[en] The experience of work-related stress and ill-/health is of major concern for employers and organizations in the European Union (EU-OSHA, 2022). From an occupational health perspective, work-related stress is expected to result from employees’ exposure to certain psychological and social characteristics of the work, so called job demands, which are presumed to lead to diminished health and performance among employees (Eurofound & EU-OSHA, 2014). To explain associations between such job characteristics and employees’ health, scholars have generally relied on prominent theoretical frameworks, such as the Job Demands-Resources model (JD-R; Bakker & Demerouti, 2017). Although the JD-R model has successfully contributed to the prediction of work-related health and motivational outcomes in the past years, it has also resulted in a number of unresolved issues (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017). Drawing on multiple theoretical frameworks, the present dissertation examined in greater detail inconsistencies related to the nature and functioning of job demands; and in doing so, aimed to provide a further understanding on work-related demands and their psychological effects. The present thesis encompasses three published articles and addresses open research avenues as regards to (i) the categorization of job demands, (ii) the cognitive appraisal of job demands, and (iii) organizational determinants of demand appraisal.
A review of the occupational health literature revealed that most research conducted on the categorization of work-related demands continues to apply a two-fold differentiation of job demands (i.e., Challenge-Hindrance framework, Cavanaugh et al., 2000). However, a more differentiated approach to distinguish between different types of job demands has recently been introduced (i.e., Challenge-Hindrance-Threat framework; Tuckey et al., 2015). Few studies have been conducted on Tuckey et al.'s (2015) extended dimensionality of workplace stressors (e.g., Espedido & Searle, 2018) and not much is known on how job threats, job hindrances and job challenges relate to well-being outcomes, once job resources (i.e., motivational aspects of the job) are taking into account. Therefore, the first aim of the present dissertation (i.e., Article 1) was to examine Tuckey et al.'s (2015) expanded dimensionality of workplace stressors within the JD-R framework by analyzing job threats, job hindrances and job challenges alongside job resources. Results from a heterogenous occupational sample of Luxemburgish employees supported the distinctiveness of Tuckey et al.'s (2015) threefold differentiation of job demands based on their associations with well-being outcomes, while accounting for the effects of job resources. Results further corroborated the health-impairing nature of job threats, job hindrances and job challenges, and supported the motivational nature of job resources. Contrary to expectations, job challenges did not relate to employees’ experiences of vigor.
Prior research has often relied on classification frameworks to categorize job demands a priori and to explain their effects (Mellupe, 2020). However, a more recent stream of research has moved towards the examination of employees’ subjective evaluations (i.e., appraisals) of work-related demands (LePine, 2022). Although first studies examining employees’ appraisal of job demands have yielded promising insights into the nature of work-related demands, research does not yet consider appraisal in a systematic manner (Li et al., 2019). In addition, scholars have exclusively considered primary appraisal (i.e., motivational relevance of the stressor) when examining job demands and their associated effects, thereby ignoring the notion of secondary appraisal (i.e., individuals’ assessment to cope with the stressor; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Podsakoff et al., 2023). To address these limitations, and taking into account previous findings on the well-being of nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic (e.g., Mo et al., 2020), the second aim of the present dissertation (i.e., Article 2) was to examine how nursing professionals appraise job demand during the health crisis, and to analyze the predictive contribution of nurses’ secondary appraisal of job demands in view of their proximal affective responses. Results from a sample of nursing professionals working in Luxembourg indicated that secondary appraisal was the most important predictor of nurses’ affective states. In addition, negative affective states were predicted by threat appraisals and job demands (i.e., time pressure, emotional demands), whereas positive affect was predicted by challenge appraisals of emotional and physical demands. Results further showed that emotional and physical demands were exclusively appraised as threatening, whereas time pressure associated with challenge and threat appraisal.
Lastly, a literature review revealed that not much is known about which organizational factors might contribute to employees’ demand appraisals (LePine, 2022). Therefore, the third aim of the present dissertation (i.e., Article 3) was to investigate determinants and possible boundary conditions of nurses’ demand appraisals among matching job resources. Results showed that corresponding job resources predicted challenge appraisals of job demands. Regarding the prediction of threat appraisal, with the exception of social support, all proposed job resources significantly associated with nurses’ threat appraisal of corresponding job demands. Contrary to expectations, job resources did not moderate the associations between matching job demands and their respective challenge/threat appraisals. In sum, findings of the present dissertation highlight the importance (i) to adopt a threefold understanding of job demands (i.e., challenges, hindrance, threats) while taking into account job resources, (ii) to consider secondary appraisals alongside job demands and their primary appraisals, and (iii) to consider matching job resources as organizational determinants of challenge and threat appraisals. These findings may serve to guide occupational health interventions strategies.