to
interfere in the private lives of its employees, it does have a right to impose certain standards of work
performance and to establish sanctions when these are not met. Anyone whose work performance is
impaired because of a personal problem is eligible for admission into an EAP program. Successful EAPs
have been implemented at General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, Burlington Northern Railroad,
and Dominion Foundries and Steel Company. Although limited, some research has demonstrated that
EAPs can positively affect
Figure 56
Absenteeism, turnover, and job performance. At AT&T, for example, fifty-nine employees who were close
to losing their jobs were enrolled in an EAP and successfully returned to work. Hiring and training
replacements would have been much more costly than the expense of the EAP.
The Employee Assistance Program Model
Figure 56 displays the components of a typical EAP. They include the identification and referral of
employees into the program, management of the EAP process, and problem diagnosis and treatment.
1.  Identification and referral. The first step in an EAP is entry into the program, through formal or
informal referral. In the case of formal referrals, the process involves identifying employees who are having
work performance problems and getting them to consider entering the EAP. Identifying these employees is
closely related to the performance management process. Performance records need to be maintained and
corrective action taken whenever performance falls below an acceptable standard. During action planning
to improve performance, managers can point out to appraisers the existence of support services, such as
the EAR. A formal referral takes place if the performance of an employee continues to deteriorate and the
manager decides that EAP services are required. An informal referral occurs when an employee initiates
admission to an EAP even though performance problems may not exist or may not have been detected.
As shown in Figure 56, several organizational activities support this initial step in the EAP process. First, a
written policy with clear procedures regarding the EAP is necessary. Second, top management and the
human resources department must publicly support the EAP, and publicity about the program should be
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well distributed. Third, training and development programs should equip supervisors to identify and
document performance problems effectively, to carry out performance improvement action planning, and
to develop appropriate methods for referring employees to the EAP. Finally, the confidentiality of
employees using the program must be safeguarded to gain the support of the workforce.
2. EAP office. The second component of an EAP is the work performed in the program office, where
people with problems are linked with treatment resources. The EAP office accepts an employee into the
program, provides problem evaluation and initial counseling, refers the employee to treatment resources
and agencies, monitors the employee's progress during treatment, and reintegrates the employee into the
workforce. In some EAPs, especially in large organizations, the actual counseling and treatment resources
are located in-house. In most EAPs, however, the employee is referred to outside agencies that contract
with the organization to perform treatment services. In all cases, a clear procedure for helping the employee
return to the workforce is crucial and must be managed to maintain confidentiality.
Good management is required for an effective EAP. For example, the program's relationship to disciplinary
procedures must be clear. In some organizations, corrective actions are suspended if the employee seeks
EAP help; in others, the two processes are not connected. Maintaining confidential records about
treatment also is essential. In-house resources have the disadvantage of appearing to compromise this
important program element, but they may offer some cost savings. If external treatment resources are used,
care must be taken to screen and qualify those resources.
3. Treatment. The third EAP component is the treatment of the employee's problem. Potential resources
include inpatient and outpatient care, social services, and self-help groups. The resources tapped by EAPs
will vary from program to program.
Implementing an Employee Assistance Program
EAPs can be flexible and customized to fit various organizational philosophies and employee problems.
Practitioners have suggested the following seven steps in establishing an EAP:
1. Develop an EAP policy and procedure. Establish specific guidelines concerning the EAP and its
availability to employees and their families. Policies concerning confidentiality, disciplinary procedures,
communication, training, and overall program philosophy should be included. Use senior management and
union involvement (where appropriate) in developing the guidelines to elicit worker commitment.
2. Select and train a program coordinator. A person should be designated by the organization as the
EAP coordinator. This person is responsible for overall coordination of program activities, such as training,
handling program publicity, evaluating program activities, troubleshooting to ensure the quick resolution of
problems, and providing ongoing program support.
3. Obtain employee/union support for the EAR Program effectiveness demands employee or union
support for EAP implementation. Obtaining that support may require meeting with key employee or union
representatives to get their input in defining significant features of the EAP, including office location,
staffing, participation on an EAP advisory committee, and employee/union attendance at EAP training; to
review significant policy and/or procedural components to ensure support; and to share endorsements
from other organizations where EAPs have been implemented.
