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Organisational role stress: a comparison between Indian domestic workers and Indian

expats in the IT sector

Stress is a dynamic condition in which an individual confronts an opportunity, constraint,
or demand related to what he or she desires, and for which the outcome is perceived as both
uncertain and important. It can manifest itself in both positive and negative ways. Constraints
and demands can lead to potential stress. When coupled with uncertainty about the outcome and
its importance, potential stress becomes actual stress.
According to the American Psychological Association stress is the pattern of specific and
nonspecific responses an organism makes to stimulus events that disturb its equilibrium and tax
or exceed its ability to cope.
Causes of stress can be grouped into two major categories: organizational and personal.
Both directly affect employees and, ultimately, their jobs. There is no shortage of stressors
within any organization. Pressures to avoid errors or complete tasks in a limited time, a
demanding supervisor, and unpleasant coworkers are a few examples. Stressors can be organised
into five categories: task, role, and interpersonal demands; organization structure; and
organizational leadership.
Theories of stress

James-Lange Theories of Emotions

Proposed by 19​th century scholars Wiliam James and Carl Lange, the James-Lange Theory of Emotion

presents a sequence explaining the cause-and-effect relationship between emotions and physiological events.

Event ==> Arousal ==> Interpretation ==> Emotion

The above sequence summarizes the Theory of Emotion, a combination of concepts developed by William
James, a psychologist from the United States and Carl Lange, a physiologist from Denmark. According to the
theory, when an event stimulates a person (arousal), the autonomic nervous system (ANS) reacts by creating
physiological manifestations such as faster heart beat, more perspiration, increased muscular tension, and
more. Once these physical events occur, the brain will interpret these reactions. The result of the brain’s
interpretation is an ​emotion​. In this sense, the theory is likened to the “fight-or-flight” reaction, in which the
bodily sensations prepare a person to react based on the brain’s interpretation of the event and the
physiological events.

In his statements, Lange attempted to give a simple explanation of his theory by relating its concept to the
concept of common sense. He said that our common sense tells us that if a person encounters a bear, he tends
feel afraid and then he runs. According to Lange’s theory, seeing a bear causes the ANS to stimulate the
muscles to get tensed and the heart to beat faster. After such bodily changes, that is the time that emotion of
fear emerges. It is as simple as saying that statement A, “My heart beats faster because I am afraid.” is more
rational than statement B, “I am afraid because my heart beats faster.”Furthermore, Lange explained that
statement B would just make the perception of the event a pure cognitive occurrence, and would be “destitute
of emotional warmth”.

The James-Lange Theory has been criticized by many theorists, including Walter Cannon and Philip Bard who
opposed the theory with their own theory of motivation, the ​Cannon-Bard Theory​. One of the criticisms
emerged from the experiments on rats to test the James-Lange Theory. The theory explains that the emotions
depend on the impulses from the periphery, primarily the viscera. However, Cannon’s experiments revealed
that the viscera react slowly to stimuli since the viscera are composed of smooth muscles and glands. This
means that a person feels the emotion prior to the occurrence of bodily changes. The experiments on rats and
cats also revealed that cutting the visceral nerves has no effect on emotions.

The James-Lange Theory is indeed an important theory as it is one of the earliest theories that provided
explanations of the physiologic process of emotion. However, the theory has been largely refuted by later
theorists who gave clearer concepts on the said process.

Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion

During the time of Cannon, the ​James-Lange theory was one of the most prominent theories of emotion. To
test the theory, Cannon experimented on cats by severing the afferent nerves of the ANS’ sympathetic branch.
He believed that doing this would test whether emotion expression could emerge without a visceral afferent
feedback (through the afferent nerves), as what the James-Lange theory implied. The results of his experiments
in 1915 challenged the James-Lange theory by proposing that arousal and emotions emerge at the same time
after the perception of a stimulating occurrence.

Event ==> Simultaneous Arousal and Emotion

The above sequence summarizes the Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion. In essence, the theory is backed up by
neurobiological science. In a stimulating event, sensory signals are transmitted to the brain’s relay center, the
thalamus. Once the thalamus receives the signal, it relays the information to two structures: the amygdala and
the brain cortex. The amygdala is responsible for the instantaneous response in the form of emotions, whereas
the brain cortex is for the slower response. At the same time, the autonomic nervous system or ANS sends
signals to muscles and other parts of the body, causing them to tense, increase in rate, change in rhythm, and
more. Therefore, this theory views stimulation/arousal and ​emotion as a combined response to a stimulating
For instance, when a person sees a venomous snake, he feels afraid and his muscles get tensed at the same
time, preparing to run away from the dangerous animal. One can observe the person’s emotion based on the
physiological signals that his body displays.

