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The Stress Concept 455

may result in other stressors such as job insecurity, overtime, and conflicts.

These categories make sense intuitively but largely lack an explicit theoretical foundation. There are only a few theoreti­cally derived taxonomies of stressors. These taxonomies cover parts of potential stressors. Probably the most prominent taxonomy is the delineation of role stressors from role theory (Katz & Kahn, 1978). Role stressors comprise role overload, role conflict, and role ambiguity. Role overload occurs when individuals have to do too much or too complicated work, role conflict refers to situations with conflicting role expectations, and role ambiguity refers to situations with unclear role expectations. Many studies have been conducted on this suc­cessful model. Jackson and Schuler (1985) and Tubbs and Collins (2000) meta-analyzed findings from these studies and showed clear relationships between role stressors and impaired well-being.

Semmer (1984) and Leitner, Volpert, Greiner, Weber, and Hennes (1987) proposed a taxonomy of stressors based on ac­tion theory (cf. Frese & Zapf, 1994; Hacker, 1998). This tax­onomy clusters stressors on the basis of how they disturb the regulation of goal-oriented action. Specifically, this taxonomy differentiates between regulation obstacles, regulation uncer­tainty, and overtaxing regulations. Regulation obstacles such as interruptions or organizational constraints make action reg­ulation more difficult—if not impossible. Regulation uncer­tainty refers to uncertainties about how to reach the goal and includes stressors such as lack of appropriate feedback, role conflicts, and role ambiguity. In the case of overtaxing regula­tion, the speed and intensity of the regulation is the major problem. Typical examples are time pressure and requirement to concentrate. This taxonomy has been successfully used in some studies (e.g., Frese, 1985; Greiner et al., 1997; Leitner, 1993).

There is a long and ongoing debate on objective versus subjective approaches to the study of work stress (Frese & Zapf, 1988; Frese & Zapf, 1999; Kasl, 1998; Perrewe & Zellars, 1999; Schaubroeck, 1999). Often, subjective ap­proaches have been linked to the use of self-report measures, whereas measures not using self-report were labeled objec­tive. However, the distinction between objective and subjec­tive approaches is not such a simple one. Frese and Zapf (1988) suggested another distinction: Objective approaches focus on events, processes, and workplace characteristics that are not related to the job holder's perceptions and that exist regardless of the individual's cognitive and emotional reac­tions. Subjective approaches in contrast refer to events, processes, and workplace characteristics as perceived and ap­praised by the job holder. This debate is particularly impor­tant with respect to practical implications: It makes sense to

456 Stress in Organizations

redesign jobs when strains can be attributed to objective stressors and not only to appraisal processes.

Stress Reactions

Stress in organizations affects both the individual and the organization (e.g., increased turnover rates). Individuals can be affected at the physiological, affective, and behavioral level, and in their leisure time and family life. Stressors affect individuals and organizations within different time frames; stress reactions can occur immediately (short-term reactions) or may take longer time to develop (long-term reactions). Table 18.2 gives an overview of stress reactions.

With respect to physiological responses, stress has an effect on the cardiac system. For example, individuals in so-called high-strain jobs (i.e., job with high demands and low job con­trol, cf. Karasek, 1979) show blood pressure higher than that of individuals in other types of jobs (Schwartz, Pickering, & Landsbergis, 1996). Furthermore, the heart rate increases in stress situations (Frankenhaeuser & Johansson, 1976). More­over, experiencing a stressful work situation is associated with increased levels of cholesterol and other metabolic and hemo­static risk factors for cardiovascular disease (Vrijkotte, van Doornen, & de Geus, 1999).

The cardiac system is partly affected by hormones. Stress affects the excretion of hormones such as catecholamines and corticosteroids (e.g., Cortisol). With respect to cate­cholamines, it is well documented that the excretion of epi­nephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) increases as stress increases (Aronsson & Rissler, 1998; Frankenhaueser, 1979; Frankenhaeuser & Johansson, 1976). The excretion of catecholamines seems to increase most when stressful working conditions are combined with inflexible working arrangements (Johansson, Aronsson, & Lindstrom,


TABLE 18.2 Overview of Stress Reactions  
  Short-Term Reactions Long-Term Reactions
Experienced by the individual  
Physical Physiological reactions Physical illness
Affective Disturbed mood Poor well-being
Behavioral Cognitive reactions and mental health
  Increased effort Performance decrease11 Accidents problems
Experienced by larger organizational units  
  Interpersonal conflicts Increased turnover Absence rates
Experienced outside work  
  Slow unwinding Poor well-being
  Spillover of disturbed in other iife
  mood to private life domains Physical iitness
■"Performance decrease was mainly found in laboratory but not in field studies.

