Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only


Other social sciences

Publication Details

Successfully submitted to Nottingham Trent University for the award of Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in 2006.


The aim of this research project was to develop a model of understanding, coping with and preventing work-related stress in social care organizations. The research was framed conceptually in a model of organizational stress developed and adapted from Beehr’s (1998) integrative model of organizational stress. The first two stages of the research project explored by interview and survey staff and management perceptions of stress in their organizations. It was found that both acute and chronic stressors occurred and were seen to have increased; organizational stressors were also likely to be more persistent and chronic when they occurred. Interviewees were
concerned particularly with the psychological and social effects of stress responses; these were seen as often having destructive effects on the work team and the quality of its work. Labour turnover was considered to be less of a problem in the sector than heretofore and stress-related sickness absence was seen as a possible outcome of stress but depended on prevailing attitudes in the specific organization towards taking sick leave.
A survey of a wide range of staff and managers indicated that there was considerable consensus as to what the main stressors were. Client-related situations where violent, abusive behaviour and suicide attempts occur in emotionally-charged atmospheres were seen by all respondents as very stressful. Difficulties relating to teamwork and staff relationships were seen as a serious source of stress. These difficulties interfere with the teamwork and close interaction required by this kind of work. The final stage of the research used an action-oriented research approach in which a set of workshops was conducted in one of the participating organizations. An in-depth analysis was developed of staff and management perceptions of coping, positive and
negative moderators of the stress process, and team and organizational issues. The model of organizational stress was found to be accessible to staff and managers and to be applicable to a range of situations. Understanding and awareness of work stress was enhanced through an emphasis on the organizational aspects of stress. Participants perceived clearly the links between stressors, stress responses and individual and
organizational outcomes. They highlighted the importance of stress awareness
emphasising the recognition of stress in one’s colleagues; supervision was seen as an important vehicle for learning about stress and for enhancing coping strategies. Thedevelopment of an appropriate level of hardiness was considered an important coping resource which comprised both problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies. Social support was seen as an important coping resource and positive moderator of the stress
process; counselling as a support was seen to be under-used and participants thought that it needed to be more accessible. In this respect further investigation of the role of counselling in stress prevention would be useful for social care organizations.A practical outcome was the identification and planning of preventive measures. The most important interventions for the overall prevention of stress were considered to be team-building, the focused use of supervision, and organizational support for personal development and learning. The importance of including temporary staff in team-building
and the need to develop supervision skills to an advanced level in the organization were emphasised by the participants. Interventions were conceptualised within the preventive stress management framework of Quick et al (1997) and seen as having implications for primary and secondary prevention. Thus the main thrust of the interventions selected was
towards medium and longer-term change as part of an ongoing stress prevention plan. Such interventions can be seen as useful recommendations to many social care organizations although the mechanisms by which they might be integrated and enacted would vary from setting to setting. The issue of integration of stress prevention interventions into organizational processes and the maintenance of commitment to them represent a challenge to all organizations in the sector. A systematic monitoring of these processes would be a useful development of this study; it would contribute to learning at an organizational level and would be beneficial to many social care organizations. The type of action-oriented programme conducted in the final stage of this project would seem to offer a useful method of collecting feedback on the practice of stress prevention management. The model of organizational stress developed in this research can provide a framework within which further research inquiries can be pursued with consequent benefits for the
social care sector.

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