Publicize the program. Communicating about the EAP's availability and increasing employee
awareness of its procedures, resources, and benefits should be a high priority. Both formal and informal
referrals to the program assume that managers and employees are aware of its existence. If it is not well
publicized or if people do not know how to contact the program office, then participation may be below
expected levels.
5. Establish relationships with health-care providers and insurers. All applicable health insurance
policies should be reviewed to determine coverage for mental health and chemical dependency treatment.
Although most policies include this coverage, reimbursement procedures often vary. This information
needs to be summarized for EAP users so that all parties are aware of potential costs and responsibilities.
EAP staff should be prepared to advise employees seeking treatment about expected insurance coverage
and any personal expenses related to treatment. Potential providers of EAP treatment services should be
interviewed, screened, and selected, and appropriate procedures should be developed for making referrals
and maintaining confidentiality.
6.  Schedule EAP training. The legal climate surrounding EAPs, referrals, and employee discipline
requires that EAP training methods and materials be up-to-date and accurate. Training should include role
plays about handling difficult employees as well as methods for referring workers to the program.
7. Continually administer and manage the plan. A plan should be developed for reviewing program
effectiveness. This typically involves auditing procedures, measuring system-user satisfaction, and
determining whether treatment options should be added or deleted. Ongoing training of EAP staff also
should occur, emphasizing the changing legal requirements of EAPs, new counseling or treatment options,
organizational changes that may affect program use, and behaviors that focus on service quality.
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Stress Management Programs
Concern has been growing in organizations about managing the dysfunction caused by stress. Stress is
linked to the following illnesses: hypertension, heart attacks, diabetes, asthma, chronic pain, allergies,
headache, backache, various skin disorders, cancer, immune system weakness, and decreases in the number
of white blood cells and changes in their function. It can also lead to alcoholism and drug abuse, two
problems that are reaching epidemic proportions in organizations and society. For organizations, these
personal effects can result in costly health benefits, absenteeism, turnover, and low performance. One study
reported that one in three workers said they have thought about quitting because of stress; one in two
workers said job stress reduced their productivity; and one in five workers said they took sick leave in the
month preceding the survey because of stress. Another study estimates that each employee who suffers
from a stress-related illness loses an average of sixteen days of work per year. Finally, the Research Triangle
Institute estimated the annual cost to the U.S. economy from stress-related disorders at $187 billion. Other
estimates are more conservative, but they invariably run into the billions of dollars.
Like other human resources management interventions, stress management is often facilitated by
practitioners with special skills and knowledge--typically psychologists, physicians, and other health
professionals specializing in work stress. Recently, some OD practitioners have gained competence in this
area, and there has been a growing tendency to include stress management as part of larger OD efforts. The
concept of stress is best understood in terms of a model that describes the organizational and personal
conditions contributing to the dysfunctional consequences of stress. Two key types of stress management
interventions may be used: those aimed at the diagnosis or awareness of stress and its causes, and those
directed at changing the causes and helping people cope with stress.
Definition and Model
Stress refers to the reaction of people to their environments. It involves both physiological and
psychological responses to environmental conditions, causing people to change or adjust their behaviors.
Stress is generally viewed in terms of the fit of people's needs, abilities, and expectations with
environmental demands, changes, and opportunities. A good person-environment fit results in positive
reactions to stress; a poor fit leads to the negative consequences already described. Stress is generally
positive when it occurs at moderate levels and contributes to effective motivation, innovation, and learning.
For example, a promotion is a stressful event that is experienced positively by most employees. On the
other hand, stress can be dysfunctional when it is excessively high (or low) or persists over a long period of
time. It can overpower a person's coping abilities and cause physical and emotional exhaustion. For
example, a boss who is excessively demanding and unsupportive can cause subordinates undue tension,
anxiety, and dissatisfaction. Those factors, in turn, can lead to withdrawal behaviors, such as absenteeism
and turnover; to ailments, such as headaches and high blood pressure; and to lowered performance.
