New Developments in Theoretical and Conceptual Approaches to Job Stress: Volume 8


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

In our 8th volume of Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being, we offer eight chapters that examine theoretical, conceptual, and methodological advances to job stress research. Our lead chapter, by Christopher Rosen, Chu-Hsiang Chang, Emilija Djurdjevic, and Erin Eatough, provides a thorough review of conceptual and empirical research examining occupational stress and performance. They review and critique theories that help to explain the workplace stressor–performance relationship and they develop an eight-category taxonomy of workplace stressors. Finally, they evaluate how well contemporary research has dealt with limitations and weaknesses previously identified in earlier research.

This chapter provides an updated review of research examining the relationship between occupational stressors and job performance. We begin by presenting an eight-category taxonomy of workplace stressors and we then review theories that explain the relationships between workplace stressors and job performance. The subsequent literature review is divided into two sections. In the first section, we present a summary of Jex's (1998) review of research on the job stress–job performance relationship. In the second section, we provide an updated review of the literature, which includes studies that have been published since 1998. In this review, we evaluate how well the contemporary research has dealt with weaknesses and limitations previously identified in the literature, we identify and evaluate current trends, and we offer recommendations and directions for future research.

New developments in concepts and approaches to job stress should incorporate all relevant types of resources that promote well-being and health. The success resource model of job stress conceptualizes subjective success as causal agents for employee well-being and health (Grebner, Elfering, & Semmer, 2008a). So far, very little is known about what kinds of work experiences are perceived as success. The success resource model defines four dimensions of subjective occupational success: goal attainment, pro-social success, positive feedback, and career success. The model assumes that subjective success is a resource because it is valued in its own right, triggers positive affect and emotions (e.g., pleasure, cf., Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996), helps to protect and gain other resources like self-efficacy (Hobfoll, 1998, 2001), has direct positive effects on well-being (e.g., job satisfaction, cf., Locke & Latham, 1990) and health (Carver & Scheier, 1999), facilitates learning (Frese & Zapf, 1994), and has an energizing (Locke & Latham, 1990, 2002) and attention-directing effect (Carver, 2003), which can promote recovery by promoting mental detachment from work tasks in terms of absence of job-related rumination in leisure time (Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005).

The model proposes that success is promoted by other resources like job control (Frese & Zapf, 1994) while job stressors, like hindrance stressors such as performance constraints and role ambiguity (LePine, Podsakoff, & LePine, 2005), can work against success (Frese & Zapf, 1994). The model assumes reciprocal direct effects of subjective success on well-being, health, and recovery (upward spiral), and a moderator effect of success on the stressor–strain relationship. The chapter discusses research evidence, measurement of subjective occupational success, value of the model for job stress interventions, future research requirements, and methodological concerns.

We introduce the construct of loving one's job as an overlooked, but potentially informative, construct for organizational research. Following both empirical findings and theoretical developments in other domains we suggest that love of the job comprises a passion for the work itself, commitment to the employing organization, and high-quality intimate relationships with coworkers. We also suggest that love of the job is a taxonic rather than a dimensional construct – one either loves their job or does not. In addition, we propose that loving your job is on the whole beneficial to individual well-being. Within this broad context, however, we suggest that loving one's job may buffer the effect of some stressors while at the same time increase vulnerability to others. These suggestions provide some initial direction for research focused on the love of one's job.

The chapter examines the ways in which qualitative and quantitative methods support each other in research on occupational stress. Qualitative methods include eliciting from workers unconstrained descriptions of work experiences, careful first-hand observations of the workplace, and participant-observers describing “from the inside” a particular work experience. The chapter shows how qualitative research plays a role in (a) stimulating theory development, (b) generating hypotheses, (c) identifying heretofore researcher-neglected job stressors and coping responses, (d) explaining difficult-to-interpret quantitative findings, and (e) providing rich descriptions of stressful transactions. Extensive examples from research on job stress in teachers are used. The limitations of qualitative research, particularly in the area of verification, are also described.

Theorists, such as Darwin and Aristotle, have long argued that facial expressions communicate information about a person's emotional state. Recently, validated coding strategies for facial expressions have been developed, which enable researchers to reliably assess a person's affect. Although social, health, and clinical psychologists have regularly employed these objective measures of facial expressions (OMFE), occupational stress and well-being researchers are yet to benefit from this method. The subsequent chapter integrates the facial expression and occupational well-being literature. Specifically, we discuss the advantages of OMFE over self-reports and implications of OMFE for future research on occupational well-being.

Karasek's (1979) job demands-control model is one of the most widely studied models of occupational stress (de Lange, Taris, Kompier, Houtman, & Bongers, 2003). The key idea behind the job demands-control model is that control buffers the impact of job demands on strain and can help enhance employees’ job satisfaction with the opportunity to engage in challenging tasks and learn new skills (Karasek, 1979). Most research on the job demands-control has been inconsistent (de Lange et al., 2003; Van Der Deof & Maes, 1999), and the main reasons cited for this inconsistency are that different variables have been used to measure demands, control, and strain, not enough longitudinal research has been done, and the model does not take workers’ individual characteristics into account (Van Der Deof & Maes, 1999). To address these concerns, expansions have been made on the model such as integrating resources, self-efficacy, active coping, and social support into the model (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001b; Johnson & Hall, 1988; Demerouti, Bakker, de Jonge, Janssen, & Schaufeli, 2001a; Landsbergis, Schnall, Deitz, Friedman, & Pickering, 1992). However, researchers have only been partially successful, and therefore, to continue reducing inconstencies, we recommend using longitudinal designs, both objective and subjective measures, a higher sample size, and a careful consideration of the types of demands and control that best match each other theoretically.

The impact of technology on the health and well-being of workers has been a topic of interest since computers and computerized technology were widely introduced in the 1980s. Of recent concern is the impact of rapid technological advances on individuals’ psychological well-being, especially due to advancements in mobile technology that have increased many workers’ accessibility and expected productivity. In this chapter we focus on the associations between occupational stress and technology, especially behavioral and psychological reactions. We discuss some key facilitators and barriers associated with users’ acceptance of and engagement with information and communication technology. We conclude with recommendations for ongoing research on managing occupational health and well-being in conjunction with technological advancements.

In this chapter, we use the job demands–resources (JD-R) model (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001) and the transactional model of stress (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) to provide a theoretical framework with which to examine information and communication technology (ICT) as both a demand and a resource. We review specific characteristics of ICT that may either increase or decrease employee stress and well-being. Specifically, we examine the extent that ICT increases accessibility of workers and access to information, the extent to which it improves communication and control over one's job and life, and the extent to which it is used to monitor employees or provide feedback. Finally, we examine the organizational, job, and individual factors that may mitigate or exacerbate the impact of ICT demands on individual outcomes.

Julian Barling received his PhD in 1979 from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and is currently associate dean with responsibility for the graduate and research programs. Julian is the author/editor of several books, including Employment, Stress and Family Functioning (1990, Wiley) and The Psychology of Workplace Safety (1999, APA). He is senior editor of the Handbook of Work Stress (2005, Sage) and the Handbook of Organizational Behavior (2008, Sage), and he is the author of well over 150 research articles and book chapters. Julian was formerly the editor of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. In 2002, Julian received the National Post's “Leaders in Business Education” award and Queen's University's Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision in 2008. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, SIOP, APS, and the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology. He is currently involved in research on leadership, work stress, and workplace aggression.

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Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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