As systemic stress increases and authority becomes more centralized, organizational decision making processes are likely to deteriorate, becoming less complex, more driven by impulse with a narrowing of focus and attention only to immediate threat. Long-term consequences of decisions may not be considered and alternatives remain unexplored . As work-related stressors increase, employees develop negative perceptions of their co-workers and organizational leaders and this may precipitate serious decreases in job performance. Conflict over the content of task-related issues can be very useful, but emotion inevitably accompanies conflict and the “heat” of a conflict over issues can spill over into interpersonal conflict rather easily. Without good conflict management skills in the group, task-related conflict can lead to even more misunderstanding, miscommunication, and increased team dysfunction instead of providing the kind of enriching discourse that can lead to creative problem solving. The bottom line is that if people in a group do not like and respect each other and spend their time in personal conflict, the group as a whole will perform badly. Chronic stress puts an added burden on old conflicts which are likely to emerge with a vengeance and propagate new conflicts.
Hierarchical structures concentrate power and in these circumstances, power can easily come to be used abusively and in a way that perpetuates rather than attenuates the concentration of power. Transparency disappears and secrecy increases under this influence. Communication networks become compromised as those in power become more punishing, and the likelihood of error is increased as a result. In such a situation, conflicts tend to remain unresolved and tension – and resentment – mount under the surface of everyday group functioning. Interpersonal conflicts that were suppressed during the initial crisis return, often with a vengeance, but conflict resolution mechanisms, if ever in place, deteriorate under stress.
Excerpt from Bloom, S. L. (2010). Trauma-organized systems and parallel process. In N. Tehrani (Ed.), Managing Trauma in the Workplace (pp. 139-153). London: Routledge.
For more see: Bloom and Farragher, Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Service Delivery Systems
- Janis, I.L., Decision making under stress., in Handbook Of Stress: Theoretical And Clinical Aspects, L. Goldberger and S. Breznitz, Editors. 1982, Free Press: New York. p. 69-87.