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Humanitarian Aid Workers’ Stress

Info: 7444 words (30 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Human RightsMental Health

Humanitarian Aid Workers’ Stress


A core tenet of the Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, 1987) is that the same stressor can be perceived differently by different people. Appraisal of stressors, rather than just stressor type, is thought to be critical for long-term well-being since it can influence emotional and behavioral responses to stress. Recent research suggests that even though challenge stressors are likely to be appraised positively as opportunities for mastery or personal growth, and hindrances stressors are likely to be appraised negatively, there is nevertheless much variation between people in how stressors are appraised (Crane & Searle, 2016).;


Stressors at work have been consistently shown to relate to both physical and psychological health (Sonnentag & Frese, 2013). Humanitarian aid organizations need to examine the perceptions of those who seek mental health treatment as a result of occupational stressors. There is increased recognition of the exposure to stressors in humanitarian aid work and their potential impact upon mental health. Challenging living conditions, substantial work demands, and increased risk to violent trauma are commonly acknowledged as representing risk factors for depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and burnout (Ager, et al, 2012). We need to help workers and their organizations understand their respective perceptions of stress and encourage employees to seek professional treatment for mental health issues (Gillispie, Britt, Burnette, & McFadden, 2016).  Due to the stigma often associated with seeking treatment for stress-related symptoms, research findings report that individuals avoid seeking mental health treatment due to a lack of access to care, financial barriers, lack of a perceived need for treatment, wanting to handle the problem on own, and fear of negative career repercussions (Gillespie, et al, 2016).  Organizational factors, such as team cohesion, work conditions, and provision of institutional psychosocial support mechanisms in mitigating risk of adverse mental health outcomes must be thoroughly examined (Ager, et al 2012). Although there is “growing evidence of humanitarian agencies seeking to develop strategies to address issues of staff well-being, staff retention, and increased productivity” (Ager, Flapper, Pietersom, & Simon, 2001; Porter & Emmens, 2009), there has been less focus on the consequences of humanitarian work among national aid workers, despite national staff contributing about 90% of the humanitarian workforce and often having direct exposure to trauma from the humanitarian emergency itself (Porter & Emmens, 2009; Stoddard, Harmer, & Haver, 2006).


The purpose of this study is to gain knowledge and understanding of the relationships between workplace features, individuals, and job characteristics among humanitarian aid workers. Advancing this knowledge to deepen understanding of stress experienced by humanitarian aid workers is critical for designing viable interventions required to limit the potential serious economic and human consequences of stressful workplaces.


Emergency workers are exposed to chronic and acute emotionally demanding stressors (Setti, Lourel, & Argentero, 2016). Olpin and Hesson (2013) define stress as “a demand made upon the adaptive capacities of the mind and body” (p. 3). Reducing job-related stress requires a clear understanding of the definition of stress, its causes, and coping and management strategies (Stickle & Scott, 2016). Recent studies report that 26 to 40 percent of workers are experiencing extreme job stress in organizations with managers that “lack an understanding of stress and stress-management techniques put the wellbeing of employees and the company” (Stickle & Scott, 2016). Work stress is a serious problem faced by today’s employees, with the American Psychological Association (2009) reporting that 69% of employees reporting that work is a significant source of stress in their lives (Gillispie, et al, 2016).

Although the link between work stress and mental health outcomes has been clearly demonstrated, much less research has been conducted on the determinants of whether employees seek treatment for mental health problems, or how employees who seek mental health treatment for work-related problems are viewed by others (Britt & McFadden, 2012).

Recent Research

Research findings published in the (2012) Journal of Traumatic Stress described symptoms of stress, mental health, and burnout in 376 national staff working for 21 humanitarian aid agencies in Northern Uganda (Ager, Alistair, Pasha, Yu, Duke, Eriksson, Cardoza, 2012). Over 50% of workers experienced 5 or more categories of traumatic events and, due to the absence of clinical interviews, no clinical diagnoses were able to be confirmed. However, the respondents reported symptom levels associated with high risk for depression (68%), anxiety disorders (53%) and posttraumatic stress disorder (26%) and between one quarter and one half of respondents reported high risk symptom levels associated with measured dimensions of burnout. In the report, female workers reported significantly more symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and emotional exhaustion than males. Higher levels of social support, stronger team cohesion, and reduced exposure to chronic stressors were associated with improved mental health (Ager, et al, 2012).

