58 Occupational Stress and Employee Control

Based on Research by J. Richard Hackman & Greg R. Oldham; and Robert Karasek. Psychology Science Minute written by American Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D..

Do you or your employees help make major decisions at work? Psychological research has found that employee control over work can reduce stress and enhance their motivation and growth on the job.

Industrial psychologists Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham discovered that how much latitude employees have at work – their control over job-related decisions – affects their health, morale and ability to handle their workload.  They found, that control enhanced motivation and growth – in blue collar, white collar and professional positions. Robert Karasek’s research found that workers whose jobs rated high in job demands yet low in employee control reported significantly more exhaustion after work, trouble awakening in the morning, depression, nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia than other workers. When workers facing high demands had more control, their stress was lower.  Karasek’s findings revealed that employers could reduce job strain by increasing employee control or decision latitude, without reducing actual workload or sacrificing productivity.

These major insights have led to ongoing improvements in workplaces to give workers a greater sense of control, thus improving worker’s health, productivity and job satisfaction. Employers, you can reduce employee stress and protect workers’ health by giving them more latitude in making their own decisions and choices in their work

For more details see:


American Psychological Association, November 3, 2003

Cited Research

Hackman, J. R. and G. R. Oldham (1976). Motivation through the design of work. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, Vol. 16(2), pp. 250-279.

Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 24, pp. 285-308.

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