Direct and Interaction Effects of Challenge and Hindrance Stressors towards Job Outcomes

Article excerpt

Abstract

Recently, studies have shown the positive (challenge) and negative (hindrance) nature of stressors can influence job outcomes in opposite directions. However, no study has explored the interaction effects of these stressor dimensions on each other. The direct and interaction effects were tested with two studies: (1) 100 blue collar workers from a single organization, and (2) 275 Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) employees from a variety of professions and industries. Study 1 found support for the direct effects towards employee loyalty and organizational commitment, and this was also supported in study 2 towards perceived organizational support and job satisfaction. In study 2, only hindrance stressors predicted employee loyalty. Overall, three significant interaction effects were found towards employee loyalty (in both studies) and perceived organizational support, with respondents with high challenge stressors and low hindrance stressors reporting the highest levels of job outcomes. These findings support the interplay between stressors and highlight the benefits for organizations in seeking to address enhanced challenge stressors while also minimizing hindrance stressors.

Keywords: stressors, challenge, hindrance, job outcomes, interactions; New Zealand.

Introduction

Work-related stress represents a widespread global phenomenon, which has been shown to generate a range of consequences for workers and employers alike. For example, Färber (1983) documents the potential for human burnout as a result of work-related stress in service occupations. In contrast, the literature also indicates the potential emergence of positive occupational stress-related outcomes. For instance, in a study of 696 learners, LePine, LePine and Jackson (2004) found that stress associated with challenges in the learning environment (challenge stressors) had a positive relationship on learning performance, while stress associated with hindrances in the learning environment (hindrance stressors) exerted a negative relationship on learning performance. Despite the findings of stressors being positive and negative towards outcomes, no study has explored their potential interaction effects on each other and we test this effect towards a number of job outcomes across two distinct samples. Overall, we find support for the effect that while challenge stressors are positively related and hindrance stressors negative related to job outcomes combined the detrimental effects of hindrance stressors can be buffered by challenge stressors. The implications are that developing challenge stressors may directly and indirectly benefit employees, especially for those facing high hindrance stressors from their job.

Stressors

Lazarus and Folkman (1984: 12) defined stress as "a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being". Stress is an individual's psychological response to a situation where there is something at stake for the individual and where the situation taxes or exceeds the individual's capacity of resources (LePine et al, 2004). Stress thus reflects a subjectively laden, emotional response to a situation which is evaluated as either potentially challenging (positive), or harmful (negative), with psychological responses typically characterized by heightened levels of information processing focused on appraising and coping with the particular situation.

Application of stress to organizational settings has led to the development of the concept of work stressors, which have been defined as stressful job conditions (Jex, Bliese, Buzzell & Primeau, 2001), which may serve as antecedents to the development of individuals' occupational stress levels. Ultimately, such stressors may serve to affect outcomes including job performance (Beehr, Jex, Stacy & Murray, 2000), employee loyalty and perceived organizational support (Haar, 2006), and job satisfaction (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000). …