Situations in which there is a poor fit between employees and the organization produce negative stress
A tremendous amount of research has been conducted on the causes and consequences of work stress.
Figure 57, a model summarizing stress relationships, identifies specific occupational stressors that may
result in dysfunctional consequences. People's individual differences determine the extent to which the
stressors are perceived negatively. For example, people with strong social support experience the stressors
as less stressful than those who do not have such support. This greater perceived stress can lead to such
negative consequences as anxiety, poor decision making, increased blood pressure, and low productivity.
Figure 57
Drug abuse
Accident proneness
Poor concentration
Mental blocks
Organization Development ­ MGMT 628
Stress and Work: A Working model
Increased blood pressure
Increased heart rate
The Appraisal
Physical environment
Light,noise,temperature,polluted air
Role conflict role ambiguity,
control,responsibility,work conditions
Poor structural design,
Politics, no specific policy
. Age
Type  A  or  B
. Gender
Social Support
. Occupation
Negative Affectivity
. Race
The stress model shows that almost any dimension of the organization (e.g., working conditions, structure,
role, or relationships) can cause negative stress. This suggests that much of the material covered so far in
this book provides knowledge about work-related stressors, and implies that virtually all of the OD
interventions included in the book can play a role in stress management. Process consultation, third-party
intervention, survey feedback, inter-group relations, structural design, employee involvement, work design,
goal setting, reward systems, and career planning and development all can help alleviate stressful working
conditions. Thus, to some degree stress management has been under discussion throughout this book.
Here, the focus is on those occupational stressors and stress-management techniques that are unique to the
stress field and that have received the most systematic attention from stress researchers.
Occupational Stressors. Figure 57 identifies several organizational sources of stress, including structure,
role on the job, physical environment, and relationships. Extensive research has been done on three key
organizational sources of stress: the individual items related to work overload, role conflict, and role
Work overload can be a persistent source of stress, especially among managers and white-collar employees
having to process complex information and make difficult decisions. Quantitative overload consists of
having too much to do in a given time period. Qualitative overload refers to having work that is too
difficult for one's abilities and knowledge. A review of the research suggests that work overload is highly
related to managers' needs for achievement and so it may be partly self-inflicted. Research relating
workload to stress outcomes reveals that both too much and too little work can have negative
consequences. Apparently, when the amount of work is in balance with people's abilities and knowledge,
stress has a positive impact on performance and satisfaction, but when workload either exceeds employees'
abilities (overload) or fails to challenge them (underload), people experience stress negatively. This negative
experience can lead to lowered self-esteem and job dissatisfaction, nervous symptoms, increased
absenteeism, and reduced participation in organizational activities.
People's roles at work also can be a source of stress. A role can be defined as the sum total of expectations
that the individual and significant others have about how the person should perform a specific job. The
employee's relationships with peers, supervisors, vendors, customers, and others can result in diverse
expectations about how a particular role should be performed. The employee must be able to integrate
these expectations into a meaningful whole to perform the role effectively. Problems arise when there is
role ambiguity and the person does not clearly understand what others expect of her or him, or when there
is role conflict and the employee receives contradictory expectations that cannot be satisfied at the same
Organization Development ­ MGMT 628
Extensive studies of role ambiguity and conflict suggest that both conditions are prevalent in organizations,
especially among managerial jobs where clarity often is lacking and job demands often are contradictory.
For example, managerial job descriptions typically are so general that it is difficult to know precisely what is
expected on the job. Similarly, managers spend most of their time interacting with people from other
departments, and opportunities for conflicting demands abound in these lateral relationships. Role
ambiguity and conflict can cause severe stress, resulting in increased tension, dissatisfaction, and
withdrawal, and reduced commitment and trust in others. Some evidence suggests that role ambiguity has a
more negative impact on managers than does role conflict. In terms of individual differences, people with a
low tolerance for ambiguity respond more negatively to role ambiguity than others do; introverts and
people who are more flexible react more negatively to role conflict than others do.
