Appraisal of email use as a source of workplace stress: a person-environment fit approach

Jeff Stich, Monideepa Tarafdar, Patrick Keith Stacey, Cary Lynn Cooper

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Abstract

The paper develops and tests theory that explains under what conditions the extent of email use is appraised as a stressor. Integrating concepts from information acquisition and person environment fit theories, we hypothesize that individuals appraise their extent of email use as stressful based on the mismatch between their current and desired extents of email use. We define such match as email fit and mismatch as email misfit. We first develop a conceptual framework that associates email misfit with the individual’s experience of three key workplace stressors – work relationship stressor, job control stressor and job conditions stressor. We then develop hypotheses framing the relationship between email fit and misfit, and these stressors. We test our hypotheses by applying quadratic polynomial regressions and surface-response analysis, to survey data obtained from 118 working individuals. The paper makes three theoretical contributions. Firstly, in reporting a theoretical and empirical construction of email fit and misfit and their relationship to workplace stressors, it shows that, email misfit is appraised as stress-creating. That is, both too much and too little email compared to what the individual desires, are associated with stressors. In doing so and secondly, it shows that IT use (in this case, email) is appraised as stressful both when it exceeds (i.e., associated with overload) and fails to meet (i.e., associated with underload), the user’s expectation and preference. Thirdly, it suggests the person environment approach as a theoretically novel way to conceptualize the cognitive appraisal and judgement associated with information under - and over – acquisition, and shows workplace stressors as potentially new effects associated with them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-160
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of the Association of Information Systems
Volume20
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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