Frustration, defined as, blocking ongoing goal directed behavior that may operate in a manner similar to provocation and serve both as an instigator and an external justification for violating normative constraint against aggression.
Reactions of Frustration
The first response to frustration, which needs to be delineated, is the emotional reaction. Frustration leads to some sort of negative emotional state. Two important properties are that the emotions are aversive, and that it produces or results in increased physiological arousal. The aversive nature means that the individual will be highly motivated or reduced in it. The increased around tends to increase the vigor or strength of whatever response is elicited and this arousal is implications for task performance.
On the behavioral end, there are at least four major classes of behavior which can result from frustration. Probably the most common reaction, especially to mild frustration, is to try a different response or find an alternate and hopefully unblocked means to the goal. The most troublesome and often mentioned reaction is aggression, which has received considerable attention in the laboratory. Another possible response, which can be related to finding alternative means, is withdrawal from the situation. That is, the individual can leave the situation entirely, and find another setting in which to achieve the goal. Alternatively, the individual can abandon the goal entirely and other leave or remain in the situation. Concerned with either aggression, or the effects of frustration on task performance.
Effects of Organizational Frustration
There are at least four possible reactions to frustration by individuals, which have potential effects on organizations. These include the emotional response of anger and associated increased physiological arousal, and the behavioral responses of trying alternative course of action, aggression, and withdrawal. To the extent that it interferes with or blocks task performance, frustration can be directly harmful to organizations. To the extent it induces increased physiological arousal, it may facilitate or inhibit task performance depending upon task complexity. Finally, to the extent it induces aggression or withdrawal frustration can have damaging effects on organizations.
Arousal itself, as shown previously, differentially affects performance depending upon the complexity of the task. Frustration can increase task speed with no additional errors for simple task, but interferes with correct performance on complex tasks. Although it may be possible that mild frustration can increase arousal and facilitate task performance with no additional negative effects in the short run, continued or severe frustration might result in aggression or withdrawal. Withdrawal can be manifested temporarily as absenteeism and tardiness, or permanently as turnover. Aggression can be directed either against other people, or against the organization itself.
Aggression in organizations can take many forms. It can be directed covertly against the source of frustration (if a person) either verbally or physically. It can also be directed covertly against a person; that is, an individual can secretly perform behaviors which can hurt another person. Aggression can also be directed against the organization itself. The organizational aggression could be overt to covert. Overt acts might include strikes, work slowdowns, grievances, or lawsuits. Covert acts would include sabotage, secret withholding of output and stealing. A critical variable causing a person to choose overt, covert, or no aggression would be expectation of punishment for the act.
Finally, frustration can lead a person to try alternative courses of action to achieve goals or fulfill needs. In fact mild frustrations, which interfere rather than block can add challenge and include greater overall effort. Thus organizational frustration might have positive, motivating effects.