Managing Stress Brought by Self defeating Behavior

One of the crucial elements towards the realization of organizational success and profitability is creating a suitable working environment for all employees to thrive as they carry out their respective responsibilities. In essence, employees’ contributions towards the achievement of established business goals/objectives is largely influenced by the nature of the working environment and working conditions. However, employees’ behaviors also play a crucial role in determining their productivity in the workplace. Self-defeating behaviors in the workplace contributes to stress, which in turn affects employees’ input to work processes and the overall profitability of an organization. This paper examines the management of stress brought by self-defeating behaviors in the workplace. The evaluation includes recommendations of suitable solutions to this issue based on organizational theory concepts and the concepts of organizational behavior.


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Background Information

The organization I work for has several divisions or department that are mandated with various responsibilities and tasks towards the achievement of the established business goals and objectives. Each of these departments is led by a departmental head who ensures that the division’s workforce carry out their respective roles in line with department goals and objectives. The departmental heads work in collaboration with the organization’s top management to create a suitable working environment where employees can thrive as they contribute towards the various work processes and activities. The organization recognizes that the nature and status of the working environment has a direct link to the profitability and success of the firm in its respective industry/market.


As part of creating a suitable working environment for the workforce, the departmental heads allocates duties to every employee based on his/her knowledge, skills and abilities as well as job position. This helps in ensuring that employees understand their roles and what is expected of them, which helps in reducing conflicts within the organization. The understanding of the roles and expectations of every employee also helps in keeping them accountable for their work. When making decisions on allocation of duties, the departmental heads ensure that the right person for job is chosen. In this regard, the management takes time to learn the strengths of every employee before deciding how to allocate job duties effectively. Additionally, the organization’s management and departmental heads clearly articulate the significance of teamwork in accomplishing the mission of the organization. While each employee is held accountable for his/her respective job duties, the management encourages teamwork because of its significance in the achievement of organizational objectives. Teamwork helps create synergy through which every member of the organization’s workforce plays his/her role in an effective manner that contributes to overall organizational success.


Statement of the Problem/Opportunity

While the organization works towards creating a suitable working environment for all employees, there are several issues affecting the workplace. One of these issues it time management among employees since most of them appear to have difficulties in managing their time. The departmental heads in the organization have to constantly remind and urge employees to manage their time well because of its significance in their ability to carry out their respective work duties. Employees seemingly take more time than required to accomplish their duties, which is an indicator of poor time management. Secondly, the employees seemingly exhibit self-defeating behavior that in turn affects their productivity in the workplace. The self-defeating behaviors are evident in poor time management, low levels of motivation and morale, and relative disinterest in certain job responsibilities and tasks. They struggle with decision-making and do not prefer being subjected to supervision or monitoring when performing their duties. As a result of the self-defeating behaviors, employees in the organization also face the problem of stress. The insistence on time management by departmental heads in this organization seemingly contribute to stress among employees because of the pressures and demands to perform well. The organization’s employees seemingly feel that the demands for better time management creates unnecessary burdens, which in turn contribute to stress. In light of these factors, the basic problem in the organization is management of stress brought by self-defeating behavior.


Purpose of the Research

This research examines how to manage stress that is brought by self-defeating behavior as evidence in the organization’s workforce. This is an important issue to analyze because of the negative impact of stress and self-defeating behavior on the workforce’s productivity. Through examining this problem, the research will contribute towards enhancing workplace conditions and the nature of the working environment, which will in turn enhance the overall success and profitability of the organization. The research will contribute towards enhancing the organization’s working environment through providing a recommended solution to address the issue of stress from self-defeating behavior by employees. This research will also provide recommendations on the implementation of the proposed solution in the short and long-term.