1978;Melin,Lundberg,Soederlund,&Granqvist, 1999) With increasing work demands, the excretion of Cortisol increases (Aronsson & Rissler, 1998). This increase in Cortisol is most prominent when stress becomes chronic (Schulz, Kirschbaum Priissner, & Hellhammer, 1998). These physiological reac­tions—particularly the excretion of catecholamines and ef. fects on the cardiac system—help in mobilizing additional effort for completing work assignments and upholding perfor­mance (Lundberg & Frankenhaeuser, 1978). However, when experienced repeatedly and over a longer period of time, these physiological reactions may contribute to the development of illnesses, including coronary heart diseases.

Stress also has an effect on the immune functioning (Herbert & Sheldon, 1993). Experiencing high levels of stress is detrimental to an individual's immune system. Al­though the exact underlying processes are still unclear, stress is associated with an increased risk of physical illnesses in the long run. Individuals experiencing high work stress are more likely to develop cardiovascular problems (Schnall, Landsbergis, & Baker, 1994) or musculoskeletal diseases (Bongers, de Winter, Kompier, & Hildebrandt, 1993). The experience of stress is associated with affective reactions. In the short term, mood disturbances can occur (Zohar, 1999). Such affective reactions seem to result mainly from specific aversive events and stressful achievement settings (Pekrun & Frese, 1992; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). In the long run, well-being and mental health can suffer. Evidence from longi­tudinal studies suggests that stressful work situations are asso­ciated with an increased level of depressive symptoms (Schonfeld, 1992), psychosomatic complaints (Frese, 1985; Parkes, Menham, & Rabenau, 1994) and other distress symp­toms (Leitner, 1993). Burnout is another long-term stress reaction. It is characterized by emotional exhaustion, deper­sonalization (cynicism), and reduced personal accomplish­ment (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). Burnout has been largely studied in human service and educational occupations, but there is increasing evidence that often members of other occu­pational groups also react with burnout symptoms to stressful work situations (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001).

Stressors can also have negative effects on the behavioral level. For example, in stressful situations attention is nar­rowed and working memory capacity is reduced. Moreover, reduced performance accuracy can be observed (Searle, Bright, & Bochner, 1999). When confronted with a stressor, individuals often increase their effort (Hockey, 1997). As a consequence, overall performance does not necessarily suffer from stressful situations (Tafalla & Evans, 1997). Moreover, it has been observed that stressors in the work situation are related to violence such as sabotage, interpersonal aggres­sion, and hostility (Chen & Spector, 1992).

Stressors encountered at work are also related to other as­pects of organizational behavior. There is clear evidence that individuals who experience stressors are less committed to the organization (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Stressors are asso­ciated with turnover intentions (Chen & Spector, 3992) and actual turnover.

Stress experienced at work can also become obvious out­side the work situation. Mood disturbances associated with stressful working situations generalize to the individual's pri­vate life (Doby & Caplan, 1995; Repetti, 1993; Totterdell, Spelten, Smith, Barton, & Folkard, 1995). There is increasing evidence from time sampling studies that mood experienced in one domain (e.g., work) spills over to another domain (e.g., family; e.g., Williams & Alliger, 1994).

Moreover, experiencing a stressful work situation has ef­fects on unwinding processes. For example, Frankenhaeuser (1981) examined adrenaline excretion rates during periods of P high workload and showed that adrenaline excretion rates re­mained elevated during leisure time in the evening. This high level of adrenaline excretion during the evening makes it difficult for individuals to unwind and recover from their stressul work situations (cf. also Meijman, Mulder, & Van Dormolen, 1992, for similar findings).

Additionally, stress reactions might not be limited to the person who him- or herself is exposed to the stressful situation. For example, an observational study showed that mothers' be­havior towards their preschool children differed between stressful and unstressful workdays (Repetti & Wood, 1997).

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 427

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