RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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Sackey, J. & Sanda, M. (2011). Sustenance of Human Capital: Social Support as a Managerial Stress Reliever for Women in Developing Economies, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 19(2), 1-23.

Sustenance of Human Capital: Social Support as a Managerial Stress Reliever for Women in Developing Economies

Jocelyn Sackey & Mohammed-Aminu Sanda

Abstract

Although women managers in Ghana represent an unique set of human capital the adverse consequences of job stressors on their performances make their sustenance in organisations a key human resource challenge. Similar to many developing countries the gender orientation of managerial employees in Ghana has changed in the last two decades with many women breaking through the hierarchical glass ceilings to occupy management positions in their organisations. This category of women employees, who also retain their sociocultural roles as wives and mothers needs to be socially supported in their organisations. The dual roles played by these women managers generate added stress to their organisational performances with detrimental consequences, not only to their physical and mental wellbeing, but also to their sustenance as resourceful human capital encouraging the installation of appropriate support coping mechanisms. This issue was explored by examining the relationship between the job characteristics symptoms of stress and the moderating effects of social support among managerial women in some organisations in Ghana. The findings of this study indicate that the exposure of managerial women to many job stressors have harmful effect on their health and impact negatively on their productivity. The stresses of the managerial women were reduced and their career progressions enhanced by the supportive relationship that existed between them and their superiors.

Introduction

Over the years, recognising and understanding women’s occupational health hazards have been impeded by the notion that women’s jobs are safe. Even if health problems are identified among women workers, they are mostly attributed to either job unfitness, hormonal factors and/or complain without real cause (Messing & Stellman 1999). In many developing countries including Ghana, there are a number of barriers and associated occupational health hazards that inhibit the progression of women on the organisational hierarchical ladder, which stimulates leading organisations to identify and install for the institutional wellbeing of female employees. Nevertheless, studies in many developing countries as well as Ghana have shown, sociocultural barriers, such as gender discrimination and unbalanced roles between family and work, continue to keep women stagnating at lower management levels within their organisations (Moghadam 2004, Metcalfe 2006, 2007, 2008, Sanda & Sackey 2010, Tlaiss & Kauser 2011). These sociocultural barriers are likely to emanate from the macho characterisation of the countries’ sociocultural norms, which influence the structural design, and management of organisations.

In Ghana’s sociocultural environment women are regarded as supporters of their male counterparts. For the most part, women’s childhood socialisation prepares them for motherhood, and, therefore, their roles are limited to taking care of the home, bearing children and engaging in small businesses (El-Ghannam 2002, Powell & Graves 2003, Eagly & Carli 2007, Sackey & Sanda 2009). Over the years in most developing countries, women have been made to believe that men were the primary decision makers, be it at home, or at the workplace. Accordingly women have been culturally socialised to adopt certain behaviours and traits that drive them to fulfil assumed roles, such as their obligation to deal with domestic responsibilities, leaving the managerial positions to be filled by men (Sanda & Sackey 2010, Tlaiss & Kauser 2011). Therefore, most women in Ghana have not reached the top of their organisation’s hierarchy, because they stereotypically believe that some positions are the preserve of men (Sanda & Sackey 2010).

The changing gender roles in organisations have resulted in a convergence of attitudes to the demands of work situations not only for men, but also of women (Frankenhauser 1994). As more and more women are becoming professionals and joining the workforce most of them are coming to the realisation that they have to cope with the consequences of role overload that arises from the cross demands of carrying out two full time jobs. Firstly, as a wage earner; and secondly, as a wife and mother. The work of professional women outside the home and its consequent role overload is generally, associated with less depression where there is good social support, but more depression where there is not good support (Parry & Shapiro 1986).

Since role overloads can cause greater symptoms by lowering an individual’s sense of personal control (Rosenfield 1989), some roles and role combinations have become more beneficial than others (Barnett 1993). For example, women entering traditionally male professional domains (e.g., engineers, lawyers, bus drivers) exhibit stress responses previously considered to be typical of men only (Dennerstein 1999). In situations involving female areas of responsibility, such as taking a sick child to the hospital, it has been acknowledged that mothers are likely to experience greater stress than fathers. Such women’s double roles can result in double stress (Dennerstein 1999). Therefore, the quality of roles is a more significant predictor of stress and wellbeing than role occupancy (Dennerstein 1999). In other words, career consequence, a dimension of work and family supportive culture, plays a similar role in a family work conflict model (Amah 2010).

A research finding by Sanda and Sackey (2010) showed that the stress of carrying out two full time jobs (in the labour force and at home) is ‘wearing out’ many women in Ghana. This finding corroborates the notion that women who aspire to managerial positions are constrained by family and work related issues (Etzion & Pines 1986, Kock, Boose, Cohen & Mansfield 1991, Tlaiss & Kauser 2011). The Ghanaian women’s attempt to cope with their role overloads have often resulted in conflict between their professional selves, moulded by the culture of the organisations in which they work, and their sociocultural selves, that are moulded by the culture of the society in which they live (Sanda & Sackey 2010). The emergence of such conflict can be ascribed to attempts in trying to cope with the challenges that arise between ‘work and family’ and/or ‘family and work’ lives (Amah 2010). Conflicts arising from both the ‘work and family’ and ‘family and work’ challenges has potential to adversely affect employees’ attitude and behaviour in the work and family domains (Frone, Russell & Cooper 1992, Anderson, Coffey & Byerly 2002, Carr, Boyar & Gregory 2008, Amah 2010). This conflict has given rise to a growing concern among many organisations that a woman’s involvement in these multiple tasks could be detrimental, not only to her physical and mental wellbeing, but also to her sustenance as a productive human resource by organisations.

The perception of women as unsustainable human resources by organisations has resulted in the underutilisation of their talents, despite having equal abilities and capabilities as men to perform well in management and leadership positions (Cubillo 1999, Cubillo & Brown 2003, Sanda & Sackey 2010). Such underutilisation of women talents is reinforced by the prevalence of functional limitations in the design of organisational structures whose male gendered characteristics and behaviour is strongly influenced by the sociocultural notion in Ghana that women exist to subordinate and provide support to their men (Sanda & Sackey 2010). The strength of this notion is derived from the traditional thinking that Ghanaian women must subscribe to a sociocultural way of life underlined by a value system that is family oriented, and which role most women continue to cherish and want to preserve while seeking career progression (Sackey & Sanda 2009). The implication here is that though most Ghanaian women have the freedom to develop their careers there are organisational, situational, individual and sociocultural barriers that inhibit their career advancement (Sanda & Sackey 2010). Among such organisational barriers are, excessively bureaucratic rules, multiple chains of command, and poorly organised work systems that may require employees to work harder and faster just to cope with the confusion and chaos generated by a relatively unproductive work environment (Keeley & Harcourt 2001). These barriers represent important human resource management (HRM) challenge for many organisations where there is a quest to sustain human capital by retaining valuable professional female employees. The enormity of this challenge is further increased by the lack of alternative work arrangements that could aid women to cope with the stresses of their dual lives and attain a work life balance that could help improve the quality of their health and performance (Sackey & Sanda 2008).

