Opening Pandora’s Box

Stress at work and its implications for emergency management
  • Denis Smith
  • Dominic Elliott
Part of the Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research book series (NTHR, volume 16)


Within the last decade, stress has emerged within the academic literature as one of the key managerial problems within the areas of human resource management and occupational psychology. As the opening quotation suggests, stress has both acute and chronic properties. The worst-case scenario is that stress can ultimately result in severe illness or even in death (Palumbo and Herbig, 1994). Even the less dramatic manifestations of the problem can result in serious consequences by impairing the individual’s abilities to cope. The costs of stressrelated illness can be considerable. One estimate suggests that it could cost up to £1.3 billion, annually, in the UK alone (Summers, 1990). The phenomenon of stress transcends the private-public sector divide and is manifested across the range of occupational classifications. Despite the apparently high frequency of its occurrence, the concept is largely poorly defined and the literature indicates the existence of a number of paradigmatic camps. Unpacking this concept, and its associated managerial implications, is akin to opening Pandora’s Box (Elliott and Smith, 1993a). At one level the concept must be examined in order to provide a greater understanding of the issues although it soon becomes rapidly apparent that the problem is seemingly trans-scientific in that it goes beyond the current abilities of science to prove_(Weinberg, 1972). At a cynical level, one could argue that stress has become the latter day equivalent of a bad back as a means of having paid time off work. Its symptoms art easy to manifest whilst diagnosis and causality are difficult to prove. A more balanced view would suggest tha rapid change in organizations — typified by the last 15 years in the UK — create stressors for the workforce, which may become manifested as an apparent inability to cope.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Emergency Service Disaster Management General Health Questionnaire Occupational Stress 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Association of Chief Police Officers (1987) Working Party Report on Stress Google Scholar
  2. Atherton, P (1990) Private Communication.Google Scholar
  3. Bailey, E. (1993) “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. A contrasting view” Disaster Prevention and Management 2 (3) pp. 22–25.Google Scholar
  4. Banks, M H et al (1983) The use of the General Health Questionnaire as an indicator of mental health in occupational studies“ Journal of Occupational Psychology, Vol. 53, 187–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barton, L., Braverman, M. and Braverman, S. (1993) “A comparative analysis of organizational response o traumatic stress among workers in the aftermath of crisis” Disaster Prevention and Management 2 (1) pp. 46–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beech J R and Harding L, (Eds.) (1990) Testing People - A practical guide to psychometrics; NFERNELSON publishing Co. Ltd.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, J.M. and Campbell, E.A. (1994) Stress and Policing: Sources and Strategies. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, T J (1988) Stress and the Organisation; Unpublished MA thesis, Leicester Polytechnic, 1988Google Scholar
  9. Burrows, G C, Cox, T, and Simpson, G C (1977) The measurement of stress in a sales training situation; Journal of Occupational Psychology, 50, pp 45–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chan, K B (1977) Individual differences in reactions to stress and their personality and situational determinants: Some implications for community mental health; “Society, Science and Medicine, Vol. 11, pp 89–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clews, P J (1990) A study of the attitudes to RAF recruiting practice by officers who have recently completed initial training: Unpublished MSc DissertationGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooper, C L and Grimley, P J (1983) Stress Among Police Detectives, Journal of Occupational Medicine, Vol. 25, NO. 7, July.Google Scholar
  13. Cooper, C L and Payne, R (1988) Causes, Coping and Consequences of Stress at Work. London: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  14. Cox, T. (1978) Stress, London: Macmillan Education Limited.Google Scholar
  15. Cox T (1985) The Nature and Measurement of Stress Ergonomics, vol. 28, no. 8 pp 1158–1163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cranwell-Ward, J. (1990) Thriving on Stress. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Docherty, R W (1989); Post Disaster Stress in the emergency rescue services; Fire Brigades Journal, June 1989.Google Scholar
  18. Douglas, R B et al (1988) A study of stress in West Midlands Firemen, using ambulatory electrocardiograms; Work and Stress Vo14 no. 2 pp 309–318Google Scholar
  19. DSM (ID)(R) Classification of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. (Para 309.89). International Classification of Diseases. (9th Edition).Google Scholar
  20. Duckitt, J. and Broll, T. (1982) ‘Personality factors as moderators of the psychological impact of life stress’, South African Journal of Psychology, 12 (3), pp. 76–80.Google Scholar
  21. Duckworth, D.H. (1988) ‘Disaster work and Psychological trauma’, Disaster Management, 1 (2) pp. 25–29.Google Scholar
