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Stress, Minister: government policy advisors and work stress

Karen Baehler (Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Jane Bryson (Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 4 April 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The public management and the occupational stress literatures are both silent on stressors associated with the work of government policy advisors. This paper aims to fill that gap with an exploratory study to identify the potential work stressors for this occupation.

Design/methodology/approach

In‐depth interviews with 13 policy advisors/managers in a single government department and a focus group with 11 policy managers from 11 government departments are reported.

Findings

The stressors experienced can be clustered under the well accepted labels of role overload, control, culture, and interpersonal relationships. However, results indicate that the practical reality of these stressors in public sector policy advice environments is different from the generic concepts associated with the labels.

Research limitations/implications

This paper underlines the importance of occupation‐specific understanding of stressors, and has implications at a workplace level for human resource management, and at an analytical level for the public management, policy and occupational stress literatures. Fruitful areas for future study include deeper exploration of qualitative role overload, examining how and why advisory roles proliferate, and how resulting stress levels affect performance.

Practical implications

The paper highlights tensions for public sector managers in meeting obligations to protect the health and safety of their employees, while also placing top priority on serving the minister and government of the day.

Originality/value

The paper provides new insight to the stressors in public sector policy environments, and alerts public sector managers to key factors in managing policy unit performance and well‐being.

Keywords

Citation

Baehler, K. and Bryson, J. (2008), "Stress, Minister: government policy advisors and work stress", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 257-270. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550810863169

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited