April Post: Work Stress & Gender

Name: Sabri Izzuddin

Matric No.: A0096418W

It has been discussed in chapter 18 of “Organizational Behaviour” by Stephen Robbins and Timothy Judge that there are two main types of work-related stress. They are challenge stressors – related to amount of work or time constraints – and hindrance stressors – which hinders personal achievements or responsibilities, such as organizational politics, “red tape” (rigid organisational regulations) and having to face conflicting instructions from different superiors. I would like to examine further, the differences in implications of work-related stress on men and women.

The figure below is adapted from the article on “Perception of Organizational Politics” by Gerald et al in 1996 and will be used as a basis for my interpretations on the relationship of work-stress and gender.

Figure 1: A model of general influence of gender (circled in red, under “Personal Influence”), among other factors, on organizational politics perceptions leading to stress.


Starting with the relationship of gender and organizational politics (hindrance stressor), the theme of “glass-ceiling” comes to mind. However, the implications of this analogy on work stress among female professionals have been rather implicit. A 6-role-conflict scale developed by C. K. Holahan and L. A. Gilbert (1979) that quantifies role conflict intensity between professional and gender-stamped responsibilities has been used in a few studies and the results have been consistent, as in the model above. Discrimination or an inferior outlook on female professionals due to generalized social perception of female roles as a home-maker, have actually led to intensified work stress. Female professionals themselves are then psychologically inclined to feel inferior in such scenarios. In comparison, men are less affected due to their perceived superiority even if both hold the same position in the organization. The “glass-ceiling” analogy, established in any organization or not, results in a higher level of work-related stress among females as compared to their male counterpart due to perceived lack of potential career progress. Looking back at the model, this also shows that personal influences have a direct effect on other work context influences.

Referring back to the social perception of female roles, I would like to outline the issue of work load differences between men and women. It is common to judge that men would logically have a greater workload due to higher expectations hence, in the perspective of challenge stressors, would be more stressed and prone to burn-outs at work. However, there is one simple counter-point to this general perception. Disregarding single women, female workers in fact hold considerably heavier responsibilities as external influence (i.e. household responsibilities) also amplifies her levels of stress. External influence may not be a direct work-related stress factor but its magnitude of effect is definitely noteworthy when extracting the implications of such stressors.

The table below summarized my opinions and findings on the overall differences in implications of the two main types of stressors – challenge and hindrance – on men and women at work.

Table 1: The overall differences in implications of challenge and hindrance stressors on men and women at work



Challenge Stressors

Perceived superiority in amount of workload renders them more stressed than they should be

– Self-amplified burn-outs

Demands and resources does not balance out

– More easily burnt out which leads to turnover


Hindrance Stressors

Less perceiving of organisational politics as they are affected less by political actions

– Relatively higher levels of satisfaction and security as compared to women, even with high levels of stress.

Recipient of disadvantageous political actions due to perceived positions of inferiority by male superiors/counterparts

– Less job satisfaction and security.

With the above points in mind, I am not implying that women face more work-related stress in general but rather, the implications of challenge and hindrance stressors have a bigger impact on women in terms of overall job satisfaction. Certainly, there are many other factors that can be looked at to link gender influence on work-related stress levels. Different individual perceptions on gender roles may also have an indirect effect on the implications. Conclusively, I believe that management of individual needs and traits early on can help organizations to support employees in managing their own stress levels and ultimately increase job satisfaction.


Cavanaugh, M.A., Boswell W.R., Roehling M.V., Boudreau J.W., 2000. An Empirical Examination of Self-reported Work Stress among U.S. Managers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85 (1): 65-74

Debra L.N., James C.Q., Michael A.I-I., and Doug M., 1990. Politics, Lack of Career Progress and Work/Home Conflict: Stress and Strain for Working Women. Journal of Sex Roles, 23 (3): 169 – 185.

Debra L.N., Ronald J.B., 2002. Gender, Work Stress, and Health. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Gerald R.F., Dwight D.F., Maria C.G., Jing Z., Michele K. and Jack L.H., 1996. Perceptions of Organizational Politics: Prediction, Stress-Related Implications and Outcomes. Journal of Human Relations, 49 (2): 233 – 266.

Russell C., John C.H., Alicia A.G. and Paul T., 1997. The relationship of organizational politics and support to work behaviors, attitudes, and stress. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 18: 159 – 180.

Stephen P.R. and Timothy A.J., 2013. Organizational Behaviour. New Jersey, U.S.: Pearson Education.


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