Beata Mańkowska Organizational climate and stress management strategies as mediators of occupational burnout among manual workers

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Rocznik: 2023


Numer: 2

Tytuł: Organizational climate and stress management strategies as mediators of occupational burnout among manual workers

Autorzy: Beata Mańkowska

PFP: 199–214


Artykuł jest dostępny na warunkach międzynarodowej licencji 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).


Occupational burnout is currently one of the greatest threats faced by professionally active people, and despite nearly fifty years of research on the phenomenon, its complex mechanisms are still being searched for (Maslach, 2011; Maslach, Leiter, 2017; Schaufeli, 2021). In addition, Covid-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022 has aggravated burnout and related forms of workplace distress, across many industries, so this has led more organizations to become more aware of burnout, and more concerned about how to protect against (Maslach, Leiter, 2021). To this day, no full agreement has been reached on a comprehensive definition of occupational burnout, its complex mechanisms, or relevant measurement tools (Maslach, Jackson, Leiter, 1996; Sęk, 2004; Kristensen et al., 2005; Demerouti, Bakker, 2008; Santinello, 2008; Maslach, Leiter, 2011; Mańkowska, 2018b; Canu et al., 2021; Schaufeli, 2021).

Studies carried out recently to identify risk factors for burnout have strengthened the belief in its contextual nature, according to which the development of burnout is triggered by challenging requirements, work conditions and organization, but not the type and nature of job duties (Schaufeli, Bakker, 2004; Maslach, Leiter, 2005; Schaufeli, 2021).

According to researchers representing the current transactional view of stress, burnout is the result of chronic stress in the workplace, which the individual fails to deal with in a constructive way (Sęk, 2004). Moreover, according to the majority of researchers, it is a crisis of professional activity resulting from a mismatch between an individual and the job (Demerouti et al., 2001; Maslach, Leiter, 2005).

Stress management and occupational burnout

Consistently with the transactional theory of stress, the relationship between stress and health is moderated by individual differences in primary and secondary appraisal generating a coping response (Lazarus, Folkman, 1984). Among the many different theoretical models trying to explain the mechanisms of occupational burnout, there is a predominant agreement that it develops when chronic stress experienced at work is not modified by a constructive remedial activity. A long-term stress transaction is a necessary condition for the development of burnout, while the use of non-constructive stress management strategies is a sufficient requirement. According to some researchers, stress management strategies (coping strategies) may be a mediator in the relationship between the variables of personality traits and adaptation to a stressful situation or consequences of stress (Aspinwall, Taylor, 1992; Klonowicz, 2001; Cox, Griffiths, Rial-Gonzalez, 2006; Carver, Connor-Smith, 2010; Li et al., 2015; Mańkowska, 2018a).

Organizational climate and occupational burnout

Organizational climate is a factor significantly related to work performance and health. This has been confirmed by a number of studies carried out worldwide (Payne, Fineman, Wall, 1976; Paluchowski, 1998; Potocki, 1998; Cooper, Cartwright, Earley, 2001; Patterson, Warr, West, 2004; Gonzalez-Roma, Fortes-Ferreira, Peiro, 2009; Schneider, Barbera, 2013), especially in the context of its impact on the psychological costs of work (Durniat, 2007; Lubrańska, 2011; Nawrat, 2014; Matysek, Włoszczak-Szubzda, 2016). So far, some research have addressed the relationship between organizational climate and burnout (Vallen, 1993; D’Alleo, Santangelo, 2011; Lubrańska, 2011; Lavian, 2012; Yao et al., 2015). Previous studies indicate a strong mutual relationship between these aspects, and the most threatening indicators of organizational climate include: management style (Lubrańska, 2011), the level of trust in the organization and superiors (Vallen, 1993), support system (Lubrańska, 2011; Lavian, 2012; Yao et al., 2015), rewards, as well possible development of careers (Cooper, Cartwright, Earley, 2001; D’Alleo, Santangelo, 2011). According to Rosenstiel and Boegel (1992), who based their understanding of organizational climate on Kurt Lewin’s field theory, the behavior of an employee in an organization is the combined effect of their personality as well as personal perception and interpretation of important organizational factors and socio-organizational processes that stimulate an appropriate attitude and further actions. So the differences that occur in perceptions of organizational climate are a matter of an individual cognitive appraisal. The most important of these factors are: management style, technology and work organization, the system of remuneration, and interpersonal relations. Organizational climate is one of those work-related factors which largely depend on the employer and its personnel policy.

