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Stress Is An Inescapable Reality Management Essay

Stress is an inescapable reality of most working environments. Organizational costs associated with job stress are substantial. It is estimated that companies lose between US $100 billion to US $300 billion annually (Stewart, 1990 as cited in Crampton, Hodge, Jitendra, & Price, 1995). These costs include absenteeism, accidents, health care expenses, and decline in productivity. Job stress is often caused by a multitude of factors such as changes in management, long working hours, barriers to career advancement, heightened competition, high pressure deadlines, work overload, excessive rules and regulations, lack of participation in decision making, new technology, inadequate support, conflicting demands from organizational stakeholders, and personal conflicts (Crampton et al., 1995; Hall & Savery, 1986; Roberts, Lapidus, & Chonko, 1997). Stress results in a variety of physiological, psychological, and behavioral consequences (McShane & Von Glinow, 2003). An individual’s physiological responses to stress include headaches, muscle pains, stomach ulcers, and others. Psychological symptoms of stress include anxiety, anger, moodiness, dissatisfaction, and the like. Some of the behavioral consequences of stress include higher absenteeism, lower productivity, higher turnover, and workplace aggression.

Consistently increasing rate of psychometric and psychological stresses in various spheres of their lives and consistently increasing rate of psychometric and psychological disorders, feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction with life in general and job in particular reflects the high stress being experienced by people in the present day world. Ever increasing needs and aspirations, high levels of competition, changing life style, pressure of meeting deadlines, uncertainty about the future and weakened social support system have made the one’s being high stressful in the modern societies. There is a wide variation in biological, medical and psychological literature in the definition and the use of the term “STRESS”. It has been used at times as a stimulus; as an external negative force impinging upon an individual as motivational and / or psychological response to internal or external environmental events; and as a state resulting from and interaction between an individual and his surroundings. The most accepted transactional model of stress emphasizes that stress is an individual perceptual phenomenon rooted in the psychological process. The events or situations are not stressful in itself. It becomes a source of stress only when the focal person appraises as to be a threat for him and to accede his capabilities to deal with it. This is the reason that the same situation or event is differently responded to by different persons and even differently by the same person at different times. The concept of stress is bound to the person, and is a subjective experience. The physical and psycho-social situation becomes stressor via cognitive appraisal and interpretation of the threat situations by the focal person.

The globalization of the business, high competition and consistent advancement in technology, created stress a grave problem for the employees as well as management in corporate organizations in particular. Some of the typical stressor arising from globalization and high competition in business world are quantity-quality conflict, work overload, increasing working hours, time pressures, deadlines, shift hours, unusual shift, diversified work force, need for continuous organizational development and change for continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness, job security, need for downzing, frequently changing skill requirements, management of contingent work force, mobility and low involvement of employees. Spillover effect of off the job stress, increasing number of dual career couple resulting in work family conflicts, leadership style, close supervision, outsourcing etc.

Researchers in organizational stress have dominantly focused on emotional, behavioral and health outcomes of the stress experienced at work. Prolonged severe stress affects the focal person at psychological as well as physiological levels. At mild level stress may arouse the individual for improved performance and problem solving, but starts hampering performance when its intensity reaches a disruptive level, which varies with the characteristics of the focal person and the task being performed, various dimensions of job behaviour such as performance job satisfaction, absenteeism and turnover are also affected by the stress of job life.

One of the most important reasons for the stress has generated so much of interest is that stress is involved in the etiology of both somatic and psychological illness. In addition to job stress phenomena like alienation, cynicism, tedium, social support and way of coping of stress Presently, existing research is psycho-immunology, neuroendocrinology, neurophysiology is encouraging stress researchers to take new a look at the mind-body relationship, particularly at the issue of how psychological stress causes pathological changes in body function which, if intense or chronic, lead to various types of somatic diseases. Although many definitions of stress exist, the interactive approach has come to dominate. Levi (1987) characterizes stress comprehensively as: The interaction, or misfit of environmental opportunities and demands, and individual needs, abilities and expectations, elicit reactions. When the environmental demands made upon a person are beyond his or her response capability, when expectations are not met, or when abilities are over- or under taxed, the organism reacts with various pathogenic mechanisms. These are cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and/or physiological and under some conditions of intensity, frequency or duration, and in the presence or absence of certain interacting variables, they may lead to precursors of disease. (p. 10)

