Gender Disparities in Antecedents, Manifestations and Corollaries of Workplace Stress
Fapohunda Tinuke. M.
Department of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, Lagos State University Ojo, Lagos, Nigeria
To cite this article:
Fapohunda Tinuke. M..Gender Disparities in Antecedents, Manifestations and Corollaries of Workplace Stress. Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol. 3, No. 6, 2015, pp. 60-67. doi: 10.11648/j.jhrm.20150306.12
Abstract: In contemporary times, workplace stress is a constituent of employees’ and organizations’ everyday practices. Workplace stress involves alterations in a worker’s physical or mental condition s arising from workplaces that create elevated challenges. Workplace stress has several antecedents ranging from a toxic work settings, negative workloads, isolation, hours of work, role conflict, role ambiguity, career development hurdles, and complicated relationships with others at work, bullying, harassment, and organizational climate. It also has corollaries like enhanced absenteeism, organizational dysfunction, and reduced work efficiency. This study examines the possible gender disparities in workplace stress antecedents, manifestation and corollaries using 300 respondents employed in diverse industries in Nigeria. Intervention strategies are discussed to help managers provide support and intervention to employees coping with workplace stress.
Keywords: Gender, Disparities, Antecedents, Manifestations, Corollaries Workplace, Stress
Unarguably, all jobs generate stress to the employees in diverse degrees. Stress has the tendency to result in alterations in a person’s normal roles and has outcomes for the individual’s health. Workplace stress constitutes a central topic that affects all organization stakeholders ranging from the employees, to the organization and the community at large. While a degree of workplace stress is usual, extreme stress often hinders output and affects physical and emotional wellbeing and capacity to handle it may have implications for success or failure. Universally, a distressed economy could seem like a disturbing roller coaster for employees. Arising from issues of dismissals, retrenchment and reductions in financial plans there is augmented apprehension, insecurity, and superior altitudes of stress. Given that occupation and workplace stress swell in periods of economic crisis, such as Nigeria is currently facing, it becomes imperative to examine the antecedents as well as novel and improved strategies for dealing with the demands.
Workplace stress results in loss of confidence, petulance and withdrawal all of which invariably lead to reduced job effectiveness and productivity thus making the job look less rewarding. Discountenancing the cautionary symptoms of work stress, could result in superior challenges. Further than impeding job performance and satisfaction, unrelieved stress is capable of also resulting in physical and emotional health troubles. The issue of workplace stress is on the rise in the Nigerian workplace. This paper contributes to research on stress in the workplace. It examines the principal antecedents of workplace stress and the major coping mechanisms. It also explores possible gender differences in the causes of work stress (stressors); its incidents, preparedness to deal with it; corollaries; as well as the coping methods of workplace stress and makes suggestions for enhancements.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Workplace Stress
Workplace stress is an intricate psychological construct that requires initial conceptualization through its parent construct identified as stress. Over the years stress has been described in diverse manners. Initially, it was considered as environmental pressure, then as internal strain in individuals. 1Krantzet al (2005) and 2Zimbardo et al (2003) delineate stress as the transformation in an individual’s physical or mental condition arising from circumstances (stressors) that present challenges or intimidations. Nowadays the commonly acknowledged description of stress involves interface between the circumstances and the individual. It is the psychological and physical conditions that occur when a person’s resources are inadequate to manage the requirements and pressures of the situation.
Stress can challenge the realization of both individual and organization goals. It can also become arduous originating incidents of considerable emotional anguish and physical sickness. Conversely, stress can facilitate individual and organizational goals attainment and drive during difficult circumstances. This implies that stress can facilitate goals attainment and inspire positive productivity but, with a certain level of force and length of stimulation, it not only has the capability but often cripples and results in emotional confusion, exhaustion, and physical illness.
3Long (2005) affirms that stress is an interaction between a person and a source of demand within their environment. 4Kolbell (2005) adds that stress arises when people face stipulations that surpass their actual or supposed capabilities to effectively handle the requirements, thereby generating disorder to their psychological stability. 5Cryer, McCraty and Child (2003) assert that workplace stress has increased by 10 percent since 2001. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (2009) observes that in Great Britain about 500.000 employees experience workplace stress at levels believed to influence their wellbeing harmfully. Besides, 6Paoli (2007) indicates in a study of European workers that 29% of the respondents think that their job actions had harmful effects on their health and consequently affirms that the power of workplace stress is elevated. Workplace stress is significant due to its damaging outcomes both for the workers and the organization.
2.2. Stressors in the Workplace
Several dynamics can add to workplace stress. These embrace the worker’s assessment of adjustment to a technically transforming atmosphere. 7Lazarus and Folkman (2004) notes that the altering milieu generates pain when the challenge is seen as a hazard to workers and their welfare. While some persons possess the aptitude and the resources to progress in their expertise others might not.
6Bhagat and Bailey (2007) argues that sources of stress otherwise called stressors differ, including everyday disquiets to principal episodes, enlarged daring work circumstances, certain schemes, contemplations and views that whip up demoralizing feelings. 9Marshall and Cooper (2009) came up with a functional model that establishes workplace stressors under six wide-ranging groups involving: job fundamental dynamics; responsibilities in the organisation; associations at work; occupational growth and accomplishment; organizational composition and ambience; and the home-work crossing point.
Job fundamental dynamics comprise the physical requirements of work and the distress occasioned by ecological features, like the results of technological transformations, noise, quantitative and qualitative workload, vibration, experience of hazards and threats and work hours.10Cooper and Marshall, (2006) affirms that stress deriving from responsibilities in the organisation has been generally acknowledged and could originate from some, frequently-imprecise anticipations about acceptable and non acceptable behaviours. Case in point is the possible occurrence of role conflict when anticipations and requirements are hard to meet, or are reciprocally irreconcilable. 11Margolis et al (2004) observes that stress emanating from ambiguous goals and objectives could eventually result in job dissatisfaction, loss of self-confidence, emotions of uselessness, inferior sense of self-esteem, depression, little incentive to work, augmented blood pressure and pulse rate, and employee turnover. Responsibility has also been found to be a possible stressor connected with a person’s organisational roles.
Also recognized as possible stressors are workplace relationships involving colleagues, superiors, and subordinates. 12Danna and Griffin (2009) found that suspicion of co-employees is correlated to reduced communication, elevated role indistinctness, deprived emotional health and low job satisfaction.
13Vecchio (2005) affirms that pathological results like workplace hostility and harassment are consequences of tough feelings, like resentment in the workplace and jealousy amongst workers. Deprived employment associations among organisation members constitute a prospective cause of workplace stress. Co-worker association has the potential to offer important social sustenance which could relieve job tension. 14Chan (2008) indicates that social support through group unity and interpersonal belief is related to reduced degrees of professed job stress and improved wellbeing.
For occupational growth and accomplishment, 15Sutherland and Cooper (2009) contends that the common ‘career stressors’ include: the strains related to starting a career, building and sustaining a career, thoughts of being underappreciated and aggravation in achieving a feeling of accomplishment, and disparity in anticipations.
The organizational composition and ambience of the job milieu manipulates workers understandings of stress. Employees at times remonstrate not having a sense of fitting- in, deficiencies in chances to contribute, sense of unwarranted behavioural control and non inclusion in workplace communications and discussions. The home-work crossing point is also significant. 15Sutherland and Cooper (2009), posit that it is improbable to achieve a full stress outline without studying the home-work crossing point. This embraces the private life experiences that could impact on performance, competence, welfare and modifications at work.
Handling the crossing point between a person’s job and different functions and duties off the job is also deemed as a prospective cause of stress. 16Cooper, Dewe and O’Driscoll (2010) suggests that modifications in family compositions, enhanced involvement of women in the workforce, and technological transformations that facilitate performance of job assignments to be in diverse positions have distorted work and home life limits, which invariably has produced the prospective for the occurrence of conflict between on-the-job and off-the-job functions.
From the foregoing, two diverse classes of workplace stressors are identifiable: external stressors and internal stressors. External stressors involve the employment situations in every organization. 17Arnold et al. (2005) asserts that this comprises the organization structural components, rational employment situations, physical workplace plan, the employment complications and new technology innovations, workload, working hours, shift work, organizational climate, management and interpersonal relationships.