Literature Review

The issue of stress brought by self-defeating behavior has received considerable attention and has been the subject of numerous studies. Thau, Aquino & Poortvliet (2007) define self-defeating behaviors are behaviors that hinder an individual from achieving his/her goals or satisfying his/her interests or desires. These researchers state that employees are sometimes engaged in activities that are self-defeating when conducting their duties in the workplace. Renn, Allen & Huning (2013) concurs by stating that self-defeating behavior is a concept referring to activities that undermines an individual’s achievement of self-interests and goals. On the other hand, Alshawashreh, Alrabee & Sammour (2013) define self-defeating behavior as the notion that individuals deliberately carry out activities that cause failure and eventually harm them. In this regard, these researchers argue that there is a positive link between self-defeating behavior and self-handicapping strategy (Alshawashreh, Alrabee & Sammour, 2013). Therefore, self-defeating behaviors are deliberate actions by individuals that are geared towards causing failure or misfortune.


In the working environment, employees sometimes engage in costly work behaviors that not only undermine their productivity in the workplace but also interferes with their ability to achieve personal goals or meet their interests (Thau, Aquino & Poortvliet, 2007; Renn, Allen & Huning, 2013). These studies suggest that self-defeating behaviors in the workplace are detrimental to the overall organizational productivity because of their negative effects on employees’ contribution to work processes. According to Alshawashreh, Alrabee & Sammour (2013), employees’ engagement in self-defeating behaviors causes misfortune and harm through affecting their ability to make significant/meaningful contributions to an organization.


Thau, Aquino & Poortvliet (2007) state that self-defeating behaviors can result in low self-esteem, depression, and sadness. Additionally, these behaviors are positively linked to thwarted belonging because they affect an employee’s ability to develop a closer relationship with his/her co-workers. Renn, Allen & Huning (2013) seemingly concur that self-defeating behaviors cause thwarted belonging among employee through promoting social exclusion, which is the perception or occurrence of exclusion from desired relationship partners.


Self-defeating behaviors contribute to stress because of their impact on self-esteem and the relationship between employees in the workplace (Thau, Aquino & Poortvliet, 2007; Renn, Allen & Huning, 2013; Alshawashreh, Alrabee & Sammour, 2013). Poor self-esteem and poor social interactions resulting from self-defeating behaviors generate stress. These behaviors also contribute to stress through increasing vulnerability to emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. Individuals or employees exhibiting self-defeating behaviors are seemingly unable to develop self-regulation because of stress (Alshawashreh, Alrabee & Sammour, 2013).


Managing Misbehavior, Individual Stress and Conflicts

In light of the negative impacts of self-defeating behaviors and its subsequent stress on workforce productivity, existing literature recognizes the need to identify and utilize suitable strategies to manage misbehavior, individual stress, and conflicts. Managing misbehavior, individual stress, and conflicts is considered as a crucial approach towards enhancing workplace and organizational productivity. Mortezai, Farughi & Ahmadi (2015) contend that organizational misbehavior is strongly linked to job burnout, which in turn acts as a source of stress. Based on organizational behavior theory, studying organizational misbehavior or self-defeating behaviors in the workplace is crucial towards understanding improving organizational performance (Mortezai, Ferughi & Ahmadi, 2015). Organizational behavior theory suggests that misbehavior, stress, and conflicts are by-products of several factors including poor decision making, job dissatisfaction, poor working conditions, and lack of creativity and innovation in the working environment (Ivancevich, Konopaske & Matteson, 2011). The other factors contributing to misbehavior, stress, and conflicts are job burnout, poor compensation and benefits strategies, unsuitable organizational culture, ineffective leadership style, and poor decision-making.


According to Sims (2002), managing misbehavior, individual stress, and conflicts in the workplace is a multidimensional process that requires the use of different strategies. Managers and leaders in an organization can manage these factors through several measures including the use of proper leadership styles/management techniques, teem meetings, and establishing effective communication channels (Sims, 2002). Additionally, organizations can effective manage misbehavior, stress, and conflicts through lessening uncertainties in the workplace and establishing appropriate assistance and wellness programs for employees.


Thau, Aquino, Poortvliet (2007) argue that misbehavior, stress, and conflicts can be effectively managed through creating a working environment that fosters inclusion and enhanced social interactions within the workplace. In concurrence, Renn, Allen & Huning (2013) argue that dealing with social exclusion through creating an environment that promotes enhanced social interactions and inclusion helps in managing stress and misbehavior in the workplace.