Schachter-Singer Theory of Emotion

From the late 1950s, the so-called cognitive revolution became prominent among psychologists. Following this
trend, Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer proposed that there are cognitive factors that influence the varied
states of emotions, moods and feelings. They took account of the physiological-based theories such as the
James-Lange Theory and the ​Cannon-Bard Theory​, and came with a conclusion that the various visceral or
physiological patterns do not match the wide variety of emotional states of individuals. The theory was
formally introduced by Schachter and Singer in 1962.

When an individual encounters a stimulating event, perception and interpretation of the stimulus follows. After
perception and interpretation of the sensory information, the processed information is divided into two:
stimulus and the context of the event, which is a specific cognitive label. The information about the stimulus
triggers a general autonomic arousal. In addition to the general autonomic arousal, the cognitive label causes a
particular emotion to be experienced. Once an emotion is experienced, feedback occurs.

Supporting Evidence

In 1962, Schachter and Singer conducted a study to test their theory. The research included 184 male college
students as participants who were told that a vitamin compound called Suproxin would be injected to them.
However, the injection was not Suproxin; rather, it is composed of either 0.5 mL of epinephrine (experiment
group) or 0.5 mL of saline solution as placebo (control group). Then, the researchers divided the subjects into
three conditions: (1) Informed condition (participants know the potential side effects of the injection), (2)
Ignorant condition (participants do not know the potential side effects), and (3) Misinformed condition
(participants know of the side effects being fabricated). Then, the participants encountered paired stooges
whose roles were to act in either euphoric or angry manner. The variable being manipulated was the “cognitive
circumstance”. The measurement of emotions was done via two processes: semi-private index (one-way mirror
assessment) and public index (Likert scale self-report).
The result of the study was that the subjects under the Ignorant condition and Misinformed
condition revealed considerably and consistently higher scores on both euphoric and angry
conditions as compared to participants under the Placebo condition and the Informed condition.
This proved the original ​hypothesis of Schachter and Singer, that is, cognitive labelling
(informed, ignorant or misinformed) together with general autonomic arousal (euphoric or angry)
lead to the emergence of emotions .

Domestic Worker
Domestic workers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment
and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers. They work for private households, often
without clear terms of employment, unregistered in any book, and excluded from the scope of
labour legislation.
The domestic workers can be a part time worker i.e. worker who works for one or more
employers for a specified number of hours per day or performs specific tasks for each of the
multiple employers everyday; Full time workers i.e. worker who works for a single employer
everyday for a specified number of hours and returns back to her or his home everyday after
work ; and live in worker i.e. worker who works full time for a single employer and also stays on
the premises of the employer or in a dwelling provided by the employer and does not return back
to home everyday after work (ILO, 2010).
Domestic workers provide an essential service and are a significant contributor to the
country’s economy.

An important aspect of organisation, that integrates an individual with the organisation is the role
assigned to him/her within the overall structure of the organisation (Aziz, 2004). Pareek (1976)
defined roles as “any position one holds in an organization as defined by the expectations various
significant persons, including oneself, have for that position”. Each role has its system. This
consists of the role occupant and those who have a direct relationship with him, and thereby,
certain expectations from the role incumbent. There are 2 role systems: Role Space and Role Set.
Both have a built in potential for conflict and stress. Role Space is the dynamic relationship
amongst various roles an individual occupies and his own self. It has three main variables: self,
the role under question, and the other roles he occupies. Any conflict amongst these are referred
to as the role space conflicts or stress. Role Set consists of important persons who have varying
expectations from the role that he occupies. The conflict that arises as a result of incompatibility
among these expectations of 'significant: others' are referred to as role set conflicts (Pareek,

Role stress
Work related stress is of growing concern today, than it was two decades ago. This has become a
major problem not only for individuals working within an organization but also for the
organization itself. Cooper and Marshall (1978) suggested classification of stress in terms of six
different stressors. Role stress is considered very important among these as it has a negative
impact on organizational outcomes. The stress arising due to person's role is termed as role stress
(Pareek, 1993). Role is defined as a set of functions, which an individual performs in response to
the expectations of others as well as his own expectations (Khan et al., 1964). Role-based
research carried out by researchers has paid more attention only to a few dimensions of role
stress- role conflict, role ambiguity and role overload (Richard, 2001; Bhatia and Kumar, 2003;
Fried et al., 2003). Some researchers in India however have made an attempt to study certain
other dimensions of role stress like inter-role distance, role isolation, role stagnation,
role-overload and role erosion using Pareek's Organizational Role Stress (ORS) Scale (1982).