In the Ghanaian society, people are expected to subordinate their personal goals to that of the societal goals by establishing harmonious and interdependent relationships with members of the society (Nukunya 2003). Based on this societal perspective, the Ghanaian managerial woman is expected to relate strongly with her societal members, and be supported by them in minimising her occupational stress. However, with the Ghanaian society experiencing changes in lifestyle and family structures, the expected societal support for the Ghanaian managerial woman is also likely to be affected by the social changes. As it is noted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the world has and continues to face a dramatic and unprecedented crisis that gives rise to opportunities to address the negative social consequences of globalisation for women (ILO 2009). This crisis has brought to the fore the need for a dramatic shift to an improved globalisation in which women are provided with sustainable and quality jobs, broader social protection, and social dialogue. Consequently, there is a huge untapped labour potential of women in the world, who when provided with the opportunity of decent employment, would contribute significantly towards economic growth and development (ILO 2009), an aim of this study.

The manuscript is presented in six sections. Following the first section the second section presents the relevant literature and hypotheses predicting relationships between managerial women and the occupational stress they encounter at the workplace are appraised. A theoretical framework to guide the study methodology is also outlined in the second part of the paper. In the third section the methodological approach used for data collection and analysis is presented. The fourth section is the results, which are linked with the literature to compare the fifth section of the manuscript. A conclusion delineating the relevance of the manuscript content for HRM policies and practices in contemporary institutions is the final section.

The negative relationship between the availability of ‘work and family’ friendly policies and ‘family and work’ conflict is an indication that there is potential benefit when employers invest in such policies (Amah 2010). Investment in the redesign of work to enrich jobs with more autonomy and greater skill variety can lower employee stress levels, even if employee’s job is not demanding. Such job enrichment would require the simplification of organisational rules, structures, and systems that could offer the possibility of both higher productivity and lower stress at the workplace (Keeley & Harcourt 2001).

The paucity of studies on the position of women managers in Ghana, as in other developing countries, underscores the very limited knowledge available on the stress women managers experience in organisations (Metcalfe 2007, 2008, Tlaiss & Kauser 2011). Since managers at all levels in the organisational hierarchy have to deal with changing organisational structures, work patterns and diversity management strategies, if they are to retain ‘top talent’ and become employers of choice, then a dominant question is whether existing strategies, such as child care and family friendly work practices applicable to a significant number of employees will remain adequate for the future (Scott- Ladd, Travaglione, Perryer & Pick 2010). Employees high in work centrality are highly involved in their job, and may generate a great deal of stress arising from the conflict between their work and family lives. Understanding the conflict between family and work roles, its antecedents and consequences is, therefore, beneficial to employers and employees (Amah 2010). In this study the barriers that inhibit the career advancement of managerial women in, and which posed as HRM challenges to the sustenance of professional female employees in Ghanaian organisations was explored by seeking answers to the following two research questions. 1. Are Ghanaian women managers in male dominated occupational fields experiencing high levels of stress? 2. Is the role of social support of any significance in helping these women cope with these stressors?

Investigation of the two research questions enabled testing of two sets of propositions. First, the relationship between the job characteristics symptoms of stress; and second the moderating effects of social support resources among women in lower and middle management positions in some organisations in Ghana. Specifically, the kind of work related stressors that are unique to managerial women in Ghana were elevated. The availability of social support and women’s ability to establish and maintain supportive social networks as key relievers of stress was also assessed. In the examination, this study accounted that the Ghanaian society is a collective culture strongly influenced by group oriented values.

Literature Review

Managerial Women and Work Environmental Stress

In today’s job world women fill nearly one third of all managerial organisational positions. Yet most of them remain concentrated mainly in positions of low authority, status and pay (Morrison & Von Glinnow 1990). Top management positions often remain the preserve of males (Wajcman 1996). Women account for fewer than two per cent of top executive positions, and even in these positions, they earn less than men. The ILO estimates that, at the present rate, it would take 475 years for parity to be achieved between men and women in top level managerial and administrative positions. Culturally, women are regarded as supporters of their male counterparts. Career theories are also based on male values (Dalton 1989). Most occupational environments and organisational policies are more conducive and suitable to men than women in terms of success enhancement (Tharenou, Latimer & Conroy 1994).

Early theories of gender development presumed that women were same and just like men. Generally, models of career development are homogenous especially if women are entering the same occupations and are similar to men in abilities and ambitions. A strong assumption is that women would have successful careers by following the male model. Consequently, when women do not fit the male based theories, they are regarded as deficient, inefficient, and negatively appraised, and this in turn, erodes their confidence (Dalton 1989), which can also curtail their future advancement (Gallos 1989). The double burden of being employed and maintaining primary responsibilities for the family and home have shown that employed women have similar or even higher rates of psychiatric symptoms than housewives (Haavio-Mannila 1986, Hochschild 1989). Women who work full time, especially those in managerial and professional jobs (Rosenfield 1989, Bartley, Popay & Plewis 1992, Hall 1992, Walters, Lenton, French, Eyles, Mayr & Newbold 1996), and who have dependent children (Arber, Gilbert & Dale 1985, Hall 1992), and also maintain the overall management of the home environment (Griffin, Fuhrer, Stansfeld & Marmot 2003), are more likely to report ill health and depressive symptoms at the workplace. For these women, there may be a threshold where the benefits of paid employment begin to reverse, and become deleterious (Griffin, et al. 2003).

Some researchers have suggested that managerial women who experienced stressful situations may be able to engage in strategies, which allow them to reduce the stressors in their work environment (e.g., Thoits 1986, Rao, Apte & Subbakrishna 2003). These strategies may include the use of appropriate support systems like social support to enhance their coping abilities (Thoits 1986). When families are supportive of a woman’s labour force participation and when workplace supports such as flexible schedules exist, stress tends to be low and job satisfaction high (Rao, et al. 2003).

Past studies have shown the existence of a significant direct effect between work and family supportive culture and work family conflict (Thompson, Beauvais & Lyness 1999). A significant direct effect also exists between career consequence and work family conflict (Gordon, Whelan-Berry & Hamilton 2007, Amah 2010). Career consequence is likely to interact with ‘work and family’ friendly policy to predict work family conflicts (Groover & Crooker 1995), but when individuals do not use these policies they may not achieve work-family balance (Hammonds, Furchgott, Hamm & Judge 1997). The availability of ‘work and family’ friendly policy in an organisation is, therefore, found to have a negative effect on family work conflict (Amah 2010). Amah’s finding is justified by the fact that instrumental and social support help individuals to balance work and family roles, and thus, act as buffers to the conflicts arising from the work and family domains (Carlson & Kacmar 2000, Anderson, et al. 2002). A significant relationship also exists between career consequence and the availability of work family friendly policy for predicting family work conflict. When career consequence of using ‘work and family’ friendly policies is high, the reduction of family work conflict associated with availability of ‘work and family’ friendly policies is low (Amah 2010). By implication, employees who perceive high career consequence are likely to avoid using ‘work and family’ friendly policies in managing family demands, but are likely to be able to manage the conflict arising from their roles in the family (Amah 2010). In this context, therefore, hypothesis one is postulated.

Hypothesis 1 Managerial women in Ghanaian organisations will perceive social support as a direct negative moderator of their perceived job stresses from work family conflict.

Occupational Stress and Social Support

The importance of social support in occupational stress is critical since support from co-workers and from supervisors has been shown to be a strong influence on occupational stress. The workplace represents a community of workers, which serves as an important source of social support for stressed employees where they could be made to feel like at home (McGuire 2007). The level of social support that workers receive at the workplace influences their levels of job stresses, and strains as well as the levels of their satisfaction with their jobs, and job performances (House 1981, Fisher 1985, Haines, Hurlbert & Zimmer 1991, Hurlbert 1991, Nelson & Quick 1991, Ducharme & Martin 2000, Park, Wilson & Lee 2004, Snyder, Claffey & Cistulli 2011).

Social support is an environmental coping resource that interacts with stress to offer people a buffer from the negative effects of stress. In other words, social support is a significant factor that enables people to cope and manage their stress effectively (Brotheridge 2001). Social support represents the relatively stable social factors that influence how individuals try to manage life crises and transitions (Moos & Schaefer 1993). Indeed, social support is thus, an important facet of an individual’s social setting and varying levels of support will be apparent as available to the individual in times of need. Cohen and Wills (1985) hypothesise that a lack of support in the face of acute stress engenders negative psychological states such as anxiety, helplessness, and depression. These psychological states, in turn affect psychological health, either by directly influencing susceptibility to disease (involving the neuron endocrine or immune systems, or by provoking certain behavioural responses such as smoking, drinking or failing to seek needed medical care), that actually increase the risk of disease or mental health (Cohen & Wills 1985). Research has found both main effects, in which social support directly reduces levels of stress and strain. The original conceptualisation (LaRocco, House & French 1980, House 1981) views social support as moderating the effect of work demands upon measured outcomes. The relationship between stress and strain is thus, strongest in people with low levels of social support which, implies that the relieving effect of social support is apparent in high stress environments.

There are two key aspects of social support in job stress studies. These are the types of support and the sources of support (Caplan, Cobb, French, Harrison & Pinneau 1980, Beehr 1985). In line with the work of Caplan, and colleagues (1980), many investigators in the job stress domain divide social support into two universal types; the emotional support and instrumental support (Blau 1981, Fusilier, Ganster & Mayes 1986, Kaufmann & Beehr 1986, Thoits 1995). Emotional support is characterised by the actions of caring or listening sympathetically to another person. Instrumental support is characterised by rendering tangible assistance, such as physical assistance or aid in the form of advice or knowledge needed to complete a task. Some researchers have concentrated on the emotional type of support, seemingly assuming that it is the most important type (La Rocco, et al. 1980, Jayarantne & Chess 1984, Chisholm, Kasl & Mueller 1986). Other researchers such as Pinneau (1976), and La Rocco, et al. (1980) have combined separate measures of emotional and instrumental social support into a single index. These two types of support (emotional and instrumental) are strongly inter correlated when provided from the same source (Caplan, et al. 1975, Kaufmann & Beehr 1986).

Sources of an employee’s social support in coping with job related stress include the employee’s supervisor, coworkers, family and friends (Caplan, et al. 1975, Kaufmann & Beehr 1986). Beehr (1995) argues that since effective stress treatment occurs when provided in the context of the stressful situation, work related stress could be dealt with effectively when the required support is sourced from the work environment (such as from supervisors and co workers). Though the social support that workers receive from their network members might seem inconsequential when compared to the key benefits of social ties at the workplace, such as jobs, promotions, and wages (McGuire 2007), the stress implication of women’s work in organisations in most developing societies has made social support an important function of workers’ networks founded on these perspectives. In this regard, therefore, two sub hypotheses to Hypothesis one (i.e., H1A and H1B) are proposed.

Hypothesis 1A Managerial women in Ghanaian organisations will perceive supervisors’ support as a direct negative moderator of their perceived job stresses from work family conflict.

Hypothesis 1B Managerial women in Ghanaian organisations will perceive co-workers’ support as a direct negative moderator of their perceived job stresses from work family conflict.

Gender and Social Support

Much of the literature underpinning the employer and employee social relationship, tend to focus on what happens within the organisation, and fail to recognise that employee satisfaction and commitment can be eroded by events external to the organisation (Scott-Ladd, et al. 2010). The social relationship that is built between an organisation and its individual employees is beneficial to both of these elements if the relationship is well maintained (Andriessen & Gubbins 2009). The building of such a relationship often results in the conflicting expectations of the various stakeholders in the organisation, which need to be addressed (Donaldson & Preston 1995, Carroll & Buchholtz 2008). In addressing such needs the organisation must recognise and take into account the very strong ties that are part of the relationship between employees and their employers. An exchange relationship (Settoon, Bennett & Liden 1996) is thus, built in the organisation if it acts positively towards its employees by creating reciprocity, which could entice positive and beneficial responses from the employees (Eder 2008). The importance of developing a relationship of mutual respect can only thrive if employees believe their needs are understood and met (Scott-Ladd, et al. 2010). Such employee needs “…. may be as simple as knowing that a single parent may need to start work at nine o’clock in the morning and finish at three o’clock in the evening every day, so that the parent can transport the children to and from school.” (Scott-Ladd, et al. 2010: 3).

Based on these perspectives, it is imperative to understand that the effect of social support that emanating from the organisational social relationships differ for men and women (Thoits 1995). Women provide and rely on social support more than men. Because women value social ties more (Kessler, Price & Wortman 1985) benefits may be stronger for them. Studies have shown that friendships are an important source of social support for both employed and unemployed women. Women have a strong interest in developing close, dyadic relationships, whereas men tend to be more group oriented, including three or more people. Work is an important source of close relationships for both men and women, often producing intimate and lasting friendships that individuals frequently do not have access to outside of the work environment (Duck 1998). The social support available at work has a direct effect on psychological wellbeing, with working women reporting greater levels of social support than those who are not working (Bolton & Oatley 1987, Pugliesi 1998). These social links are particularly important to women, with the company of others being the main non financial reason for working by both employed and unemployed women (Dex 1988). In this regard, therefore, the following two sub hypotheses to Hypothesis one (i.e., H1C and H1D) are presented.

Hypothesis 1C Managerial women in Ghanaian organisations will perceive spousal support as a direct negative moderator of their perceived job stresses from work family conflict.

Hypothesis 1D Managerial women in Ghanaian organisations will perceive friends’ support as a direct negative moderator of their perceived job stresses from work family conflict.

The Work Environment, the Person and Strain Model

The workplace is an environment in which individuals work in close proximity and often require interdependence on one another in order to accomplish tasks. Due to the innate need for humans to socialise (Brown, Siliva, Myin-Germeys & Kwapil 2007), the quality of the work environment is an important aspect of the organisation that contributes to employee satisfaction and wellbeing (Ibrahim & Dickie 2010). Such employee satisfaction is based on the premise that social interaction with colleagues, which occurs from peer relationships at the workplace (Kramer 2010), represents a highly valued aspect of work that acts as a key determinant of job satisfaction (Dur & Sol 2010). Therefore, workplace relationships play a critical role in the management process with the capacity to influence managerial control (Grey & Sturdy 2007). Work based relationships require attention in order to effectuate the potential benefits that these relations offer (Ibrahim & Dickie 2010).

Numerous models have been offered in the past to address the question of how and under what circumstances work stress may lead to strain (e.g., French & Caplan 1970, House 1974, Karasek 1979, Johnson, Hall & Theorell 1989, Karasek & Theorell 1990). The job strain model (Karasek 1979, Johnson, et al. 1989, Karasek & Theorell 1990) posits that deleterious strain will occur when high psychological demands on the job coexist with low control over the work situation. In theory, chronic exposure to job conditions that are high in demands and low in decision latitude can lead to psychological strain that may manifest itself as depression or anxiety (Griffin, et al. 2003). The model has been used in numerous studies to examine the relationship among job characteristics, psychological strain, and psychological and physical illnesses (Schnall, Landisbergis & Baker 1994, Stansfeld, North, White & Marmot 1995, Stansfeld, Fuhrer, Shipley & Marmot 1999). The stress response (i.e., strain) is a result of the interaction between person and environment. Applied to occupational stress, the specific components of this tripartite transactional model are the work environment, the person and strain. The work environment is where occupational stressors are found, and as such, this study is guided by the Person Environment Fit (PEF) Theory. According to the PEF theory, job stress is defined as work attributes that pose threats or risks to an employee. This stress results from a poor PEF, and strain is defined as the effects of stress on the individual, and various outcomes such as illness, psychiatric symptoms and propensity to leave the job emerge. The PEF theory of stress (Caplan 1983, Caplan & Harrison 1993) suggests that stress arises out of the fit or congruence between the person and the environment.

The PEF theory predicts that strain increases as the environment deviates from the person. This paradigm provides a framework for describing how the person and the environment combine to produce stress and influence strain, leading to adverse health outcomes. The concept of PEF indicates that alignment between characteristics of people and their environments results in positive outcomes for both individuals and organisations (e.g., Schneider, Smith & Goldstein 2000, Ostroff, Shin & Feiberg 2002). The basic idea of the PEF model is that individual adjustment consists of goodness of fit between the characteristics of a person and the properties of that person’s environment. A person’s environment might include for example, the work situation, the family arrangement and the social environment. In applying this theory in relation to gender, the focus is on the structural characteristics of the nature of the white collar job and the managerial role. The managerial role may enjoy some advanced skills as well as share some generous salaries and benefit packages, a high level of security and greater latitude of creative control over their tasks. Despite what may be viewed as extended freedom for the managerial role, every organisation has its limits, boundaries and formalised systems of work, and as far as women are concerned, the boundaries may be enormous. Cooper and Marshall (1978) developed their conceptual picture of possible sources of stress upon this basis. Each factor that can add to stress can be related to the structural characteristics of the managerial work. In this study, therefore, the sources of stress catalogued by Cooper and Marshall (1978) are subsumed within the PE fit model. The presumption is that the main sources of stress are directly connected with the task structure or the role and status of the woman manager within the organisation. Such job conditions include heavy workload, role ambiguity and conflict, job insecurity, poor relationships with co workers, supervisors and work that is narrow, repetitive and monotonous; other factors include sexual harassment and family balance issues. Prejudice and discrimination may also be stressors for women in the workplace.

The Occupational Stress Indicator (OSI) (Cooper, Sloan & Williams 1988), which has been modified and renamed the Pressure Management Indicator (PMI) (Williams & Cooper 1998), is used to measure the managerial women’s perceived levels of occupational stress. The OSI was developed by Cooper, et al. (1988) as a tool to aid organisations in the diagnosis of psychosocial hazard related to stressful working conditions. The OSI is based on a model of occupational stress, which identifies sources of pressure (experiences in the workplace) as causing stress effects (low job satisfaction, poor mental and physical health), which are moderated by individual differences (coping skills and stress prone personalities). Since the OSI entails some limitations (Williams & Cooper 1998), extra items were designed to strengthen the OSI’s weaker scales (Sackey & Sanda 2009). Additional scales measuring organisational commitment, job security and decision latitude were also produced and added to the strengthened OSI measures to produce the Pressure Management Indicator (PMI) (Williams & Cooper 1998, Rick, Briner, Daniels, Perryman & Guppy 2011). In this study, the occupational stress subscale measures used are the same in both the OSI and the PMI. This implies that the OSI is still a popular instrument for the diagnosis of occupational stress towards understanding stress at work.

The OSI consists of the following six subscales for measuring occupational stress: (i) Factors intrinsic to the job taps sources of stress originating from aspects of the job such as the amount and scope of tasks, number of hours worked and variety in the job; (ii) Managerial role measures how individuals perceive the expectations that others have of them. These expectations pertain to behaviours that managers are expected to exhibit when occupying their positions and performing routine job tasks; (iii) Relationship with others taps stress originating from personal contacts at work such as lack of social support from superiors and office politics; (iv) Career and achievement is concerned with respondents’ perceptions of their career development, promotion prospects and perceived threats of job obsolescence; (v) Home and work interface measures stress originating from difficulties in coordinating family responsibilities with career demands. More specifically, this subscale measures whether non work (home) stress has negative consequences on the individual’s work and whether work demands have a negative impact on home life; (vi) Organisational structure and climate measures stress originating from the bureaucratic nature of the organisation, communication problems and morale in the organisations.

Methodology

Participants and Sites

Participants for this study were a sample of women in managerial positions in a Ghanaian metropolitan city. The metropolitan city was chosen as the primary setting for this study due to its high concentration of major and key organisations and institutions, which engage highly skilled women in Ghana, and also due to its cosmopolitan atmosphere. A total of 40 organisations, which were likely to have managerial women on their staff list were identified. Out of the 40 organisations, 25 organisations, which had substantial numbers of managerial women, were also identified and randomly selected. The selected organisations fell into three major categories, namely private, public, and multinational. The ages of the study participants ranged from a minimum of 24 years to a maximum of 58 years, with a mean age of 37.84 years (standard deviation = 7.66). The managerial women sampled were highly educated either with university degrees or with professional qualifications. The women had managerial responsibilities in their organisations and were mainly lower to upper level managers in their organisations.

Procedure

In this study, the survey method approach was employed to collect data using self report assessment questionnaires. The questionnaire has three main sections. The first section (section A) assessed the study participants’ demography. The second section (section B) assessed the participants’ levels of occupational stress. This section consist of occupational stress measures, which are items listed in the stress subscales of the Occupational Stress Indicator (OSI) (Cooper, et al. 1988), and its modified version, the Pressure Management Indicator (PMI) (Williams & Cooper 1998). The third section (section C) assessed the level of social support available to the participants. This section consists of social support measures adapted from Kim (1996, 2000), and designed to tap both the instrumental and socio emotional components of the women’s perception of social support.

In pursuant of the data collection exercise, the researchers firstly, sought and obtained from the Public Services Commission and Private Enterprises Foundation, a list of the various organisations in Ghana that have women in managerial positions. A total of 25 organisations with substantial numbers of managerial women were randomly selected. The researchers sent introductory letters to the Human Resource Departments of the 25 selected organisations to seek permission for access to their women managers as study participants. After obtaining approval from the respective organisations, the stratified and simple random sampling procedure was used to select the individual women managers as participants for this study. The selected women managers were then contacted by the researchers using the telephone and personal visits, and booked appointments with them for the administration of the questionnaires.

A total of 200 questionnaires were distributed, and 170 usable questionnaires with all sections fully scored, were returned, representing a response rate of 85 per cent. A total of 51 (30%) of the returned questionnaires were from respondents in the private organisations. A total of 59 (34.7%) questionnaires were retrieved from the public organisations. A total of 60 (35.3%) questionnaires were received from the multinational organisations.

Measures

Demography

The demography of the study participants (section A of the questionnaire) is measured using the following seven items; (i) age, (ii) highest educational level attained, (iii) marital status, (iv) parental status, (v) number of children, (vi) tenure in organisation, and (vii) managerial status.

Occupational Stress

Occupational Stress (section B of the questionnaire) is measured using the following 28 items or stress subscale measures; (i) Work overload; (ii) Ambiguity about your responsibilities; (iii) Feeling isolated; (iv) Covert discrimination and favouritism; (v) Pursuing a career at the expense of home life; (vi) Rates of pay; (vii) Keeping up with new techniques; (viii) Too little variety in work; (ix) Time pressures and deadlines; (x) Coping with office politics; (xi) Job insecurity; (xii) Lack of opportunities for further development; (xiii) Inadequate feedback about my performance; (xiv) Insufficient resources and finance to work with; (xv) Staff shortages and turnover rates; (xvi) Lack of control in my work environment; (xvii) Long working hours; (xviii) Feeling undervalued; (xix) Attending meetings; (xx) Poor interpersonal relationships at work; (xxi) Conflict between work and home/social life; (xxii) Managing/ supervising people; (xxiii) Insufficient control over your job; (xxiv) Under promotion; (xxv) No or little participation in decision making; (xxvi) Too much responsibility; (xxvii) Over promotion (promoted beyond my competence); and (xxviii) Too little responsibility.

All of these listed 28 items are scored from ‘one’ (it is very definitely not a source of stress) to ‘seven’ (it is very definitely a source of stress). The OSI has a score ranging from 28 to 196. The median split method is used to categorise the stress scale into high and low levels. The high score ranges from 112 to 196 and low score ranges from 28 to 111 (Cooper, et al. 1988, Broadbridge 2000). High scores indicate more pressure faced by the individual. The subscale reliability, as reported by Williams and Cooper (1998), showed subscale coefficient alphas as follows: Factors intrinsic to the job (a = 0.70); Managerial role (a = 0.80); Home and work interface (a = 0.84); Relationships with other people (a = 0.78); Career and achievement (a = 0.78); Organisational structure and climate (a = 0.83). Factor loadings for the scale showed particularly strong validity in the range of (0.58 to 0.70). For the whole scale, the reliability coefficient for the present study was assessed with Cronbach’s alpha (a) of 0.91 (M = 4.34; SD 1.60). The subscales were as follows: Factors intrinsic to the job (a = 0.71); Managerial role (a = 0.79); Relationships with other people (a = 0.77); Career and achievement (a = 0.76); Organisational structure and climate (a = 0.81); Home and work interface (a = 0.80).

Social Support

Social support (section C of the questionnaire) is measured by the following four items; (i) Support from spouse (ii) Support from supervisor, (iii) Support from co worker, and (iv) Support from friends. The spouse support index presented a peculiar problem in that it was appropriate for only the married subset of respondents. Since this condition excluded a considerable number of respondents for any analysis involving spousal support, it was considered prudent to find the mean scores of support so that respondents who were widowed, divorced and single would not be assigned lower category of social support. This is an improvement over previous studies (e.g., Wells 1982). The four social support items are factor analysed with the 17 other exogenous determinants. Factor loadings for the support variables are as follows: spouse (0.92, 0.93, 0.90, and 0.91), immediate supervisor (0.83, 0.85, 0.68, and 0.64), co workers (0.71, 0.68) and friends (0.73, 0.82). This information is interpreted as providing support for the discriminant and convergent validity of the measures (Kim 1996, 2000). The reliability coefficients (Cronbach alpha) for the social support scale used in the questionnaire are as follows: spouse (a = 0.74), supervisor (a = 0.77), co worker (a = 0.61), and friends (a = 0.75). The means (M) and standard deviations (SD), respectively for the four sources of support for this study are as follows: spouse (M = 3.8, SD = 1.11), immediate supervisor (M = 3.6, SD = 1.17), coworker (M = 3.69, SD = 0.94), and friends (M = 3.93, SD = 1.01). The median split method (Kim 1996, 2000) is used to categorise the study participants’ response ranges on the usage and availability of social support from ‘High’ (36 – 60) to ‘Low’ (12 – 35).

In answering the questions posed by the four social support items, the respondents are given the following instructions in the questionnaire: Please indicate your agreement or disagreement with each of the following statements about support in your work. Four sources of support are assessed. A check mark of Please skip spouse section if not married is provided if the respondents had no spouse. Immediate supervision is defined as the person who most often officially assesses your job performance. Co-workers are defined as the people with whom the respondents have the most contact at the workplace. Respondent are asked not to consider their immediate supervisors as coworkers. Friends are defined as peers outside of work. The following five response types are provided for each of the social support items: (i) Strongly Agree, (ii) Agree, (iii) Neither Agree nor Disagree, (iv) Disagree, (v) Strongly Disagree. The scores for the responses ranged from five (Strongly Agree) to one (Strongly Disagree).