Weitz & Vardi (2007) provide a different perspective on how organizations can effectively manage stress, conflicts and misbehavior. These researchers state that these harmful factors to the workplace require establishing strategies at the individual, organizational, group and task levels. Based on organizational theory and concepts, individual-level antecedents include strategies that focus on influencing the perceptions, attributions, attitudes and emotions of employees as well as understanding their personalities (Weitz & Vardi, 2007). On the other hand, task-level antecedents focus on job design and responsibilities of members of the workforce while group-level strategies address internal and external pressures in the working environment. Organizational-level antecedents incorporate organizational goals/objectives, control systems within the organization, organizational cohesiveness, and organizational culture and climate (Weitz & Vardi, 2007).


Edralin (2015) concurs by arguing that the source of conflicts, stress, and misbehavior in the workplace are brought by organizational and interpersonal factors. Therefore, managing conflicts, stress, and misbehavior requires developing strategies at the organizational and interpersonal level. Theories and concepts in organizational behavior demonstrate that norms in large group (i.e. the entire organization) and small groups (i.e. work teams and co-workers) influence employee behavior and work performance (Edralin, 2015). Through establishing strategies at the organizational and interpersonal level, the organization effectively address the workplace norms and practices that contribute to misbehavior, stress, and conflict. However, Michie (2002) argues that managing stress, conflict, and misbehavior in the workplace requires organizational-level intervention. Workplace stress, conflict, and misbehavior should be prevented and managed using organizational-level interventions because it’s the organization that causes these problems.


Leadership and Decision-making

Concepts in organizational behavior demonstrates that the establishment of suitable strategies to manage individual stress, misbehavior, and conflicts require effective leadership styles/management techniques and decision-making. Ejimabo (2015) states that effective decision-making and leadership styles have emerged as the most crucial, dynamic, and challenging aspects of organizational management. The dynamic nature of these two aspects of management is attributable to the complex and systemic nature of organizations, especially in the modern business environment. Leadership plays an important role in management of misbehavior, stress, and conflicts because poor management techniques are regarded as one of the causes of poor organizational performance and workplace stress (Mortezai, Ferughi & Ahmadi, 2015). The role of leadership and decision-making in the process of managing stress and misbehavior is creating suitable working conditions and addressing issues at the organizational, individual, and interpersonal levels that could affect work performance.


During the decision-making process and exercising leadership, the organization’s management should focus on addressing stress, conflicts, and misbehavior holistically because using approaches that only focuses on those experiencing these problems is counterproductive (Michie, 2002). Leadership and decision-making approaches should primarily focus on the root causes of these problems rather than addressing the symptoms. In this regard, Michie (2002) proposes that the interventions could include structural changes and psychological support approaches. The organization’s leadership is in a better position to determine the most suitable approaches depending on the root causes of these problems in the workplace.


Insights from the Review

The review of literature on the issue of managing stress that is brought by self-defeating behaviors in the workplace has provided significant insights on the causes of misbehavior and stress in the organization. This theory has demonstrated that managing stress emerging from self-defeating behavior is a multidimensional or multifaceted process because of the different factors that contribute to stress, misbehavior, and conflicts. Based on the review, the most essential ideas for this project is the need to establish strategies at the organizational, individual, and interpersonal levels. These strategies should be based on the concepts and theories of organizational behavior, particularly social exchange theory, effective leadership and decision-making, organizational culture and climate, and group dynamics. Organizational, individual, and interpersonal models for managing stress that is brought by self-defeating behavior are valuable to this project because they address the root causes of these problems. Therefore, the major issues of concern are individual, interpersonal, and organizational factors relating to stress.


Problem/Opportunity Analysis

The problem in this organization is stress, which is brought by self-defeating behaviors that affects employee morale and input to work processes. As employees struggle with various factors such as time management, they additional burdens and demands to increase their input and enhance their performance. The demands for better time management and other organizational factors have in turn acted as the premise through which employees have developed self-defeating behaviors that is affecting their productivity in the workplace. These behaviors have also acted as the avenues for conflicts within the organization, which further affects employees negatively.