Serious hazards inherent in the universal, contextual nature of occupational burnout and mechanisms behind this process that have not been fully explained provided the inspiration to carry out this research and analyze the mediating effect of the organizational climate and stress management strategies on burnout in an understudied population of manual workers employed in Polish porcelain factories1. Findings from the research are expected to add new information about significant sources of the problem, which guarantees the success of preventive measures that are important for maintaining high-quality work and in protecting the mental health of working people.

1. Data used in analyses were gathered under my supervision by a student during her master’s seminar.

Research problem and aims

The present study aimed to examine the relationship between organizational stress and occupational burnout, and the mediating role of stress management strategies and the organizational climate among manual workers of porcelain factory. The theoretical basis of the own research model was the transactional understanding of stress and the mechanism of occupational burnout.

The following research questions were put forward:

  1. Do stress management strategies mediate the relationship between perceived stress and burnout, and if so, which of the analyzed strategies mediate this relationship most strongly?
  2. Does the organizational climate mediate occupational burnout in the studied population, and if so, which of the analyzed dimensions of the organizational climate most strongly mediate the relationship between stress and occupational burnout?

Participants and procedure


The survey included a total of 60 employees of the Polish Porcelain Factories Ćmielów and Chodzież SA working for the Chodzież branch. The number of men working in the factory was very low (8 employees), and therefore sex as a variable was not considered in further statistical analyses. The mean age of respondents was 45 years, and the mean time of employment in a given position was 17 years. In terms of education, 70% of respondents had basic vocational education, 28% had secondary education, and 2% had primary education.

Research procedure

The survey was conducted in a group of respondents who were expected to provide written answers to the questions/statements contained in questionnaires. Each participant agreed to participate in the study and was informed about the possibility of resignation at any time.

They were also assured that the research is anonymous. After completing the written responses to the questionnaires (after an hour), material was personally collected from each participant.

Instruments measures

Organizational climate was measured using the Questionnaire of Organizational Climate (KdbKO) by Rosenstiel and Boegel (1992) in a Polish adaptation by Durniat (2018). It consists of 55 statements assigned to scales: general questions, colleagues, superiors, organization of work, information and communication, representation of employees’ interests, and promotion and professional development. Answers should be given on a 5-point scale (from 1 to 5). The reliability of the tool measured by the value of Cronbach’s alpha coefficients is from .81 to .90. The lower the results achieved by the person surveyed on individual scales, the more negative scores the organization receives in terms of its climate.

Occupational stress was measured using Questionnaire of Subjective Evaluation of Work (KSOP) by Dudek, Waszkowska, Merecz and Hanke (2004). It consists of 50 statements that should be answered using a score from one to five. The questionnaire is used to measure the overall level of occupational stress as well as the stressful work conditions of the 10 factors that make up the global score, i.e.: sense of mental workload, lack of rewards at work, sense of insecurity caused by the organization of work, social contacts, sense of danger, physical nuisance, unpleasant conditions, lack of control, lack of support, and sense of responsibility. The tool has a good level of reliability (Cronbach’s alpha coefficients .62 to .83 for individual scales, and .87 for the overall score).

