The nature of stress amongst small business leaders in the post Celtic Tiger economy - key triggers, manifestations, coping strategies and support need identification

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Corrigan, Fintan
Issue Date
BA Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This study was carried out to verify if the current negative commercial environment had increased the adverse stress load on Chief Executives / Entrepreneurs of small and medium sized enterprises, in Ireland, following the relative prosperous Celtic Tiger years. The study also wished to identify if the nature of stress had changed and if so, how were SME CEO's coping with both the degree and nature of this change. The study also hoped to identify useful ways of assisting CEO's to cope with stress in this new commercial environment. Through a process of completing a stress diary over a typical two week period 8 male CEO's who reflected the range of age profile, industry type and company size of SME CEO's documented whatever triggered their stressful experiences and how this manifested itself in symptoms. Respondents subsequently took part in individual c.1.5 hour interviews where their raised awareness from their own stress diary was explored by using a semi-structured questionnaire approach. Each was also screened for the presence of individual, major life stressors which might have created a bias in the overall results. Overall, respondents’ major stresses were associated with their high expectations not being matched by their employees and this was reflected in frustration by a sense of not being in control. Stressors were perceived to have markedly shifted towards financially (negative) related issues over the past 24 months. Respondents used a variety of coping strategies but predominantly indicated that they 'bottled up' work stress and brought it home. Results confirmed previous research that CEO's / Entrepreneurs had 'stress hardy' personality characteristics and perceived the current commercial environment as a new challenge as distinct from creating insurmountable problems. The sense of 'being in control' was found to be a strong mediator of stress. The study suggests that CEO's could however benefit from greater contact with peers or a confidant / mentor which might assist in relieving the 'bottled up' stress which respondents had commonly identified as being an issue for SME CEO's.