SETTI: Compared to the commitment of employees toward their organization, the organization’s commitment toward its employees has been explored to a much lesser extent (Baruch, 1998). Employees perceive that their organization is committed to them through perceived organizational support in their perception of receiving supportive behaviors from colleagues and superiors (Armstrong-Stassen, 2004; Caplan, Cobb, French, Harrison, & Pinneau, 1975; Kaufmann & Beehr, 1986). These important resouces facilitate adaptive coping strategies that protect against negative health effects of stress (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Lourel, Hartmann, Closon, Mouda, & Petric-Tatu, 2013). Further, in a high emotional load, psychosocial support may arise from family and friends in high emotional load, the perceived support from family is critical because it may the only perceived support when rescuers cannot be supported by their colleagues and organizations (Prati & Pietrantoni, 2010).

A study published in Stress and Health (2014) exploring factors associated with PTSD and work-related exposure to critical incidents surveyed 286 participants with almost half that had attended stress debriefing discussion sessions. Posttraumatic stress symptoms “were positively associated with years of job stress, burnout, occupational effort and disengagement coping and negatively associated with critical incident stress debriefing attendance, posttraumatic growth, social support, internal locus of control, personal characteristic resources, energy resources and condition resources” (Sattler et al, 2014, p. 85). The findings support conservation of resources stress theory and show that the maintenance and acquisition of resources can offset losses and facilitate resilience/posttraumatic growth and minimize occupational stressors.

(Sochos, Bowers, & Kinman, 2012).

Research suggests that medical doctors present higher rates of psychological distress than do members of the general population and experience elevated levels of workrelated strain, or burnout (Grassi & Magnani, 2000; Wall, Bolden, & Borrill, 1997). According to Maslach and colleagues (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996; Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001), burnout is an eventual sequela of prolonged work-related stress and manifests itself through emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased personal accomplishment. Burnout among doctors has been associated with physical illness, emotional problems, absenteeism, negative attitudes, and a reduction in the quality of patient care (Embriaco et al., 2007; Parker, 1995; Shanafelt, Bradley, Wipf, & Back, 2002). Such studies report inconsistent links between burnout and major demographic variables (Embriaco et al., 2007; Fahrenkopf et al., 2008), but links between burnout and personality variables, such as neuroticism and negative affectivity, are more consistently found (Deary, Agius, & Sadler, 1996; McManus, Keeling, & Paice, 2004). Most studies in the field focus on occupational factors as predictors of burnout in medical settings, and specific work features have been identified that put doctors at greater risk. Doctors and other health professionals who work an excessive number of hours have been found to experience higher work-related strain in general (Kirkcaldy, Trimpop, & Cooper, 1997; Lim, Kim, Kim, Yang, & Lee, 2010). Research also suggests that the impact of work stressors may differ according to seniority. Ward rounds, being on call, unexpected cover, and academic work have all been found to be more stressful among trainee doctors, whereas time off work for sickness, relationships with nurses, and relationships with other consultants have been found to be more stressful among consultants (Guthrie et al., 1999). The present study aims to examine this issue by testing the Four-Factor Model of Occupational Stressors (Agius et al., 1996) in a sample of trainee doctors and identifying the specific significance of each type of stressor as a predictor of burnout in this particular group. In addition to measuring the impact of different stressors on doctors’ burnout, the present study investigates the role of social support. Coming from a range of different sources, such as supervisors, coworkers, family, or friends, social support seems to play an important role in the relationship between work stressors and strain (Sarason & Sarason, 2009). Nonetheless, the mechanisms by which social support works has been much debated. The social hypothesis or main effects model asserts that social support directly reduces work strain by fulfilling an essential human need (e.g., affection and security; Caplan, Cobb, French, Van Harrison, & Pinneau, 1975). However, numerous authors have argued that social support also exerts an indirect effect on the experience of distress. The buffering hypothesis asserts that social support moderates the effects of perceived occupational stressors on health outcomes, but empirical evidence has been conflicting (Cohen & Wills, 1985; Hutchison, 1999). Studies have also examined the mediating role of social support. In general, the present findings seem to support our two main assumptions: first,

