You are on page 1of 11



Role stress is the stress experienced by the persons because of their role (job) in the organization.
They assume a role based on the expectation of the self and others at work place. The family
members try to adjust their roles within the family and a change is being felt in their attitudes.
The present study was an attempt to provide a preventive and positive approach to women
experiencing stress at work and at home. Those who have the Social Support of their family and
friends are able to cope better with stress. To find out the level of role stress and to identify key
role stressors, the OSI inventory by A.K Srivastava was used. It was found that majority of
women (40%) were under moderately low level of stress followed by 36% women who reported
moderately high level of stress. Women experiencing very high or low stress are 12 % in each
case. The key stressors which affect maximum number of women are Poor Peer Relations,
Intrinsic Impoverishment and Under-participation.

Role stress components include:

a) Stressors that exist outside the organization(Extraorganizational Stressor: eg. Traffic to

and from work);

b) Stressor that come from within the organization(Organizational Stressors: eg.Job


c) Stressors that relate to duties and responsibilities of work (Task related

stressors:eg.travelling for work);

d) Stressors that relate to various work roles(Individual Role stressors ).

The two major Life Domains are “Non-Work” and “Work”.

Non-Work Domain includes:- Daughter/Son, Brother/Sister, Mother/Father ,Uncle/Aunt , Spouse

,Friend ,etc.

Work domain includes :- Employee ,Subordinate, Supervisors ,Co-Worker or sometimes the



Role strain (1)

According to the Medical Dictionary, “Stress associated with expected roles or positions,
experienced as frustration.” Role ambiguity is a type of role strain that occurs when shared
specifications set for an expected role are incomplete or insufficient to tell the involved
individual what is desired and how to do it. Role incongruence is role stress that occurs when an
individual undergoes role transitions requiring a significant modification in attitudes and values.
Role overqualification is a type of role stress that occurs when a role does not require full use of
a person's resources.

Roles are concurred on our various stages, we take upon ourselves different roles to play, and it
is the expectations of others around us.

Definition (2): As given by Beehr & Mc Grath (1990) “Role strain is the Events and conditions
in the environment , whether the environment entails physical or psychosocial stimuli , create a
motivation to react”.

Types of Role Stress:

A role is a type of behavior, in relation to other, that the individuals display. Following are some
of the types of Role stress:
(a) Role ambiguity is a situation where and individuals is not sure what his role is, or when those
around him are not clear what his role is. This may arise for a manager through:

1. uncertainty about the responsibilities of his job;

2. uncertainty about other people's expectations of him;
3. Lack of clarity about how his performance is evaluated.
(b) Role conflict occurs when the individual is called upon to act in several roles at the same
time, and they are incompatible – e. g. the dual roles of a working mother, or a participative
manager called upon to administer discipline.

(c) Role overload occurs when an individual has too many roles to cope with, and feels out of his
depth – e. g. on moving from a functional to a general management position.
(d) Role under-load occurs when an individual moves into a role or set of roles which he
perceives as being below his capacity (i.e. out line of with his self-concept). Delegation may
make a manager feel un-needed and insecure. Monotony may be as stressful as constant change
and challenge.

Employees stress is a growing concern for organizations today. Stress can be defined as a lively
circumstance in which people face constraints, opportunities, or loss of something they desire
and for which the consequence is both unpredictable as well as crucial. Stress is the response of
people to the unreasonable/excessive pressure or demands placed on them.

Stress is not always negative. It may also bring out the best in individuals at times. It may induce
an individual to discover innovative and smarter way of doing things. This positive dimension of
stress is called as enstress. But usually, the term stress has a negative implication and this
negative aspect of stress is termed as distress. For instance - When a subordinate is harassed or
warned by his superior, unhappiness of unsuitable job, etc. We can say that “Stress causes some
people to break, and other to break records.”
Role Conflict:-It exists when organization requirements clash with personal values and
obligation to others .Eg) Parent employee wants to pick up the child from babysitter at 5 p.m. but
boss says to work past 5. Its situation where employee feel divided to choose between , or to deal
with, varying demands or expectations.

Role Ambiguity:- Role Ambiguity is lack of clarity about duties , objectives, and responsibilities
needed to fulfill one’s role. Role Ambiguity is often perceived when there are changes in
Technology, Social structures, new personnel entering the organization, changes in
Job(Transfers, Promotion),new boss.

Role Overload:- Role Overload is caused by too much work, time pressures and deadlines. It can
be defined as the inability to fulfill organization expectations in the time available.

