Careers, stress, and mental health in the twenty-first century


Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 August 2005



Dolan, S.L. and Campbell Quick, J. (2005), "Careers, stress, and mental health in the twenty-first century", Career Development International, Vol. 10 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Careers, stress, and mental health in the twenty-first century

About the Guest Editors Shimon L. Dolan (PhD in IR/HRM, University of Minnesota) is a Full Professor in the Department of Human Resources at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. He is also the Scientific Director of (IEL) The Institute for Labour Studies in ESADE. He published more than 24 books, in three languages (English, French and Spanish) in HR-OB themes, and over 90 papers in referee journals. Some of his books are on the McGraw-Hill management series “best selling” list. E-mail:

James Campbell Quick is John and Judy Goolsby distinguished Professor at The University of Texas at Arlington. Colonel Quick was awarded The Legion of Merit by the United States Air Force in 2000. Jim was honored with the 2002 Harry and Miriam Levinson Award, is a Fellow of the Society for I/O Psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Institute of Stress, and was awarded a 2001 APA Presidential Citation. He and Debra L. Nelson coauthored Organizational Behavior, 5th Edition (Thomson/Southwestern). Listed in Who's Who in the World (7th edition), Jim was awarded The Maroon Citation (Colgate University Alumni Corporation). E-mail:

Careers, stress, and mental health in the twenty-first century

Organizations and people in the twenty-first century face challenges that arise from ever increasing complexity and dynamics resulting from fierce competition on the industrial battlefield (Nelson and Quick, 2006). As individuals' skills become obsolete, they strive to “de-learn and re-learn” in order to add continuing value to organizations. This continuous process of upgrading skills and abilities, along with other career challenges such as career deadlocks and career plateaus, contributes to a significant rise in stress and anxiety for people at work. These forces can affect the state of mental health of employees at all organizational levels. Mental health has a significant relevance for people's career and, conversely, their career can have an impact on their mental health. This special issue of Career Development International focuses attention on the complex, intertwined set of issues around careers, stress, and mental health.

The special issue is particularly concerned with two issues. The first issue is the emerging area of careers within the changing work context. No longer do individuals begin and follow a single career path over several decades, let alone follow one within a single company for an extended period of time. It is much more common for an individual to engage in anywhere from five to seven careers in a career cycle. In the same vein, professionals and especially managers no longer work in the same country. Career mobility is becoming a global phenomenon and companies are struggling to find out ways and means of increasing the likelihood of success for the international assigned managers. Executives and their families who do not adopt to the new culture, become highly stressed and the repercussions are devastating for them and for their respective organizations; both mental health and performance (i.e. organizational health) can be affected. Thus, the paper on emotional intelligence as predictor of international managers' success can be understood within the context of improving the selection model and thereby enhancing cultural adaptation and success. The second issue concerns the implications of these career changes for individual physical and psychological health. Various career and mental health themes such as emotions at work, misfit between personalities and career choices, promotion policies, career and stress are relevant here. While Quick et al. (1997) previously focused on career issues and the preventive management of stress and other chronic mental health risks in organizations, there has been a shift in the psychological community to a more positive orientation. Peterson and Seligman (2004) represent this shift with a focus on character strengths and virtues in the larger domain of positive health psychology. This is in alignment with the current leadership challenge in organizations for healthy, happy, productive work. Some scholars even propose a new agenda for leaders of the twenty-first century organizations consisting of reengineering the culture to increase the possibilities for individuals not only to add economic values but also to find the workplace playful and exciting (Dolan and Garcia, 2002; Dolan and Richley, 2005). Other leaders liked Major General James Childress of the United States Air Force, who brought in a senior USAF psychologist to oversee the mental health of a 13,000 person workforce during a major process of realignment and industrial restructuring, are needed through civilian, military, and governmental organizations (Quick and Quick, 2004).

In sum, career management in the twenty-first century has been overshadowed by the urgency of day-to-day pressures that in turn incur serious costs in terms of quality, performance, employee morale and commitment, absenteeism and even work accidents. With a heightened awareness of career management in the workplace, organizations can seek ways and means to implement strategies that align business objectives with individual visions of career success on the one hand, but avoiding the catastrophic stress and mental health consequences on the other hand. If such alignment is successful, an organizational career development program can accelerate workforce adaptation to change, improve cost-effectiveness of human resource decisions, increase retention of the organization top achievers, and enhance the overall well being of the organization.

Shimon L. DolanJames Campbell QuickGuest Editors


Dolan, S.L. and Garcia, S. (2002), “Managing by values: cultural redesign for strategic organizational change at the dawn of the 21 century”, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 101-17.

Dolan, S.L. and Richley, B. (2005), “Management by values (MBV): a new philosophy to absorb the complexity of managing organization in a new economic order”, in Coats, P. (Ed.), Handbook of Business Strategy, Emerald, London (in press).

Nelson, D.L. and Quick, J.C. (2006), Organizational Behavior: Foundations, Realities and Challenges, 5th ed., Thomson South-Western, Mason, OH.

Peterson, C. and Seligman, M. (2004), Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Quick, J.C. and Quick, J.D. (2004), “Healthy, happy, productive work: a leadership challenge”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 33, pp. 329-37.

Quick, J.C., Quick, J.D., Nelson, D.L. and Hurrell, J.J. Jr (1997), Preventive Stress Management in Organizations, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

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