Published 06/04/12

Workplace stress goes global

 SMITHFIELD, R.I.  (June 4, 2012) -- A globalized economy requires a new approach to dealing with workplace stress, one that is more holistic and less influenced by Western culture, according to a new book co-written by a Bryant University professor.

In Work Stress and Coping in the Era of Globalization , James C. Segovis, Ph.D., executive-in-residence at Bryant's College of Business, and co-authors Rabi S. Bhagat, Ph.D., and Terry A. Nelson illustrate why cross-cultural and cross-national methods for handling work stress are of growing importance.

Workplace stress has been around since the Industrial Revolution, but the pressures of rapid economic growth in developing countries - with high production demands and poor work conditions - have created challenging social consequences, Segovis and his colleagues note. New stressors like work-family conflicts, boundary-less work, and telecommuting, difficult to manage in Western contexts, are even more unsettling in other parts of the world, they say.

In the individualistic culture of the United States and other Western countries, "we see stress as 'your fault,' you should be stronger ... you should cope better," Segovis said, and we tend to look to ourselves to treat our symptoms with exercise, relaxation techniques or medication rather than seeking an organizational intervention that deals with the causes of stress.

However, 75 percent of the world's labor force is collectivistic in its orientation to the world, he said, and in such societies, stress is experienced and managed differently: One's family, religion and spirituality play far more significant roles and one's identity and resources for coping with stress depend on one's community. Western-style stress management has mixed results in such cultures. Based on these cultural-societal variables, the design and selection of organizational and individual stress management interventions needs to be significantly different, Segovis and his colleagues write.

The authors offer models for cross-cultural and cross-national research that they hope will lead to improved institutional and culture-specific approaches for managing work stress.

Work Stress and Coping in the Era of Globalization was published in April by Routledge's Taylor & Francis Group. Bhagat is a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Memphis' Fogelman College of Business; Nelson is a doctoral student at Fogelman College of Business.