that different types of occupational stressors are linked with different sources of

social support and, second, that junior doctors tend to burn out as the experience of more intense work stressors leads to perceptions of lower support. Indirect

pathways were found for all stressor categories except organizational constraints to

burnout via consultant support, whereas indirect pathways were found for problems

with personal confidence and management support for organizational difficulties to

burnout via coworker support.



Emergency culture of HAW

  • Influence on organizational norms and Immediate response
  • Constant Change
  • Strong identification with humanitarian goals
  • High engagement
  • Motivating and Meaningful Rewards

Work Overload/Urgent Demands

Definitions of Stress and Related Terms

Hindrance demands demonstrate the opposite pattern of relationships, except with exhaustion on which hindrances have a greater effect. The term hindrance captures many negative aspects of job demands. However, stressors that are perceived as being directly associated with personal harm or loss (rather than merely the potential to interfere with positive work goals) should be recognized as a distinct type of stressor: threat stressor (Tuckey, Searle, Boyd, Winefield, & Winefield, 2015). Job demands in this category closely resemble the threat stressors originally described by Lazarus and Folkman (1984): they are perceived to have consequences that are, or threaten to be, intrinsically aversive (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; see also Carver & Connor-Smith, 2010). The potential consequences, and likely responses, are not adequately captured within the challenge and hindrance stressor categories. The distinction between challenge and hindrance relates to the possibility (challenges) or blockage (hindrances) of personally meaningful gains. The potential for stressors to threaten the self does not fit the descriptions of either challenge or hindrance. To understand more fully the stressors faced by workers, demands appraised as having the potential for future harm to the self—threat demands—must also be considered. Despite threat appraisals being a core stress appraisal in Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) transactional model, theory and methods within the occupational stress research have not captured this element, emphasizing instead challenge and hindrance stressors, while tacitly incorporating threats as interchangeable with hindrances.



Organizational & Occupational Stress

Identifying the diversity of job stressors faced by humanitarian aid workers can offer a deeper understanding of the demands of this work, job stress-related health implications and how to combat them. Tuckey et al. (2016) cite that frequently reported issues involved interpersonal conflict and work overload. The resources workers can draw on vary and can be applied to overcome challenges “by helping to combat job demands, but the supply or deficit of resources shapes what is possible in this process and even the intensity of demands experienced” (Tuckey, et al., 2016).

In research published in the BioMed Research International (2017), studies of associations of occupational stressors and perceived organizational support (Wang, Liu, Zou, Hao & Wu, 2017), the authors explored the associations of occupational stressors (extrinsic effort, reward, and overcommitment), perceived organizational support and psychological capital and its components (self-efficacy, hope, resilience, and optimism) with work engagement and the mediating roles of psychological capital and its components among nurses within the framework of the job demands-resources (JD-R) model. A cross-sectional sample (1,330) involving four scales, including the  Effort-Reward Imbalance Scale, cited that extrinsic effort was negatively associated with vigor, dedication, and absorption, while perceived organizational support (POS), psychological capital, and hope were positively associated with them. Reward and overcommitment were positively associated with dedication and absorption. As optimism mediated the associations of extrinsic effort, reward, and POS with vigor and dedication. Reward, over-commitment, POS, PsyCap, hope, and optimism enhances work engagement, which suggests that managers should develop the psychological capital of healthcare practitioners through controlling occupational stressors and establishing supportive organizational climate to enhance their work engagement (Wang et al, 2017).




