Influence Of Job Stress On Workers At Supermarkets

Supermarkets function all over the world, but primarily in Britain due to intense competition between them, it becomes pivotal for them to provide good service to attract more customers. There is immense pressure on the supermarkets from the sector it operates in, to increase productivity. Supermarkets offer many products and services nowadays. For this project I will be focusing on Sainsbury stores, they provide everything; food, households, beauty products, gardening, health, clothing and many other services. There are 148,500 employees working in order to deliver best quality of service, because in the retail business the success of the organization is largely dependant upon customer satisfaction. Employees have to deal customers according to the instructions given by the organization, which makes it difficult for them to fulfill the needs of the consumer. This issue of conflicting demands usually ends up into job stress ( As a result there has been a negative influence on commitment to organization due to job stress, and a negative impact on providing quality service by workers. (Wetzels et al, 2000:66)

Stress is actually a part of work life today, as we live in a very dynamic world. Someone who says that he is not experiencing stress is in a state of denial or we can say it’s impossible. According to surveys 50 percent of the people in UK feels more stressful as compare to five years before. The cost of workers stress is $300 billion according to American studies, in terms of their productivity. (Laurance, 2007). This is also consider to be on of the main reason of negative impact on the organizations, as the firms grows with the passage of time, the demand for their product rises and that is what increases the pressure on the workers to work hard and provide a good service to customers resulting in stress on them ( Sixty percent of absenteeism at work is due to stress and 1.2 billion is lost each year because people fear from going to work (Kearns, 1986), and annually £1.3 billion is lost due to alcoholic absenteeism (Cooper & Payne, 1995). In 1998 UK Health and safety executive stated losses of £5.2 billion because of stress-related illnesses ( Stress related jobs could lead to mental and physical illness of the workers, this was a survey conducted by EU members in which they stated 20% of bad headache, 30% of backache, 13% of weakness and 28% of stress (Paoli, 1997).

Although it is a fact that floor workers get high pressure from managers, which lead to de-motivation, stress and absenteeism; managers also face the stress part in their role. Managers are the main drivers in the organization who drive it towards the aim and objectives of the company, so they also experience intolerable workload and struggle hard to achieve the corporate goals. In order to deal with this workload research proves that 955 managers work more than their contracted hours and few of them even work more than 48hours per week.

Stress is the main factor for low motivation and low job satisfaction and is reflected in the work done by the employees, so the managers need to tackle the employees stress in order to create value for money. Stress is also a major reason for high employee turnover and lower productivity of existing employees (Schabracq & Cooper, 2000).

Although there are lot of sub categories of stress, the most common of these occurring in almost every organization and affecting individually all the workers are Role ambiguity, Role conflict, Lack of clear responsibility and work overload. Even some of the physical environment like noise and isolation causes stress to a worker and acts as a barrier between him and his job.


The reason for choosing this topic is primarily because of vast financial impact of stress on organizations globally, beyond the geographical boundaries. Supermarket industry is chosen over other industries, as retail industry involves one to one interaction of employee with customers, and in order to gain competitive edge over other organization, they keep on changing the policies to create customer loyalty and which employees are bound to follow. These changes in policies and expectations of employee to follow, exaggerate the stress on employee.

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Research will involve interviews and questionnaires with workers working in supermarkets to know how stress is imposed on them my management and how this can be minimized. There will be interviews with the management to know how they manage the stress of employee to maintain their quality of work and motivation.

Research aims and objectives:

The aim for conducting this research is to find the affect of stress on floor workers and ultimately on the profitability of the organizations. Secondly, we will investigate the relation between occupational stress and job dissatisfaction. And what the management is doing to tackle this problem of stress and to achieve the organizational goals, side by side.

The aim will be achieved through: –

Identifying theories, researches, and findings of previous scholars and discussion of literature on different sort of job stresses.

Presenting a research model and findings related to stress factors on floor workers from the literature review.

Conducting primary research by questionnaires of a random sample of population on work floor as a worker regarding stress.

Getting the management’s point of view on stress and their ways to tackle it through interviews.

Analyzing and comparing the primary and secondary research to assess the validity of hypothesis.

Finalizing the recommendations on how to effectively manage stress.

Literature review:

Stress is physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension, which results from the overburdening of ones responsibilities, beyond his/her capabilities. In some cases stress can be used to ones advantage, as it helps in achieving targets and acts as a driving force. The literal meaning of stress, as defined by the dictionary is physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another. But in context of the topic chosen, stress here is more of a mental nature than being of a physical one.

Over time, there have been many approaches to stress and its management. In fact, today stress management is one of the key areas where managers at work are trained. In 1984, Lazarus and Folkman proposed a model that emphases the transactional nature of stress.  Stress is a two way process; the environment produces stressors and the individual finds ways to deal with these.

Many researchers are of the opinion that “stress is about discrepancies between perceptions and desires, which damages well being and motivate coping” (Cooper, 1998: 3). Although, as mentioned above, stress at times can be positive in nature and if managed efficiently can help to achieve ones goals and objectives.

Occupational stress:

Occupational stress is very common in the retail business and is a major threat to productivity. “Job stress can be defined as harmful physical and emotional responses when requirements of job do not match the capabilities or needs of the workers, which can lead to poor health and even causing injury to the workers” ( Supermarkets where workers have to work under increased pressure, job stress is high. This leads to job dissatisfaction and lower motivation.

Cooper and Marshall (1976) divided occupational stress into five categories:

The first one includes factors intrinsic to the job, which are things that form part of the work atmosphere and have a direct impact on worker’s motivation.

At supermarkets, such as the Sainsbury’s, employees have to face these factors such as increased noise due to busy working hours. Also long working shifts can cause stress and lead to decreased productivity. Keeping in mind the very nature of retail industry, customer service is the key to success, and having stressed employees can be disastrous.

Another factor increasing work stress is the introduction of new technology at work. Traditionally workers have opposed new technology, as it leads to training and in some cases even redundancies. It was found in a study that a large number of executives in UK, find it difficult to keep up with the new technology. (Cartwright & Cooper, 1997).

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The second category of work stress is Work overload and is one of the major threats to worker’s efficiency. Cartwright & Cooper (1997) divided workload into two broad categories; quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative refers to physically have more work to do which can result in increased number of breaks and thus decrease motivation level of workers. While qualitative means having to do work which is beyond ones personal capabilities and results in a greater dissatisfaction and even frustration in workers. At supermarkets employees face both types of workload and managing workloads effectively is a key management responsibility.

The later is of more concern to the management as it has an element of expectancy attached to it. When roles are not clearly directed or understood than this creates a expectation gap and ultimately results in job dissatisfaction. Job satisfaction is the level to which an employee’s desires and expectations are met at work. In other words it is a combination of factors that make a person like his/her job and the absence of these factors ultimately result in job dissatisfaction.

Role ambiguity

Role ambiguity is when an employee is not sure of is really expected of him and what his responsibilities are. This role ambiguity leads to low self-motivation and job dissatisfaction.

Whereas it is really hard for management to specifically tell each and every worker his or her roles and responsibilities and what is really expected of them. (Cartwright & Cooper, 1997).

Role conflict is another reason of stress. This involves those tasks, which are not being mentioned or specified in job roles. Flexible people tend to cope with role conflict in a much better manner than the ones who are more focused to follow the rule of thumb. (Cartwright & Cooper, 1997).

There are five components of role conflicts 1. Inter-sender conflict, 2. Intra-sendor conflict, 3. Interrole conflict, 4. Person role conflict, 5. Overload (mentioned earlier).

According to scholars, Role conflict and role ambiguity has a direct relation with absenteeism, and high labor turnover, whereas these are inversely proportional to job satisfaction and level of motivation (Cooper & Payne, 1995:80).

The difficulty in accessing the consumer needs by the management is reflected in role ambiguity and role conflict of employees. The more it is hard to predict the needs of the customers more ambiguously being translated into objective of lower level employees.

Another reason for stress is responsibility at workplace. This involves managing the lower level employees and their work, and working hard to meet the deadlines (Cartwright & Cooper, 1997).

