Coping With Job Stress Research Paper

Academic Writing Service

Sample Coping With Job Stress Research Paper. Browse other research paper examples and check the list of research paper topics for more inspiration. If you need a research paper written according to all the academic standards, you can always turn to our experienced writers for help. This is how your paper can get an A! Feel free to contact our custom research paper writing service for professional assistance. We offer high-quality assignments for reasonable rates.

Coping with job stress is a key concept in understanding people’s adaptation to their work roles. In their jobs employees are confronted with various kinds of demands, which may become ‘stressors’ when they tax or exceed the employee’s adaptive capabilities. Examples of common job stressors include work overload, role problems, poor job control, lack of support from supervisors and co-workers, and interpersonal conflicts. These stressors may lead to negative psychological (e.g., depression, irritability, burnout), physical (e.g., headaches, heart palpitations, hyperventilation) and behavioral (e.g., absenteeism, turnover, violence) symptoms or ‘strains.’ The psychological process that is involved in dealing with these job stressors in order to reduce strain is called ‘coping.’ More specifically, coping with job stress refers to the things employees do to handle the stressors they encounter in their work roles. These individual coping efforts may or may not be supported by the employing organization.

Academic Writing, Editing, Proofreading, And Problem Solving Services

Get 10% OFF with 24START discount code

1. The Concept Of Coping

Rather than a homogeneous concept coping represents a diffuse umbrella term. Nevertheless, a widely used definition of coping exists that refers to the constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts a person makes to manage demands that tax or exceed their personal resources (Lazarus and Folkman 1984). Coping refers to an interplay between person and environment that occurs when an individual appraises a situation or an event as stressful. As far as coping with job stress is concerned, this interplay involves the employee and his or her job environment or work setting that is appraised as stressful. It is important to note that coping refers merely to the effort made and not to the quality of the outcome. That is, coping may be either effective or successful in preventing, avoiding, or controlling individual distress or it may be ineffective or unsuccessful. For instance, compensatory or comfort behaviors such as excessive eating, smoking, drinking, or working commonly are cited as examples of maladaptive coping strategies. Furthermore, coping may refer to overt actions or observable behaviors as well as to covert, unobservable thoughts and events.

2. The Historical Development Of Coping

As far as the conceptualization of coping is concerned, three approaches can be distinguished. Initially, coping was studied from a psychodynamic point of view in the general context of human adaptation. In the first half of the twentieth century, leading psychoanalysts like Freud, Adler, and Jung described adjustment and defense mechanisms by which individuals deal with intrapsychic conflict. Building upon this earlier work, in the 1960s and 1970s ego psychologists distinguished between coping as an advanced or mature ego process leading to successful adaptation and defense as an unsuccessful neurotic mode of adaptation.

The second approach emerged from the 1960s and conceived coping in terms of personality traits. Relatively stable dispositions or coping styles (i.e., denial, repression, vigilance) were expected to determine the individual’s coping behavior across various situations. Although empirical research has shown that people possess stable and consistent coping preferences it is likewise true that individuals are able to vary their responses to stressful situations in accordance with the demands posed by these situations. Personality traits have made a comeback in the 1970s and 1980s as so-called personal coping resources like ‘hardiness,’ ‘dispositional optimism,’ ‘internal locus of control,’ ‘self-efficacy,’ ‘sense of coherence,’ and ‘self-esteem.’ Such coping resources were expected to foster successful coping since the individual can draw upon them when under stress.

The currently dominant transactional approach originates from the work that Lazarus and his col- leagues have performed since the 1950s. In contrast to the psychoanalytic approach, coping is defined in this approach by an effort that is independent from its success and includes pro-active as well as defensive strategies. Furthermore, coping is considered to be a dynamic and transactional process involving person as well as environment rather than the result from a relative personality disposition.

Coping has been applied to various aspects of human life. Initially, it was used predominantly in clinical and health psychology to understand how patients deal with chronic disease, substance use, loss, chronic pain, and trauma. More recently, minor coping efforts involving so-called daily hassles have been investigated. Coping with job stress (including unemployment) has been studied since the end of the seventies and involves long-term chronic job stressors (e.g., future job insecurity), short-term daily hassles at the job (e.g., interpersonal conflict), as well as acute severe stressors (e.g., armed robbery).

3. General Coping Theory

The leading cognitive-behavioral theory of stress and coping of Richard Lazarus and his co-workers is usually applied to work situations as well. It assumes that a particular situation or event is appraised negatively as stressful in terms of threat, loss, or harm. Alternatively, the situation or event may also be appraised neutral or positive as a challenge. In this so-called ‘primary appraisal,’ the person asks ‘What do I have at stake in this encounter?’ For instance, in a conflict with a colleague the employee’s self-esteem may be threatened, whereas unemployment is likely to be perceived as a loss, rather than a challenge. In ‘secondary appraisal’ the concern of the person is ‘What can I do? What are my options for coping?’ The answer depends to a large extent on personal characteristics, such as motivation, beliefs about oneself and the world, and recognition of personal and situational resources for coping such as financial means, social and problem-solving skills, particular personality traits, and a favorable work situation that includes for instance social support from one’s colleagues and supervisor. It is important to note that both appraisal processes—primary (demand) appraisal and secondary (resource) appraisal—are two components of one cognitive process that take place simultaneously, instead of one process (secondary appraisal) taking place after the other (primary appraisal).

