Exploring the sources of and reactions to work frustration in the United Kingdom

: extending previous models using mixed methodology

  • Sophie Ward

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Whilst frustration has become a significant widespread issue across organisations in the last decade, particularly in the United Kingdom (UK), leading to deviant behaviour, low occupational commitment and employee turnover, much of the research conducted on work frustration over the last century has remained limited in scope, often due to a purposeful and/or deductive approach. The current research has sought to provide a more comprehensive and contemporary understanding of the phenomenon, gathering data from a variety of occupations in the UK The ultimate aim to identify alterable factors that can form the basis for successful interventions to a) help reduce work frustration, and b) support employees to react in ways that are more constructive.

In achieving this aim, the following objectives were met 1) explore and identify new and existing sources of work frustration across different organisational sectors, 2) explore and identify a range of behavioural reactions to work frustration across different organisational sectors, 3) develop two comprehensive taxonomies, classifying the sources of work frustration and frustration coping strategies per a set of common conceptual domains and dimensions, 4) develop and validate two new measurement tools; one assessing the sources of work frustration, and another, frustration coping strategies and, 5) to test a new model of work frustration, incorporating both potential mediators and/or moderators, which may influence both frustration tolerance and choice of coping strategy.

To meet the objectives a critical realist approach was taken, enabling the use of a sequential mixed-methods design. The design involved mixing at multiple levels within the research; particularly those beyond the method level (e.g. the paradigm level), and consisted of three phases, phase one informing phase two, and phase two informing phase three, each phase using different albeit complementary approaches to data collection and analysis.

Phase one involved the exploration of the sources of and behavioural reactions to work frustration, using a multi-method approach to data collection (semi-structured interviews, diaries and open-questionnaires), thematic and quantitative content analysis. Phase two entailed the development and initial validation of two new self-report measures of work frustration using a six-step systematic approach to scale development/ validation and factor analytic techniques. Phase three gave rise to the quantitative assessment of a new model of work frustration using a path-analytic approach, incorporating both potential mediators and/or moderators, which may influence both frustration tolerance and choice of coping strategy.

The principle contributions of this research were fourfold. Firstly, the use of multiple data collection methods that were exploratory in nature, a wide range of frustrators and frustration coping strategies were identified, including contemporary frustrators and constructive coping strategies not reflected in prior research. Secondly, two comprehensive taxonomies, classifying the sources of work frustration and frustration coping strategies per a set of common conceptual domains and dimensions were developed, capturing the sources of frustration and frustration coping strategies across a range of UK occupations. Thirdly, two new measurement scales were developed, the Work Frustration Measurement Scale (WFMS) and the Coping Inventory for Frustrating Situations (CIFS), both of which showed good validity and reliability. Fourthly, a new model of work frustration was developed and tested, which identified three potential moderators (total EQ/ESC, decision-making ability, and stress management) that may be used to develop targeted interventions aimed at increasing employee tolerance to frustration and decreasing the use of aggressive coping strategies. It is expected that the two taxonomies, scales and the model of work frustration developed in this research will aid both research in this area as well as practical interventions for positive coping moving forward, decreasing the use of counter-productive coping strategies, levels of stress/anxiety in individuals, and staff turnover, while also making for a happier workforce.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorThomas Evans (Supervisor) & Gail Steptoe-Warren (Supervisor)

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