Sharon Glazer, Ph.D., The University of Baltimore (Corresponding Author); Andrei Ion, Ph.D., The University of Bucharest
We study the mediating role of stressor appraisal on the relationship between role stressors (RS) and psychological strains (anxiety and tedium) and subsequent organizational outcomes. We also extend the nomological net (see Figure 1) to include other linkages between psychological strains and organizational outcomes in Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) transactional model of stress (TMS). We expect the relationship between RSs (conflict and overload) at T1 and intention to leave the organization (IL) at T2 will be mediated by hindrance and challenge appraisals at T1, psychological strains at T1 and T2, and organizational attitudes: affective organizational commitment (AOC) and job satisfaction (JS) at T2.
Since Webster et al.’s (2011) pivotal study in which respondents appraised each stressor as a challenge (enhancing growth) or a hindrance (obstructing growth), others (e.g., Searle & Auton, 2015) have begun to do the same. In those studies, the appraisal directly linked with psychological well-being and organizational attitudes. However, the broader nomological net has not been tested. Psychological strains and organizational attitudes have been shown to explain the relationship between role and job demands and IL (e.g., Glazer & Beehr, 2005; Haider et al. 2020), but the studies did not include stressor appraisal. Per TMS, cognitive appraisal of stressors is a critical part of the stressor-strain process (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). This study replicates Webster et al. by asking participants to indicate whether they experience role overload (RO) and role conflict (RC) and then to rate each stressor item along two continua for hindrance and challenge. The stressors and appraisals are then studied in relation to psychological strain and organizational outcomes.
Data were collected over three waves via MTurk. The first wave (T0) screened to include adults working 35+ hours/week, not self-employed, working from an office at least 40% of the week, reporting to a supervisor, and passing attention checks. T1 data were collected two weeks post-screener and T2 data were collected two months after T1.
Of 359 participants invited to T1, 237 were completed and passed attention checks. Of those, 57.8% were male, mean age was 35.56 (SD = 9.16) years, 81.4% were White/Euro-American, 37.9% were single, 39.3% were married, average organizational tenure was 5.7 years, 51.1% had a Bachelor’s degree, and 27.0% had a High School degree.
Measures were rated on a 7-point scale. Five items assessed RC (α = .77); four assessed RO (α = .85; Glazer & Beehr, 2005). After each stressor item, per Webster et al. (2011), respondents evaluated each on: “I find this a challenge to my work” and “I find this a hindrance to my work.” Alphas were between .74 and .80. Three items measured job-related anxiety (Parker & DeCotiis, 1983; α = .87), 9 measured tedium (Malach-Pines, 2005; α = .95), 1 JS item, 8 AOC items (Meyer & Allen, 1991; α = .92), and 3 IL items (Glazer & Beehr, 2005; α = .94).
CFAs were used for establishing the goodness of fit for all the measures employed, except for job satisfaction, which was measured with a single item (CFIs = .90 to .99). We also employed SEM to estimate the specified mediation effects.
We conducted two separate mediation analyses, estimating the effects of stressors via appraisals on both anxiety and tedium as measured at T1 and T2, and subsequently organizational attitudes and IL (see Tables 1 & 2; Figure 1). For the first mediation model we obtained adequate goodness of fit indices (CFI = .973, RMSEA = 050). A weaker goodness of fit was observed for the second mediation model (CFI = .871, RMSEA = .136). The differences in sample sizes from T1 and T2 constitutes a likely explanation for the drop in goodness of fit.
Although RC and RO significantly associated with their respective hindrance and challenge appraisals, the indirect effects of RSs on anxiety and tedium (T1 & T2) via stressor appraisals were non-significant. Still, anxiety and tedium (T1 & T2) explained significant amounts of variance in AOC and JS measured . JS and AOC also accounted for a relatively large percent of turnover intention, irrespective of the measurement occasion for anxiety and tedium, suggesting that both the immediate and longer term consequences of RS, that is anxiety and tedium, lead to decreases in AOC and JS, ultimately explaining large variance in IL.
The attempt to reconceptualize the TMS through challenge-hindrance appraisal rather than threat appraisal appears to muddy the original nomological net (Tuckey et al., 2015). The nomological net that includes challenge and hindrance appraisals might need further exploration for theoretical interest, but perhaps practically it does not matter so much. Afterall, in other studies, the ultimate outcome is that both the challenge and hindrance appraisal has adverse consequences (Mazzola & Disselhorst, 2019).
Ultimately, psychological strains (T1) mediate the RSs (T1)-organizational outcomes relationship (T2).