Generally speaking a main distinction is made between two targets: (a) problem-focused coping, which involves attempts to deal with stress by directly altering the situation and (b) emotion-focused coping, which involves attempts to regulate the emotional responses to a stressful situation. For instance, employees might consult their supervisors after a conflict with a colleague (problem-focused) or they may try to relax or distract themselves (emotion focused). In addition, various methods of coping are distinguished such as active–cognitive (i.e., intrapsychic attempts to manage the appraisal of the stressor through, for instance, constructive dialogue or positive comparison), active–behavioral (i.e., overt attempts to deal directly with the stressor), and avoidance (i.e., avoiding or denying the stressor). Although targets and methods of coping can be distinguished theoretically this distinction is usually quite difficult to make at the practical level.

After the coping effort has been completed, a reappraisal of the initial stressful event takes place along the same lines as the original primary appraisal: ‘Is there still something at stake in this encounter?’ The conflict with one’s colleague may be solved or one may have found a new job. In that case the reappraisal is positive and there is no need for further coping efforts. However, in case initial coping efforts failed and the event is reappraised as stressful coping attempts continue.

4. The Individual And Organizational Perspective

In Fig. 1 a taxonomy of individual ways of coping with job stress is displayed, including some examples of coping behaviors. Typically, in occupational settings workplace strain and coping are individual as well as organizational issues. This means that interventions to reduce workplace strain may be targeted at the individual or the organizational level (Quick et al. 1997). Interventions that focus on the individual include job stress education activities, relaxation programs, cognitive-behavioral programs, and employee skills training in such areas as time management and assertiveness. Interventions that focus on the organization seek to reduce strain by changing and improving macrolevel factors operating within organizations (e.g., jobredesign, selection and training policies, organizational development). Although organization-based interventions offer considerable potential for reducing or eliminating job stressors, most workplace initiatives focus on the individual employee. That is, their adaptability to the existing work environment is improved by changing their behavior and improving their life-style or stress management skills and augmenting their coping resources. In the last decades different programs have been developed to increase individual stress resilience and promote health and wellbeing at the workplace, including on-site fitness facilities, health screening, dietary control, smoking cessation, cardiovascular fitness programs, relaxation classes, stress-management training, antiburnout workshops, stress and health education, and psychological counseling.

Coping With Job Stress Research Paper

Generally speaking, individual-based interventions, particularly relaxation programs and cognitive behavioral programs, seem to be effective in reducing employee strain (i.e., burnout, distress, depressed mood, anxiety, and psychosomatic symptoms), whereas the effectiveness of organization-based strategies is still to be demonstrated unambiguously.

5. Research

Earlier studies on coping with job stress often found that employees use fewer problem-focused than emotion-focused strategies directed at changing the problems encountered in the context of work. This was interpreted by noting that the very nature of problems at work are perhaps not ameliorated easily by attempts to change them. It was reasoned that employees are perhaps better off by developing a renewed cognitive perspective and by regulating their negative emotions. More recent studies, however, point to the opposite: currently employees seem to favor problem-focused coping instead of emotion focused coping. More detailed investigations have shown that the level of job control plays a crucial role. When a high level of job control exists, problem focused strategies prevail, but when job control is poor employees seem to favor emotion-focused strategies. Unfortunately, the latter are generally less effective compared to the former. For instance, studies on organizational changes, such as corporate restructuring and downsizing, suggest that employees cope rather poorly with these events which are largely beyond their control. They use predominantly emotion-focused and avoidant coping strategies and suffer long-term adverse mental health.

As a general rule, the more active, problem-focused, and control-oriented the coping strategy the less (mental) health symptoms and the higher employee wellbeing. In contrast, emotion-focused strategies as well as escape-oriented or avoidant strategies generally are associated with poor (mental) health and unwellbeing. However, two factors seem to be important for successful coping: time frame and availability of coping resources. It seems that emotion-focused or escape avoidant-oriented strategies are effective when dealing with short-term stressors, whereas problem-focused and control-oriented strategies are more effective when dealing with chronic or recurrent job stressors. Furthermore, employees who have more coping resources at their disposal appear to use active coping efforts more and avoidant coping less. Consequently, employees who can draw upon coping resources are more likely to deal successfully with job stress.

As far as the relationship between employee coping and sociobiographical factors (e.g., age, gender, education) and job factors (e.g., level and type of job) is concerned, no conclusive empirical evidence is available (Cartwright and Cooper 1996). For instance, among employees no consistent gender-specific or jobspecific coping patterns have been observed. Most likely this lack of conclusive evidence has to be attributed to the complex interaction patterns that exist among the factors involved.

6. Methodological Issues And Future Directions For Research

The measurement of coping is fraught with problems that are partly imputed to the fact that almost exclusively self-report questionnaires are used. More specifically, inductively or empirically developed coping scales yield different dimensions or coping behaviors compared to deductively or theory-based coping scales. Furthermore, the number of coping dimensions included in various questionnaires ranges from two to 28 and there is neither agreement on the hierarchy of these dimensions nor on the fact whether coping should be assessed dispositionally (as a trait) or episodically (as a state). Most importantly, to date, no generally accepted measure exists to assess coping in an occupational context.

At the theoretical level, the crucial distinctions between coping and coping resources, between coping styles and coping behaviors, and between appraisal and (cognitive) coping needs further clarification.


  1. Cartwright S, Cooper C L 1996 Coping in occupational settings. In: Zeidner M, Endler N S (eds.) Handbook of Coping: Theory, Research, Applications. Wiley, New York, pp. 202–20
  2. Latack J C, Havlovic S J 1992 Coping with job stress: A conceptual evaluation framework for coping measures. Journal of Organizational Behavior 13: 497–508
  3. Lazarus R S, Folkman S 1984 Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. Springer, New York
  4. Quick J C, Quick J D, Nelson D L, Hurrell J J (eds.) 1997 Preventive Stress Management in Organizations. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC
Carl Gustav Jung Research Paper
Psychology Of Job Design Research Paper


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get 10% off with the 24START discount code!