Individual Differences. Figure 57 identifies several individual differences affecting how people respond to
occupational stressors: hardiness, social support, age, education, occupation, race, negative affectivity, and
Type A behavior pattern. Much research has been devoted to the Type A behavior pattern, which is charac-
terized by impatience, competitiveness, and hostility. Type A personalities (in contrast to Type Bs) invest
long hours working under tight deadlines. They put themselves under extreme time pressure by trying to do
more and more work in less and less time. Type B personalities, on the other hand, are less hurried,
aggressive, and hostile than Type As. Extensive research shows that Type A people are especially prone to
stress. For example, a longitudinal study of thirty-five hundred men found that Type As had twice as much
heart disease, five times as many second heart attacks, and twice as many fatal heart attacks as did Type Bs.
Researchers explain Type A susceptibility to stress in terms of an inability to deal with uncertainty, such as
might occur with qualitative overload and role ambiguity. To work rapidly and meet pressing deadlines,
Type As need to be in control of the situation. They do not allocate enough time for unforeseen
disturbances and consequently experience extreme tension and anxiety when faced with unexpected events.
Unfortunately, the proportion of Type A managers in organizations may be quite large. One study showed
that 60 percent of the managers were clearly Type A and only 12 percent were distinctly Type B. In
addition, a short questionnaire measuring Type A behaviors and given to members of several MBA classes
and executive programs has found that Type As outnumber Type Bs by about five to one. These results are
not totally surprising because many organizations (and business schools) reward aggressive, competitive,
workaholic behaviors. Indeed, Type A behaviors can help managers achieve rapid promotion in many
companies. Ironically, however, those same behaviors may be detrimental to effective performance at top
organizational levels where tasks and decision making require the kind of patience, tolerance for ambiguity,
and attention to broad issues often neglected by Type As.
Diagnosis and Awareness of Stress and Its Causes
Stress management is directed at preventing negative stress outcomes either by changing the organizational
conditions causing the stress or by enhancing employees' abilities to cope with them. This preventive
approach starts from a diagnosis of the current situation, including employees' self-awareness of their own
stress and its sources. This diagnosis provides the information needed to develop an appropriate stress
management program. Two methods for diagnosing stress are the following:
Charting Stressors. Such charting involves identifying organizational and personal stressors operating in a
particular situation. It is guided by a conceptual model like that shown in Figure 18.4, and it measures
potential stressors affecting employees negatively. Data can be collected through questionnaires and
interviews about environmental and personal stressors. Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute
for Social Research have developed standardized instruments for measuring most of the stressors shown in
Figure 57. It is important to obtain perceptual measures because people's cognitive appraisal of the
situation makes a stressor stressful. Most organizational surveys measure dimensions potentially stressful to
employees, such as work overload, role conflict and ambiguity, promotional issues, opportunities for
participation, managerial support, and communication. Similarly, there are specific instruments for
measuring the individual differences, such as hardiness, social support, and Type A or B behavior pattern.
In addition to perceptions of stressors, it is necessary to measure stress consequences, such as subjective
moods, performance, job satisfaction, absenteeism, blood pressure, and cholesterol level. Various
instruments and checklists have been developed for obtaining people's perceptions of negative
consequences, and these can be supplemented with hard measures taken from company records, medical
reports, and physical examinations. Once measures of the stressors and consequences are obtained, the two
sets of data must be related to reveal which stressors contribute most to negative stress in the situation
under study. For example, a relational analysis might show that qualitative overload and role ambiguity are
highly related to employee fatigue, absenteeism, and poor performance, especially for Type A employees.
This kind of information points to specific organizational conditions that must be improved to reduce
Organization Development ­ MGMT 628
stress. Moreover, it identifies the kinds of employees who may need special counseling and training in stress
Health Profiling. This method is aimed at identifying stress symptoms so that corrective action can be
taken. It starts with a questionnaire asking people for their medical history; personal habits; current health;
and vital signs, such as blood pressure, cholesterol level, and triglyceride levels. It also may include a
physical examination if some of the information is not readily available. Information from the questionnaire
and physical examination is then analyzed, usually by a computer that calculates the individual's health
profile. This profile compares the individual's characteristics with those of an average person of the same
gender, age, and race. The profile identifies the person's future health prospect, typically by placing her or
him in a health-risk category with a known probability of fatal disease, such as cardiovascular risk. The
health profile also indicates how the health risks can be reduced by making personal and environmental
changes such as dieting, exercising, or traveling.
