Workplace Stress And Relationships

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Workplace Stress and Relationships

Workplace Stress and Relationships


Increasing economic competitiveness and globalization have resulted in a virtual “epidemic” of stress and stress related disorders (Sauter ., 1990) across the developed world and, increasingly, in emerging economies. Perhaps not surprisingly, research into the workplace psychosocial environment has also proliferated. Our casual search of the PsychLit database suggests that between 2000 and 2005 the number of articles using the keyword stress has increased by almost 50 per cent (i.e. from 4,021 to 5,928).

As a result of this research, we now know a great deal about the pervasiveness of the psychosocial environment as a contributor to a healthy workplace. For example, the quality of organizational leadership has been associated with employees' physical well-being (e.g. Karlin 2003; Kivimaki ., 2005; Wager , 2003) psychological well-being (e.g. Arnold 2007; Bono and Ilies, 2006; Gilbreath and Benson, 2004; Sosik and Godshalk, 2000), occupational health and safety (e.g. Barling 2002; Kelloway 2006; Zohar, 2002a, 2002b) and even engagement in lifestyle practices (e.g. Bamberger and Bacharach, 2006; Whiteman 2001). Unfortunately, research to date has been more focused on identifying the links between occupational stress and outcomes than on identifying effective means of intervention (Cartwright and Cooper, 2005; Hurrell, 2005; Kelloway in press). Moreover, we would suggest that research into the psychosocial features of the work environment has, at least implicitly, adopted a medical model of job stress that has lead to a truncated body of literature focused on a limited range of job features and interventions. Our goals in this paper, therefore, are three fold. First, to set the context for discussion we offer a brief summary of what we know about job stress and the role of the psychosocial environment. Second, we review the available literature on organizational and individual interventions asking what we know about changing features of the psychosocial environment. Finally, drawing from concepts of positive psychology (e.g. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Snyder and Lopez, 2005), positive organizational scholarship (Cameron 2003) and positive organizational behaviour (Luthans, 2002; Nelson and Cooper, 2007; Wright, 2003) we attempt to elucidate new directions for studying the psychosocial environment of the workplace.

What we know so far

The costs of stress

The outcomes of job stress and unhealthy work are typically organized into four overlapping and inter-related categories; psychological, physical, behavioural, and organizational. Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive. Psychological outcomes such as depression are lined to physical outcomes (e.g. coronary heart disease, Booth-Kewley and Friedman, 1987), as well as behavioural outcomes such as smoking and alcohol consumption (Repetto 2005), and may be experienced organizationally as increased absenteeism and loss of productivity (Jex, 1998).

Psychological strain

Disturbances in affect and cognition are typically identified as symptoms of psychological strain. For example, Wang and Patten (2001) found support for the association between work stressors and major depressive disorders in Canadian workers. Cognitive disturbances including difficulty in making decisions, concentrating, and lapses of memory are common strain reactions (Broadbent 1982) that have been linked to workplace safety ...
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