The internal stressors include the internal or personal stress dynamics like gender with which this study is concerned. 18Steenbergen et al (2011) and 19Olorunsola (2012) observe that gender, within the framework of current research in organizational psychology is studied as a dynamic affecting stress with respect to wellbeing issues, job satisfaction, work-family divergence and production deviance, work performance and efficiency.
2.3. Outcomes of Workplace Stress
The common signs and symptoms of job and workplace stress include: anxiety, irritability, or depression; fatigue; loss of sex drive, apathy, social withdrawal, insomnia, lack of concentration, tension or headaches etc. 20Israel et al. (2009) affirms that workers facing workplace stress often develop medical conditions like unbalanced blood pressure, amplified cholesterol points, muscle tension, diabetes, hypertension, ulcers, headaches, substance abuse, and clinical depression.
Again, studies like 21Anderson and Pulich (2008) and 22Levin-Epstein (2008) indicate that such workers also face considerable anxiety, anger, and irritability which could influence their ability to sustain interpersonal relationships outside the organization. Other outcomes of workplace stress include reduced productivity, augmented absenteeism, and generation of all-encompassing models of dysfunction in the organization. Besides, their aptitude for focus and information retention develops into a dilemma. Workplace stress also results in alterations in work habits, personality (or social behaviour), and job burnout. 23Costa (2006) reiterates that shift work, particularly overnight hours, could portend harmful effects on the health of workers and provoke negative psycho physiological outcomes. Costa adds that about 20 percent of night shift workers vacate their jobs arising from psycho physiological dysfunctions like persistent fatigue, hypertension, heart disease, and gastro intestinal dysfunction.
2.4. Gender and Workplace Stress
Several studies centring on stress have examined the effect of gender on workplace stress. These studies imply that the gender disparities are not obtainable for all expressions of workplace stress. For instance, 24Wong, DeSantics and Staudemayer (2007) found no disparities between women and men as regards the influence of stressors on observed role conflicts, personal achievement, self-esteem or welfare. The correlation between burnout and gender features in general is uncertain. While studies like 25Arikawe (2004) indicate that women experience burnout more than men, others like 26Dunham and Varma (2008) say the reverse. 27Bakker, Schaufeli, and van Dierendonck (2007) and 28Middleton et al (2009) found important gender disparities in dangerous job strainers and their consequences for other indicative variables. Middleton et al (2009) notes that women tend to experience more from difficulties like mental disorders, depression, anxiety and psycho-somatic illnesses, while men experience more of heart disease resulting from several issues like stress.
Studies like 29Paoli and Merllié (2010) and 30Gunkel, Lusk and Wolf (2007) indicate that workplace stress impacts on both men and women. Nonetheless, women may be excessively open to stressors. 31Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) observes that women more than men, have more experience of repetitive jobs, are less likely engaged in problem solving or learning employments, have reduced tendency of being able to decide when to take a break in their work, and are more prone to disruption by unanticipated assignments.
Women occupy more subordinate places than men but with the continuing rise in women’s labour force participation, studies are now utilizing female issues in their research. 32Bekker, Nijssen and Hens (2006) suggests that one crucial aspect and fundamental explanation for the subsistence of gender differences, concerning stress demonstrations, is the existence of disparities in the types of stress motivations faced by both genders in their workplaces.
Several of the stressors are psycho-social in nature and it is commonly acknowledged that individuals respond diversely to introduction to these dynamics. It is therefore imperative to think gender when examining stress-associated difficulties. 33Meijer (2007) affirms that women and men are open to diverse employment milieu and dissimilar forms of requirements and pressures, even while employed in identical industries and occupations.
34Ojo (1998) notes that men have added tendencies to hold superior spots. Furthermore, 35Baum (2009) indicates that women (who constitute 42% of the active population in the EU) have greater tendencies for part-time work than men. 32% of women in contrast to 7% of men confirmed that they work part-time and numerous women are engaged in low-paid, insecure jobs that influence their employment situations and consequently the exposure to hazards.
36Fapohunda (2012) indicates that women are inclined to stay in the same job longer than men therefore their experience of any subsisting hazards lasts longer. Women are also apt to work in employments with poorer union representation. Fapohunda adds that women especially in African societies still do majority of the unpaid and care work in the home, even with full time work. The combination of the paid employment and family responsibilities engenders additional pressure, especially when they are unable to bring together work and family life.
