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Creativity Under the Gun At Litmus


Creative ideas are new and useful for the progress of any organization. But creativity has been hindered at the Litmus Corporation due to time pressures that results in stressful working conditions.

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Colquitt, LePine, and Wesson (2009) defines stress as a psychological response to demands for which there is something at stake and coping with those demands taxes or exceeds a person’s capacity to do them. Stressors are the particular demands that cause people to experience stress while the negative consequences that occur when demands tax or exceed one’s capacity or resources are called strains.

At Litmus organization, the factors that cause stress are the organizational mechanisms, group mechanisms, individual characteristics and non-work related causes.

Organizational mechanisms consist of its culture and structure. Better structures in an organization means a healthy working environment for the employees. At Litmus, organizational stress is caused by poor job descriptions that hinder the productivity of the employees since what they are supposed to do is not clearly defined. Impromptu formal meetings between the management and the workers on the progress of the projects lead to time wastage. The workers spend crucial time in meetings that they could otherwise have used to complete the projects.

The Litmus scientists and technicians kept daily diaries which were meant to survey, track, and understand the employees and their work. These diaries were never explored by the management. The failure to do this has led to improper discernment of the worker’s habits and reactions to environmental circumstances.

The management placed strict time frames for investigating new ideas. They were more interested in shutting a non-convincing project down than pour more money into its accomplishment. This rigid time frame stresses employees as they labor tirelessly to beat the deadlines. An example is The Hyatt team’s project which was given approximately six months to present a prototype of the modified thermoform and demonstrate a feasible manufacturing process.

The company often juggled dozens of potential business ventures at a time. This makes the management to be unsettled about a specific path to take to meet their obligations. As an example, the criterion for New Business Development was that a project should project earnings of at least $100 million within 7 to 10 years but fewer than 10% of the projects succeeded commercially.

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The Litmus organizational structure has not provided for more employees to join the corporation so as to lessen the workload of the few employees. Miles Grady, for example, could perform unnecessary errands like taking equipment for repair instead of focusing his energy on the completion of the project.

Group mechanisms consist of leadership styles and behaviors, leadership power and influence, and the teams’ processes and characteristics. Stress is the reality in most places of work. The leadership of an organization can pose great challenges to the workforce that result in a substantial drop in its overall performance.

The leadership at Litmus was not able to create a stress-free working environment for the employees. An example is Stanley Carmine, who even though was an expert in his field of research could not invent ways to motivate his Hyatt team.

When workers are placed in teams, some of the team members abscond from their duties and leave only a few of them to strive so as to get the job completed. The Product Safety Assessment Report which was scheduled to be reviewed by the Risk Assessment Committee was not prepared in time by the assigned team members.

Individual characteristics include the personality, cultural values and abilities of the person. Colquitt et al (2009) state that people differ in terms of how they evaluate stressors and the way they cope with them. This may yield to experiencing different levels of stress even when confronted with the exact same situations. The stress level in individuals differs depending on the job the person is doing.

In Litmus organization, the employees often get stressed due to different factors that include conflict of roles, the ambiguity of roles, overload of roles and the daily hassles they go through.

Conflict of roles occurs due to the recognition of the urge to perform duty in different ways as a result of different role pressures. It can cause a misunderstanding between employees due to the different perceptions of the role to be enacted. It lowers productivity and job satisfaction.

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Role ambiguity refers to situations where employees are given work to do with limited information on the instructions or the guidelines they are supposed to follow. In these circumstances, employees are often put in a dilemma regarding how much money they are likely to spend in doing the assignment, the duration of time it can take to be accomplished, or how exactly the finished product is supposed to look. It was evident at Litmus Corporation when the Hyatt team was given a limited time to accomplish the project.

Role overload takes place in situations when a person has been allocated too demanding roles that the person is incapable of efficiently performing some or all of them. Grady was often a victim of this as he had to multi-task several duties to ensure all is well.

The final stressor at work is the daily hassles that may seem to be minor, but when taken together are time-consuming and stressful. This occurred in situations where there is office equipment that has broken down, a phone call has to be answered or unnecessary disruptions take place.

Colquitt et al (2009) state that non-work-related stressors are stressful demands outside the working environment that hinders the productivity of an organization since they spill over to affect the employee at work. An example is a work-family conflict in which the demands of a work role hinder the fulfillment of the demands in a family role (or vice versa). These hindrances hamper the activity to achieve life goals since they are connected to negative emotions.

Family time demands which reflect the time when a person commits to participate in a range of family functions and personal development activities (for example, when Grady had to leave work so as to attend her daughter’s concert at school) are viable stressors as well.


For the goals of the Litmus organization to be effectively realized, adequate approaches to managing employee’s stress are to be endorsed.

The first step in managing employee’s stress is to carry out an assessment to know the level and sources of stress in the place of work (Colquitt et al, 2009). The leadership problems are to be addressed effectively. This will require the leaders at Litmus to begin by asking themselves questions about the nature of the jobs in the organization so as to establish if whether a high-stress level is a problem. The first category of questions might involve the anxiety experienced by employees due to the degree to which the organization is going through change. The merger between Kohl Inc. and Litmus Chemicals might have increased the employees’ uncertainty about the sustainability of the positions they have been holding in the organization. The second category of questions focuses on the level and the types of stresses experienced in the workplace. The complaints of too many disruptions during working hours and the constant equipment failure are to be addressed by the leadership.

The relationship between the employees themselves and the employees and the organization forms the third category of questions. This will require the address to the high-pressure deadlines that often stress employees. The role of organizational politics in administrative decisions is also to be critically evaluated as it hampers a participatory approach to decision-making.

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The organizational structure and culture can propel or prevent creativity in an organization. The management should desist from mechanistic structures that make control and authority to be centralized. Organic structures that decentralize authority ought to be adopted. These will lead to apt job descriptions, ease of flow of information between the departments due to the direct communication links created, enhanced creativity due to greater individual authority and adaptability to different circumstances, less workload as a result of creative teams formed to reach the goals of the organization.

The organization should be structured so as introduce incentives meant to boost the morale of the employees. These include salary increases and the introduction of employees’ benefits which will result in job satisfaction.

The stresses that the employees go through ought to be reduced. This can be achieved by having clearly defined roles so as to avoid the unfortunate incidences of conflict of roles. To reduce the stressful demands due to work overload, Litmus can focus on job sharing that fosters work-life balance. Job sharing occurs when two people share the responsibilities and tasks of a single job.

The ambiguity of roles can be solved by providing adequate resources so as to enable employees to cope with stressful demands. Training interventions aimed at increasing competencies and skills on the job can be provided. This will avoid the dilemma employees often find themselves in when given tasks to perform without proper guidelines. The training should also incorporate aspects of learning to manage the smaller hassles that are encountered daily and how to respond to them positively.

In managing the non-work-related stresses, Litmus organization can focus on providing resources through supporting practices that help employees manage and balance the demands that exist in the different roles they have. An example is giving employees flexible working hours that give them the ability to cope with demands away from work.

Litmus organization ought to focus on efforts to reduce work-related strains. Relaxation techniques that teach people how to counteract the effects of stressors by engaging in activities that slow the heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure can be introduced. Another strain-reducing practice involves cognitive-behavioral techniques that function to foster effective coping to the workplace demands. These involve training on self-talk, prioritization of demands, and prompt seeking of support (Colquitt et al, 2009).


Colquitt, L., and Wesson (2009) Organizational Behavior. McGraw Hill

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