Alleviating Stressors and Coping with Stress
After diagnosing the presence and causes of stress, the next step in stress management is to do something
about it. Interventions for reducing negative stress tend to fall into two groups: those aimed at changing the
organizational conditions causing stress and those directed at helping people to cope better with stress.
Because stress results from the interaction between people and the environment, both strategies are needed
for effective stress management.
This section first presents two methods for alleviating stressful organizational conditions: role clarification
and supportive relationships. These efforts are aimed at decreasing role ambiguity and conflict and
improving poor relationships, key sources of managerial stress. Then, two interventions aimed at helping
people to cope more positively with stress are discussed: stress inoculation training and health and fitness
facilities. These can help employees alleviate stress symptoms and prepare themselves for handling stressful
Role Clarification. This involves helping employees better understand the demands of their work roles. A
manager's role is embedded in a network of relationships with other managers, each of whom has specific
expectations about how the manager should perform the role. Role clarification is a systematic process for
revealing others' expectations and arriving at a consensus about the activities constituting a particular role.
There are several role clarification methods, among them Job Expectation Technique (JET) and Role
Analysis Technique (RAT) and they follow a similar strategy. First, the people relevant to defining a
particular role are identified (e.g., members of a managerial team, a boss and subordinate, and members of
other departments relating to the role holder) and brought together at a meeting, usually in a location away
from the organization.
Second, the role holder discusses her or his perceived job duties and responsibilities and the other
participants are encouraged to comment and to agree or disagree with the role holder's perceptions. An
OD practitioner may act as a process consultant to facilitate interaction and reduce defensiveness. Third,
when everyone has reached consensus on defining the role, the role holder is responsible for writing a
description of the activities that are seen now as constituting the role. A copy of the role description is
distributed to all participants to ensure that they fully understand and agree with the role definition. Fourth,
the participants periodically check to see whether the role is being performed as intended and make
modifications if necessary.
Supportive Relationships. This involves establishing trusting and genuinely positive relationships among
employees, including bosses, subordinates, and peers. Supportive relations have been a hallmark of
organization development and are a major part of such interventions as team building, intergroup relations,
employee involvement, work design, goal setting, and career planning and development. Considerable
research shows that supportive relationships can buffer people from stress. When people feel that relevant
others really care about what happens to them and are willing to help, they can cope with stressful
Recent research on the boss-subordinate relationship suggests that a supportive boss can provide
subordinates with a crucial defense against stress. A study of managers at an AT&T subsidiary undergoing
turmoil because of the company's corporate breakup showed that employees who were under considerable
stress but felt that their boss was supportive suffered half as much illness, depression, impaired sexual
performance, and obesity as employees reporting to an unsupportive boss.
This research suggests that organizations must become more aware of the positive value of supportive
relationships in helping employees cope with stress. They may need to build supportive, cohesive work
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groups in situations that are particularly stressful, such as introducing new products, solving emergency
problems, and handling customer complaints.
Stress Inoculation Training. Companies have developed programs to help employees acquire the skills
and knowledge to cope more positively with stressors. Participants are first taught to understand stress
warning signals, such as difficulty in making decisions, disruption in sleeping and eating habits, and greater
frequencies of headaches and backaches. Then they are encouraged to admit that they are overstressed (or
understressed) and to develop a concrete plan for coping with the situation. One strategy is to develop and
use a coping self-statement procedure. Participants verbalize a series of questions or statements each time
they experience negative stress. The following sample questions or statements are addressed to the four
stages of the stress-coping cycle:
· Preparation (What am I going to do about these stressors?)
· Confrontation (I must relax and stay in control.)
· Coping (I must focus on the present set of stressors.)
· Self-reinforcement (I handled it well.)
Stress inoculation training is aimed at helping employees cope with stress rather than at changing the
stressors themselves. Its major value is sensitizing people to the presence of stress and preparing them to
take personal action. Self-appraisal and self-regulation of stress can free people from total reliance on
others for stress management. Given the multitude of organizational conditions that can cause stress, such
self-control is a valuable adjunct to interventions aimed at changing the conditions themselves.
