Frustration and Defense Mechanism notes

Frustration and Defense Mechanism

  • Definition of frustration
  • Causes of frustration
  • Defense mechanisms to frustration
  • Solutions to defense mechanisms

Meaning of Frustration

Frustration is one of the causes of stress. It arises when one’s motivation to achieve a desired goal is blocked. It is the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. For example, an employee wants to finish a report before the end of the day but finds that something or the others keep interrupting him at work. This can lead to his frustration.


Sources/Causes of Frustration

Following are the some of the sources or causes of frustration:-

  1. Co-workers: Co-workers may be a major source of frustration. They may place barriers in the way of goal attainment by delaying work, withholding work inputs, poor presentation of work, affecting its quality, etc.
  2. Limited resources: if there are no adequate resources at the workplace such as machines or workforce, job performance will be negatively influenced which may cause frustration among employees
  3. Undefined/Unclear roles: lack of defined roles may cause frustration among employees as they are not aware of how they should execute their duties
  4. Poor communication: effective communication plays a vital role in motivating employees towards better job performance. If there is poor communication in the organization it will cause employees frustration
  5. Employee personal background: if the employee’s background differs from organizational culture and working relationships, the individual may feel frustrated.
  6. Organizational climate: this represents an overall working environment and relationship of the organization. Healthy and friendly environment help motivate employees while uncomfortable working environment leads to employees frustration
  7. Lack of incentive and motivation procedures: clearly laid out incentive and motivation procedures help achieve high job satisfaction while its absence lead to employee frustration as they feel unappreciated
  8. Lack of effective personnel policy: an effective personnel policy enable growth of employees while lack of such makes employees noncommittal and consequently frustrated


Defense Mechanisms to Frustration

These are the ways the brain deals with stress. In order to deal with conflict and problems in life (frustrations), Sigmund Freud stated that the ego employs a range of defense mechanisms which operate at an unconscious level and help ward off unpleasant feelings such as anxiety.

  1. Repression: pushing away painful memories or unacceptable thoughts and motives. It is an unconscious mechanism employed by the ego to keep disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious
  2. Denial: blocking external events from awareness. If some situation is just too much to handle, the person refuses to just experience it e.g. someone diagnosed terminally ill may refuse to accept the diagnosis
  3. Projection: involves individuals attributing their own inner feelings, motives and thoughts to another person. E.g. saying that people don’t like you when in reality you may not like yourself
  4. Displacement: satisfying an impulse such as aggression with a substitute object e.g. an employee frustrated by his boss at work could go home and kick the cat
  5. Regression: going back to an earlier and less mature pattern of behavior, usually when under a lot of pressure, act in ways that worked before e.g. throwing temper tantrums
  6. Reaction formation: behaving contrary to how one truly feels e.g. saying you like your boss while you despise them
  7. Sublimation: satisfying an impulse such as aggression with a substitute object but in a socially acceptable way e.g. engage in sports when frustrated


Types of Reactions to Frustration

Following are the various types of reactions employees could exhibit when frustrated:-

  1. Withdrawal: Behaviours such as asking for a transfer or quitting a job.
  2. Fixation: An employee blames others and superiors for his problems, without knowing complete facts.
  3. Aggression: Acting in a threatening manner.
  4. Regression: Behaving in an immature and childish manner and may self-pity (to feel sorry for oneself).
  5. Physical Disorders: Physical ailments such as fever, upset stomach, vomiting, etc.
  6. Apathy: Becoming irresponsive and disinterested in the job and his co-workers.


Solutions to Frustrations at the Workplace

  1. Stay Positive: a positive mind is far more open to solutions and answers. A closed mind won’t see the possible solutions when they do come along
  2. Keep an accomplishments log: record everything you accomplish in a journal which can help keep track of the activities that you feel are limiting you
  3. Talk to a friend: it is therapeutic to talk to someone about things bothering you at work. A problem shared is half solved
  4. Take action: when into serious frustration with a problem there’s tendency not to work on it leading to procrastination. The only way to get out of it is to move forward by taking relevant action
  5. Accept reality: if you have done everything in your power to accomplish something and it still doesn’t work out then you should try to accept it as it is
  6. Be around positive people: stick close to optimistic people as you get positive energy as well as sound advice

Organizational Measures to Manage Frustrations among Employees

  • Encourage feedback
  • Clear personnel policies
  • Clear communication
  • Reward and motivation system
  • In-house counselling programs
  • Plan social gatherings such as team building activities


K.N.E.C Exam Questions

  1. Outline 3 positive mechanisms which an employee may adopt to cope with frustration in the work place (3 marks)
  2. Explain 6 work related issues that may cause frustration among public relations staff (9 marks)
  3. List 3 negative types of defense mechanism that may be exhibited by a frustrated employee (3 marks)
  4. Explain 6 defense mechanisms that a frustrated employee in an organization may adopt (9 marks)
  5. Explain 4 ways in which an employee may react to work related frustration (8 marks)
  6. List 3 causes of frustration amongst employees in an organization (3 marks)
  7. Explain 6 measures that the management of an organization may put in place in order to manage frustration among its employees (9 marks)

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