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Line management competence: the key to preventing and reducing stress at work

Emma Donaldson‐Feilder (Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Affinity Health at Work, New Barnet, UK.)
Jo Yarker (Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at the University of London, London, UK.)
Rachel Lewis (Research Associate, at the University of London, London, UK.)

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 22 February 2008




Work‐related stress is a major concern for employers, and the UK Health and Safety Executive has introduced Management Standards for employers to support them in managing stress in the workplace. Managers have a key role to play in minimizing stress‐related risks for their staff. Management behavior has a direct impact on staff well‐being – managers can prevent or cause stress in those they manage. Managers also act as “gatekeepers” to their employees' exposure to stressful working conditions and are vital to the identification and tackling of stress in the workplace. This means that managers need to understand what behaviors they should show in order to manage their employees in a way that minimizes work‐related stress. New research has identified management behavior/competencies that prevent and reduce stress at work and this paper aims to present this.


The first phase of this research involved interviews with nearly 400 employees and managers, and focus groups with over 50 human resources (HR) professionals. They were asked for their views on what manager behaviors are important, in terms of behaviors that are effective and behaviors that are ineffective for managing stress in staff.


The behaviors identified were grouped into themes to create a framework of 19 management “competencies” for preventing and reducing stress at work.


The resulting competency framework can be incorporated into managers' management approach, into HR practices such as training, selection and appraisal of managers and into other stress management activities in order to manage stress at work more effectively.



Donaldson‐Feilder, E., Yarker, J. and Lewis, R. (2008), "Line management competence: the key to preventing and reducing stress at work", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 11-16.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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