Analysis

The data collected were analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. In the analysis, the respondents’ demography was the independent variable and hence, controlled. The stress and social support measures were the dependent variables. The independent variables, which included the respondents’ age and level of education (Lim & Thompson 1996; Manning, Jackson & Fusilier 1996) as well as type of organisation (Cooper & Marshall 1978) were statistically controlled. The data analysis was conducted in three phases. Firstly, descriptive analysis and one way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was carried out to find out whether significant differences existed in the response patterns of the women managers from the three organisations (i.e., the public, private, and multinational) represented in the study. The MANOVA was used to examine whether or not any such differences existed. This was based on the assumption that the type of organisation implies basic differences in policies, structures and organisational cultures (Cooper & Marshall, 1978), which may result in differences in an organisation’s support for women issues, such as, childcare problems (Freedman 1990). Secondly, the means, standard deviations, correlations and internal consistency estimates (Cronbach alpha) for both the independent and dependent variables were computed. Thirdly, series of multiple (hierarchical) regression analyses on both the independent and dependent variables were conducted. The multiple regression analysis allows for more complicated investigation of the interrelationships among the set of variables examined (Pallant 2001) while controlling for other relating variables, thus, allowing for investigation into the effects of the independent variables and their interactions on the dependent variable. In each instance, the model provided a good fit to the data.

Results

Appraisal of Organisation Type and Women’s Response Patterns

Descriptive analysis of the women’s organisation type and their response patterns for the stress and social support measures, showing the mean (M) and standard deviations (SD) estimates are summarised in Table 1. The results of the MANOVA test examining the differences in the response patterns of the women managers from the three organisations (i.e., the public, private and multinational) represented in the study are summarised in Table 2.

Table 1
Mean and standard deviation of stress and social support classified by organisation type
Dependent variable Type of organisation Mean SD N
Stress Private 122.55 25.07 51
Public 118.86 24.82 59
Multinational 122.53 23.71 60
Total 121.26 24.43 170
Social support Private 3.79 0.53 51
Public 3.65 0.54 59
Multinational 3.85 0.53 60
Total 3.77 0.54 170
Table 2
One way MANOVA table for organisational type, stress and social support
Source Dependent variable Sum of squares df Mean square F P <
Organisation type Stress 520.612 1 260.306 0.433 0.649
Social support 1.164 1 0.582 2.076 0.129
Error Stress 100334.476 168 600.805
Social support 46.833 168 0.280
Total Stress 100855.088 169
Social support 47.99 169

Analysis of the women’s mean scores for both stress and social support (Table 1) relative to the MANOVA test (see Table 2) shows that the main effect of the organisation type on both dependent variables was non significant. There were non significant (ns) differences in the stress levels (F(2,167) = 0.43, p = ns) reported by the women managers from private organisations (M = 122.55), public organisations (M = 118.86) and multinational organisations (M = 122.53). Similarly, there were non significant (ns) differences in the reported impact of social support (F(2,169) = 2.08, p = ns) by the women managers from private organisations (M = 3.39), public organisations (M = 3.65), and multinational organisations (M = 3.85). These results show that the Ghanaian workplace, irrespective of organisational orientation is a general source of stress, and women managers are likely to encounter similar levels of social support for stressors across all organisational types.

Descriptive Analyses of Demographic, Stress and Social Support variables

Descriptive analysis of the women’s demography, occupational stress and support variables, showing the mean scores (M), standard deviations (SD) and probability (P) estimates are summarised in Table 3. In the analysis, the women’s age, organisational type, and educational level were controlled.

Table 3
Descriptive statistics for demography, support, and stress
Control variables Mean SD N
Age 37.85 7.66 170
Highest educational level attained 2.52 1.44 170
Marital status 1.38 0.80 170
Number of children 1.60 1.27 170
Social support variables
Spousal support 15.53 3.34 170
Supervisory support 14.41 3.60 170
Co workers support 7.39 1.51 170
Friend support 7.86 1.82 170
Mean support 121.26 24.43 170
Stress variable
Occupational stress 3.76 0.53 170

Table 3 shows the mean stress of 121.26 experienced by the women managers is high in relation to the score that could be obtained on the highest score range of 112 to 196 on the job stress scale. The standard deviation of 24.43 indicates that there was a wide range of scores. This wide score range is indicative of the fact that the women reported experiencing higher levels of stress, but with wide variations in individually reported stress levels. Spousal support (M = 15.53, SD = 3.34), co worker support (M = 7.39, SD = 1.51), supervisory support (M = 14.41, SD = 3.60), and friend support (M = 7.86, SD = 1.82) were combined and standardised into a mean support (M = 3.76, SD = 0.53).

Analysis of the effect of Individual Stressors on the Managerial Women

One sample T-tests using test value of four is performed for the women managers on each item on the sources of stress scale. The results of the effect of the individual stressors on the women managers are summarised in Table 4.

Table 4
One-sample t-Test for the effect of individual stressors on stress subscale
Occupational Stressors Mean SD t df p
1. Work overload. 4.69 1.76 5.13 169 0.00
2. Ambiguity about your responsibilities. 4.39 1.74 2.91 169 0.00
3. Feeling isolated. 4.01 1.64 0.05 169 0.96
4. Covert discrimination and favouritism. 4.15 1.65 1.16 169 0.25
5. Pursuing a career at the expense of home life. 4.40 1.60 3.25 169 0.00
6. Rates of pay. 4.65 1.68 5.08 169 0.00
7. Keeping up with new techniques. 3.68 1.65 -2.52 169 0.00
8. Too little variety in work. 3.83 1.54 -1.39 169 0.17
9. Time pressures and deadlines. 5.01 1.59 8.25 169 0.00
10. Coping with office politics. 4.56 1.55 4.76 169 0.00
11. Job insecurity. 4.26 1.79 1.93 169 0.06
12. Lack of opportunities for self development. 4.62 1.67 4.84 169 0.00
13. Inadequate feedback about my performance. 4.46 1.63 3.73 169 0.00
14. Insufficient resources/finance to work with. 4.72 1.72 5.57 169 0.00
15. Staff shortages and turnover rates. 4.34 1.57 2.78 169 0.01
16. Lack of control in my work environment. 4.13 1.48 1.14 169 0.26
17. Long working hours. 4.75 1.74 5.61 169 0.00
18. Feeling undervalued. 4.62 1.64 4.95 169 0.00
19. Attending meetings. 4.10 1.53 0.85 169 0.40
20. Poor interpersonal relationships at work. 4.22 1.51 1.94 169 0.06
21. Conflict between work and home/social life. 4.49 1.63 3.92 169 0.00
22. Managing/Supervising people. 4.19 1.43 1.77 169 0.08
23. Insufficient control over your job. 4.12 1.46 1.42 169 0.16
24. Under promotion. 4.57 1.55 4.79 169 0.00
25. No or little participation in decision making. 4.44 1.53 3.70 169 0.00
26. Too much responsibility. 4.46 1.55 3.87 169 0.00
27. Over promotion (beyond my competence). 3.65 1.62 -2.84 169 0.01
28. Too little responsibility. 3.79 1.58 -1.70 169 0.09

Note. df = Degree of freedom.

Table 4 shows that only ten items on the stress sub scales (i.e., variables three, four, eight, 11, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, and 28) have significant relationships with the managerial women’s job stress. These stress variables are, therefore, predictors of stress to be experienced by the managerial women at the workplace. In contrast, eighteen other items on the stress sub scales (i.e., variables one, two, five, six, seven, nine, ten, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 24, 25, 26, and 27) were non significantly related to the women’s job stresses. These latter items can, therefore, be perceived as not predictors of managerial women’s stress at the workplace.

Regression Analysis of Social Support Effect on Managerial Women’s Stress

The managerial women’s perception of the moderating effect of social support on their perceived job stresses is examined using the hierarchical multiple regression analysis. In this analysis, the composite stress index is regressed on social support index. The estimated root mean (R) and root mean squared (R2) values, as well as the standardised beta (β) and Fisher’s (F) values are summarised in Table 5.

Table 5
Hierarchical multiple regression analysis of stress for social support
R squared Changed R squared β F
Control variables 0.01 0.01 0.23
Age -0.04
Type of organisation -0.01
Educational level 0.05
Control variables and social support 0.03 0.02 1.48
Age -0.03
Type of organisation 0.01
Educational level 0.04
Social support -0.18*

Note. * p < 0.05

Table 5 shows that the control and social support model that emerged is non significant (F(4,165) = 1.48, p = ns). The R square is 0.03 for all the tested control and social support variables. This finding indicates a variance of three per cent in relation to the women’s reported stresses and social support. This variance is increased by two per cent when the women’s age, organisation type and education were controlled. Individually, social support is a significant contributor to the model (β = -0.18, p < 0.05), that is, there is a significant, but negative relationship between social support and stress. By implication, social support is a weak predictor of stress. In this respect, hypothesis one is supported.

Regression Analysis of Social Support Subscale Effect on Managerial Women’s Stress

The managerial women’s perception of the moderating effects of co worker , supervisory, spousal, and friend supports on their perceived job stresses was examined using hierarchical multiple regression analysis. The estimated root mean, root mean squared, standardised beta and Fisher values are shown in Table 6.

Table 6
Hierarchical multiple regression analysis of stress for spousal, supervisory, coworker and friend support
Variables R square Changed R square β F
Control variables 0.01 0.01 0.52
Age -0.09
Type of organisation 0.04
Educational level 0.03
Control and social support variables 0.09* 0.08* 1.78
Age -0.08
Type of organisation 0.06
Educational level 0.04
Spousal support 0.01
Supervisory support -0.23*
Coworker support 0.11
Friend support 0.09

Note. * p < 0.05

Table 6 indicates that the control and social support subscales model that emerged is not significant, (F(7,126) = 1.78, p = ns). The R square value for all the control and social support subscales variables is 0.09. This result shows that the model as a whole explained nine percent of the variance. The social support subscales explain eight per cent of the variance when age, type of organisation and education are controlled. Of the four tested variables in the social support subscale, only supervisory support made a significant contribution to the model (β = -0.23, p < 0.05). This implies that supervisory support is significant, and is negatively related to stress. In this regard, the sub hypothesis H1A is supported. The contributions to the model by co-worker support (β = 0.11, p < 0.05), spousal support (β = 0.01, p < 0.05) and friends support (β = 0.09, p < 0.05) were non significant. These results thus imply that sub hypothesis H1B, sub-hypothesis H1C and sub hypothesis H1D are unsupported.

Discussion

Understanding whether and under what conditions work stressors contribute to negative psychological health outcomes continues to be an important emphasis for workplace research. The various frameworks that have been used to examine this phenomenon have increasingly emphasised that the study of the work, stressor and health outcome relationship must take into account the complex interrelationship of both person and situational factors. With regard to sources of stress, the women reported significantly higher scores. As it is shown in the results, the women obtained significant scores on 18 of the 28 items on the stress subscale tested (see Table 4, variables one, two, five, six, seven, nine, ten, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 24, 25, 26, and 27). The women managers reported significantly higher scores on certain stress factors such as; feeling isolated; inadequate feedback about my performance; insufficient resources and finance to work with; staff shortage and turnover rates; and too much responsibility as having the greatest impact on their productivity. The cumulative impact of the high stresses factors on these women might have contributed to their feelings of bearing too much responsibility combining the multiple roles of work and home. It was also highlighted in the results that the women have perceived the use of new technologies at the workplace as a major source of stress (see Table 4, variable seven). Rapid advances in technology have resulted in the need to keep up with the latest ideas, challenges and innovations and technology to meet organisational expectations. These technological advances brought about added pressures to the female managers work demands. The women perceived new technologies as major source of stress, because they probable felt greater pressure to achieve and to demonstrate that they are knowledgeable and competent in a traditionally male dominated field. Inevitably, this perception generates considerable stress in the women, as they tend to have a strong need to prove their capabilities in their job environment. This finding is consistent with that of Granleese (2004), and also Davidson, Cooper and Baldini (1995) who reported that women perceived their gender as a disadvantage in their careers and had experienced prejudiced attitudes and felt the need to perform better than the opposite sex in order to succeed at the same level. All these findings can be ascribed to the view that career theory is based on male values (Dalton 1989).

The hypothesised findings in this study, in which the women perceived social support (see Table 5) in general, and supervisors’ support (see Table 6) in particular, as having direct negative moderating effect on their job stresses, implies that the availability of support in the work environment can lead to women experiencing less job stress. The women revealed that their careers are enriched by supportive relationships with their supervisors. They indicated that supervisor support in the form of career guidance, information and opportunities for undertaking challenging assignments have helped in contributing significantly towards enhancing their career. The women also indicated that being assigned challenging assignments by their immediate supervisors, to some extent, afforded them the chance to utilise their skills. The managerial women who experienced high supervisor support were better able to cope with the numerous job stressors and reinterpret the situation as challenges and opportunities to learn to grow in their careers a result consistent with earlier accounts in the literature. For example, Fenlason and Beehr (1994) found among their female sample that support in particular from supervisors was also associated with lower levels of some job stresses, including role conflict and role ambiguity, and with improved fit on workload, complexity, utilisation of abilities and unwanted overtime. Williams and Cooper (1998) also found stress levels to be lower for persons who are highly involved with their work, have cohesive relationships with co workers and have supportive supervisors who encourage job involvement through work innovation and participation in decision making. In a study of female nurses, Pisarski, Bohle and Callan (1998) found supervisor support to be much more consequential than any form of support. This observation is corroborated in this study by the hypothesised findings in which the women perceived support from co workers, spouses and friends (see Table 4) as not having direct negative moderating effect on their job stresses. The implication being that the availability of these social support resources alone would not result in the lessening of job stresses experienced by women managers in the Ghanaian work environment, without the availability of supervisors support. The women’s perceptions of supervisor support as a stress relieving resource thus, signifies their individual internal representation of the social context of the Ghanaian work environment in which, and which resource can be accessed to help address various workplace demands or problems.

The women managers regard social support as a potentially important component of their appraisal context. Experiences of the organisational environment of work are filtered through and reconciled with cognitions relevant to work as well as to other life domains. Since social support indexes some interpersonal factors that partially determines cognitive appraisal, it is likely to affects people’s perceptions when in potentially stressful conditions. Social support therefore, moderates the stress inducing effects of the job environment. This finding is in line with Lazarus (1966, 1999) prediction that social support may operate by establishing an appraisal context within which potentially threatening environments are perceived more benignly. In this study, the women perceived the availability of social support as contributing to lesser stress in their job environment than they would have experienced. The support has helped and prevented the managerial women from perceiving the job situation as stressful. The availability of social support led to a more adaptive response (Brannon & Feist 1992).

The managerial women who saw themselves richer in social resources perceived themselves as under less demanding, conflicting and adverse conditions. These results are consistent with the findings of other researches involving various samples of female employees (Singh 1990, Van der Pompe & De Heus 1993, Pisarski, et al. 1998, Griffith, Steptoe & Cropley 1999). Over two decades earlier Singh (1990) observed that females reported low levels of occupational stress as a result of perceiving high social support. The result of Singh’s (1990) study showed that high levels of perceived social support are associated with low levels of perceived occupational stress. Griffith, et al. (1999), also found a strong main effect of available support on perceived stress when they found that greater perceived social support was related to lower levels of reported work stressors. Furthermore, Van der Pompe and De Heus (1993) reported a similar finding. The sense of being embedded in a social context with potentially helpful resources and/or the actual ongoing utilisation of these resources may account for this relationship. Women managers have been found to be more likely to seek as well as feel comfortable with social support (Endler & Parker 1990, Hobfoll & Vaux 1993). Since organisations are composed of both formal and informal structures, the systems and processes through which jobs are formally communicated to the managerial woman involve persons (typically immediate supervisor) who most often officially assess the women’s job performance. These individuals are in a position to divert the gravity and intimidating nature of organisational demands. The better the managerial woman’s informal relations with these individuals (as indexed by social support), the more likely this is to be true. By this formulation, one might expect supervisor support to be more important in mediating stressful job conditions and the experience of stress.

The findings in this study are consistent with those in existing literature, an indication that occupational stress is experienced across cultures. As far as women are concerned, most of the factors that generate stress among them, such as work and home conflict, subtle form of discrimination, and organisational policies, are likely to be gender related. Stress at work is an increasingly common feature of modern life. For that reason, a moderate level of stress can be an important motivational factor and can be instrumental in achieving a dynamic adaptation to new situations. Some stress is, therefore, normal and necessary, at work and outside the job context. However, if stress is intense, continuous or repeated, or if a person is unable to cope, or if support is lacking, stress then becomes a negative phenomenon, which can lead to physical illness and psychological disorders (Sarafino 1998). This observation is consistent with that of Lim and Thompson (1996) in whose study women reported significantly higher scores on sources of stress originating from factors intrinsic to the job, managerial role, career achievement, organisational structure and climate and relationship with others.

The findings of this study are also consistent with those of Korabik, McDonald and Rosin (1993) who indicates that women encounter significantly higher occupational stress. The results of this study are instructive in that they seem to suggest that very little has changed since Davidson and Cooper (1986) as well as a study by Lim and Thompson (1996) on managerial occupational stresses. A rather surprising finding in this study is the fact that covert discrimination and favouritism as a stress variable failed to reach statistical significance (see Table 4, variable four). Previous studies (e.g., Lim & Thompson 1996, Broadbridge 2000) have revealed that women tended to be more likely to report stress originating from these factors. Research conducted has shown that while a larger number of women are entering the work force, they are not necessarily moving up the ladder in terms of career advancement. Gender discrimination and the glass ceiling effect have been some of the reasons cited in the literature for the lack of visibility of women at the higher levels (Lim & Thompson 1996, Granleese 2004). The findings of this study indicate that in different cultures, other explanations may hold good. Women’s talents may be underutilised and there are strong individual and environmental barriers to career advancement. In addition, successful career women may not perceive themselves as underprivileged, even in a hostile culture. Women who are in positions of power or have autonomous working situations fully expect their role to be demanding and tend to ignore suggestions of discrimination. Another plausible explanation is that in Ghana, a clause is enshrined in the country’s 1992 constitution that prohibits any form of discrimination against any person. The Ghanaian situation appears not to have been institutionalised in that there are no wage differences and no overt attempt to prevent the progress of women.

Conclusion

The results of this study have shown that exposing managerial women to small amounts of job stresses at the workplace can improve their creativities and performances, but exposing them to many job stressors has harmful consequences on their health and organisational performances. The following symptoms, which are psychological strains felt by the managerial women, also provide a leeway for recognising the harmful effect of stress in the work environment; (i) inability to concentrate on the job; (ii) becoming less communicative, (ii) feeling tensed, uptight, and tired, (iv) feeling of low energy and excessive fatigue, and (v) feeling of job dissatisfaction. Since these stressors predict future ill health, organisations should be concerned that the women managers’ job performance may deteriorate in the future. The results of this study show that providing managerial women with both organisational support and societal support helped them to cope with these stress symptoms, and also how to deal effectively with stressful situations at the workplace. Since such dual support would allow job flexibilities that could enable the women to manage work home conflicts better, and delineate the impact of stresses associated with such conflicts from their working lives, the quality of their health and organisational performances would also be improved. Therefore, it is concluded that managerial women working in socioculturally challenged organisational environments, and who receive high social support, are likely to cope better with the numerous job stressors in the organisation and improve their occupational health and productivities.

The findings of the study have substantial implications and consequences for operational arrangements in contemporary institutions. Worldwide organisations are faced with a shortage of talented managers and HRM practices that lead to the underrepresentation of women managers have the potential to be a barrier to corporate competitive advantage. Understanding and giving consideration to the biological and sociological factors of the gender construct is likely to more positively affect the quality of relationships with women managers leading to a better representation of them in senior managerial roles.

Authors

Jocelyn Sackey is Doctoral Candidate at the Division of Human Work Sciences/Industrial Work Environment, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Science, Luleå University of Technology in Sweden. She is also a faculty member at the University of Ghana Business School, and a Lecturer at the Department of Organisation and Human Resource Management, where she teaches courses in human resource management and human behaviour in organisations. Mrs. Sackey received her MPhil degree in Industrial Psychology in the year 2006 from the University of Ghana.

Dr. Mohammed-Aminu Sanda is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Division of Human Work Sciences/Industrial Work Environment, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Luleå University of Technology in Sweden. He is also a faculty at the University of Ghana business School, and a Lecturer at the Department of Organisation and Human Resource Management, where he teaches courses in organisational behaviour and management, advance strategic management as well as organisational change and management. Dr. Sanda received his PhD degree in Macroergonomics (Organisational Design and Management) in the year 2006 from Luleå University of Technology in Sweden.

Email: mohami@ltu.se

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the Editors, especially Dr. Cecil A. Pearson, and the two anonymous Referees for their valuable comments and suggestions to the enrichment of the paper.

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