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Taking care of the energy of tomorrow : the influence of the work environment on the perceived work stress at the business unit ‘Heat’ of Essent

Koster, Wendy (2009) Taking care of the energy of tomorrow : the influence of the work environment on the perceived work stress at the business unit ‘Heat’ of Essent.

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Abstract:Essent is a company that delivers all kinds of energy such as power, gas and heat to its customers. This research will focus on the business unit ‘Heat’ of Essent. This business unit takes care of environmentally friendly heating and cooling of households, buildings and cities. Results of the employee satisfaction survey of 2008 showed that 67% of these employees perceived their workload as being too high. This study provides a better understanding of the causes and effects of the perceived work stress. The concept ‘work stress’ can best be defined as an adaptive response, moderated by individual differences, that is a consequence of any action, situation, or event that places special demands upon a person in the work environment (Matteson & Ivancevich, 1987). These special demands are unusual, out of the ordinary, physically or psychologically threatening, or outside an individual’s usual set of behaviours and may result in potential stressors (Matteson & Ivancevich, 1987). The main purpose of this study is to explain the perceived workload. Workload can best be defined as the expected or assigned amount of work to an employee within a specified time period (Delarue, 2003). When analysing the definition of work stress, workload can be characterized as a special demand to which an employee responds. Workload influences work stress. But it is not only workload that is an important indictor of work stress. As the definition of work stress already suggests, work stress can be analysed from three different perspectives; the work environmental perspective, the individual perspective and some mixture of the two (Cox, 1993). The focus of this study will be on the work environment in order to explain work stress. The central research question that is answered during the study is: How do employees perceive the work environment at Essent ‘Heat’ and how does this influence the perceived work stress? The model of Van Breukelen and Van Eijbergen (1995) is applied as an initial concept to explain the relationship between the work environment and work stress. Since the model does not totally cover the main purpose of this study, the model has been revised slightly. The most important indicators of the work environment are the organization characteristics, the characteristics of the work and leadership behaviour. Indicators of the organization characteristics are the level of formalization and centralization. The characteristics of the work consist of the job demands and job resources. Job demands negatively influence the energy level, while job resources positively influence employee motivation. Three different leadership styles are used to analyse leadership behaviour. First, the laissez-faire leadership style refers to a hands-off approach. Second, the transactional leadership style focuses on the exchange process between task accomplishment and rewarding. Third, the transformational leadership style focuses on motivating employees. This study will focus on intrinsic motivation and employee dedication as main indicators of work stress. Intrinsic motivation refers to the extent to which employees find the content of the job enjoyable and interesting. Employee dedication analysis the opposite of burnout and can be defined as a positive, affective-cognitive situation of uppermost satisfaction that is characterized by vitality, dedication and absorption. According to an analysis of literature about work stress five research questions and a conceptual research model are developed. A summary of the answers on each research questions will be given. How do employees of Essent ‘Heat’ perceive the work environment? Analysis of the organization characteristics suggests that employees perceive the organization as highly formalized and less centralized. When analysing the characteristics of the work, employees perceive both a lot of job demands and job resources while performing the job. Remarkable results are that not all employees think information is available to them and the daily supervisory is good. Besides, although employees do not perceive a high level of role conflict and ambiguity, four items suggest that the majority of employees perceive role ambiguity and role conflict. An analysis of the leadership behaviour suggests that most employees perceive their manager as a transformational leader. The transactional leadership behaviour is not experienced very often, while this style is also important to reduce work stress. Managers of Essent ‘Heat’ do not provide a special reward in exchange for the effort required from of employees and do not provide feedback about mistakes. Do the employees of Essent ‘Heat’ experience work stress? Analysis of intrinsic motivation and employee dedication suggest that employees are intrinsically motivated and dedicated to a large extent. The results suggest employees are not aware of any work stress. While job demands are high, it does not negatively influence intrinsic motivation and employee dedication. The organization expected there to be a problem exists, while this study does not support this. The percentage of absence through illness was 2.58% in 2008 for the business unit ‘Heat’ of Essent. This low percentage supports this result. How does the perception of the work environment influence the perceived work stress of employees? Results suggest that organization characteristics do not determine the characteristics of the work and leadership behaviour. When analysing the characteristics of the work, it was expected that the job demands would be negatively related to intrinsic motivation. Only one negative relationship exists. Generally the results do not support this relationship. The results support the expectation that job resources would be positively related to intrinsic motivation. The results also showed that the transformational leadership style is positively related to the job resources but also to intrinsic motivation. The results suggest that the other two leadership styles do not have a large influence on the characteristics of work or intrinsic motivation. In the final analysis, intrinsic motivation and employee dedication are positively related. The results suggest that in order to increase intrinsic motivation and employee dedication, organizations have to focus on providing job resources and the transformational leadership style. How do the characteristics of employees influence the original relationships between the work environment and work stress? According to the literature it was expected that the needs and values employees have, according to their work environment, would have a moderating effect on the original relationships between the work environment and work stress. Since the majority of the results does not provide support for this expectation, it can be concluded that the needs and values of employees do not influence the relationships between the work environment and work stress. Which suggestions can be given to reduce the perceived work stress of employees at Essent ‘Heat’? The suggestions that employees provided to reduce work stress, fit the areas of attention in the work environment. The most important suggestions are: improve project management; simplify, clarify and improve structure, work processes and procedures; hire more personnel; improve cooperation; improve leadership by focusing more on goals and a clear division of responsibilities; improve communication; perfect match between job and knowledge and skills; focus more on the customer; better facilitate flexible work places; focus more on outcomes and goals; work more bottom-up; improve software; strengthen the culture. An initial conclusion of this study is that employees are not aware of work stress. The organization suggested that there might be a problem, but this problem is not supported by this study. Although job demands are high it does not result in a high level of perceived work stress. Second, although most results are positive some areas of attention occurred. Availability of information and daily supervisory can be improved. Roles can be better clarified. Also psychological effort, task requirements and the problems to arrange the work can be reduced. Managers have to focus more on the transactional leadership style. Third, the suggestions provided by employees fit these areas of attention and have to be implemented to improve these areas. At last, to further improve intrinsic motivation and employee dedication, the organization has to focus on providing job resources and the transformational leadership style. These two variables are very useful in reducing work stress.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Clients:
Essent
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/60250
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