Health Facilities. A growing number of organizations are providing facilities for helping employees cope
with stress. Elaborate exercise facilities are maintained by such firms as Xerox, Weyerhaeuser, and PepsiCo.
Similarly, more than five hundred companies (e.g., Exxon, Mobil, and Chase Manhattan Bank) operate
corporate cardiovascular fitness programs.
In addition to exercise facilities, some companies, such as McDonald's and Equitable Life Assurance
Society, provide biofeedback facilities in which managers take relaxation breaks using biofeedback devices
to monitor respiration and heart rate. Feedback of such data helps managers lower their respiration and
heart rates. Some companies provide time for employees to meditate, and other firms have stay-well
programs that encourage healthy diets and lifestyles.
Table of Contents:
  1. The Challenge for Organizations:The Growth and Relevance of OD
  2. OD: A Unique Change Strategy:OD consultants utilize a behavioral science base
  3. What an “ideal” effective, healthy organization would look like?:
  4. The Evolution of OD:Laboratory Training, Likert Scale, Scoring and analysis,
  5. The Evolution of OD:Participative Management, Quality of Work Life, Strategic Change
  6. The Organization Culture:Adjustment to Cultural Norms, Psychological Contracts
  7. The Nature of Planned Change:Lewin’s Change Model, Case Example: British Airways
  8. Action Research Model:Termination of the OD Effort, Phases not Steps
  9. General Model of Planned Change:Entering and Contracting, Magnitude of Change
  10. The Organization Development Practitioner:External and Internal Practitioners
  11. Creating a Climate for Change:The Stabilizer Style, The Analyzer Style
  12. OD Practitioner Skills and Activities:Consultant’s Abilities, Marginality
  13. Professional Values:Professional Ethics, Ethical Dilemmas, Technical Ineptness
  14. Entering and Contracting:Clarifying the Organizational Issue, Selecting an OD Practitioner
  15. Diagnosing Organizations:The Process, The Performance Gap, The Interview Data
  16. Organization as Open Systems:Equifinality, Diagnosing Organizational Systems
  17. Diagnosing Organizations:Outputs, Alignment, Analysis
  18. Diagnosing Groups and Jobs:Design Components, Outputs
  19. Diagnosing Groups and Jobs:Design Components, Fits
  20. Collecting and Analyzing Diagnostic information:Methods for Collecting Data, Observations
  21. Collecting and Analyzing Diagnostic information:Sampling, The Analysis of Data
  22. Designing Interventions:Readiness for Change, Techno-structural Interventions
  23. Leading and Managing Change:Motivating Change, The Life Cycle of Resistance to Change
  24. Leading and managing change:Describing the Core Ideology, Commitment Planning
  25. Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions:Measurement
  26. Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions:Research Design
  27. Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions
  28. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Group Process
  29. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Leadership and Authority, Group Interventions
  30. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Third-Party Interventions
  31. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Team Building, Team Building Process
  32. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Team Management Styles
  33. Organization Process Approaches:Application Stages, Microcosm Groups
  34. Restructuring Organizations:Structural Design, Process-Based Structures
  35. Restructuring Organizations:Downsizing, Application Stages, Reengineering
  36. Employee Involvement:Parallel Structures, Multiple-level committees
  37. Employee Involvement:Quality Circles, Total Quality Management
  38. Work Design:The Engineering Approach, Individual Differences, Vertical Loading
  39. Performance Management:Goal Setting, Management by Objectives, Criticism of MBO
  40. Developing and Assisting Members:Career Stages, Career Planning, Job Pathing
  41. Developing and Assisting Members:Culture and Values, Employee Assistance Programs
  42. Organization and Environment Relationships:Environmental Dimensions, Administrative Responses
  43. Organization Transformation:Sharing the Vision, Three kinds of Interventions
  44. The Behavioral Approach:The Deep Assumptions Approach
  45. Seven Practices of Successful Organizations:Training, Sharing Information