37Yu-Chi and Keng-Yu (2010) in a study of Taiwanese bank employees aimed at making out the disparities in the role of gender in relation to job stress found that respondents with supplementary masculine features demonstrated reduced stress levels in contrast to those with higher scores in feminine features. Moreover, they established that assessment of stress and sex did not indicate any dissimilarity.
38Agagiotou (2011), in a study of work stress, job commitment and emotional intelligence of social workers found that female social workers demonstrated more elevated levels of anxiety than males. Also, in a study involving 400 teachers in Pakistan primary and secondary schools, 39Rubina, Sadaf, and Masood (2011) established gender as an extremely strong predictor of teachers’ stress. Moreover, 40Meško Videmšek, Štihec, Meško-Štok and Karpljuk (2010) institute that female managers possess advanced stress levels and more signs of rigorous apprehension in contrast to the male respondents, in their study involving 85 managers in Slovenia.
3. Theoretical Framework
There are several explanatory theories for workplace stress. The Social Environment Model also called the Michigan Model endeavours to classify and characterize workers’ stressor dynamics which are principally ascribed to the job features or organization features. 41Furnham (2005) identifies the Person-environment fit theory as resulting from the Michigan Model. 42Karasek and Theorell (2007) proposed another approach namely the Demand Control Model by which, the combination of high psychological demand conditions and low control in decision making may lead to intense stress with consequences for health. The theory of imbalance between work efforts and rewards centres on whether workers are remunerated for the efforts they exert. The theory posits that when a worker obtains compensations that are recognized as not being commensurate to his endeavours, the consequential emotional reaction augments the risk of nonattendance at work. 43Chmiel (2000) and 44Siegrist (2006) observe that the core of the model is a person’s reaction to outside requirements which they are required to react to, and the necessities emanating from the accomplishment of their personal ambitions and anticipations.
The Job Demands-Control-Support (JDCS) Model
A central model in psycho-social work-related stress is the Job Demands-Control (JDC) model which envisages that the utmost workplace stress happens in situations symbolized by elevated work requirements and low work control. 45Johnson and Hall (2008) observes that the model was later extended as the Job Demands-Control-Support (JDCS) model with the fundamental assumption that workplace stress rises with job demands and as control and support levels decline. Consequently, stress will credibly portend additional harmful health outcomes in employments with high requirements, and low control and social support.
On the contrary, stress will credibly portend fewer harmful effects on wellbeing in employments with less requirements and an elevated level of control and social support. Studies like 46Landsbergis (2008), 42Karasek and Theorell (2007), 24Wong, DeSantics and Staudemayer (2007) corroborate the ability of the JDCS model to describe the undesirable results of workplace stress on wellbeing.
As earlier observed, some of the studies initiated gender as a control variable, and their outcomes diverge on a range of levels. The divergence can be elucidated, within the theoretical framework of the JDCS model, via the reality that men and women vary in their insights on the influence of the diverse psycho-social dynamics on mental stress. Results of studies in this regard also indicate divergence. While studies like 47Wall et al (2006) indicate that gender is significantly affected on the three elements of the JDCS model others like 48Grönlund (2007) found dissimilarities only in a few of the elements and affirms that there are no gender differences in the effects of job demands and control, opposing studies like 49Vermeulen and Mustard (2000), 50van der Doeff and Maes (2009) that indicate that attributes of the workplace, for instance job demands and control, could include a bigger effect on psychological health among men. Yet others like 51Jansen et al (2006) and 52Brunborg (2008) locate gender diversities only in the observed workplace level of control but not job demands or support although 53Sanne (2005) found the safeguard effect of support stronger for women.
The foregoing indicates that literature is indecisive on the gender effects of psycho-social dynamics and whether the two genders boast dissimilar perceptions about these dynamics, or differ on the troubles originated by stress and their perception of the stressors. Again, not enough seems to have been done on gender differences in the likelihood of the diverse stressors engendering stress.