The root causes of the problem of stress emerging from self-defeating behaviors can be understood through organizational theory concepts and insights gained from the literature review on this topic. In this regard, one of the causes of the problem of stress and self-defeating behaviors by employees in the organization is individual-level factors. The major individual factor causing this problem is poor time management, which is evidenced in the fact that the departmental heads have to constantly remind employees of the significance of time management. Moreover, employees seem to spend more time than necessary to complete a particular job task. Poor time management is in itself a self-defeating behavior that affects the employees’ ability to achieve their personal and organizational objectives. The other individual factors contributing to stress and self-defeating behaviors is low employee morale and motivation and the lack of interest in certain job tasks and responsibilities.


Apart from individual factors, self-defeating behaviors, which contributes to stress among employees in this organization are brought by organizational factors. The first organizational factor is poor organizational culture and climate, which has major effects of employee morale and motivation. While the organization’s management emphasize on the significance of teamwork and have established policies and strategies to promote teamwork, the organizational climate/culture does not empower employees to thrive in their respective role and duties. From the look of things, employees are seemingly subjected to excessive supervision, particularly on time management. The excessive supervision diminishes creativity and innovation among the workforce and creates an organizational culture that affects staff motivation and morale. The second organizational structure is the leadership style adopted by the organization’s top management. Based on the existing organizational culture, the management has heavily relied on supervision, which has become excessive and negatively affected motivation. While supervision is an important factor to promote workplace productivity, its excessive use in the organization is an indicator of poor leadership styles and management techniques.


Possible Solutions

Based on the findings of the problem/opportunity analysis, the most suitable solutions to the problem of stress brought by self-defeating behavior are organizational-level and individual-level approaches. Organizational-level and individual-level approaches will effectively address the root causes of this problem rather than simply dealing with its symptoms. One of the potential solutions to manage stress brought by self-defeating behavior in the workplace is to change the organizational leadership structure and management of employees. This would entail establishing a new leadership structure and organizational culture that fosters innovation and creativity among employees. In this regard, employees will have flexible work schedules through which they are expected to accomplish their respective work duties or responsibilities. In this framework, the organization’s will focus on the creativity and innovation of employees rather than emphasizing time management based on a rigid work schedule. The advantages of establishing a new leadership framework and organizational culture include enhanced employee morale and motivation, workforce flexibility, enhanced employee contributions, and healthy competition in the workforce. This will in turn contribute to enhanced workforce productivity and improved organizational performance. However, the disadvantages of this approach include the likelihood of poor performance because of increased flexibility, high costs of changing leadership and organizational culture, and probable disruption of organizational operations.


The second probable solution is implementing an employee assistance and wellness program, which focuses on promoting the overall health and well-being of the employees. The wellness program should also focus on stress prevention and management through promoting healthy habits and addressing individual factors that could affect an employee’s wellbeing. According to Sims (2002), wellness programs are crucial towards managing stress because stress prevention and management is one of the components in these programs. The advantages of this solution include enhanced stress prevention and management techniques and promotion of improved employee health and wellbeing. However, the disadvantages include probable failure to address the root cause of the problems and high costs of implementation.


Solution and its Implementation

The most suitable solution to address the problem of stress brought by self-defeating behavior in this organization is changing the organizational leadership structure and organizational culture. This is the most appropriate solution because it addresses both the individual and organizational factors that have contributed to the problem. The first step in the implementation process is conducting a review of the current leadership structure and organizational culture with regards to their effectiveness in promoting the achievement of desired business goals and objectives. In this case, the human resource department should conduct an internal analysis of the organization’s leadership and culture by interviewing the top management, departmental heads, and employees. During this process, the HR department should identify problematic areas in the organization’s leadership structure and culture. Upon the conclusion of the analysis, the HR department should provide a report to the organization’s top management. The management should then appoint a task force comprising the organization’s internal stakeholders to oversee the implementation of the recommendations provided in the report. This would entail working in collaboration with the top management to make changes in the firm’s leadership and operating environment. The implemented changes should be subject to periodic reviews and improvements until the desired goals of the solution are realized. Employees should be given avenues to provide feedback regarding the changes as they are implemented from time to time.


