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International Handbook of Work and Health Psychology, 3rd Edition by Marc J. Schabracq, James C. Quick, Cary L. Cooper

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CHAPTER 7Gender and Work Stress: Unique Stressors, Unique Responses

Faye K. Cocchiara

Arkansas State University, USA

and

Myrtle P. Bell

The University of Texas at Arlington

Managing stress is a major problem in organizations for both employers and employees (Gyllensten & Palmer, 2005). Around 30% to 40% of workforces in the USA and Europe are exposed to workplace stress, and those levels appear to have risen over the past 20 years (Melchoir et al., 2007). As a result, considerable research has been devoted to investigating the causes and consequences of workplace stress, particularly the role that gender plays in the relationship between stress and its dysfunctional effects. The bulk of this research has found that gender moderates (or changes) the relationship between stress and strain in the workplace. While stress is an inevitable component of most any workplace, both men and women must learn to manage it in order to be successful.

It is important that we clarify the differences between healthy stress that serves to stimulate and unhealthy stress that often has harmful effects. Stress that tends to arouse or motivate individuals to meet certain challenges, for example, is referred to as ‘eustress’, a term with origins from the ancient Greek word, euphoria. For all intents and purposes, this is viewed as ‘positive’ stress. On the other hand, unmanaged stress often leads to ‘distress’ or ‘strain’ (Nelson & Quick, 2008). Whether the response to strain is to ‘fight or flee’ ...

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