The study was a descriptive one with 300 workers comprising secondary school teachers, nurses and journalists who rated items based on the degree to which they had added to their stress as experienced in their jobs. The study employed a work stress questionnaire to collect data.The work stress questionnaire of 54Spector and
Jex (1998) was adapted for use. There were 20closed-ended questions on interpersonal workplace conflicts, organizational constrains, quantitative workload, and sources and signs of workplace stress. It was intended to examine the dynamics that deter workers from effective job performance. The internal consistency of estimated reliability was .77 on Cronbach’s Alpha scale. An independent t-test was carried out to contrast gender in the appearance of occupational stress.
5. Results and Discussion
5.1. Gender and Antecedents of Workplace Stress
The study indentified several sources of workplace stress. 74% of the respondents indicated that the source of theirs was poor remuneration, 46.3% identified pressure to meet targets; 74.2% cited generally overwhelming work volumes; 27% interference of home-life arising from taking work home; 52.4% insufficient employees for appropriate job execution; 26.6% responsibility for other staff wellbeing; 56.3% impractical or unachievable performance targets; insufficient resources for suitable job performance; 45.4% complexities in rapport with supervisors; 43,7% long hours at work; 34.8 % insecurities about potential organization finance; 42.7% conforming with rising intrusive and dogmatic processes; and 33.2% challenging relationships with co-workers.
5.2. Gender and Corollaries of Workplace Stress
This study found that both genders indicate that the most regular mode through which private difficulties and stress upset work performance comprises complexities in attentiveness at work. (44.7%) females and 37.1% males mentioned this effect. Absenteeism constitutes another frequent outcome of stress. 19.3% of the females as opposed to 15.2% of the males cited absenteeism implying that females have a little elevated rate of absenteeism. Another uppermost indication of workplace stress is reduced work quality for both genders. However, the males indicated somewhat higher rates of 18.2% compared to 14.7% for females. This study demonstrates that stress is a significant dynamic for several employees and women experience strains more intensely; just 31% of women and 39% of men declare that they have reserves to handle their stress. Only 28% of them affirm that their employers offer stress management wherewithal for them.
5.3. Gender and Manifestation of Workplace Stress
The study found that stressors have the strongest influence on women in lower-ranking occupations and they tend to be more in this form of demanding work than men. However, the study could not establish significant gender divergence in occupations with elevated demands and a high level control. The findings of this study as observed in Table 1, demonstrate the existence of a significant gender differentiation in the method of workplace stress articulation. 178 of the males indicated more work stress both in interpersonal conflict [t (300) = 5.47] and in organizational constraint [t (300) = 4.42].
|Males Ν = 165||Females Ν = 155|
|Workplace Interpersonal Conflict||12.57||4.46||9.54||3.30||5.47||0.01|
As indicated in Table 2, males exhibit higher levels of disagreements with colleagues than females [t (229) = 2.940. They also had more rude treatments form their colleagues (t (229) = 2.48). Moreover, more male respondents had it complex or impractical to work because of inaccurate instructions [t (229) = 3.11], poor equipment or supplies [t (229) = 2.19] or deficiency in information on tasks and methods. [t (229) = 1.32]. They also had challenges in working under disruptions by others [t (229) = 1.61].
This result corroborates that males indicate elevated levels of workplace stress arising from interpersonal conflicts. This gender disparity in interpersonal conflicts is quite significant, because, as 55Robinson and King (2012) observes, interpersonal pressures in the workplace are connected to reduced job satisfaction and increased prospects of employee work turnover. On the contrary though, 56Salo (2010) reports that females demonstrated more stress linked to interpersonal relationships, different from males. This paper suggests that the gender disparities in the articulation of workplace stress could be attributable to divergences in organizational functioning.
|Males Ν=165||Females Ν=155|
|Organizational regulations and practices.||2.23||1.59||1.93||1.25||1.96||0.00|
|Frequency of disagreements with co-workers||2.83||1.17||2.48||0.93||2.94||0.01|
|Poor equipment or supplies.||2.39||1.64||1.97||1.34||2.19||0.00|
|Frequency of experience of nasty things at work||2.26||1.21||2.18||0.96||0.75||0.02|
|Deficiency in information on tasks and methods.||2.48||1.82||2.12||1.43||1.32||0.00|
|Conflict in job requirements.||2.06||1.52||1.82||1.24||2.13||0.05|
|Frequency of people offense at work||2.82||1.37||2.67||1.17||2.48||0.00|
|Lack of equipment or supplies.||2.28||1.76||1.99||1.53||1.64||0.00|
|Disruptions by others.||2.23||1.42||2.03||1.04||1.61||0.02|
A 2007 research by the University of Pennsylvania implied that there could be basic gender differences in reactions to stress, occasionally categorized as ‘fight-or-flight’ in males and ‘tend-and-befriend’ in females. The study affirms that females have two times the degree of depression and anxiety disorders as against males because they react to stress by mounting movement in brain regions concerned with emotion, and that these transformations remain longer than in males.
