New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 7: Stress and Strain at Work: How Much is There, Who has Most and are Things Changing?
Roy L. Payne In 1979 two colleagues and I published a short paper entitled ‘Exploding the myth of executive stress’ (Fletcher et al., 1979). Encouraged by academic books such as The failure of success (Morrow, 1963) and the classic Organizational Stress: Studies in Role Conﬂict and Ambiguity (Kahn et al., 1964) and highly successful novels such as Something Happened by Joseph Heller, the media of the 1960s and 1970s did much to promote the idea that executive life was highly stressful and that executives were the unsung super heroes of western societies (well, protestant ethic-driven societies anyway). Our paper, based on the following sorts of data, tried to dispel this myth. Table 7.1 shows data derived from a survey of 1 per cent of the community based in a town in South Australia. The paper was published in 1977 but the survey was carried out in 1972 (Finlay-Jones and Burville, 1977). The table contains data for the 12-item version of the General Health Questionnaire (Goldberg, 1972) and it shows the percentage of people classiﬁed as ‘cases of minor psychological distress’ broken down by social class. Note that the sample is of people residing in the community, so it does not include severely ill people in mental hospitals and so on. A person is classiﬁed as a ‘case’if they report having three or more of the 12 symptoms assessed by the GHQ-12. Social class is based on education, income and occupation. Social class 1 includes those in the...
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