Workplace or Occupational Stress

TUCKEY et al, 2016:

The mobilization of resources in response to threats is thus geared toward avoiding the anticipated loss/harm. Responding to threats and their associated negative emotions, and acting to prevent additional loss/harm in the future, may thus be especially exhausting for workers (cf. Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Linking Job Resources to Job Demands Job resources may not only meet basic needs and protect workers against excessive job demands, but may also shape the intensity of demands themselves. For example, the presence of a given harmful job demand may reflect the absence of a corresponding resource (e.g., role clarity). This is consistent with the JD-R’s proposition that job resources function to reduce job demands (Demerouti & Bakker, 2011; Demerouti et al., 2001).


Exposure to Job Strain and Perceived Stress


Psycho-social work environment

Negative Effects of Stress of HAW

  • Physical health


Exhaustion/Fatigue and Depersonalization

DeArmond, Matthews, and Bunk (2014) stated that the psychological detachment literature is similar to the self-regulation literature in that they both implicitly suggest that the demands of work take a toll on employees by eating away at resources. One way they may do this is through decreasing psychological detachment. When humanitarian aid workers draw from a limited “reservoir,” and when that reservoir becomes depleted, a person becomes less capable of successful self-regulation (DeArmond et al, 2014). If aid workers do not replenish their resources during non-work time, their wellbeing can be negatively impacted, and this may be experienced in the form of fatigue or mental exhaustion. Subsequently, when fatigue sets in and a person is in a state of depletion, that person needs to rest and recover in order to rebuild energy or self-control reserves. They suggest that “fatigue might mediate the relationship between self-regulatory resource depletion and subsequent performance problems associated with increased perceptions of fatigue, difficulty, and effort) (DeArmond et al, 2014). The researchers’ arguments effectively demonstrated that stressors may be connected to procrastination and limited functionality indirectly through their relationships with psychological detachment and fatigue. These findings have important implications for the design of stress management interventions and the findings argue that employers should encourage psychological detachment during non-work time in an effort to promote employee wellbeing and more effective self-regulation. Note, however, that employers also should explore whether they are designing work in such a way that this will realistically happen. One obvious suggestion stemming from our study is to reduce workload. It is likely that many employers would not view this as a feasible solution; however, these results suggest that failing to do so may backfire by resulting in increased procrastination or diminished functionality, which ultimately impact performance (DeArmond et al, 2014). Further, these findings suggest a psychological mechanism by which workload may be associated with decreased performance in the field.

(Sochos, Bowers, & Kinman, 2012). Evidence was found that junior doctors who perceived low levels of support from their colleagues tended to do so also in relation to their consultants, and the less support they perceived from their consultants, the higher levels of depersonalization and emotional exhaustion they reported. In addition, junior doctors experiencing low coworker support also perceived reduced consultant, management, and family support. It is interesting that the perception of increased coworker support led to higher levels of depersonalization.



  • Mental Health
  • Burnout

Related to stress, burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, due to high emotional demands leaing to a psychological distancing from work in terms of depersonalization; and lack of professional efficacy (Setti, et al. 2016).

(Sochos, Bowers, & Kinman 2012). Work stressors, social support, and burnout in junior doctors: exploring direct and indirect pathways.journal of employment counseling49(2), pp.62-73.

The study tested a pathway model linking different occupational stressors, different

sources of social support, and burnout.

  • PTSD
  • Relational
  • Decision making/behavior changes
  • Functionality
  • Coping Measures
  • Self-medicating
  • ETOH
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Eating Habits
  • Control


Psychological Distress and Stress-Related Work Conditions

Current findings are consistent with research suggesting that challenge stressors are positively related to a myriad of positive job-related factors and previous findings indicate that challenge stressors, while they have some benefits, are nevertheless responsible for the experience of strain. (Crane & Searle, 2016).


Organizational Stressors & Health Outcomes

Poor psychological health and well-being are associated with job demands and negative organizational outcomes (Tuckey et al, 2016).