Accordingly, job stress is defined as a particular relation between the employee and his or her work environment (e.g., Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Kahn & Boysiere, 1994). Environmental factors that are involved in the stress process are called job stressors, and individual reactions to these stressors are referred to as stress reactions or strains. Commonly, three types of strains are distinguished: (1) physiological strains (e.g., heart palpitations, high blood pressure), (2) psychological strains (e.g., job dissatisfaction, burnout, anxiety), (3) behavioral strains (e.g., turnover, absenteeism, alcohol and drug abuse). In sum, job stress is a subjective experience that results from the interplay of the objective work environment and the employee’s coping resources. Burnout is considered to be a long-term stress reaction that particularly occurs among professionals who work with people in some capacity—like teachers, nurses, social workers, or COs (Maslach & Schaufeli, 1993). Although various definitions of burnout exist, it is most commonly described as a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Maslach, 1993). Emotional exhaustion refers to feelings of being emotionally overextended and depleted of one’s emotional resources. Depersonalization refers to a negative, callous, or excessively detached response to other people who are usually the recipients of one’s services or care. Reduced personal accomplishment refers to a decline in one’s feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work.

Accumulating empirical evidence suggests that burnout is a process that gradually develops across time (Leiter, 1993; Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998). The first stage is characterized by an imbalance between resources and demands (stress). In human services professions considerable stress is caused by the emotionally demanding relationships with recipients (e.g., pupils, patients, clients, or prisoners) that eventually may result in the depletion of one’s emotional resources. Next, a set of negative attitudes and behaviors is developed, such as a tendency to treat recipients in a detached and mechanical manner or a cynical preoccupation with gratification of one’s own needs. Essentially, these negative attitudes and behaviors that constitute the depersonalization component of burnout are to be considered as defensive coping mechanisms. In order to reduce emotional exhaustion, the burnout candidate creates a psychological distance in an attempt to protect him- or herself against the stressful social environment. However, this is an inadequate coping strategy that increases stress rather than reduces it because it diminishes the relationship with recipients and aggravates interpersonal problems. As a result, the professional is less effective in achieving his or her goals so that personal accomplishment diminishes and feelings of incompetence and self-doubt might develop. A suchlike sense of reduced personal accomplishment is considered to be the third component of the burnout syndrome. In a somewhat similar vein, burnout has been described as a process of increasing disillusionment: “a progressive loss of idealism, energy, and purpose experienced by people in the helping professions as a result of conditions in their work” (Edelwich & Brodsky, 1980, p. 14). The initial idealistic expectations and noble aspirations are regarded as built-in sources of future frustration and therefore as major causes of burnout. In their progressive disillusionment model of burnout Edelwich and Brodsky distinguish four stages: (1) enthusiasm, (2) stagnation, (3) frustration, and (4) apathy. Quite remarkably, their process model of burnout closely matches observations on the typical employee’s career path: “Watching their entrance into the prison can be quite an experience. The hopes on their faces, the positive anxiety of their motivated gait—at first, it’s all there. Then slowly and almost methodically, the smiles wane, the expectations atrophy, and the desires to perform in a positive fashion succumb to escapist fantasy and verbally acknowledged skepticism” (Wicks, 1980, p. 1). Hence, job stress and burnout are not identical; rather, chronic and serious job stress may lead to burnout, especially if the employee is not able to change the situation (Cherniss, 1980, p. 47).

The impact of this individual stress when carried to organizations which already is through problem of organizational stress highlights the role of stress in the organization in general and banking organizations in particular. The importance in any kind of research in organization highlights stress as an essential factor influencing work and performance in organizations, together with the mitigating influence of organizational effectiveness. Stress at work is a well known phenomenon which is expressed itself differently, in different work contexts. Jobs stress which has been studied over in the academic world in different contexts has contributed deeper understanding of the phenomenon as a whole. The notion of job stress through literature reviews it as role conflict, role ambiguity, role overload and different kinds of organizational effectiveness. work stress is viewed as incongruity between employees desired job expectation and actual perceived conditions (Edward.1992).

STRESS AND WORK STRESS

The term “stress” originated in the field of physics and was transferred into psychology. Basically, the idea is that human beings tend to resist external forces acting upon them, just as do physical materials and bodies (Hobfull, 1989). Today the concept of stress is widespread but controversial, and is defined in several different ways (Keinan, 1997):

1. Stress as stimulation – stress is an extremely powerful (and at times unusual) stimulation which combines characteristics of loss and threat, 2. Stress as reaction – stress is a reaction to a particular event and 3. Stress as relation – this definition combines both previous definitions. The term stress refers to the interaction between the person and the environment. In reviewing studies pertaining to job stresses Kahn and Byosiere (1992) see as recurring themes role conflict, role ambiguity and work overload. Such factors have negative implications for workers, both psychologically and physically.