Maintaining relationship with co-workers and bosses also proves to be one of great stressors at workplace. Favoring an individual over another due to some special relationship de-motivates the second individual e.g. Floor manager in a supermarket may appoint a worker to a department where there is less work to do on the basis of friendly relationship and this may de-motivate the other co-workers and proves to be stress for them (Cartwright & Cooper, 1997).

The threat to job security and job performance on which an individual is to be evaluated also contributes towards stress of that worker.

All of these forms of stress are found in the supermarket industry. Supermarket is an industry where needs of the customers change continuously and in order to satisfy their needs, employees should be satisfied with their job. Nowadays managers are reducing their organizational structure by cutting jobs in order to save money and increase profit which results in stress to other workers. Due to uncertain change in organization, it becomes really to sell products and as well as provide good service to the customers. Managers in order to reduce workers stress and keep them motivated should adopt a strategy.


This part contains the techniques that would be used while researching on this project. Multiple techniques will be used for effective research.

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The Method chosen is cross-sectional design as this will insure that appropriate data is used from various sources. Cross sectional research includes data that has been collected in the prescribed time.

Although other methods such as, the longitudinal research method and experimental design could have been used, but they require in depth knowledge of an organization over a period of time.

Primary Research

Primary research involves first hand information gathering which has not been gathered before. This is usually up to date, and specifically focused to the issue under discussion, which gives this an edge over secondary research.

This is done by questionnaires and interviews of floor workers experiencing the stress and the management trying to deal with this issue. This can be done as researcher has got many friends working in Sainsbury stores, as shop floor workers and has good relation with people of management.

The sample population size I am considering right now is around 20 to 30 floor workers in supermarkets and around 10 to 12 questions will be asked in the questionnaires.

These questions and interviews will involve both; the close ended as well as open-ended questions to evaluate effectively.

Secondary Research

Secondary research consists of data that is already gathered, compiled and published (

Secondary research will help to provide the theories and methods that have been previously used by other researchers for stress management and will allow us to compare data to primary research and analyze the acquired data. This research provides us with the data that cannot be found by primary research. Hence, This method saves time and cost (Bryman & Bell, 2007).

While carrying out secondary research, more emphasis will be placed on quantitative data. The reason for using quantitative data over qualitative is because it is easier to analyze and compare the data using different models like pie charts and histograms.

Most of the qualitative information is derived from the primary research, which involves interviews with management and shop floor workers.

Moreover data will be collected using different articles, e-journals, magazines and for comparison to primary data (actual findings). Brunel library and other online sources such as FAME, Business Source Premier, Mintel and Google Scholar will be searched to get further literature on the subject.

Research Ethics

Research ethics outlay the basic factors that need to be kept in mind while researching on a particular project. They include maintaining the privacy of records and the persons, from whom the data has been obtained. Bryman & Bell(2007) laid down four key ethical factors:

Participants should not be harmed under any circumstances

The participants should give their consent willingly

Information should be kept private

Cheating should be avoided

While designing the questionnaire it should be kept in mind, that the privacy of the participants should never be disclosed, and should not be used for any other purpose, other than that defined. (Bryman & Bell, 2007)

In case, the privacy of a researcher is invaded, the researcher should not reveal any data in the larger interest of the organization and the individual’s reputation.

In terms of eliminating the chances of cheating & Deception, the researcher should make sure that the data is properly referenced and any information that has adverse effects on the reputation of the organization should not be disclosed. (Bryman & Bell, 2007)


Task 1: 13th January, individual proposal

Task 2: 15th January till 5th February, secondary research, collection of information through articles, book reading and reviewing journals.

Task 3: 6h February till 15th February, primary research including interviews and designing questionnaire.

Task 4: 15th February till 23rd February completion of final literature.

Task 5: 24th February till 28h February, Review the thesis, conclusions drawn and recommendations acted upon.

Task 6: 25th February till 1st march, arrange and combine all the data and prepare first draft.

Task 7: 7th till 10th March, reviewing the final dissertation and submission.

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