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Leaders' strategies for dealing with own and their subordinates' stress in public human service organisations

Journal article
Authors Katrin Skagert
Lotta Dellve
Mats Eklöf
Anders Pousette
Gunnar Ahlborg
Published in Appl Ergon
Volume 39
Issue 6
Pages 803-11
ISSN 0003-6870
Publication year 2008
Published at Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 803-11
Language en
Keywords ledarskap,stress,hälso- och sjukvård,coping,kommunikation
Subject categories Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy, Communication Studies, Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


Despite the acknowledged key role of leaders for psychosocial work environment, few studies focus on how leaders can decrease work-related stress. To gain deeper knowledge of leaders' perceptions and strategies for dealing with their own and their subordinates' stress in public human service organisations (HSO), qualitative interviews were made with leaders from hospitals and regional social insurance offices (n=21), and analysed in line with grounded theory method. The leaders handled subordinates' stress and perceived leadership demands by acting as shock absorber (core category) and used strategies characterised as leading in continuous change whilst maintaining trustworthiness. To cope with their own stress from perceived leadership demands, they tried to sustain their own integrity (core category) by either identifying with or distancing themselves from the leader role. The strategies for dealing with leaders' own and subordinates' exposures to stressors was pervaded by perceived leadership demands and are probably influencing each other. Supportive structures and improved communication about everyday dilemmas seem to be needed in order, not just to prevent stress reactions, but to improve the basic conditions for practicing leadership in HSO.

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