Understanding the Classifying Stressors: Approaches

  • Stimulus
  • Psychological response
  • Physical response

Building resilience gendered approach

Trajectories of Early PTSD Symptoms

Disaster Relief Policy


  • Gender Specific Coping

In the (2012) Journal of Traumatic Stress study in Uganda, 45% scored above the threshold criterion for emotional exhaustion, 24% scored above threshold for depersonalization, and 30% scored above threshold for lack of personal accomplishment. Gender was a significant predictor of depression, with men reporting significantly fewer symptoms than women. Working with an international NGO (compared with working with a UN and related agency) was a risk factor for depression. Those reporting higher levels of perceived social support were significantly more likely to report a lower number of depression symptoms. Exposure to chronic stressors was also predictive of increased depressive symptomology. Men had significantly lower risk for anxiety than women (Ager, et al, 2012).

  • Geographic Location Specific Coping



Rescuers’ Psychological Resources: Managing Work-Life Boundaries

  • Buffering of perceived stress from work overload

Within the social support literature and in)we have considered three of the main theoretical approaches, which emerged as relevant theories for understanding the protective role of social support against negative health effects. The first one is the buffering hypothesis (Cohen & Wills, 1985), according to which social support is related to well-being especially for persons under particular stressful conditions… This model is named “buffering” because it is hypothesized that social support buffers (i.e., protects) people from the detrimental effects of stressful situations.  (Setti, Lourel & Argentero, 2016). Social support is associated with low levels of burnout yet the specific effects of different sources of social support on different dimensions of burnout has been only partially investigated (Halbesleben, 2006). SETTI: We examined perceived social support, because it has been demonstrated to have a greater effect size compared to actually received support (Norris & Kaniasty, 1996; Prati & Pietrantoni, 2010). Organizational commitment can be defined as a psychological link or bond between employees and their organization (Schmidt, 2007) with beneficial consequences for both individuals and organizations (Allen & Meyer, 1990; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990).

  • Receiving positive support from colleagues and supervisors

Problem-focused coping involves taking direct action and emotion-focused coping involves managing stress by attempting to alter emotional responses to the situation, which may be associated with growth following stressful events (Sattler et al, 2014). In contrast, avoidance coping involves avoiding or disengaging from the situation and not communicating with individual or organizational support resources. Emotion-focused coping may involve seeking emotional support and positive reframing and recognizing that “passive and disengagement coping strategies are associated with increased stress” (Sattler et al, 2014). Debriefing is a form of effective support after experiencing critical incident stress to prevent or minimize the development of stress reactions. Debriefing involves “sharing observations and facts about the event and discussing emotional reactions and thoughts about the incident with peers and facilitators immediately following the event” (Sattler et al, 2014).



  • Addressing Depersonalization and Detachment

In the .International Journal of Stress Management (2014), researchers DeArmond, Matthews, and Bunk tested a conceptual model that draws heavily from the stressor-detachment model. Psychological detachment fully mediated the relationship between workload and fatigue; psychological detachment did not moderate this relationship. Fatigue partially mediated the relationship between psychological detachment and procrastination. Further, workload was indirectly related to procrastination 2 months later through relationships with psychological detachment and fatigue. These findings suggest that occupational stressors are related to procrastination and that this relationship can be partially explained by psychological detachment and fatigue.