When time factor is concerned it is Quantitative Overload.

When Knowledge skills it is Qualitative Overload.

Eg) An MBA hired/promoted to supervision of Technical Engineering function .Manager might

feel the need to pressure the subordinates to complete a job but if engineers report parameters are
unrealistic, then supervisor is not qualified to decide whether to go ahead with the product or not.

Symptoms of Stress

Some of the symptoms of stress at workplace are as follows-

• Absenteeism, escaping from work responsibilities, arriving late, leaving early,

• Deterioration in work performance, more of error prone work, memory loss,
• Cribbing, over-reacting, arguing, getting irritated, anxiety, etc.
• Deteriorating health, more of accidents, etc.
• Improper eating habits (over-eating or under-eating), excessive smoking and
drinking, sleeplessness, etc.

It is thus very essential to have effective stress management strategies in an organization so that
the detrimental repercussions of stress on the employees as well as their performance can be
reduced and controlled.

Sources/Causes of Stress

The factors leading to stress among individual are called as Stressors. Some of the
factors/stressors acting on employees are-
1. Organizational factors- With the growth in organizational stress and
complexity, there is increase in organizational factors also which cause stress
among employees. Some of such factors are-
a. Discrimination in pay/salary structure
b. Strict rules and regulations
c. Ineffective communication
d. Peer pressure
e. Goals conflicts/goals ambiguity
f. More of centralized and formal organization structure
g. Less promotional opportunities
h. Lack of employees participation in decision-making
i. Excessive control over the employees by the managers
2. Individual factors- There are various expectations which the family
members, peer, superior and subordinates have from the employee. Failure
to understand such expectations or to convey such expectations lead to role
ambiguity/role conflict which in turn causes employee stress. Other individual
factors causing stress among employees are inherent personality traits such
as being impatient, aggressive, rigid , feeling time pressure always, etc.
Similarly, the family issues, personal financial problems, sudden career
changes all lead to stress.
3. Job concerning factors- Certain factors related to job which cause stress
among employees are as follows-
a. Monotonous nature of job
b. Unsafe and unhealthy working conditions
c. Lack of confidentiality
d. Crowding
4. Extra-organizational factors- There are certain issues outside the
organization which lead to stress among employees. In today’s modern and
technology savvy world, stress has increased. Inflation, technological change,
social responsibilities and rapid social changes are other extra-organizational
factors causing stress.

What is work stress?

Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with
work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and
abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.Stress occurs in a wide
range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel
they have little support from supervisors and colleagues and where they have
little control over work or how they can cope with its demands and pressures.
Stress-related Hazards:

Work Content:

 Job Content
• Monotonous, under-stimulating, meaningless tasks
• Lack of variety
• Unpleasant tasks
• Aversive tasks
 Workload and Work pace
• Having too much or too little to do
• Working under time pressures
 Working Hours
• Strict and inflexible working schedules
• Long and unsocial hours
• Unpredictable working hours
• Badly designed shift systems
 Participation and Control
• Lack of participation in decision making
• Lack of control (for example, over work methods, work pace, working hours and
the work environment.
 Career Development, Status and Pay
• Job insecurity
• Lack of promotion prospects
• Under-promotion or over-promotion
• Work of ‘low social value’
• Piece rate payments schemes
• Unclear or unfair performance evaluation systems
• Being over-skilled or under-skilled for the job
 Role in the Organization
• Unclear role
• Conflicting roles within the same job
• Responsibility for people
• Continuously dealing with other people and their problems
 Interpersonal Relationships
• Inadequate, inconsiderate or unsupportive supervision
• Poor relationships with co-workers
• Bullying, harassment and violence
• Isolated or solitary work
• No agreed procedures for dealing with problems or complaints
 Organizational Culture
• Poor communication
• Poor leadership
• Lack of clarity about organizational objectives and structure.
 Home-Work Interface
• Conflicting demands of work and home
• Lack of support for domestic problems at work
• Lack of support for work problems at home

Strategies for Managing Stress

Stress experienced by the employees in their job has negative impact on their health,
performance and their behaviour in the organization. Thus, stress needs to be managed
effectively so as to set off these harmful consequences. Strategies for managing stress are as

