Research Article: The mediating role of coping behavior on the age-technostress relationship: A longitudinal multilevel mediation model

Date Published: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Nathalie Hauk, Anja S. Göritz, Stefan Krumm, Stephen D. Ginsberg.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213349

Abstract

This study seeks to explain the interplay between chronological age and technology-related strain through techno-stressors and coping strategy choices in organizational settings. Grounded in Lazarus´ stress theory, theories of cognitive aging, the life span theory of control and socioemotional selectivity theory, this study argues that even though older workers are more prone to techno-stressors, aging is connected to gaining coping skills, which in turn reduce technology-related strain over time. Understanding these processes enables modifying employees’ coping strategy choices and mitigating negative outcomes of technostress at the workplace. Longitudinal data from 1,216 employees over a time period of 8 months were used to perform multilevel mediation modeling. The findings reveal that age was negatively related to technology-related strain. The link between age and technology-related strain was explained through behavioral disengagement, which older workers used less than younger workers. Active coping and social coping did not act as mediators of this relationship across time points. These relationships were stable after controlling for dependency on technology.

Partial Text

The increasing number of older employees in the workforce [1] as well as the ongoing digitization of work [2] raise the question of how chronological age relates to stress arising from information and communication technology (ICT) usage in occupational settings. Despite empirical research endeavors on technology-related stress (hereinafter referred to as technostress), our understanding of the relationship between chronological age and technostress is limited. Research has shown that ICT dependency at work might induce stress, work exhaustion [3] and several negative consequences for the organization [4–6]. Despite perceiving technologies as useful, older adults have greater difficulty handling them [7]. Therefore, older workers might experience more situations in which they feel taxed by ICT-related demands. Yet as people age, they gain resources and coping abilities that help them deal with stress [8–10]. The future success of work organizations may depend on a deeper understanding of age-contingent differences in technostress management strategies. The identification of effective coping strategies buffering the consequences of technostress may be beneficial for developing organizational interventions to help employees cope more effectively with technology-related strain—especially as the proportion of older workers increases. Therefore, the current study aims to answer the research question: How do workers cope with technostress across the age span in a digitalized work environment?

Hypothesis 1 posited that chronological age and level of overall techno-stressors are positively related. Contrary to our hypothesis, age was negatively related to technostressors at T2 (rT2 = -.10), and not related to technostressors at T1 and T3 (rT1 = -.05, rT3 = -.06; cf. S1 Table). Furthermore, the multilevel mediation analysis yielded a significant negative total effect (β = -.07 [-.13; -.02], p < .05; cf. Table 1), though the effect of age on the level of overall techno-stressors was not significant (β = -.04 [-.09; .01], p = .224; cf. Table 1) when controlling for ICT dependency. Thus, Hypothesis 1 was not supported. The goal of this longitudinal study was to evaluate how workers across the age-span cope with technostress in a digitalized work environment. Specifically, we conducted a series of multi-level mediation analyses to evaluate longer-term effects of coping on technology-related strain as well as age effects on the technostress process.   Source: http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213349

 

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