Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Role of Socio-Cultural Norms in Workplace Stress: An Empirical Study of Bank Employees in Nigeria

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Role of Socio-Cultural Norms in Workplace Stress: An Empirical Study of Bank Employees in Nigeria

Article excerpt

This article contributes new data on workplace stress drawn from a sample of 305 employees from 10 banks in Nigeria. Data collected through the use of a questionnaire that was developed from a series of focus groups held with bank employees is used to highlight the importance of national cultural values and draw attention to the very different conditions that exist for employees working in Africa when compared to banking staff operating in North American and European-based organizations. We argue that the socio-cultural context is a key influential factor on the way people react to and cope with stress and represents the 'living stage' on which stress is experienced and made sense of in our daily working lives. Our findings also have practical implications in clarifying the potential value of developing a broader array of stress management techniques that are able to accommodate social processes and cultural aspects of workplace stress.

Introduction

The need to develop research into workplace stress in different cultural settings is spotlighted by Burke's (2010) editorial contribution to a special edition on well-being across cultures. He argues that there is a gap in our knowledge about stress and the influence of cultural values in places such as, Africa, South America and the Middle East, and that there is a need to address certain outstanding research questions. Three areas raised in his discussion that are pertinent to our African-based study comprise: first, the extent to which there are unique stressors and strains in the under-researched cultural setting of Nigeria; second, the extent to which the concepts and measures developed in the mainstream literature are equally relevant in the context of Africa; third, how far can the influence of local cultures and national values help us understand stress in these different settings and what are the typical support and coping mechanisms used in these contexts.

In furthering research in this under-represented area we present new empirical data on workplace stress among bank employees in Nigeria. We argue that although the stress management literature has made significant contributions to our understanding of the psychological dimensions to stress (Mackie et. al., 2001), it has tended to treat broader contextual and cultural issues as background factors (McHugh, 2002) and consequently, underplay or simply sidestep the significance of cultures on workplace stress (Burke, 2010). During the early stages of our research, cultural issues soon began to surface and the sense-giving and sense-making among groups both within work and outside in their home environment, were all seen to contribute to stress and well-being at work. At the outset, we engaged in a quantitative study that sought to examine individual stressors at work in order to identify possible strategies and techniques for managing stress. Quantitative data were captured using a survey instrument from which both regression analysis and bivariate correlations were conducted. This formed the main part of the study but as it turned out, a supporting programme of semi-structured interviews shed considerable light on some of the puzzling gaps that were emerging from the quantitative analyses.

These gaps in our findings were seen to stem from factors associated with the location and culture of the research site. Our empirical study was based in a developing country where contextual socio-political issues and structural-economic conditions impact upon operational practice and workplace stress. Limited telecommunication networks, skill levels and educational attainment of staff, governmental policies and world events, all combine to create a very different business environment to comparable banking organizations in more highly industrialised countries (sec, Mahdi and Dawson, 2007). The more qualitative data - that is largely drawn on in this article - spotlight these cultural, socio-economic and political processes that were shaping behaviours and attitudes to work. …

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