Work Demand Stressors and Employee Job Performance
How Stressors Impact PerformanceStressors can detract from employee performance in three ways.
- If an employee perceives a stressor to be threatening or harmful, they will use up their energy coping with the stressor.
- Threatening stressors produce adverse physiological effects.
- High levels of stressors can result in “information-overload,” in which employees experience a reduced ability to recognize job-related cues and information apart from the stressor.
Dimensions of StressStressors contain two dimensions: threat and challenge. Stressors can contain elements of both threat and challenge. Threat occurs when an employee perceives the stressor to be beyond his or her control or ability to cope with the situation. This level is what we typically think of when we think about “stress;” threat is negatively associated with performance. Challenge, on the other hand, might be considered “good” stress. Challenge is often positively associated with performance.
Types of StressorsThere are several different types of work-related stressors.
- Role Ambiguity: uncertainty and lack of clarity about the tasks to be performed for a particular job.
- Situational Constraints: an employee’s immediate work environment inhibits or constrains performance, for example, if the employee has inadequate skills or supplies needed to do the job.
- Role Conflict: an employee is required to take on multiple, incompatible roles.
- Role Overload: work demands exceed the resources available to meet them.
- Job Insecurity: uncertainty about the permanence of one’s job.
- Work-family Conflict: conflict between work and family demands.
- Environmental Uncertainty: lack of security in the organizational environment (i.e. market uncertainty).
The Importance of PerceptionNot all individuals will perceive a stressor in the same way. For example, some people prefer a highly structured job in which their responsibilities and tasks are explicit. For these individuals, having a job where little direction is given would be very stressful. On the other hand, an individual who prefers a more ambiguous job might find a highly structured job very stressful. What is important is whether the employee perceives a situation as stressful.
The Importance of Organizational ContextIn addition to individual differences, the organizational context can affect the way a stressor is perceived. For example, in an organization that rewards and values challenging initiatives and innovations, role ambiguity may be perceived as a challenge and actually improve performance. On the other hand, in an organization that emphasizes standardization and well-established procedures, role ambiguity would more likely be perceived as a threat and therefore more negatively affect job performance.
How to Reduce Negative Impacts of Stressors
- Focus efforts on alleviating role ambiguity and situational constraints.
- Stay informed about which stressors are most prevalent and detrimental to performance in your organization.
- Include several dimensions of job performance in evaluations.
- Keep in mind the importance of individual perception as well as organizational context.
The DeGarmo GroupThis was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Gilboa, S. et al. (2008). A meta-analysis of work demand stressors and job performance: Examining main and moderating effects, Personnel Psychology, 61, 227- 271.