Again, 57Chaplin (2012) establishes that gender disparities in reaction to stress goes beyond neurological evidence but has extensive connotations for general health. Chaplin adds that arising from a stressful incident, females have greater tendency than males to admit misery or anxiety, which could result in the danger of despair and anxiety disorders while males more than females are liable to fall into alcoholism due to stress.
The foregoing discussion on gender disparities in reaction to stress constitutes an infinitesimal line of a complicated maze of gender disparities, whose fibres fit flawlessly to produce the individual and expert relations that characterize life.
The maze of interrelating gender divergences unswervingly affect individual and group welfare and functioning not only at home but in the workplace. Gender makes a difference in life and business. The gender disparities in reactions to stress have implications for organization management. Males think tactically and the countermand feature for them in administrative and calculating situations is the tendency of success or failure; elucidating their fight-or-flight reaction to stress. While there are possible exemptions to individual male’s eventual reactions to their evaluation of conditions, the procedure is constantly identical.
In contrast, females tend to be obviously more communal than males. They are experts at affiliation who value society. Consequently, they have fewer tendencies than males when hit by stressful circumstances to go-it-alone. They react by nurturing and assisting and achieve safety and security based on opening up to others; getting counsel and constructing social maintenance arrangements and groupings. This fundamental innate reaction is general even though there are constant exemptions.
This does not imply that females will not grasp the nettle by themselves rather as 58Baruch, Biener and Barnett (2009) affirms females, particularly in industry, are capable of and respond this way arising from the double nature of their common sense although this type of response, is less frequent and less relaxing for most females.
The foregoing implies the need for the business community to identify the necessity of integrating an appreciation of gender disparities in their wellness programmes and management development endeavours. A significant move in generating a 21st century workplace exemplified by health, decreased stress, deeper commitment and optimal efficiency involves appreciating the significance of gender issues in industry, as regards how people carry out their roles and converse, added to how they are supervised. Effective organizational involvement facilitates constructive tackling of stress and development of worker’s performance. A one-size-fits-all technique of decreasing workers’ stress may be unsuitable. 59Akpe (2010) opines that organizations must offer for both managers and employees successful deterrence and early interference programmes that are not only customized to their exclusive requirements but that also think about the gender and age differences in the outcomes of stress on work performance. Males and females experience stress differently in the workplace.
In addition to it being very important for employers and organizations to recognize and encourage employee well-being, it also becomes crucial for persons to understand and explore means of stress administration aimed at developing in general a good quality of life. Improved management of physical and emotional happiness, discovering automatic traditions and depressing reflections that could contribute to work stress, and improving affiliations both professionally and personally with increased communication amongst other things can lead to reduced job stress and make allowances for improved prospects of conflict resolution.
The significance of gender in the workplace is indicated by the fact that although studies have been conducted in the past in the area of gender and workplace stress, it still constitutes a variable to be examined. This study looked at the effect of gender on the antecedents, symptoms and reactions to workplace stress especially using the interpersonal and organizational constraints. Bearing in mind that all organization stakeholders require a less demanding and more dynamic workplace, the study adds to knowledge by demonstrating the gender diversities in workplace stress. It adds to the understanding of the basis of gender disparities in workplace stress. The results can be used by managers to put the gender factor into consideration in altering work conditions to workers’ requirements.
Stress is a part of life and work irrespective of gender. Comparable things like job requirements; not relationship or marital difficulties; career moves; interpersonal conflicts generate stress for both genders but that is as far as the resemblance goes. This study confirms that there is disparity in antecedents of, demonstrations of and reactions of males and females to workplace stress which can frankly affect job performance. To boost workers’ efficiency and emotional and physical health organizations must implement workplace stress decreasing strategies. To react accordingly, managers and must be attentive to these gender differences.