Connection between stress and role stress

Stress is an inherent physical function enacting with the human brain to inform the nervous
system of potential threats. Thus, stress can be considered as a safety mechanism preparing the
nervous system to avoid or meet danger (Spiers, 2003). Times are changing; humans are facing
new threats compared to the people living years ago. The new threats are mainly associated with
workplaces; the increased globalization and liberalization have formed workplaces with an
increased emphasis on performance and high expectations (Ratna et al., 2013; Spiers, 2003). The
increased expectations in companies and organizations (Spiers, 2003) affect how the employed
individuals perceive their role in an organization, which is commonly referred to as
Organizational Role Stress (Rizzo et al., 1970). All the negative experiences an individual will
experience at work spurs and increases the likelihood to develop work related stress-disorders.
The European Union is experiencing a new trend where working hours are being reduced. The
traditional system of working eight hours every day is highly questioned and under structural
change in many countries (Milczarek et al., 2009). Organizational Role Stress is also reported to
have serious economical implications in North America. Ornelas & Kleiner (2003) emphasize
that 80 % of the healthcare costs spent by companies in North America are related to stress and
billions of dollars are lost due to decreased productivity among employees. Srivastav (2006)
argues that the expectations on a specific role in an organization are a natural built-in source of
stress. Bano & Jha (2012) emphasize that Organizational Role Stress is denomination to explain
all the different types of stress an individual experience in their work roles.

Organizational Role Stress is “when the demands of the work exceed the workers’ ability to cope
with them” (Milczarek et al., 2009). A broader definition of Organizational Role Stress is the
stress an employee experience when organizational and individual needs do not align (Pathak,
2012; Bano et al., 2011). To perform adequately in a particular organizational role, the individual
must try and meet the expectations created by the peers he or she needs to interact with. The
level of perceived Organizational Role Stress while confirming to the expectations of others will
vary according to the individual’s perception of threats, opportunities, constraints and situations
(Sinha & Subramanian, 2012).
Udai Pareek is considered to be a pioneer in the field of Organizational Role Stress; he
developed a framework including ten different stressors to explore how an individual perceive
Organizational Role Stress. The ten role stressors are, Inter Role Distance, Role Stagnation, Role
Expectation Conflict, Role Erosion, Role Overload, Role Isolation, Personal Inadequacy,
Self-Role Distance, Role Ambiguity and Resource Inadequacy (Pareek, 1983).
The ten different stressors included in the Organizational Role Stress Framework develop by
Pareek (1983) are:
Inter Role Distance
Inter Role Distance occurs when different roles possessed by an individual are in conflict (Bano
et al., 2011; Srivastav, 2006). Sinha & Subramanian (2012) emphasize Inter Role Distance as the
conflict that are likely to arise when an individual attempts to manage several roles.
Role Stagnation
Abbas et al. (2012) define Role Stagnation as the lack of development in the role possessed by an
individual. If an individual has occupied a specific role for a long time, the role development can
stagnate due to comfort, which hinders them to undertake new roles and challenges (Sinha &
Subramanian, 2012). Chauhan (2014, p. 159) stresses that the feeling of being stuck in the same
role will lead to the perception that there is no opportunity for further development.
Role Expectation Conflict
Role Expectation Conflict is a result of the different expectations an individual develops in their
social setting and identification with other peers. The discrepancy between an individuals own
expectations about their role their role in an organizational often differ from the expectations of
peers and managers, which is a source of stress (Sinha & Subramanian, 2012). Bano et al. (2011)
and Srivastav (2006) also emphasize that Role Expectation Conflict occurs when discrepancies
exists between the individuals own expectations and expectations of others namely: colleagues or
Role Erosion
Chauhan (2014) describes Role Erosion as an individual's’ perception that some functions in an
organization belongs to his or her role, however are performed or transferred to someone else in
the organization. Role Erosion can also arise when an individual performs adequately in the
work role, but credit is given to someone else. Sinha & Subramanian (2012) argue that Role
Erosion is likely to occur in organizational changes and when the organization creates new roles
or redefining current roles.
Role Overload
Coverman (1989) explains that Role Overload occurs when an individual with a specific role has
difficulties to perform according to the demands from other roles. Chauhan (2014) defines Role
Overload as a situation where the demands on a specific role of an individual are too high. Role
Overload is divided into a quantitative and qualitative aspect. The quantitative aspect refers to
situations where an individual has too much to do while the qualitative aspects refers to an
individual not having adequate knowledge to perform tasks at hand (Chauhan, 2014).
Role Isolation
Sinha & Subramanian (2012) define Role Isolation as the mistrust and neglect from close
colleagues and peers, which are related to low job-satisfaction. Role Isolation is a consequence
of inadequate cooperation and linkages of communication between an individual's role and other
roles in the organization (Bano et al., 2011; Srivastav, 2006).
Personal Inadequacy
Chauhan (2014) argue that Personal Inadequacy arises when an individual does not possess
necessary skills to perform tasks expected in their organizational roles. The fast development of
techniques and the society require that Organizations implement regular follow-ups and training
for the employees. Personal Inadequacy is a consequence of inadequate preparation, skills,
expertise or knowledge to manage and effectively perform in an organizational role (Bano et al.,
2011; Srivastav, 2006).
Self-Role Distance
Self-Role Distance occurs when the values and self-concepts of an individual are in conflict with
what is needed in the organizational role (Bano et al., 2011). Chauhan (2014) explains Self-Role
Distance as the stress arising when the role of an individual does not conform to his or her
Role Ambiguity
Role Ambiguity arises when an individual have an unclear understand about their role in an
organization and the expectations laid on them (Bloisi et al., 2007; Chauhan, 2014). Kahn et al.
(1964) define Role Ambiguity as the lack of information available for an employee required for
adequate performance. Wincent & Örtqvist (2011) explains that Role Ambiguity will interfere
with an individual’s ability to perform personal goals, which consequently will lead to negative
impact of the stress.
Resource Inadequacy
Resource Inadequacy occurs when resources needed for an individual to perform effectively in a
role are inaccessible (Bano et al., 2011). Srivastav (2006) emphasize that Resource Inadequacy is
experienced by an individual when resources such as “human relations, buildings, infrastructure,
materials, machines, tools, equipment, books, documents and information, required for
performing the role, are inadequately provided.”

Problems of expatriates
Expatriate refers to foreign job assignments for a specific period of time (Wang, 2008).
Many organizations that have currently succeeded in their national markets have taken their
businesses globally. This globalization of businesses is increasing the demand for skilled
expatriates to manage the operations of global firms (Olsen & Martins, 2009). For example, 80%
of medium-sized and large-sized companies have employees abroad, and 65% expect the number
to increase. Also, 54% of the expatriates are getting younger (20-39 years old up from 41%). The
trend indicates that the number of women expatriates is also increasing by 21% from historical
15% (Ball et al., 2010).
An expatriate who may have to adjust and adapt with a very new way of life and an
unfamiliar work/client environment unlike the expatriates is accustomed to in the home country
faces high level of stress. Coping with stress has an impact on expatriates adjustment and their
comfort in working and living abroad. Research studies showed that expatriates who are unable
to adjust to work and life at host country locations are likely to perform poorly (Selmer & Leung,
In general, expatriates will encounter greater work stress when working in different
countries. Work stress becomes a highlighted concern since it will have negative impact on
expatriates’ mental and physical health. Fitzgerald (2004) suggests that work stress will
significantly impact expatriates’ performances. The demand for IT professionals is increasing in
foreign countries. Indian companies are competing to win the contract abroad and send IT
expatriates to foreign country. The companies are spending high budget in Training, Visa
processing and many other facilities to comfort expatriates. In spite of the effort taken by those
companies, Expatriates faces challenges in the host country which creates stress resulting in low
performance and premature return. It is significant to know about the stress factors and thereby
in future, these IT organisation's can focus on those factors and take decisions which benefits
both expatriates and the organisation. The family of the expatriates experience cultural shock in
the host country. Unlike, expatriates, no specific training is provided to the family members,
hence it is a challenging job for them. Expatriates wife and kids are in to major trauma in
handling the cultural differences in almost all the places including schools, shopping places,
neighborhood areas, etc. Thus, this stress is imposed on expatriates as they need major support
from their family members to perform their work effectively.
Many organisations focuses only on the employee, but HR managers of MNCs are
realizing that families of expatriates play a vital role in the assignment failure or success.
Moreover, Andreason (2014) points out that the family members of an expatriate play a
significant role in the success or failure of the international expatriate. Hence, HR managers of
MNCs must not only plan the training program for expatriates, but also train their families in
native languages, social behaviors, and cultural norms to prevent the culture shock and
encourage a smooth transition to the new country.
The international adjustment is the degree to which the expatriate feels comfortable living
and working in the host culture. The international adjustment is divided into four stages Viz.,
honeymoon stage, culture shock, adjustment and mastery.
Honeymoon stage​. The expatriate and his family members are fascinated by the culture of
the host country, the accommodation, the transportation facilities, educational facilities to the
children etc., during the early state of arrival. This stage last up to 2-3 months period.
Culture shock stage.​ The company takes care of the new arrivals and completely neglects
the previously® arrived employee and his family after three months. During the stage, the
employee has to take care of himself and his family members. Expatriate gets frustrated,
confused and unhappy with living and working abroad. His social relations are disillusioned
during this stage. He gets the shock of the existing culture.
Adjustment stage​. The expatriate slowly learns the values, norms, behaviour, of the
people, their culture etc. He slowly adjusts himself to the culture of the foreign country.
Mastery stage​. The expatriate after adjusting himself with the culture of the foreign
country, can® concentrate on working efficiently. He learns and adapts to the new environment
completely and becomes like a citizen. He behaves and functions like a citizen at this stage.


Information technology (IT) is the application of computers to store, retrieve, transmit and

manipulate data, or information, often in the context of a business or other enterprise. IT is

considered to be a subset of information and communications technology (ICT).

Companies in the information technology field are often discussed as a group as the tech

sector or the tech industry. In a business context, the Information Technology Association of

America has defined information technology as the study, design, development, application,

implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems. The

responsibilities of those working in the field include network administration, software

development and installation, and the planning and management of an organization's technology

life cycle, by which hardware and software are maintained, upgraded and replaced. The business

value of information technology lies in the automation of business processes, provision of

information for decision making, connecting businesses with their customers, and the provision

of productivity tools to increase efficiency (Scott, 2011).

The Information Technology & Information Technology Enabled Services (IT-ITeS)

sector is a field which is undergoing rapid evolution and is changing the shape of Indian business

standards. This sector includes software development, consultancies, software management,

online services and business process outsourcing (BPO). According to an article in the Times of

India, India's liberalization was possible due to its IT industry. In the 1990s, the industry started

off with an export of nearly $100 million with around 5,000 employees. Now it is an industry
that thrives globally and India's IT exports are now around $70 billion with 2.8 million

employees working in this sector. The article states that the IT sector is one of the top two

industries in the country today.

India's IT industry is expected to grow at a rate of 12 - 14% during 2016 - 2017 as per a

report by India's software industry body National Association of Software and Services

Companies (NASSCOM.) The information technology is a sector which is likely one of the

emerging markets in the days to come as India's economy requires more hardware, software and

other IT services. In a NASSCOM-McKinsey report, India's position in the global offshore IT

industry is based on five factors - abundant talent, creation of urban infrastructure, operational

excellence, conducive business environment and finally, continued growth in the domestic IT

sector (Sharma, 2017).

The IT industry is heavily influenced by factors like the global market and sustenance of

its rate of growth. The recession in the United States also impacted the IT community in India

negatively. This segment is promising and has vast potential, but there are concerns regarding the

demand-supply gap, which is widening. Some challenges which the industry is facing are

inadequate infrastructure, tax issues and limited preferential access for local firms. However, one

of the biggest benefits that the computer and IT industry provides in India is the employment it

can generate. Other benefits are export and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). India is now a

major destination for IT outsourcing and there is no dearth of IT job opportunities in India.

The top IT companies in India that offer job opportunities in this field are Tata

Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro Technologies, Cognizant, Yahoo!, Google, Tech Mahindra,

Infosys Technologies, HP ,Capgemini, iGATE Patni, Accenture, L&T, EY, Convergys,

MphasiS, Genpact, HCL Technologies and Godrej Infotech. Cities like Bengaluru, Delhi, Noida,
Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bombay and Cochin are some of the places which have

developed into potential IT hubs of the country. These are key players which contribute to the

growth of the Indian economy through telecommunication, software development, design,

mobile commerce, e-commerce, BPO and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO). The IT

industry is one which is not limited to software development alone. Technology can be applied in

libraries, hospitals, banks, shops, prisons, hotels, airports, train stations and many other places

through database management systems, or through custom-made software as seen fit (Sharma,