Role conflict concerns incompatible role expectations. Such conflict is related to conceptual differences between workers and different supervisors regarding the content or importance of required job tasks. This creates conflict: the commitment to a number of superiors versus the individual’s values pertaining to the organization’s requirements (Kahn and Byosiere, 1992). Some researchers have suggested that in order to prevent role conflict, organizations should function according to the classic organizational theory principle of unity of command, that is, that the employee should be supervised by a single superior and work according to a single plan. According to Weisner (2003) and Rizzo et al. (1970), an organization which cares for its employees must spare them the “cross-fire” of two or more superiors who have incompatible work instructions and expectations.

Role ambiguity expresses the ambivalence that is to be expected when role expectations are not clear due to lack of information about the role and the work it entails. The employee does not know where to direct his or her efforts, and moreover, whether his or her superiors will deem the results of the role performance a “success” or a “failure” (Beehr and Bhagat, 1985; Rizzo et al., 1970). Thus another aspect of role ambiguity is the employee’s inability to predict the results of his or her actions. This gives the worker a sense of lack of control, which has been identified as a strong contributor to stress (Karasek, 1979). An organization’s size and complexity may also give the employee a sense of not comprehending the essence of the job. Advanced technology and rapid organizational growth further add to organizational complexity, so that employees find it hard to be familiar with and have expertise in all the technical topics relevant to their roles. Classical organizational theory maintains that each role should have a particular array of tasks and areas of responsibility (Weisner, 2003). Clear definition of role requirements gives superiors license to expect employees to be responsible for performing their roles. But if employees are not aware of the role requirements and what is expected of them, they will hesitate to make decisions and will work by trial and error aiming to meet their superiors’ expectations (Rizzo et al., 1970).

Role overload is defined as incompatibility between the role requirements and the amount of time and resources available to comply with these requirements (Rizzo et al., 1970). Other researchers emphasize only the time dimension as the main basis for role overload (Newton and Keenan, 1987). In the past, role overload was considered part of role conflict. Problems of time, resources and capability were all contained under the various definitions of role conflict, compromising between the time put into the job, its quantity and quality (Conley and Woosley, 2000; Kahn and Byosiere, 1992). Today, role overload is understood to be distinct from role conflict. Role overload is related to number of sick days, feelings of anxiety, frustration, depression, decrease in self-confidence, job burnout, attention and concentration problems and work accidents (Glisson et al., 2006; Kahn and Byosiere, 1992). Role overload poses a threat to the employee in performing his or her role and also increases withdrawal behavior patterns from the employing organization – early retirement, striking, leaving, absenteeism and more (Pelletier, 1992; Rahim, 1992; Jamal, 1990). Karasek’s (1979) classic Job Demands-Control model posits that workers whose jobs have high demands (related to role overload) but give them little control suffer most from stress-related problems. However, testing of this model has yielded inconsistent results (Rodriguez et al, 2001), and it has become clear that additional, contextual factors must be examined for a clearer picture of these relationships to emerge. One way of expanding this picture is to look at the relationship between role conflict, role overload, and organizational commitment.

Job satisfaction. Studies have indicated that either an inverted U-shape, a positive linear, a negative linear, or no relationship exists between stress and satisfaction (Sullivan and Bhagat, 1992). However, the employee’s overall effective feeling (satisfaction) towards the job has primarily been found to be negatively related to stress (role ambiguity/conflict) (Jackson and Schuler, 1985). Role conflict seems to have a stronger effect on job satisfaction than does role ambiguity (Netemeyer et al., 1990; Teas, 1983). Sager’s findings suggest that role conflict directly influences job stress and job satisfaction while job satisfaction appears to reduce job stress and intention to leave.

Finally, job stress indirectly influences intentions to leave through organizational commitment. Ambiguity may impact satisfaction indirectly through role conflict. Since there is not an extensive base of research indicating that ambiguity does not directly impact stress, we hypothesize that ambiguity and conflict each have a direct negative relationship to job satisfaction. We also propose a direct relationship between stress and

satisfaction.

Burnout can be defined as the end result of stress experienced but not properly coped with resulting in symptoms of exhaustion, irritation, ineffectiveness, discounting of self, others and problems of health (Hypertension, Ulcers and Heart Problems). Burnout appears to be a response to interpersonal stressors on the job in which an overload of contact with people causes changes in attitude & behavior towards them.  Burnout, is the interpretation of various researchers conducted on Burnout in the Indian context. Burnout, a phenomenon that has been widely acknowledged as an important issue among people helping professional, still lacks both precise theoretical foundations and substantial empirical support.  Its conceptual and operational definitions vary widely.  The broadcast definitions equate Burnout with stress, connect it with a long list of adverse health and well being variables and suggest that it is caused by relentless pursuit of success. Burnout has been related to human service professions with chronic inter-personal stress as its caused (Maslach and Jackson, 1981).  It is conceived as a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, typically occurring as a result of long-term involvement with people in situations, which are emotionally demanding. Cherniss(1980) states that burnout is transactional process consisting three stages-

a. An imbalance with resources and demands (stress).

b. An immediate short-term emotional response to this imbalance (strain), the response is characterized by feelings of anxiety, tension, fatigue and emotional exhaustion.

c. A number of changes in attitude and behavior.

The Indian Managers today operate in an environment full of uncertainties, turbulence & even hostility.  Competition has increased manifold with its attending consequences both good as well as bad.  It is logical to surmise that stress levels have gone up and burnout is not far.  What is disturbing is the high stress and burnout level at comparatively younger age levels.  We find more & more young managers suffering from psychological distress, depression, anxiety, burnout syndromes & physical ailments.

The Indian Social Scientists in response to the changes and their impact in terms of illness and wellness have paid some attention to these phenomena.  A large number of researchers are devoting time and energy to study the stress process with its accompanying manifestations & consequences.  Burnout which is a negative consequence of chronic stress has been a topic of research of many social researchers.

PROFILE OF INDIAN BANKING SYSTEM

Banking institutions throughout the world are facing a fast paced dynamic environment where efficiency and competitiveness hold the key to survival. The process of establishing a competitive advantage is at the heart of competitive marketing strategy (Devlin and Ennew, 1997). With intense competition from both domestic and international players, rapid innovation and introduction of new financial instruments, changing consumer demands and explosive growth in information technology, the way in which a commercial banking firm conducts business and reaches out to its customers has significantly changed. Widespread mergers and acquisitions in the banking sector point to this quest for attaining competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. In order to survive and adapt to the changing environment, banking firms are putting more stress on understanding the drivers of success, like better utilization of its resources (like technology, infrastructure and employees), process of delivering quality service to its customers and performance benchmarking. Leading commercial banks throughout the world are aggressively strengthening their strategic marketing and operational capabilities as a source of competitive advantage. Concepts like service profit chain (Heskett et al., 1994) and operational capability-service quality-performance triad (Roth and Jackson, 1995) have turned out to be buzzwords for any retail banking service firm, which wants to retain its competitive edge over others.

While traditional bank performance parameters like transactions, deposit and income are significant indicators, the criterion of efficiency has become a sine qua no to achieving firm competitiveness in the banking sector like never before. It is becoming increasingly relevant from a marketing perspective to not only out perform competitors on deposit or income, but also be cost competitive. A bank is considered to be cost competitive, if it spends equal amount of money on resources as others but generates higher levels of performance or if it spends less amount of money on resources to generate same level of performance as others in the industry. The need to be cost competitive is at the heart of effective competition in today’s financial markets, because cost competitiveness imparts the ingredients to long-term commercial success. Therefore, efficiency of banks is critical as a basis for effective competition from marketing perspective. Extant literature on marketing efficiency of firms mentions several financial variables as inputs, like marketing expense (Gross, 1984), investment (Drucker, 1986), number of employees (Drucker, 1985), man-hours (Anderson and Weitz, 1986). Output has been measured in terms of financial parameters like profit (Sevin, 1965), sales (Bucklin, 1978), number of units sold (Hall, 1975) and market share (Donath, 1982).

The performance challenges and the need to be cost competitive are apparent throughout the world. The situation is no different in the banking sector in India, one of the world’s largest emerging economies. Significant changes have been taking place in the Indian commercial banking sector as a part of the financial sector reforms initiatives undertaken by the Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India since the early 1990s. As the country’s bankings system, which is still dominate by the public sector banks, is exposed to structural reforms, performance and efficiency issues are gradually emerging as the touchstone of success (Saha and Ravisankar, 2000). There is an emerging need for a comprehensive framework for measuring performance of Indian banks and understanding their strategies, both from the point of view of the corporate and retail customers as also the regulators.

Conceptually, performance benchmarking and strategies grouping are of great relevance to both marketing and strategy. The marketing literature is increasingly paying attention to different performance metrics. The Marketing Science Institute considers “Metrics for measuring marketing performance” as an area of highest research priority for 2000-2002. Early work on performance assessment in marketing borrowed from the productivity concept in manufacturing area which was measured as output per unit input. In marketing this output to input ratio has been applied with financial measures factored by a proxy of effort, which is also often financial (Bonoma and Clark, 1988). Although the immediate outcomes of marketing efforts are more qualitative nature like the level of service quality delivered or the loyalty of the customers, scholars have tried to quantify the intangibility of marketing outcome with something more tangible. They have frequently used easily quantifiable financial outputs, which are the end result of marketing success. It is assumed that service quality and customer satisfaction will always lead to better financial performance (Rust et al., 1995). The whole idea of defining performance as the ability of a firm to transform its resources to generate outcomes has been used extensively in Marketing and Strategy literature. Research has also been devoted to find out how this transformation is attuned to the overall objective of the firm.

On the conceptual front, bank typically performs two functions: it provides product and services to its clients and engages in financial intermediation and management of risk. The servicing function is typically measured using the level of quality service provided and the intermediation activity is measured using its risk management skills (Harker and Zenios, 1998). There is empirical evidence of the impact of service level on the performance of financial institution (Ittner and Larcker, 1996) and also that of risk-taking skills on the overall performance (Santomero and Babbel, 1997).

Benchmarking on the basis of overall financial performance and resultant strategic grouping can help the banks to restructure their policy choices to compete in this dynamic environment. Analyzing its position in the performance hierarchy, a bank can take decision on certain strategic variables like product mix, client mix and distribution channel whereby they can follow the market leaders and devise their improvement strategy. Comparing with industry alignment of the process design, the way in which the bank is utilizing different resources to deliver customer value, and its human resources management. Thus, there is a need to devise a methodology to measure the overall performance of the banks with respect to their competition using the financial parameters, which could help individual banks to take long-term strategic decisions. This research is set in this context.

Performance analysis of financial institutions, particularly commercial banks, has been a very well researched topic. The whole idea of measuring performance of banks is to separate out those which are doing well, from those which are doing poorly. Performance of a bank is generally conceptualized as the extent to which the bank is able to utilize its resources to generate business transactions, and is measured by their ratio, which we call efficiency. Efficiency is measured by the ratio of output to inputs, where larger value of this ratio indicates better performance. Studies of bank performance have, to date, concentrated on obtaining a single perspective of efficiency (Cook and Hababou, 2001). Traditional accounting and financial ratio methods (like return on equity, return on assets) have been very useful in the past for providing information for benchmarking a bank’s performance, but they have methodological limitations, which are discussed later. Data envelopment analysis (DEA) is a mathematical approach to handle situations with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and has been s proven way to measure bank performance. This frontier analysis method can identify those banks which are able to convert multiple inputs to produce higher amount of a combination of outputs. These are called efficient banks and their efficiency is measured by the ratio of their combination of multiple outputs to their multiple inputs. Banks which have the scope to further increase their outputs given their existing inputs given their existing inputs are considered to be low on efficiency (Coelli et al., 1998).

Performance measurement using frontier efficiency approach is quite well established in the literature. The proceedings of the Wharton school conference on the Performance of Financial Institutions (1999) include several articles, which have used the frontier efficiency scores to measure performance of banking firms. Athanassopoulos (1999) developed an efficiency benchmarking method for measuring performance of retail bank branches in Greece. Soterious and Zenios (1999) proposed a common framework of efficiency benchmarking model combining operations, service and profitability to determine the overall performance of bank branches in Cyprus. Thus, in case of multidimensional performance measurement, we use the concept of “efficiency” to benchmark “performance” of banks.

The objective of the study conducted have attempted to explore efficiency analysis and performance of individual commercial banks in the Indian banking sector and the strategic grouping of these banks based on their performance parameters. Efficiency and performance reflect on and are affected by the policy decisions made by the banks in relation to their long – term business strategies. Therefore, the study for analyses strategic groups of banks based on homogeneity in converting resources into performance. Thus, we address to attempt a unique research issue of the link between performance benchmarking and strategic grouping relating and resulting to job stress.

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