  22. Eades, E., Elliott, D. and Smith, D. (1994) ‘Coping with the unthinkable: Post traumatic Stress and the Emergency Services’ Mimeo, Liverpool John Moores University.Google Scholar
  23. Elliott, D. and Smith, D. (1993a)’Coping with the sharp end: Recruitment and selection in the Fire Service’, Disaster Management,5(1),pp.35–41.Google Scholar
  24. Elliott, D. and Smith, D. (1993b) ‘Football stadia disasters in the UK’ Industrial and Environmental Crisis Quarterly, 7 (3).Google Scholar
  25. Elliott, D. and Smith, D. (1994) ‘Fitness for purpose: Dealing with stress in Fire Service training’ Mimeo, Liverpool John Moores University.Google Scholar
  26. Fisher, S. (1986) Stress and Strategy. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Fletcher, B. (C) (1988) “Tite epidemiology of occupational stress”, in Cooper, C.L. and Payne, R. (Eds) (1988) Causes, coping and consequences of stress at work. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. pp. 3–50.Google Scholar
  28. Freeman, M W (1989) Unpublished MSc Dissertation, 1989Google Scholar
  29. Frost, B. (1990) ‘Firemen awarded £34,000 for trauma after King’s Cross’ The Times, 19th December 1990 p.3.Google Scholar
  30. Galloway, D, Panckhurst, F, Boswell, C, and Green, K (1984) Mental Health, Absences from work, Stress and Satisfaction in a sample of New Zealand Primary School Teachers; “ Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 18: 359–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goldberg, D P and Hillier, V F (1979) A Scaled version of the General Health Questionnaire; “ Psychological Medicine, 9, pp 139–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gold, I, Haughey, L, and Barraff, L 1 (1985) Psychiatric screening in the Emergency Department; American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 3, No. 5Google Scholar
  33. Health and Safety Executive (1984) Training for Hazardous Occupations: A case study of the Fire Service, London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  34. Hendin, H, et al (1983) The influence of precombat personality on post-traumatic stress disorder; Comprehensive Psychiatry Vol. 24, No. 6, (November/December).Google Scholar
  35. Henson, A (1991) Private Communication.Google Scholar
  36. Hepworth, S (1980) Moderating factors of the psychological impact of unemployment; Journal of Occupational Psychology 1980, 53.Google Scholar
  37. Hetherington, A (1991) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Road Traffic Police; P.R.S.U. Home Office Report.Google Scholar
  38. Home Office (Fire Department) (1985) Fire Service Drill Book, London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  39. Hodgkinson, P E and Stewart, M (1991) Coping with Catastrophe_ London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. IPAT (1985) Guide to the 16 PF Test; NFER Nelson, London.Google Scholar
  41. Isles, P. (1992) ‘Centres of Excellence? Assessment and development centres, managerial competence, and human resource strategies’ British Journal of Management, 3, pp 79–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. IPAT (1982) Guide to the 16 PF Test, NFER, London: NelsonGoogle Scholar
  43. James, A (1988) Perceptions of Stress in ambulance personnel; Work and Stress Vol. 2,no. 4, 319–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. James, A. (1992) The psychological impact of disaster and the nature of critical incident stress for emergency personnel’, Disaster Prevention and limitation, 1 (2) pp. 63–69.Google Scholar
  45. Johnston, A J and Kelly, M G (1988) Post Accident/Incident Counselling: Some Exploratory Findings; Aviation, space, and Environmental Medicine August 1988.Google Scholar
  46. Kahn R L et al (1964) Organisational Stress; John Wiley and Sons, 1964.Google Scholar
  47. Kets de Vries, M. and Miller, D. (1984) The Neurotic Organization. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  48. Kets de Vries, M. and Miller, D. (1987) Unstable at the top: Inside the troubled organization. New York: Mentor.Google Scholar
  49. Kinchin, D. (1993) ‘Post-traumatic stress disorder: The consequences’ Disaster Management, 5 (2) pp. 92–94.Google Scholar
  50. Kobasa (1982) ‘Commitment and coping in stress over time among lawyers’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, pp. 707–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kline, P (1983) Personality: measurement and theory; Hutchinson 1983.Google Scholar
  52. Ko, Y. and Kao, H.S.R. (1993) ‘The effects of paramilitary discipline on the psychology of firefighters“ Disaster Prevention and Management 2 (3) pp. 26–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lazarus, R S (1966) Psychological Stress and the Coping Process, McGraw- Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Lazarus R S and Folhman, S. (1984) Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  55. Lazarus, R.S. and Launier, R. (1978) “Stress-related transactions between person and environment”, in Pervin, L.A. and Lewis, M. (Eds) (1978) Internal and External Determinants of Behavior. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  56. Lim Lin Mei, S (1990) Stress and the Fire Fighter; Psychological Society Newsletter, 1990.Google Scholar
  57. Manning, M., Williams, R.F. and Wolfe, D.M. (1988) ‘Hardiness and the relationship between stressors and outcomes’, Work and Stress, 2 (3) pp. 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Matlak, R. (1991) Private Communication.Google Scholar
