Research consistently has documented the same phenomenon across the developed world: as the pace of competition increases and we enter a truly global marketplace, stress and its consequences are becoming epidemic (Sauter, Murphy, and Hurrell, 1990). Increased work hours, increased pressure, increased insecurity (e.g. Bond, Galinsky, and Swanberg, 1997), and myriad other organizational stressors have immediate and long-term consequences for both individuals and organizations. Consequently, it is not surprising that research on work stress has proliferated. However, the question of what organizations can do to avert or mitigate the negative consequences of stress – arguably the single most important question in the field – remains largely unaddressed and, therefore, unanswered. In this chapter, we summarize what is known about how organizations can deal with the proliferation of organizational stressors. In doing so, we also attempt to identify what is not known – thereby establishing agendas for both practice and research.
A model of job stress
A variety of “models” of job stress exist, varying in both their breadth and the complexity of the processes underlying the model predictions (Kelloway and Day, 2005a). Despite diverse theoretical approaches, we suggest that most work stress researchers would agree with a basic model postulating that a set of organizational stressors (i.e. events that occur in the work environment outside the individual; Pratt and Barling, 1988) may be perceived as stressful by the individual, and consequently can result in a variety of strain reactions (see, for example, Hurrell and Kelloway, in press).