We live in a society of "joiners." We like to join churches, clubs, and fraternal organizations. We like to join classes and magazine subscription drives. We simply enjoy being with other people, and so we spend much of our lives in groups. Certainly, this is a good thing—not only for our own mental health, but also for the good of society as a whole.
And yet, no organization is a perfect entity. Organizations often breed conflict within their ranks. The conflicts may be between people on the same level, or between people at different levels of the organizational hierarchy. The conflicts may be one-time disagreements, or bruising fights which last for eons. While some conflicts can be attributed to personality clashes, others stem from the organization itself.
Whether you're involved in parent-teacher organizations or a writers' free speech group, you might find that you're running up against organization-induced stress. This can come in a variety of forms. To begin with, it might be caused by the fact that the organization seems to have lost its sense of purpose. It may be wandering aimlessly and lack clearly-defined goals. As a result, you might feel a great deal of stress since you aren't certain where the organization is headed—or even if you want to go along for the ride. If you come across this problem, the best thing to do is to air your concerns to someone in a position of authority. It is entirely possible that the leadership will ignore your concerns, but at least you've tried. If you fail to achieve a workable solution, you might then be forced to leave the organization. But you'll leave knowing that you attempted to have a positive impact.
While most organizations have people in positions of leadership, many groups lack true leaders. As a result, members of the organization may experience a great deal of stress, having to deal with constant uncertainty. A true leader takes charge of an organization. He or she has a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished and promotes a team atmosphere in order to get the job done. If you are in an organization that appears to be leaderless, try to identify potential leaders. Encourage them to seek leadership, and assure them that you will support their candidacies. Such a strategy can help to alleviate the stress of all concerned.
Another problem that can lead to stress is an uncooperative organizational culture. There may be a feeling that each person in the organization is on his or her own, that each person should be an independent operator. As a result, the individuals within the organization may feel isolated and alone. The best defense against such a situation is healthy communication. Talk to other members of the group and find out if they are sensing an uncooperative atmosphere too. Then, get together and confront the person in charge. You might be amazed at what your small committee can do to effect change within the organization—and you might find your stress level subsiding considerably.
Yet another stress-inducing situation is organizational pessimism. Do members feel as if things will never get better? Are they frustrated and angry? Is there a sense of hopelessness in the ranks? If so, you and other members of the group may be experiencing a great deal of stress. You can lessen the stress by promoting a positive attitude. Make sure that you offer positive input when confronted with problems, and encourage other members of the organization to do the same. With a little bit of effort, you can turn your organization around—and lessen your stress in the process.
Organizational stress may take you by surprise. You might have joined the organization to relieve your stress, so when stress occurs in the group, you need to undergo a major attitude re-adjustment. The important thing to remember in such a situation is that you are not alone. Chances are other members of the group are experiencing the same kinds of things that you are. Trust your judgment and don't be afraid to express your displeasure if things go wrong. The more you express your feelings, the more likely you are to reduce your stress