  59. Meichenbaum, D. (1985) Stress Inoculation Training. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  60. Mitroff, I I and Pauchant, T. (1988) Crisis Prone versus Crisis Avoiding Organisations. Is your company’s culture its own worst enemy in creating crises?; Industrial Crisis Quarterly, 2 (1988) pp 53–63Google Scholar
  61. Mitroff, I I and Pauchant, T. (1989) Do (some) organisations cause their own crises? The cultural profiles of crisis prone vs. crisis-prepared organisations; Industrial Crisis Quarterly, 3 (1989) pp 269–283Google Scholar
  62. Mintzberg, H (1989) Mintzberg on Management; Free Press.Google Scholar
  63. Monserrate, R. (1993) ‘Critical incident stress: A personal experience’ Disaster Management, 5 (2) pp. 89–91.Google Scholar
  64. Murphy, L (1984) Occupational Stress management: A review and appraisal; Journal of Occupational Psychology, 57, pp. 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Murphy, L. (1988) ‘Workplace interventions for stress reduction and prevention’, in Cooper, C.L. and Payne, R. (Eds) (1988) Causes, Coping and Consequences of Stress at Work. Chichester: Wiley. pp. 301–339.Google Scholar
  66. Palmer, C E (1983) A note about paramedics strategies for dealing with death and dying; Journal of Occupational Psychology, 56, 83–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Palumbo, F.A. and Herbig, P.A. (1994) “Salaryman Sudden Death Syndrome” Employee Relations 16 (1) pp. 54–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Parkes, K R and Rendall, D (1988) The Hardy personality and its relationship to extraversion and neuroticism; Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 4, pp 784–790.Google Scholar
  69. Pauchant, T. and Mitroff, 1.1. (1992) Transforming the crisis prone organisation. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  70. Payne, R, Fineman, S, Jackson (1982) An interactionist approach to measuring anxiety at work“, Journal of Occupational Psychology 55 pp 13–25Google Scholar
  71. Payne, R and Firth-Cozens, J (1987) Stress in Health Professionals; John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  72. Pervin, L A (1980); Personality: Theory, Assessment and Research (3rd Edition); John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  73. Quinn, J B, Mintzberg, H, and James, R M (1988) The Strategy Process, Concepts, Contexts and Cases; Prentice Hall International.Google Scholar
  74. Raphael, B, Meldrum, L, McFarlane, A C (1995) Does debriefing after psychological trauma work? British Medical Journal, 10 June, Vol 310, 1479–1480Google Scholar
  75. Rhodewalt F and Agustdottir S (1984) On the relationship of Hardiness to Type A behaviour pattern perception of life events versus coping with life events; Journal of Research in Personality, 18, pp 212–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Rick, J and Briner, R (2000) Trauma Management vs. Stress Debriefing: What should responsible organisations do? HSE BooksGoogle Scholar
  77. Richardson, W (1991) Private Communication.Google Scholar
  78. Ross, R.R. and Altmaier, E.M. (1994) Intervention in Occupational Stress. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  79. Schofield, S. (1991) Private Communication.Google Scholar
  80. Seyle, H. (1956) The Stress of Life. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  81. Sharlin and Mor Barak (1983) ‘Intervention phases following a disaster’ Disasters Google Scholar
  82. Smith, D. (1990) ‘Beyond contingency planning: Towards a model of crisis management’, Industrial Crisis Quarterly, 4 (4), pp. 263–275.Google Scholar
  83. Smith, D (1991) Organisational Response to Crisis: The Case of the Kegworth aircrash Crisis Management Working Papers, Leicester Business School.Google Scholar
  84. Smith, D. (1992) ‘The Kegworth aircrash: A crisis in three phases?’ Disaster Management, 4 (2) pp. 63–72.Google Scholar
  85. Smith, M (1988) Stress and the NHS Middle Manager; Unpublished MA Dissertation, Leicester Polytechnic.Google Scholar
  86. Snyder, M (1974) Self-Monitoring of Expressive Behaviour; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 30, 326–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Stiff, J B (1989) Air Disasters-rescue, post incident stress, airport fire service evaluation and special training; Fire Engineers Journal, June 1989Google Scholar
  88. Summers, D. (1990) Testing for stress in the workplace’ Financial Times, 23 November cited in McKenna, E. (1994) Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour. Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.Google Scholar
  89. Sutherland, V J, and Cooper, C L (1990) Understanding Stress; Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  90. Taylor, A J W and Frazer D C H (1982) The stress of post disaster body handling and victim identification work; Journal of Human Stress, pp 4–11.Google Scholar
  91. Walsh M (1989); Disasters: current planning and recent experience; Edward Arnold, 1989.Google Scholar
  92. Warr, P (1990) The measurement of wellbeing and other aspects of mental health; Journal of Occupational Psychology 1990, 63 pp 193–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Weinberg, A.A. (1972) Science and trans-science MinerGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denis Smith
    • 1
  • Dominic Elliott
    • 1
  1. 1.Sheffield University Management SchoolSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations