For a period of time, abundance of stress literature has attested to the negative influences of stress on employee’s behaviour and performance (Rodell & Judge, 2009; Stroud, 2008). They predominately concentrated on the causes of stress (noted as stressors) with the supposition that minimising them will improve physical and psychological well-being (Searle & Auton, 2015; Widmer et al., 2011). However, the nature of stress became obscure as multiple empirical studies displayed little or no direct association between stress and negative work-related outcomes (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000). Due to this inconsistency and deficit in work stress-related research, this report intends to assess the relationship between stressor appraisals and work outcomes. Specifically, the focus will be to observe the change in the outcomes of job demands such as time pressure depending on the employees’ cognitive appraisals of the specific job demand.
Recent studies show a converging proposal that work stress can be both good and bad in terms of their impacts on work achievements, attitudes and behaviours (Webster, Beehr, & Love, 2011). According to the transactional stress theory, an individual’s stress level is determined by one’s cognitive evaluations of the situation or demand (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Webster, Beehr, & Love, 2011). This process is achieved by using a primary appraisal: situations perceived as a potential for growth and reward refers to “challenge appraisals” and perceived situations that focus on the harms and losses refer to “threat appraisals” (Searle & Auton, 2015; Webster, Beehr, & Love, 2011). Thus, this explains why different levels of stress is experienced by individuals with the same stressor (Searle & Auton, 2015; Webster, Beehr, & Love, 2011).
Furthermore, challenge related job demands such as time pressure and responsibilities are closely related to a concept of eustress, a type of stress that stimulates strain yet a feeling of accomplishment (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000; Selye, 1982). For instance, one self-report survey of U.S managers demonstrated that although the managers felt pressured and overloaded by the job demand, a feeling of satisfaction was experienced (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000). This is consistent with the idea that while the physical effects of stress may still occur, challenge appraisals bring a positive and inspiring feeling hence, making a stressful demand worth the inconvenience (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000; McCall et al., 1988).
Based on Lazarus and Folkman (1984)’s notion, the challenge-hindrance stressor framework also distinguished challenge stressors from hindrance stressors (Prem et al., 2018). With a stronger emphasis on occupational stress rather than traditional stress, it used a two-way categorisation to divide stress measures such as “time pressures I experience” (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000; Sandman, 1992) into challenge stressors or hindrance stressors (Webster, Beehr, & Love, 2011). Interestingly, the result postulated that both challenge and hindrance stressors are related to organisational attitudes and behaviours but in opposite directions (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000). For instance, challenge stressors are positively associated with work qualities such as job satisfaction and negatively correlated with job search (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000). In contrast, the relationship between job satisfaction and hindrance stressors were significantly negative while displaying a positive relationship with job search (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000).
However, Cavanaugh et al. (2000)’s framework also exhibited the ambivalence of challenge-related stressors due to its simultaneous association with physical strain (Widmer et al., 2011). Prem et al. (2018) defines procrastination as a lack of self-regulation characterised by unnecessary delays of incomplete tasks, despite the anticipated negative outcomes (Steel, 2007). This behaviour is stimulated by stressful job demands such as task difficulty and is commonly engaged by many working employees (Steel, 2007; Prem et al., 2018). Indeed, their research demonstrated the effects of ambivalent stressors on the level of self-regulation, hence showing its significant relationship with workplace procrastination. As a result, it has been suggested that the opposite relationship between favourable work outcomes and challenge stressors is only observable when masking the strain-related variance (Widmer et al., 2011).
Conversely, other studies emphasised on the promising abilities of challenge stressors that bring out motivation and a feeling of enjoyment thus, counteracting the negative effects of strain (LePine, Podsakoff, & LePine, 2005; Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007). Given this inconsistent and changing findings, we postulate the coexisting of both good and bad effects of challenge stressors. In this study, we used time pressure as the challenge stressor as it produces high pressure for employees to work at a faster pace. My first hypothesis is that more time pressure will be positively associated with higher challenge appraisals. However, acknowledging that challenge stressors are potentially ambivalent and is still affected by strain, second hypothesis is that more time pressure will also be positively associated with higher procrastination.
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