Stress at Work

stress at work

Models of stress at work: the individual vs stress

The concept of stress has existed for centuries but it was not until the second half of the twentieth century it was regarded as a subject of research in psychology.

According to many authors (Lazarus & Follkman 1984; Winnubst, 1984), the development of psychological stress is related mainly to the work of three scientists: Cannon in 1932, Selye in 1936 and Wolff in 1953.

Cannon (1932), very interested in the physiology of emotions, stress considered as a disturbance of homeostasis in the individual subject to conditions.

In 1956, Selye Stress speaks in a fairly technical in the sense of a set of orchestrating the body's defenses against any form of noxious stimulus, a response he called the "General Adaptation Syndrome" (GAS) .

Stress was not therefore environmental demand (it was actually called a "stressor"), but rather a set of universal physiological reactions and processes created by this application.
Wolff (1953) also deserves to be mentioned since it was with Selye, the forerunner of the current definitions of stress while emphasizing the dynamic nature of the stress state.

In 1966, Lazarus exceeds these definitions while emphasizing the relationship between the individual and his environment.
Applied to the workplace, stress is defined as "any characteristic of the work environment that poses a threat to the individual."

Before the astonishing diversity of definitions of stress reported in the literature and in order to avoid any ambiguity, it is important to adopt a precise definition of stress at work.
Based on the literature described above, we chose ours based on the concept of control of work activity. In addition, we design stress as a process evolving over time and not as a static phenomenon.
We envision psychological stress in the sphere of work as a "worker's response to the requirements of the position for which he may have the necessary resources, and which he considers to face. ".

Some authors have enumerated lists of working conditions could cause stress among workers (work overload, job insecurity, and role conflict), lists only based on empirical data, without reference a conceptual model. Other researchers have, for cons, a conceptual framework used to develop accurate theoretical models based on the elements they consider fundamental in the etiology of stress.

Generally, it should be noted that three models have dominated the scientific community over the last twenty years: the model of balance between the individual and the environment, commonly known in English literature the "PE fit model," the model-call work called "JD-C model" Karasek and transactional model.

Models of job stress:

  • Model "P-E-FIT"

Model "EP-FIT" (Person-Environment Fit) means the model fit between the person and his environment. The basis of this theory is that the degree of fit between the individual and the workplace determines the degree of stress or tension experienced.
Two types of matching are considered:
-That between the results obtained in the work situation and needs, the intentions of the individual.
-That between the demands and requirements of the work situation and the skills and abilities of the worker.

The originality of this model is to consider the various possible interactions between the behavioral pattern of type A and B and that French and Harrison called a type environment A and B.
This approach recognizes three levels of influence: the environment (stressors), the individual and the context. According to this view in the middle of type A is a controllable environment in fast pace with significant challenges and encouraging independence.
In contrast to the work environment of type B is a medium routine at a moderate pace with some significant challenges and encouraging some autonomy.

This model postulates that if the requirements of the work situation of type A or B (agree to optimally behavioral pattern type A or B of the individual, will result in a match (congruence) between the individual and the workplace, lack of adequacy is the cause of the symptoms of stress.

The usefulness of the theory is limited to specify how work situations become stressful. Ignoring the role of environmental constraints, the model can not highlight the working conditions that cause stress. This model can only show that the perceptions of the individual acting as a "mediator" in the relationship between stressors and work environment stress. It does not test what specific characteristics of the work activity causes stress. This model is also criticized because it primarily assesses stress in terms of needs, values ​​and develops individual skills and job stress as a function of the individual rather than the environment.

  • JD-C model:

Karasek's model (Job strain model or professional model strain) was proposed in the early 1980s. The advantage of this model is to give an explanation of stress at work by crossing two types of stressors:

- The psychological demands associated with constraints on the execution of the task.
Aspects of the work that cause an increase in psychological demands are:

• an excessive amount of work

• a mental high

• intense concentration for long periods

• conflicting demands

• a task often interrupted

• a hectic work

• lack of time to do the work

• work very fast

• the often idle, waiting for the others.

The decision latitude, which includes both the skills and leeway.
Aspects of the work that empower decision concerning the possibility of:
• make decisions independently

• decide how to do its job

• have influence at work.

Aspects of work that promote the use of skills include the ability to:

• develop skills

• learn new things

• Use a high level of qualifications;

• to work varied;

• Use creativity;

• do several different things.

The combination of these two factors can define four types of work situation as reported in Table 1:

According to this model, a mental and physiological tension at work occurs when high psychological demand is accompanied by low decision latitude. Many empirical studies have supported the effect of these constraints on physical health (cardiovascular disease) and mental health (depression and burnout).

Johnson completed the Karasek model by incorporating the issue of human relations in business. A third component has been added to the model to account for the social support of colleagues and superiors who change the association between job strain and the occurrence of health problems by acting as an antidote or protective factor.

Used successfully in many countries and widely disseminated in the scientific community, this model has become an essential reference for those involved in mental health work.

It therefore seems useful to identify factors clearly defined and specific work activity so as to consider strategies to prevent stress. Baker concludes that the success of the research on stress at work will depend on the ability of researchers to demonstrate that stress is not a nebulous emotional experience of the individual, but rather a multifactorial phenomenon determined by the environment, which leads to negative consequences in terms of health.

The transactional model:
To the limitations of traditional research on stress have been largely based on models "antecedent-consequence" or "stimulus-response", he returned to Lazarus and Folkman (1984) have spoken for the first time transactional model) .

According to Lazarus and Folkman, assessing the situation in stages, before responding impulsively, it is clear that the subject, subject to the requirements of its environment, first carried out an assessment of the situation; cognitive, emotional and behavioral. Based on the results of this assessment, the individual will adopt an adaptive strategy that suits him. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) identified three kinds of cognitive assessment:

• Primary evaluation: where the individual asks "Am I in danger? ". Thus, it is a first judgment to determine whether the influence of the situation confronting the well-being of the person is irrelevant, benign, or even positive stress.

• Evaluation secondary that identifies possible solutions. It is a complex evaluation process that considers all options "coping" available, the probability that option "coping" given result or not the expected results. In this sense, the process of assessing the situation is similar to that used in problem solving.
Primary and secondary assessments interact with each other to determine the degree of stress.

• Revaluation: for a change in the initial assessment based on the input of new information environment or the person itself. Sometimes this revaluation result of an effort to adapt, it took the name of "revaluation defensive."

Once the subject has completed its assessment of the situation of confrontation, it's time to choose one of the coping strategies. Adaptive strategies have two main functions: to control or change the issue that causes stress in the environment (adaptation strategy focused on the problem), or regulate the emotional response to the problem (coping strategy focused on emotion) These two strategies influence each other in a given situation of confrontation.

Individual factors and others related to the specificity of the situation will have a considerable influence on the assessment of the situation and the coping strategies used.
On the one hand, at the individual, it may, in particular, include the commitment and beliefs that reflect what is important to individuals and determine how they evaluate what is happening and what is about to occur.
On the other hand, some formal properties of the work situation may also influence the evaluation process. It is, for example, the novelty of the event, its ambiguity or uncertainty.
Temporal factors must also be taken into account: the imminence, the duration of the situation of confrontation. Most research over time have been influenced by the concept of "General adaptation syndrome" of Selye (1956), including a response to an alarm, resistance phase and a phase of exhaustion. One can also consider the aspect repetitive confrontational over time, can cause particular coping strategies early.

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