Work Stress and Focused Coping

As a way to help members of CROET, OHSU and the community get to know and meet our staff at CROET, we have been holding regular seminars to showcase their research. One of the seminars within our Young Investigator Highlight series was given by Rob Wright, a Postdoctoral Researcher working with CROET’s Ryan Olson, on January 9th.  Rob recently completed his PhD in Social Psychology and Occupational Health Psychology at Portland State University and has been with CROET  for 18 months.

Rob Wright

Say the word ‘work stress’ and just about everyone has an idea of what that means, at least to them. In fact, work stress is a pervasive part of almost any job, affecting nearly every employee and organization on important outcomes such as employee turnover, decreased productivity, cardiovascular disease and poor mental health. This highlights the importance of employees adopting effective strategies to handle or cope with their work stressors in order to prevent or reduce these negative outcomes.

Recent research from the Oregon Nurse Retention Project (ONRP), a collaborative effort between Portland State University, Clemson University and Oregon Nurses Association, suggests that effectively coping with work stressors, particularly interpersonal work stressors, may be greatly aided by the use of focused coping. Focused coping is using fewer coping strategies more than all others to cope with the stressor. In other words, rather than using multiple coping strategies (e.g., actively doing something about the problem, laughing about the situation, seeking social support), focused coping is the use of one or two coping strategies (e.g., seeking social support).

Using a sample of 144 RN’s across the entire state of Oregon in a 12-week weekly experience survey, this study found that those nurses who used focused coping rated their coping efforts in dealing with interpersonal work stressors (e.g., interpersonal conflict at work) as much more effective than those who did not use focused coping. This relationship was also true when other factors such as the amount of perceived control, level of support in the work environment, and typical weekly workload were considered. Moreover, those nurses who used focused coping had fewer physical health complaints and less job burnout than those who did not use focused coping. As such, this suggests that stress coping training regarding focused coping and allowing employees the opportunity to share effective coping strategies with each other may be a good practical way that organizations can help foster improved coping outcomes.

Submitted by Rob Wright. Questions? Contact Dr. Wright.

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One response to “Work Stress and Focused Coping

  1. Workplace safety isn’t all just about physical safeguards. We need to incorporate mental health into the idea of a safe workplace. Having options for employees to deal with their stress whether it being having dedicated break/relaxation areas or better channels of communication to discuss stress, organizations need to work to ensure that their workers are both physically and mentally safe on the job.

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