Thus, we conceptualize procrastination as a form of self-regulation failure that involves, “voluntarily delay[ing] an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay” (Steel, 2007, p. 66). Generally speaking this delay is thought to be an irrational delay. Therefore, we differentiate procrastination from a more rational process in which people strategically delay certain tasks which may be lower priority while opting to focus on higher priority tasks which may warrant more careful thought. In other words, we are focused on a negative behavior. Research in school settings indicates that those who procrastinate suffer greater stress, more health problems, and have poorer performance than those who have greater self-control (Steel, 2007; Steel et al., 2001; Tice & Baumeister, 1997). Although Steel’s (2007) meta-analysis notes that some have argued that procrastination may actually be a performance-enhancing behavior, his results clearly show that procrastination has a consistent negative effect on performance. PROCRASTINATION AND RECOVERY/DETACHMENT During roughly the same time period that these significant advances were being made in the self-control/self-regulation literature, occupational stress researchers became increasingly interested in the role that recovery and/or detachment can play in the relationships between occupational demands and both employee well-being and job performance. The results of this research indicate that failing to recover or detach from work can negatively impact health and reduce performance (Eden, 2001; Fritz & Sonnentag, 2005, 2006; Sonnentag, 2001). Recovery refers to a period after stressor exposure during which we return to normal or prestressor levels of functioning (Craig & Cooper, 1992; von Thiele Schwarz, 2011). Etzion, Eden, and Lapidot (1998) introduced the detachment concept to the occupational stress and recovery literature. They defined it as an “individual’s sense of being away from the work situation” (p. 579). Sonnentag and colleagues (Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005; Sonnentag, 2011) took this conceptualization a step further and drew a distinction between detachment and psychological detachment. Psychological detachment involves being completely uninvolved in work-related feelings or thoughts. This distinction recognizes that people can be physically detached from work and even may refrain from doing work at home, but still continue thinking about work. Sonnentag (2011) recently developed the stressor-detachment model, which suggests that psychological detachment can both mediate and moderate the relationship between occupational stressors and strain and that strain can have an impact on performance. Although there is substantial research to date that supports a connection between stressors and strain (e.g., Podsakoff, LePine, & Lepine, 2007; Spector & Jex, 1998) and some research to support a connection between stressors and psychological detachment (von Thiele Schwarz, 2011; Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007; Sonnentag, Kuttler, & Fritz, 2010; Taris et al., 2008), there is far less research that establishes the connections between stressors, strain, and job performance. This has been a criticism of occupational stress research for some time (Sonnentag & Frese, 2003), and existing research in this area suggests that the connection is likely complex, involving multiple potential pathways (e.g., Lepine, Podsakoff, & Lepine, 2005; Wallace, Edwards, Arnold, Frazier, & Finch, 2009). In order to discover the underlying processes that connect strain with performance, it is worthwhile to explore indices of strain in relation to more proximal determinants of performance.


Resilience and Stress


Recent research is providing some evidence that stress may be an important opportunity for building the capacity for resilience leading to beneficial growth in wellbeing and mental health (Crane & Searle, 2016). Resilience is “a term used to describe the capacity to adapt effectively to life adversity with a short-lived downturn in functioning” (Bonanno, 2005; Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990). Workers with some lifetime adversity or stressors tended to experience less psychological distress and a capacity for psychological resilience (Seery et al., 2010). Such perspectives move away from an approach to resilience that is focused on what characteristics the individual brings to the situation, but rather also considers the important role of experiences that can facilitate growth (Ungar, 2012; Crane & Searle, 2016). The difference in outcomes is the level of dysfunction experienced after exposure, when- according to the harm reduction approach, once an individual has experienced a decline in their well-being, after the onset of a stressor, resilience allows the person to quickly recover or “bounce back” from that strain resilience and partially reduces the impact of stressor events on symptomology. The protection approach proposes that no decline in function occurs, and resilience acts like a force field deflecting the impact of potentially stressful experiences (Crane & Searle, 2016). it is equally likely that employees who presently feel anxious, distressed and emotionally exhausted will perceive higher levels of both stressor types. This is consistent with the notion that successfully overcoming stressors will enhance coping resources (Hobfoll, 1989). This means that interventions designed to improve employee wellbeing should not simply consider the nature of stressors present in a workplace, but should also consider employee resilience as a critical variable. For example, a manager may be able to reframe the meaning of stressors to increase the degree the stressor is perceived as a challenge, or what valued outcome might be gained as a consequence of stressor engagement. By doing this, stressor engagement may become an opportunity for building resilience.




SETTI: a theoretical perspective, the main result of the present study concerns the important function of affective commitment—in terms of perceived organizational support—and job support from colleagues and superiors, as protective resources that have the potential to reduce strain. From a practical perspective, this finding may represent a starting point for interventions aimed at preventing or reducing negative psychological effects. In particular, work environments organized in such a way that employees can feel affectively committed to their organization may function as a buffer against negative outcomes, especially when affective commitment is associated with strong social support from colleagues and superiors (Cohen & Wills, 1985). But it needs to be specified that, in order to have affectively committed employees, organizations must primarily demonstrate their own commitment by providing a supportive work environment (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986). With respect to the role of perceived social support at work, our results have also demonstrated that it may help reducing both chronic (in terms of burnout) and acute (in terms of VT) responses.