Organizational strategies for managing stress

1. Encouraging more of organizational communication with the employees so
that there is no role ambiguity/conflict. Effective communication can also
change employee views. Managers can use better signs and symbols which
are not misinterpreted by the employees.
2. Encourage employees’ participation in decision-making. This will reduce role
3. Grant the employees greater independence, meaningful and timely feedback,
and greater responsibility.
4. The organizational goals should be realistic, stimulating and particular. The
employees must be given feedback on how well they are heading towards
these goals.
5. Encourage decentralization.
6. Have a fair and just distribution of incentives and salary structure.
7. Promote job rotation and job enrichment.
8. Create a just and safe working environment.
9. Have effective hiring and orientation procedure.
10.Appreciate the employees on accomplishing and over-exceeding their

Individual strategies for managing stress

1. The employees should make a “to-do” list daily, prioritize the acts in the list
and plan the acts accordingly. Take regular breaks during work to relax you.
By effective time management, the employees can achieve their targets
timely and can meet work pressures and, thus, avoid stress.
2. Do hard work. Strive to achieve your goals but do not do it to the harm of
family, health, or peer.
3. Indulge in physical exercises. It helps in effective blood circulation, keeps you
fit, diverts mind from work pressures.
4. Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Take a regular sleep, have plenty of water,
have healthy eating habits. Promote relaxation techniques such as yoga,
listening music and meditation.
5. The employees should have optimistic approach about their work. They
should avoid connections with negative approach employees.
6. The employees should have emotional intelligence at workplace. They should
have self-awareness, self-confidence and self-control at workplace.
7. The employees should build social support. They should have close
connections with trustworthy peer who can listen to their problems and boost
their confidence level. This social network will help the employees to
overcome stress.
8. Employee counselling is a very good strategy to overcome employee stress.
Through counselling, employees can become aware of their strengths and
how to develop those strengths; their weaknesses and how to eliminate
them; and they can develop strategies for changing their behaviour.
Employees are also given career counselling which helps in reducing their
ambiguities with regard to career.
9. Find a fun way to release stress, such as, cracking jokes, playing tennis, golf ,
10.Do not remain pre-occupied with yourself. Turn your focus outwards. Help
others. This will release some stress.

Introduction to Research based Study:

An increasing number of women are becoming career conscious and professional in their
outlook. Earlier women preferred jobs like nursing, medicine, clerical but now the number of
women executives is on the increase. The reasons for such a change are: increase in women's
education, changing socio-cultural values, increasing awareness and consciousness in women
and the rise in economic independence. Women are in a dilemma facing queries regarding self
and her rights. Her inner conflict keeps on puzzling her regarding existence in reality and what
people talk about (Gracia, June, 2005). Balancing work and family frequently means irregular
work hours for women professionals leading to stress and various problems related to it (Snell,
2004). The working woman, regardless of whether she is married or single, faces higher stress
levels. This is not so much in the work place but at home also. She may feel guilty for leaving
her children while she works; this not only increases her stress but also reduces her job
satisfaction. Role stress is the stress experienced by the persons because of their role (job) in the
organization. They assume a role based on the expectation of the self and others at work place.
Working women compose a large proportion of the workforce today and for them to be working
as a manager is really a challenge which leads to stress in their life. Women performing dual role
are under stress and several factors at home and at the work place cause it. Conditions that cause
stress are called stressors. They may be overload of work, responsibility, inadequate authority,
non-cooperation from subordinates, hostile boss, poor working conditions and conflicts in the
organization. Social Support is the physical and emotional comfort given by our family, friends,
co-workers and others. It's knowing that we are part of a community of people who love and care
for us and value and think well of us. We all need people we can depend on during both the good
times and the bad. Maintaining a healthy social support network is hard work and something that
requires ongoing effort over time. People are emotionally supportive when they tell us that they
care about us and think well of us. It is important to have at least one close friend. (Cohen,
S.,2000) also tells us that social support does the best job of protecting us from the effects of
stress when we believe that emotional support is easy to come by and we have at least one person
we can confide in.

Research Methodology Used:

One hundred women professionals in the age group 25-45 years were selected from various
professions. There were Doctors, Lecturers, Directors, Managers, Principals and Engineers. They
were from different income groups. Their marital status could be
single/married/divorced/widows. The places selected for conducting the present study were cities
of Yamunanagar, Jagadhri, Kurukshetra, Chandigarh and Panchkula. A meeting was arranged
with the selected respondents to confirm their participation in the study. Women selected for this
study were assured of absolute anonymity.
Distribution of respondents according to their Profession

The survey method was used to gather information for the study. Based on the objectives of the
study, the Standardized Questionnaire was distributed. The present study was an attempt to
provide a practical and positive approach of using social support as a coping technique to
working women under stress.

