Support to management and staff

The objective of this research is to identify staff perceptions and experiences of stress, their definition of work related stress, identify the sources of stress experienced, identify the effects of stress on employees and the organisation, and identify the stress management interventions provided as support and coping strategies to them. The task of the research will be to address these specific areas of concern, and to provide guidance and support to management and staff at International Alert in the management of stress in the workplace.

Based on these objectives, the project has used both the primary and secondary source of data collection for this research. The Questionnaire The questionnaire was designed, and used to survey a total of 56 employees of International Alert; this represents a 100% survey of the organisation. The questionnaire was designed to address the objective of the research by asking staff relevant questions like their views of stress and sources of stress (See Appendix 1 – the sample of the stress questionnaire).

The questionnaires were administered by the interviewer on a one to one basis wherein the interviewer was present where each person (respondents) is asked to respond to the same set of questions went through the questionnaire, this provided a great advantage because the writer was able to explain and make clear areas that the respondent needed clarification on. The interviewer on the basis of each respondent’s answers recorded responses to the interviewer-administered questionnaires.

Respondents were informed via e-mail of the date for the writer’s visit and purpose, a copy of the questionnaire was also sent, this gave the respondents advanced information on the topic of discussion. Advantages of using a questionnaire The questionnaire makes collection of data easier as each person is asked to respond to the same set of questions in a predetermined order. Because each respondent is asked to respond to the same questions, it provides an efficient way of collecting responses from a large sample prior to analysis.

Because the interviewer administered the questionnaire physically, it enabled the interviewer to ensure that the respondent is whom she wanted. This improved reliability of data collected. In addition, the interviewer can record the non-respondents, thereby avoiding unknown bias caused by refusals. Disadvantages of using questionnaires Questionnaires are not particularly good for exploratory or other research that requires large numbers of open-ended questions. They work best with standardised questions that can be interpreted the same way by all respondents (Robson, 2002)

Another disadvantage as argued by different authors (for example Bell, 1999; Oppenheim, 2000) is that it is far harder to produce a good questionnaire. There is that need to ensure that it will collect the precise data required to answer the research questions and achieve the objective of the research. Structured Interview based on the Questionnaire The questionnaire was complemented by a structured interview on a one to one basis to explore and also that precise information required is gotten and there is no chance of going back to respondents to collect additional data using another questionnaire.

The interviewer physically met with respondents and asked the questions face to face. The interview was conducted with all International Alert employees; this included the senior staff. This is to address the research objectives e. g. staff definition of stress, sources of stress, the effects of stress and to identify the stress management interventions provided as support and coping strategies to them. The responses were recorded on a standardised schedule.

The structured interview allowed an exchange of feedback between the interviewer and the interviewee, and this is a central element of the communication process and an important source of information about staff’s perception on stress at the workplace. These differ from semi-structured and in-depth interviews, as there is a defined schedule of questions, from which the interviewer could not deviate. The interview was carefully planned in order to achieve the aim of the objectives for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

The objective was for the interviewer to identify staff perceptions and experiences of stress, their definition of work related stress, sources of stress experienced and the outcomes of stress to them. It is therefore important for respondents’ answers not being contaminated or distorted. Also, the questions were read out in the same tone of voice for everyone so that the interviewer does not indicate any bias. Advantages of using a structured interview

The writer feels that the use of structured interview based on the questionnaire is preferred to questionnaires alone because the evaluative study involves the opinion from the participants. Interviewing gives the opportunity for the writer to evaluate the information based on the information that is personally opinionated and this would enable the writer to seek clarification for any unclear meaning instantly. This gives a clearer view of the problems and benefits of stress as perceived by both employees and their managers.

Unlike in-depth and semi-structured interviews, structured interviews’ questions need to be defined precisely prior to data collection. Whereas it is possible to prompt and explore issues further with in-depth and semi-structured interviews, this is not be possible for structured interviews. Respondents are asked the same questions. Disadvantages of using a structured interview The writer is fully aware that this method may result in what is termed as “interviewer bias” in which they might be perceived right or expected answer and also a matter of skill.

Nevertheless, the writer has taken a measure where the structure of the interview of the subject matter is carefully designed to minimise the scope for bias and inaccuracy. Interviewing skills taught in the earlier stage of this course also helped the writer a lot e. g. during the module skills of a manager and consultant, the writer learnt the necessary steps to conducting a bias-free interview.

These are: preparing well ahead for the interviewing by gaining knowledge of the research objectives, structuring the questions i.e. phrasing questions clearly and in a neutral tone of voice, adopting a good open posture, avoid letting comments, tone or non-verbal behaviour of the interviewer create bias in the way the interviewee respond to the questions being asked, careful listening etc. This method is time consuming and much detail might not be possible where time is a limiting factor as is the case of this research. Pilot Testing Prior to using the questionnaire to collect data, it was pilot tested.

The purpose of the pilot test is to refine the questionnaire so that respondents will have no problems in answering the questions and there will be no problems in recording their answers. In addition, it gave an opportunity to obtain some assessment of the question’s validity and the likely reliability of the data collected. Preliminary analysis using pilot test data was undertaken to ensure that the data collected would enable investigative questions to be answered. Initially, an expert in HR field, that is, the HR manager of International alert was asked to comment on the structure and suitability of the questions.

This helped to establish the content validity and enabled necessary amendments to be made prior to pilot testing. Due to the fact that the research questions was designed for a smaller scale organisation, time and money resources available, the number of people chosen for the pilot testing was 10. These were mainly students and family members. The respondents had no problems understanding or answering questions and they all followed instructions correctly. Respondents were asked additional questions at the end of the interview.

Their responses provided an idea of the reliability and suitability of the questions. Literature and Articles The theoretical framework is important to see various views of writers on stress at the workplace. On the basis of what is known from literature and making comparison with the real life situation undertaken in the study, a number of issues have been identified and these are laid out in the presentation of results and recommendations. Advantages of using literature reviews Using secondary data is the enormous saving in resources particularly in time and cost (Ghauri and Gronhaugh, 2002).

Disadvantages of using literature reviews CHAPTER FOUR 4. Presentation Of Results. 4. 1 Analysis of questionnaire Question 1: What do you believe stress is? Employees of International Alert were asked to define the meaning of stress. The experience of stress is quite unique and individuals have different levels of tolerance to stress. Since stress is non-discriminatory and knows no boundaries, the question was posed in general terms and not with specific reference to the workplace. Individuals are viewed holistically; allowing definitions to include references to mind, body and spirit.