New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 2: Constructions of Occupational Stress: Nuisances, Nuances or Novelties?
Dianna Kenny and Dennis McIntyre We should make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. (Albert Einstein) Overview The concept of stress is as elusive as it is pervasive. Discourses of stress in general and occupational stress in particular are so powerful that they are ‘seemingly written into and all over our daily lives’ (Newton, 1995, p. 1). But what is stress? Is it a stimulus or a response? Is it an objective, quantiﬁable, environmental demand or a subjective cognitive appraisal of environmental conditions? Is stress universal or personal? Does stress need ‘managing’ and, if so, is it a public responsibility or a private concern? In order to answer some of these questions, it is necessary to deconstruct the concept and ﬁnd its core. This is no easy matter. Heisenberg (1958) reminds us that even ‘natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning’. A construct like occupational stress has been shaped not only by our method of questioning, but by powerful political, cultural, social and economic forces in which work occurs and in which people respond to their work experiences. In this chapter, we will brieﬂy review the major ways of constructing occupational stress, with particular focus on emergent issues, problematic areas, and less used paradigms, before attempting a synthesis of this diﬃcult and complex ﬁeld. Occupational stress was initially explained and managed within a...
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