Research Instrument:
To find out the level of role stress and to identify key role stressors, the OSI inventory by A.K
Srivastava and A.P. Singh (1984) was used. The scale consists of 46 items, each to be rated on
the five-point scale. The items relate to almost all relavent components of the job life which
causes stress. It has questions related to twelve types of role stressors. The score of the inventory
varies from 0-230. The scores were divided into following levels--Very High, Moderately High,
Moderately Low and Very Low. The statistical analysis was carried out using tools like
percentages; mean score, variance and standard deviation.

Below P 25 – Very Low Stress

Between P 26 and P 75 --Moderate Stress
Above P 76 —Very High Stress

Any score of greater than or equal to mean plus standard deviation means very high level of role
stress. Any score less than mean minus standard deviation means very low level of low stress.
Intermediate ranges from mean to mean plus standard deviation and from mean to mean minus
standard deviation implies moderately high and moderately low level of stress respectively. A
social support survey was done to know the sources and extent of social support women had in
their life.

Results Found:
The overall level of role stress on women professionals was analysed. It was found that majority
of women (40%) were under moderately low level of stress followed by 36% women who
reported moderately high level of stress (Table 1).Women professionals experiencing very high
or low stress are 12 % in each case. The analysis proves that women professionals experience
moderate stress. The data was further analysed to find difference between the stress levels of
women from different professions.

The difference in the role stress in different professionals was statistically tested. The t-value was
calculated at 23 d.f .It came out to be less than the table value. at 0.05 level of significance. Thus
there is no significant difference between role stress being experienced by women belonging to
different professions.

Table 1: Level of role stress in Women Professionals

Twelve different types of role stressors were studied. As each respondent varies in response to
different type of role stress, it was assumed that a role stress will assume a key role only if it
effects more than 40% of the women professionals (Goyal, P.,2004). The key stressors which
affect maximum number of women are Poor Peer Relations, Intrinsic Impoverishment and
Underparticipation (Table 2).
Table 2: Women Professionals classified by the type of role stress

Women professionals have to perform dual role of a maid and a manager, so they feel rushed but
are under moderate level of stress. Social support can further reduce their stress levels. Many of
the people who are a part of our lives can provide social support. These include our parents,
spouse or partner, children, siblings, other family members, friends, co-workers, neighbours,
health professionals and sometimes even strangers. We are unlikely to have all of our support
needs met by just one person. Also, different people may be able to provide different types of
support .In general, the best support comes from the people we are closest to. Research has
shown that receiving support from people we have close emotional ties to does more for our
emotional and physical health than support provided by people we are not particularly close to.
There is a significant relationship between social support and psychological well-being. During
times of stress, social support helps people feel less upset. There is also evidence that workplace
stress is lower when people receive support from their co-workers or the company they work for.
Bradley,, (2005) reported that self-esteem, social support and religious coping acted as
protective factors for post-traumatic stress disorders. On the other hand, unhappy or poor quality
relationships with other people have been shown to have a negative impact on mental health and
well-being. Conflictual, distressing relationships may do us more psychological harm than
positive social relationships can do us good.
Conclusion to the Research:

The key stressors which affect maximum number of women professionals are Poor Peer
Relations, Intrinsic Impoverishment and Under-participation. This is because women are
becoming more and more career conscious, they want to accept challenges, improve performance
and want to become socially and economically independent. The women professionals were of
the view that now days, it was difficult to survive on single income, so their working is very
much accepted by family members. The family members try to adjust their roles within the
family and a change is being felt in their attitudes also. Besides this, due to better working
conditions, better transportation facilities and improved technology, the stress on women
professionals is reduced and their efficiency has increased. They have the support of their family
and friends and are able to cope better with stress. Social support provides us with important
benefits in terms of both our physical and emotional health. Some of the other benefits of social
support include improved marital and job satisfaction and lower stress levels. If the women
professionals want to be accepted as efficient homemakers as well as employees, they have to
make use of effective stress management techniques, use appropriate coping patterns, must be
optimistic and have a positive attitude in life.

Concluding Remarks for the Study:

Work stress is a real challenge for workers and their employing organizations. As
organizations and their working environment transform, so do the kinds of stress
problems that employees may face. It is important that your workplace is being
continuously monitored for stress problems. Further, it is not only important to
identify stress problems and to deal with them but to promote healthy work and
reduce harmful aspects of work. Work in itself can be a self-promoting activity as
long as it takes place in a safe, development- and health-promoting environment.
“Successful employers and managers provide
leadership in dealing with the challenge of work