MODELS: Compare and Contrast

The two major theoretical frames involved in occupational stress point to job demands– control (JDC) model (Karasek, 1979) and the effort–reward imbalance (ERI) model (Siegrist, 1996, 1998). Characteristics of the Job Demands Control (JDC) theoretical model of occupational stress involve “the processes by which important aspects of the job influence psychological health and well being” (Tuckey et al, 2016).

TUCKEY 2016: JDC model assumes that all jobs can be classified in terms of two dimensions: demands and control. Jobs that are high on both dimensions are classified as “active” whereas those that are low on both are classified as “passive.” Jobs that are low on demands and high on control are classified as “low strain,” and finally jobs that are high on demands and low on control are classified as “high strain.” Later, (lack of) social support was included as an additional risk factor, exacerbating the negative effects of high strain jobs. Siegrist’s (1996, 1998). ERI model assumes that jobs that involve high effort (e.g., high psychological demands) and low rewards (e.g., pay, status, career opportunities) are high in strain. Both of these theories are helpful, to some extent, for understanding the predicament of retail workers. Retail employees are likely to be vulnerable because they experience low levels of control and receive low rewards. Consequently, according to both theories, if retail work is demanding or effortful workers would probably experience high strain. Yet a narrow focus on control and rewards as the only potential buffers against high psychological demands is unlikely to capture the complexity of retail worker stress. Even in the broader literature on occupational stress, the study of other types of job demands and resources has been neglected without an explicit theoretical basis for doing so. The more recent job demands–resources (JD-R) model builds on the earlier JDC and ERI theories by suggesting that each occupation may have its own specific risk and protective factors for stress, representing broader categories of job demands and job resources (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). In other words, precisely which demands are stressful and which resources play a protective role will depend on specific job and organizational characteristics (Bakker, Demerouti, & Euwema, 2005). The JD-R model is therefore useful for framing occupational stress research in the retail sector to identify the most salient risk and resilience factors for the sector while still encompassing generic processes that enable prediction and guide control of key factors in the stress process. The JD-R model defines job demands as aspects of the job that require sustained investment of effort, energy, and/or skills. By contrast, job resources are the physical, psychological, social, and organizational factors that help workers to meet work requirements, and may directly or indirectly buffer against job strain and its physical and psychological consequences.

Two separate but interdependent processes are posited to connect demands and resources to employee health and well-being. The health impairment pathway outlines how energy is depleted over time in response to excessive or prolonged demands, and scarce job resources, leading to a range of psychological and physiological costs (Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2003). The motivational pathway illustrates how job resources stimulate personal growth, learning, and development, both intrinsically, by meeting basic psychological needs (e.g., autonomy, relatedness, and competence; see Ryan & Deci, 2000), and extrinsically, by enabling the completion of work goals (Bakker, Demerouti, Taris, Schaufeli, & Schreurs, 2003; Demerouti et al., 2001), thereby fostering work engagement. Evidence suggests that employee productivity and well-being can be maintained through the provision of adequate resources even when high demands cannot be removed or reduced (Bakker et al., 2005). In contrast, low levels of resources undermine motivation, leading to disengagement and reduced performance (Demerouti et al., 2001).

Different Types of Job Demands: Challenges, Hindrances, and Threats The original JD-R model did not distinguish among different types of job demands, instead all demands were viewed as potentially harmful stressors with the potential to deplete energy and incur psychological costs (Demerouti et al., 2001). However, not all job demands are created equal (Van den Broeck, De Cuyper, De Witte, & Vansteenkiste, 2010). In their seminal work on stress, appraisal, and coping, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) described how stressors may be appraised as challenging or threatening. More recently, Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, and Boudreau (2000) elaborated on this distinction in occupational settings identifying two types of occupational stress: challenge and hindrance stress. Challenge stressors are “work-related demands or circumstances that, although potentially stressful, have associated potential gains for individuals,” whereas hindrance stressors are “workrelated demands or circumstances that tend to constrain or interfere with an individual’s work achievement” (Cavanaugh et al., 2000, p.68).


