• Diana Nellemann Synnestvet Andersen
4. semester, Psykologi, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
This thesis explores how work-related stress should be understood in the modern society. Furthermore it is examined whether the classical understandings, represented by Karaseks Demand-Control model (Karasek, 1989; Karasek & Theorell, 1990) and Lazarus’ theory of cognitive appraisals, coping and stress (Lazarus & Theorell, 1984 & Lazarus, 2006), of work-related stress are still adequate today. These topics are theoretically analyzed and discussed.

In the modern society work-related stress is a well-debated subject. Everyday approximately 40.000 Danes are off work sick as a consequence of stress (Prætorius, 2007). The Control-Demand model (Karasek, 1989; Karasek & Theorell, 1990) is an acknowledged model, which is often used for explaining work-related stress and -stressors. However the Demand-Control model is based on the industrial society, and in the last 30 years the organizational world has changed dramatically. The modern work is characterized by change, flexibility, social organization, creativity, innovation and personal commitment. These changes seem to be consistent with Karaseks description of the good work, which is curious since there are still 40.000 Danes on sick leave. Lazarus focuses on individual cognitive appraisals and coping strategies in an attempt to explain stress and stressors (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Lazarus, 2006). Stress is then understood as a result of individual cognitive appraisals of both a stressor and one’s own coping resources. If the demands of the stressor are appraised to surpass the coping resources stress arises. Lazarus’ theory supports an individual focus when considering prevention and treatment. The modern organizations however are often socially organized, and the social networks are becoming ever more complex in their structure. It thus seems like an illusion, that the individual is able to appraise the full range of stressors in the social contexts, and act accordingly.

It thus appears that the classical theories regarding work-related stress are inadequate in explaining stress in regard to the modern organizations. This thesis argues that any theory explaining stress as a result of either organizational structures or individual differences risks being too simple. Instead work-related stress in the modern society should be understood as consequence of interaction between different important elements. It is proposed here that power and control, social relations and identity are important element in that interaction.
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