An analysis of how well occupational stress is being managed in the Irish financial services industry and the identification of preferred approaches

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Harkins, Daniel
Issue Date
MA in Business Studies
Dublin Business School
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'Occupational stress is a major problem in western societies, where its relationship with various diseases is becoming increasingly obvious' (Vander Hek & Plomp, 1997). Recognising this has led to 'increasing interest in the phenomenon of stress and a growing concern to find ways of alleviating it' (Stuart, 1991). This interest is reflected in an ever increasing body of literature and the development of stress management interventions based on this literature. Using an interpretivist research approach and based on the aforementioned literature, a hypothesis centred on an inability of organisations in the Irish financial services industry to effectively manage stress was developed. This hypothesis would be tested by firstly examining stress levels in the industry by means of a syllogism and secondly by identifying preferred approaches to stress management. The study sought to examine the effectiveness of current stress management interventions by measuring stress levels. This was achieved through conducting a survey based on the HSE's Psychological Working Conditions in Great Britain (2004) tailored to complement Cooper & Marshall (1976) typology relating to the causes of stress. Survey respondents indicated that stress levels were moderate and as such were not impacting on morale or organisational performance. The principal sources of stress identified were work overload and relationships with colleagues, while the main interventions employed by organisations were flexi-time, casual dress and sports sponsorship. The study also sought to identify preferred approaches to the management of stress, facilitating a comparison between current and optimal interventions. Utilising the 1994 study by Bradley & Sutherland, 16 possible interventions were put to the respondents with flexi-time and keep-fit programmes emerging as the favoured approaches, which would be seen to benefit both the individuals themselves and the organisation as a whole, while counselling and stress recognition training proved unpopular. Ultimately this study proved that organisations in the Irish financials services industry do not specifically manage stress, but the all encompassing initiatives introduced to protect employee mental health appear to sufficiently control stress levels .