The human resource department should work with the taskforce to create policies and practices that promote flexibility within the workplace. The long-term focus of the implementation of this solution to the creation of a workplace that is characterized by flexibility, creativity, and innovation. These policies should incorporate a framework through which employees are individually rewarded for their innovative and creative contributions and the entire workforce rewarded for improved overall performance. This implies that the organization’s employees will not only receive their salaries, wages and other benefits but will also be rewarded depending on their individual performance in relation to creativity.


Justification for the Solution

The changes to the organization’s leadership structure and organizational culture is the most suitable solution to address the problems of stress and self-defeating behaviors among employees because it addresses both the organizational and individual factors. According to Michie (2002), workplace stress is brought by organizational factors, which implies that organizational-level interventions are suitable in stress prevention and management. As demonstrated in the analysis of the organization’s situation, the individual factors affecting employees are brought by organizational factors. Employees in this organization have low self-esteem, morale and motivation, which contribute to self-defeating behaviors, because of the poor management techniques adopted by its leaders and unsuitable organizational culture. Therefore, dealing with management techniques and organizational culture would essentially address these individual factors and ultimately solve the problem of stress and self-defeating behavior. This solution is also appropriate because it will promote organizational cohesiveness through which employees feel a sense of belonging and ownership (Weitz & Vardi, 2007).


In conclusion, the organization is currently facing the problem of stress that is brought by self-defeating behavior. As shown in this analysis, this problem is attributable to individual and organizational factors that contribute to low self-esteem, morale, and motivation among employees. The review of existing literature on this topic demonstrates that effective management of stress and self-defeating behaviors in the workplace requires organizational-level, interpersonal-level, and individual-level interventions. Based on the current issue in this organization, the most probable solutions to resolve the problem are changing the leadership structure and organizational culture and establishing employee assistance and wellness programs. However, the most suitable solution to address the organization’s problem of stress and self-defeating behavior among employees is changing its leadership structure and organizational culture or climate.




Alshawashreh, O.M., Alrabee, F.K. & Sammour, Q.M. (2013, March). The Relationships between Self-defeating Behavior and Self-esteem Among Jordanian College Students. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(6), 255-269.


Edralin, D.M. (2015, January). Why Do Workers Misbehave in the Workplace? DLSL Journal of Management, 2(1), 88-108.


Ejimabo, N.O. (2015, April). An Approach to Understanding Leadership Decision Making in Organization. European Scientific Journal, 11(11), 1-24.


Ivancevich, J.M., Konopaske, R. & Matteson, M.T. (2014). Organizational behavior and management (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Michie, S. (2002). Causes and Management of Stress at Work. Occupational and Environmental Medicine Journal, 59, 67-72.


Mortezai, N., Farughi, H. & Ahmadi, K. (2015, January). Factors Affecting Organizational Misbehavior and its Relationship with Job Burnout: Case Study on Kurdistan Agriculture Organization in Iran. International Journal of Management, Accounting and Economics, 2(1), 1-9.


Renn, R., Allen, D. & Huning, T. (2013). The Relationship of Social Exclusion at Work With Self-Defeating Behavior and Turnover. The Journal of Social Psychology, 153(2), 229-249.


Sims, R.R. (2002). Managing organizational behavior. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.


Thau, S., Aquino, K. & Poortvliet, M. (2007, June). Self-defeating Behaviors in Organizations: The Relationship Between Thwarted Belonging and Interpersonal Work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(3), 840-847.


Weitz, E. & Vardi, Y. (2007, January). Understanding and Managing Misbehavior in Organizations. In 21st Century management: a reference handbook (chap. 17, pp.72-230). Retrieved from

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