Lay representations of workplace stress: what do people really mean when they say they are stressed?
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AbstractAn individual's beliefs in relation to stress are likely to affect their perceptions, and hence their work-related actions (such as absenteeism). In this paper, lay representations of work stress were investigated utilising semi-structured interviews with 45 individuals from a range of occupations. The meaning of occupational stress, its antecedents and outcomes, and ways by which it may be managed were examined. Dominant factors were established through the use of thematic content analysis. Similarities and differences were found between lay and professional discourses on work stress. Results indicate that lay representations of occupational stress are multi-faceted. Little consensus was found in how participants interpreted the concept: a diverse range of personal, environmental, and societal factors was highlighted. A different (and arguably more complex) range of definitions of job stress and the manner in which it impacts on individuals was revealed than has been reported in previous studies. The causes of stress at work were perceived as being predominantly organisational, but the impact of stress on the employee was more salient than organisational outcomes. Paradoxically, secondary and tertiary stress management techniques were thought to be more effective than interventions designed to prevent stress at work. Interviewees with line management responsibility were more likely to emphasise individual responsibility for managing stress, most others maintained that the individual and the organisation are equally responsible. The potential value of examining lay representations of job stress to the discipline of Occupational Health Psychology is discussed and suggestions for future research are made.
CitationKinman, G., & Jones, F. (2005) 'Lay representations of workplace stress: What do people really mean when they say they are stressed?' Work & Stress, 19(2), 101-120.
PublisherTaylor and Francis
JournalWork and stress
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