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Repeated stressful workplace for a group of clerical workers : complexity, content, and higher-order values of their experiences Maglio, Asa-Sophie T.

Abstract

Complexity and content of the stressful workplace, and the goals or expectations of the worker were revealed through a micro-analytic, subjective, and contextual research approach. A content analysis, based on the transactional theory of stress (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) was used to analyse 1044 stress events produced by 50 female clerical workers. These women recorded at least 15 responses to a bi-daily open-ended question, which was a part of a 15-day daily diary study (Long, n.d). The descriptive complexity of the stressful work events revealed that generally two salient personal or environmental elements were present during or contributing to the stress events. These elements were descriptively organised as either concurrent or hierarchical. The content analysis identified 2043 of these salient elements for the group, which were divided into 88 higher-order codes and, which, in turn, were clustered into seven categories: work-related, interpersonal, expectations of task and performance, technical, changes in environment, changes related to time, and personal discomfort. Elements, codes, and categories each varied in terms of their frequencies between and within the clerical workers' experiences. The personal goals or expectations of (a) competence and capability, (b) social, physical, and psychological well-being, and (c) predictability and stability were identified from the work-related, technical, expectations of task and performance categories, the interpersonal and personal discomfort categories, and the changes in environment and changes related to time categories, respectively. In conclusion, stress occurs when these goals or expectations become harmed/lost threatened, or challenged by combinations of the stressful elements and limitations created by the clerical worker's socioeconomic status in the workplace. Stress for the group of clerical workers in the present study is cast not as deficit or dysfunction, but as striving to achieve and to protect goals or expectations in an environment that favours the goals or expectations of the organization or boss. Implications for research and counseling are discussed.

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