Occupational Stress Theory

Occupational stress theory relates to the effects of job demands employees’ health, well-being, and job performance, which vary “according to whether they constitute threats (presaging personal harm), hindrances (obstructing work goals) or challenges (offering opportunities for mastery)” (Tuckey et al, 2016). The types of resources available differ according to the extent that they assist workers to meet challenges and manage demands, or alternatively to regulate emotional responses to threats and hindrances (Tuckey, Boyd, Winefield, Bohm, Winefield, Lindsay & Black, 2016). There is a limited pool of social and organizational resources available for humanitarian aid workers.



Transactional Models of Stress

CLARK 2012:

Theoretical Background Lazarus’ transactional theory of stress (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) may be used as a theoretical framework in order to understand the influence of occupational stressors on safety compliance and safety participation. Transactional theory predicts that individuals’ responses to stressors will influence performance, either directly or indirectly, through the processes of cognitive appraisal and coping. Central to the transactional theory of stress is the idea of cognitive appraisal. Cognitive appraisal involves an evaluative perception that one’s well-being is implicated in a person– environment transaction (for better or worse). This process occurs in two stages: Primary appraisal involves the evaluation of whether the person has anything at stake in the transaction; secondary appraisal involves the evaluation of what, if anything, can be done to overcome or prevent harm, or to improve the prospects for benefit (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Primary and secondary appraisals converge to determine whether the person– environment transaction is regarded as significant for well-being, and if so, whether it is primarily threatening (containing the possibility of harm or loss), or challenging (holding the possibility of mastery or benefit). A key conceptual difference is captured in terms of the evaluative perception of a stressor as potentially threatening or potentially challenging, as those stressors perceived to offer challenges present the opportunity for the individual to accrue personal resources (Kahn, 1990; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Challenge stressors are appraised as challenging and manageable, and so may be viewed as opportunities for personal growth, whereas hindrance stressors are appraised as threatening and unmanageable, and so may be viewed as obstacles to personal growth (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000). Although there is currently limited empirical investigation, there is evidence to demonstrate that challenge stressors, such as workload, and hindrance stressors, such as role ambiguity and role conflict, are primarily appraised as challenges and hindrances, respectively, in an occupational context (Webster, Beehr, & Love, 2011). Differential effects of these two types of stressor would be expected in relation to work-related attitudes, affective responses, and work performance (Cavanaugh et al., 2000). Hindrance stressors (such as situational constraints, hassles, role ambiguity, role and interpersonal conflict, role overload, supervisor-related stress, organizational politics, and concerns about job security) would be predicted to have negative affective and behavioral outcomes, as they are unlikely to be overcome by the employee, even with extra effort. Empirical work has supported a negative association with job satisfaction (Cavanaugh et al., 2000; Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007; Webster, Beehr, & Christiansen, 2010) and a positive association with turnover intentions (Podsakoff et al., 2007). On the other hand, challenge stressors (such as high workload, time pressure, job scope, and high responsibility) are demands or obstacles that can be overcome with extra effort to result in the accomplishment of goals and the potential for personal development. These stressors have been positively associated with job satisfaction (Podsakoff et al., 2007; Webster et al., 2010). In relation to job performance, LePine, Podsakoff, and LePine (2005) argued that challenge stressors are associated with high motivation, and therefore, lead to better performance, because individuals are likely to believe that there is a positive relationship between effort and expectancy (see Vroom, 1964, on expectancy theory). On the other hand, hindrance stressors are not motivating because the effort expended to cope with them is unlikely to be successful.



Change Theory


Effort Reward Imbalance Theory

Demand Control Theory/Job Strain


Revisit section A/summarize chapter purpose/fulfilled


Brief conclusion

  • Limitations
  • Call for research
  • Further areas of specific studies needed

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