Supervisor strategies and resources needed for managing employee stress: A qualitative analysis

Nerina L. Jimmieson*, Adele J. Bergin, Prashant Bordia, Michelle K. Tucker

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    In Australia, employers are legally required to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, that they do not place the mental health of their employees at risk. Because of the critical role of supervisors in responding to their employees’ stress, it is important to understand the strategies supervisors use, as well as the challenges faced by supervisors in executing the organization's duty of care, and the competencies and resources they find most helpful in doing so. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 29 supervisors from 15 organizations in Australia. Thematic content analysis revealed 19 strategies specific to the stress context used by supervisors to manage employee stress. These strategies were categorized into six overarching themes: four reflecting a risk assessment process model (i.e., problem identification; execution of the immediate problem; coping assistance; follow-up and evaluation) and two reflecting supervisor leadership behavior that promotes prevention and an organizational culture that supports health. Supervisors reported that the complex nature of stress was the most challenging aspect of resolving stress. Previous experience in assisting employees under stress was reported as the most helpful personal competence, and support from both formal and informal avenues was the most helpful organizational resource. In practice, this knowledge can inform targeted supervisor training that focuses on the step-by-step process of psychosocial risk management. Such training also should acknowledge the complexities of employee stress and the value of emotional competencies for stress detection.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number105149
    JournalSafety Science
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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