Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam - Printed in The Netherlands
A BALANCE THEORY OF JOB DESIGN
FOR STRESS REDUCTION
Michael J. Smith and Pascale C. Sainfort
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wl 53706 (U.S.A.)
(Received October 17, 1988; accepted January 5, 1989)
This paper proposes a new way of conceptualizing job design and job stress based on the balance among job elements. It integrates social psychological theories of job design with job stress concepts to develop a model of job balance that addresses how organization and job design can influence worker health. The model defines how job design can improve "'loading" factors on the worker by "balancing" aspects of the job which can produce stress. The implications of this model for enhancing worker health by controlling workplace stress are discussed. The model provides a holistic approach for designing workplaces that balance production and stress considerations.
A general examination of the evolution of the organization of work and job design theories provides a background for understanding how work can have a psychosocial impact on the individual and thereby directly and indirectly influence his/her health. This can also set the stage for an integrated theory of job design that addresses how specific organization and job design features can influence worker health. Theories of organization and job design have primarily focussed on methods to direct worker behavior to improve performance, either through administrative, engineering design or motivational approaches. Their origins are in economic processes and chain of command structures which gradually have become integrated with social and psychological concepts of motivation. Recently, this emphasis on psychosocial issues has led to interest in worker health and wellbeing as equally important as economic effectiveness, and as an element in such effective0169-8141/89/$03.50
© 1989 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
ness. The theories are presented in brief to provide a conceptual base for argument. More details on each can be found elsewhere by obtaining references reported at the end of the paper. We will only provide critical highlights of each theory as necessary to present a perspective.
JOB DESIGN THEORIES
Taylor and scientific management
In Taylor's (1911) perspective the major considerations in an efficient workplace were proper job design, using the right tools, motivating the workforce to work hard, and division of responsibilities between management and labor. These considerations are not unlike those of interest today.
To achieve operational efficiency Taylor proposed to redesign jobs using "scientific" methods; that is, methods that could quantify the amount of work achieved per unit of time. These methods
68 decomposed tasks into small elements that were easy to measure and then defined the most effective ones. The same methods were to be used by all of the workers to achieve consistency and optimal performance. This approach has a quantitative logic that is attractive and even hypnotic. It makes sense to use the one most efficient method and to design tools to fit the task. This part of the theory is the underlying foundation of methods management in modern industrial engineering.
Under Taylor's system, managers used precise analytical tools (e.g., time and motion study) to determine the work elements and pay for their completion. The scientific study of work helped determine the 'standard time for the job', that is the fastest time in which a job could be done by a
'first-class man', and the work pace. It ensured predictability within the production process. Performance above the expected standard produced financial rewards for workers. Taylor's theory was further modified by Henry Gantt