Work stressors, strains and hospital unit performance

  • Alexandra C. Buttigieg

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Hospital employees who work in an environment with zero tolerance to error, face several stressors that may result in psychological, physiological, and behavioural strains, and subsequently, in suboptimal performance. This thesis includes two studies which investigate the stressor-to-strain-to-performance relationships in hospitals. The first study is a cross-sectional, multi-group investigation based on secondary data from 65,142 respondents in 172 acute/specialist UK NHS trusts. This model proposes that senior management leadership predicts social support and job design which, in turn, moderate stressors-to-strains across team structure. The results confirm the model's robustness. Regression analysis provides support for main effects and minimal support for moderation hypotheses. Therefore, based on its conclusions and inherent limitations, study one lays the framework for study two.
The second study is a cross-sectional, multilevel investigation of the strain-reducing effects of social environment on externally-rated unit-level performance based on primary data from 1,137 employees in 136 units, in a hospital in Malta. The term "social environment" refers to the prediction of the moderator variables, which is to say, social support and decision latitude/control, by transformational leadership and team climate across hospital units. This study demonstrates that transformational leadership is positively associated with social support, whereas team climate is positively associated with both moderators. At the same time, it identifies a number of moderating effects which social support and decision latitude/control, both separately and together, had on specific stressor-to-strain relationships. The results show significant mediated stressor-to-strain-to-performance relationships. Furthermore, at the higher level, unit-level performance is positively associated with shared unit-level team climate and with unit-level vision, the latter being one of the five sub-dimension of transformational leadership. At the same time, performance is also positively related to both transformational leadership and team climate when the two constructs are tested together. Few studies have linked the buffering effects of the social environment in occupational stress with performance. Therefore, this research strives to make a significant contribution to the occupational stress and performance literature with a focus on hospital practice. Indeed, the study highlights the wide-ranging and far-reaching implications that these findings provide for theory, management, and practice.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Grojean (Supervisor)


  • Work stressors
  • strains
  • hospital unit performance
  • performance
  • decision latitude/control
  • mediation
  • moderation
  • structural equation modelling
  • transfonnationalleadership

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