University of Twente Student Theses


The Entrepreneurial Stress Circle – a Grounded Theory Approach

Bentlage, Jascha (2017) The Entrepreneurial Stress Circle – a Grounded Theory Approach.

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Abstract:EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Entrepreneurship is one of the most important drivers for innovation, job creation, and economic growth. However, its positive benefits can only be reaped if ventures are economically successful. Thereby, business success is highly dependent on the individual entrepreneur’s performance. Research has highlighted links between the entrepreneur’s health and his or her performance. Impacted entrepreneurial well-being has been suggested to lead to business failure. Work-related stress constitutes one of the biggest threats to functioning in Western societies and stress among employees is a well-documented and investigated phenomenon. Recently, scholarly attention on entrepreneurial stress has grown. Most studies so far have compared employees’ stress levels with those of entrepreneurs and came to contradicting results. Other studies focused on specific aspects of entrepreneurial stress. However, the current stream of research is highly fragmented and is lacking a congruent framework. This study taps into this academic gap and aims to gain a more nuanced understanding on entrepreneurial stress, thereby developing the first comprehensive model of the entrepreneurial stress process. Due to the explorative character of this study, a qualitative approach is required. 40 interviews with entrepreneurs were conducted and analyzed following the iterative constructivist grounded theory approach. Grounded theory is a set of techniques which allows to perform explorative studies in a structured, yet flexible manner and is a widely accepted approach for generating theory in an under-researched field, making it the best suited instrument for stress research in the entrepreneurial context. Analysis of the interviews revealed the first comprehensive model on entrepreneurial stress: The Entrepreneurial Stress Cycle. The derived individual, organizational, and environmental characteristics were categorized into stressors, such as private challenges or task overload; contingency factors, such as coping or firm size; and outcomes, such as reduced creativity or decreased health. Results point out, that the stressors lead to an individual stress level, which in turn results in specific outcomes, which again can influence the initial stressors. All relationships are potentially impacted by contingencies. Hence, the model depicts a circular stress process for entrepreneurs. This study contributes to existing theory in several ways. First, by applying a qualitative in-depth approach, a more nuanced understanding of entrepreneurial stress is gained in a field dominated by quantitative studies. Second, prior research often focused on specific aspects of the phenomenon. This study takes a broader view resulting in a comprehensive model depicting interrelations of numerous relevant factors. Third, it paves the way for further research by providing a systematic, yet flexible framework. Further, results of this study imply beneficial outcomes for practice. First, entrepreneurs may develop a more delicate sense for their personal health and its potential consequences. Additionally, it may equip them with strategies for handling elevated stress levels. Second, institutions, such as health insurance organizations, may benefit from an improved understanding of entrepreneurial stress in designing programs aimed at preventing or decreasing stress among founders. This, in turn, may lead to beneficial outcomes for society in general which profits from a healthier entrepreneurial population in terms of general economic developments, rate of employment, and innovativeness.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:70 social sciences in general, 77 psychology, 85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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