Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Analyzing the Structure of Entrepreneur Role Stress

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Analyzing the Structure of Entrepreneur Role Stress

Article excerpt


Role stress has been studied in business administration and social psychology, with limited attention to the entrepreneurial context. This paper defines entrepreneur role stress and empirically examines the structure of the construct and its properties through a survey of 282 Swedish entrepreneurs. Factor analysis reveals that entrepreneur role stress is consistent with three proposed facets: role conflict, role ambiguity, and role overload. Further, homogeneity tests indicate that the structure of role stress is not significantly different between subgroups of entrepreneurs (i.e., serial vs. novice entrepreneurs, push vs. pull entrepreneurs), implying the usability of the role stress construct among entrepreneurs. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


What people do on the job is related to a role that they perform at their workplace (Gross, Mason, & McEachern, 1958; Jackson & Schuler, 1985; Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964). This extends to entrepreneurs, who also have a role to perform. The role of the entrepreneur is to combine resources to create profit from a market opportunity-a role that attempts to intrude predefined systems and structures for value creation (Kirzner, 1979; Schumpeter, 1936; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). To gain acceptance and legitimacy in the marketplace, entrepreneurs create change for other businesses when managing their new ventures. The role may facilitate the improvement of wealth and benefits, but it is predominately concerned with creating value from the organization of resources-something that must be successfully accomplished to fulfil the entrepreneurial role. When performing the role well, entrepreneurs cope well with disequilibrium, whether passive (Kirzner, 1979) or active (Schumpeter, 1936).

A good example of "well performing" entrepreneurs is described by Mitton (1989): "Entrepreneurs can see the forest as well as the trees. They see the total scene as well as its parts and how the parts affect each other. They put environment, people, events, information, and technology into understandable perspective. They understand the policies, procedures and rules of a system...they can work on several fronts simultaneously and keep a lot of irons in the fire" (p. 11).

The foregoing is an ideal situation for entrepreneurs, and most entrepreneurs will not perform their role with such ease or in environments where this is possible (i.e., without challenges and impediments). Given the nature of their role as described earlier, entrepreneurs have to cope with potential role conflicts, employ a universal perspective for avoiding role ambiguities, and deal with role overloads when systems intrude on structures designed to create value. As such, stress reactions and insufficiencies are an inherent part of the entrepreneurial role. Despite the intrinsic relationship between role stress and entrepreneurship, the two have received limited research attention. Paradoxically, the extant literature on role stress is extensive and ranges across all types of work environments (Fisher & Gittelson, 1983; Jackson & Schuler, 1985; Van Sell, Brief, & Schuler, 1981) with the exception of the entrepreneurial context. Focus on role stress vis-à-vis entrepreneurship is an underrepresented area of study. To our knowledge, only Harris, Saltstone, and Fraboni (1999) have tested a job stress scale (similar to but distinct from role stress) on a sample of entrepreneurs, while Buttner (1992) compared a sample of entrepreneurs to managers in how they differed in terms of stress, job satisfaction, and health problems. Other scholars have referred to the general concept of stress in the entrepreneurial context, but not as a central part of their studies (e.g., Ardichvili, 2001; Baucus & Human, 1994; Bird, 1992; Boyd & Vozikis, 1994; Gibb, 1994; Jelinek & Litterer, 1995; Morris & Davis, 1994; Wolfe, 2004). …

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