Recognise workplace stress and conflic

January 16, 2020


Umbrella Inc (Umbrella), which was founded in 1897, and listed on Nasdaq USA, ranks among the largest gambling companies on the globe. The company, with its portfolio of 55 brands, is a pioneer in the online gaming industry sphere, and it currently caters for over 35 million customers spread across a hundred markets, generating some 60 to 80 million daily transactions. Umbrella’s offices, with its 17,000 employees, are spread across Europe, USA, Asia and Australia with a head-office in Jakarta. Umbrella Inc is a gaming operator active in multiple markets mainly in Europe, USA and Australia. Umbrella, like Amazon, is a customer centric company. Company’s recent challenges has been focused on redesign its operating model to be customer- led, insights-driven, fast and connected.

Organisation’s effectiveness in recognising workplace stress

Umbrella strategic goals are very ambitious and this is the source of a lot of stress across all company’s offices. Is this bad? Stress is essential for every human being. In a workplace stress is considered a boost that takes an employee to the highest ladder in the organization. We have to keep in mind that there are different types of stress:

Type Description
Eustress type of short-term stress that provides immediate strength. It is a positive stress that arises when motivation and inspiration are needed
Distress a negative stress brought about by constant readjustments and alternatives in a routine. Distress creates feelings of discomfort and unfamiliarity
Hyper stress occurs when an individual is pushed beyond what he or she can handle. It results from being overloaded or overworked
Hypo stress occurs when an individual is bored or unchallenged. People who experience hypo stress are often restless

Given the table above we can agree that we cannot have, and probably we do not want, a stress-free life. Some form of stress in our life is a beneficial addition to our daily routine. Eustress provides motivation and inspiration that are a great way to break the monotony of repetitive job or be the power boost to solve the challenges of a creative one.

Stress can be positive but can also be negative. The first step to solve any issue is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Umbrella’s management acknowledges and recognises that stress is a constant factor starting from its core values. Umbrella Group has in its core values ‘united individuals’ and ‘friendship’. Friendship and unity are the baseline to maintain an emotional balance in a working environment full of stress. To give employees the chance to speak about the stress they go through every day, a number of initiatives are organised to proactively recognise emotional symptoms of stress: yearly survey, quarterly performance review, monthly one-to-one meeting with line managers, weekly team meetings and team building events outside the office environment.

While these initiatives have a positive impact on employees’ ability to cope with stress, one area where the organization could improve is to create strategic goals that are always attainable. During my years at Umbrella I noticed the tendency to set very ambitious goals (e.g. 10 million active users per quarter) while the real expectation from management is not to meet the target but rather challenge people to do better. Although I understand the need to shake the status quo and push staff’s performances higher, I see this way of doing is a great source of stress that is rarely released cause, as said above, targets are too ambitious and never achieved.

Organisation’s effectiveness in providing support mechanisms for staff who suffer from stress

Umbrella’s values promote a genuine interest in colleagues, among all levels, not just between managers and subordinates. This approach is key to supporting a number of problems staff might encounter and stress is one of them. When it comes to stress specifically the human resources (HR) department has developed an “all employee guide to manage stress” as a tool to help colleagues to get through stressful events and situations. This guide explains what stress is and how to recognise it. It also suggests actions to do when stressful situations occur like keeping calm and relaxed by slowing down or simply breathing. Unplugging can be done if needed, maybe by taking a longer break and going outside. It suggests employees to take it easy, stay positive, have fun and enjoy life. Simple steps that anyone can do without any specific knowledge. As first aid contact employees can rely on reporting managers or other colleagues. Another suggested option is to use free online stress tests or contact local help centers when a person feels it is better to talk with someone outside the company. Local help centers’ contacts are listed in the guide.

The company recognizes the benefits of a healthy workforce and promotes an active lifestyle for its employees as a way to reduce stress. In support of this, the organization provides a physical wellbeing subsidy to employees who participate in fitness-related activities and programs for general fitness and physical wellbeing purposes. A reimbursement, up to a maximum of €500 gross per employee, for each calendar year is given to all employees. Employees’ wellbeing and performance are linked. Helping employees to improve physical wellbeing, leads to improved individual and organizational performance.

It is clear that the business takes stress management seriously and provides resources and initiatives for the workforce to get started with self-help activities. To maximise these efforts, it could be beneficial to provide some kind of social engagement as a booster. For example, to reinforce the suggestion to ‘go outside and unplug’ a hiking group could be organised or promote existing ones. To prove the benefit of breathing technique some mindfulness or meditation classes could be offered during working hours or a special deal could be signed with a third-party provider.

Organisation’s effectiveness in recognising conflict

Conflict can be defined as a perceived divergence of interest, a belief that parties’ current aspirations are incompatible (Rahim, 2010). Conflict is not something related to workplaces or human beings only. English naturalist Charles Darwin mentioned conflict in his book about the theory of natural selection when he stated that organisms are constantly in conflict one with another and/or with external nature (Darwin,1859). While conflict is inevitable and not inherently bad or good, there is no single right way to handle it. What is certain though is that it can be destructive if not properly handled. As said before Umbrella Group has in its core values ‘united individuals’. If we agree that employees are a diverse network of passionate and talented individuals who are united and proud to be part of a single group, we can’t ignore the fact that diversity creates conflicts. Every team is different from others, has its own area of expertise for which it is accountable for, has its own peculiar workflow while team members have different backgrounds, values, interests, beliefs and priorities. On top of this poor communication, scarce resources, personality clashes or poor performance are further sources of conflicts. But a conflict can be positive and beneficial when it is handled properly. Like stress, if conflict is properly handled can have a positive impact on an employee’s morale. Meanwhile the focus is to create an environment free from dispute, the company at the moment does not provide any training to help the workforce to recognise conflicts. For this purpose, it could be beneficial to offer a specific preparation to the staff.

Organisations effectiveness in providing support mechanisms for staff when dealing with conflict

Umbrella is committed to provide the best possible working conditions for the employees and strives to ensure fair and honest treatment of all employees. Part of this commitment is encouraging an open atmosphere in which any problem, complaint, suggestion, or question receives a timely response from management. Employees are in turn encouraged to offer positive and constructive criticism. Unfortunately, the collaborative atmosphere is not enough and that is the reason why the HR department has created a grievance policy with the purpose of standardizing the process to resolve any grievance which any employee may have concerning their employment as quickly and fairly as possible.

The equal opportunities policy is another important act to deal with conflicts in Umbrella. With this the employer commits to equality of opportunity in all aspects of employment including recruitment, training and benefits whatever the gender, marital status, gender reassignment status, disability, race, national origin, ethnic origin, color, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, belief or age of an employee, considering only the individual’s aptitudes and abilities and the requirements of the job.

The two above mentioned policies are the official framework the company uses to deal with internal conflicts when they arise. Together with the company’s values they contribute to create a solid foundation which helps HR departments and managers to keep workplace clashes under control. Beside these official policies a guide, like the one created to manage stress, could give employees more knowledge on how to avoid or deal with conflicts.

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Written by Claudio Maccari . Passionate developer and former windsurfer. You can read more about me here