Stress management strategies were measured with the Inventory for Measuring Coping with Stress (Mini-Cope) by Carver (1989), with a Polish adaptation by Juczyński and Ogińska-Bulik (2009). It is an abbreviated version of the Multidimensional Inventory for Measuring Coping with Stress (COPE). It consists of 28 statements that deal with 14 different coping strategies, i.e.: active coping, planning, positive reappraisal, acceptance, sense of humor, turning to religion, seeking emotional support, seeking instrumental support, dealing with something else, denial, venting of emotions, use of psychoactive substances, suppression of activities, and self-blame. The reliability of the inventory was assessed as satisfactory, with it being shown to be the lowest for the strategy: “dealing with something else” (.32). The inventory was normalized by the authors based on the analysis of their own research, which was then compared with the results obtained by students (Juczyński, Ogińska-Bulik, 2009).

Occupational burnout was examined using the Link Burnout Questionnaire (LBQ) designed by Santinello (2008) in a Polish adaptation by Jaworowska (2014). The tool reflects the multidimensional understanding of burnout. It consists of 24 statements regarding subjective job evaluation, and each statement is scored from 1 to 6. It measures the following dimensions of occupational burnout: psychophysical exhaustion (assessment of personal resources: fatigue-full of energy), lack of commitment to relationships (treating others with distance vs. subjective approach to a person), professional inefficacy (assessment of one’s own skills necessary to perform everyday tasks), and disappointment at work (dimension related to motivation to work). Polish standards have been developed for both assistance professions (teachers, therapists, nurses, medical doctors, uniformed services) and for comparative groups not professionally involved in helping other people (IT specialists, engineers, accountants), which makes it a universal tool. In the interpretation of scale – no commitment in relations with customers, in this study it was assumed that the relations refer to colleagues. The reliability of the questionnaire is satisfactory. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients are: .77 for psychophysical exhaustion, .69 for lack of involvement in customer relations, .85 for disappointment, and .68 for professional inefficacy.


Data were analyzed with SPSS Statistics software, version 26. The mediating effects of the stress management strategies and organizational climate were tested using a number of regression analyses with entry methods. The following aspects were investigated: at the beginning of the analyzes, it was checked whether stress, stress management strategies and the organizational climate were predictors of occupational burnout. For this purpose, three univariate regression analyzes were used for each factor. The results are presented in table 1. Then, in response to the first and second research question, the Model of Multiple Mediation was verified (Figure 1), which tests the stress management strategy and organizational climate as a mediators of the relationship between stress and burnout. This is Model 4 with two mediators operating in parallel (Hayes, 2013). For this purpose, mediation analysis using the PROCESS macro for SPSS, Version 4.1 was conducted. A boot-strapping test (n boots = 5000) with adjusted confidence intervals (95% CI) was used to estimate the significance of indirect effects (Preacher, Hayes, 2008; Hayes, 2013).

In the first stage of the analyzes, the linear regression standardized coefficients indicated a significant relationship between stress and burnout (Beta = .45, p < .001), statistically insignificant effect of stress management strategies into burnout , except one – positive reappraisal (Beta = –.32, p = .01) and a strong and significant direct effect of the organizational climate on occupational burnout (Beta = –.55, p < .001). The results show that these independent variables play the role of predictors of occupational burnout in the studied sample. At this stage of the analysis a decision was made to further explore factors of the organizational climate to identify individual determinants of psychophysical exhaustion, lack of commitment to customer relationships, professional inefficacy, and disappointment at work (steps 3.1., 3.2., 3.3., 3.4.). Interestingly, superiors had the strongest effect on predicting psychophysical exhaustion (Beta = –.50, p = .002), and an even stronger effect on the lack of commitment to customer relationships (Beta = –.60, p = .001). Colleagues had a weak effect promoting psychophysical exhaustion (Beta = –.23, p = .04), while disappointment at work among respondents increased moderately, along with deteriorated work organization (Beta = –.32; p = .03). None of the variables describing the organizational climate was associated with professional inefficacy as a dimension of occupational burnout. This symptom of burnout was apparently independent of the organizational climate. Superiors as the most important predictor of burnout will be included in further mediation analyzes.

Detailed results of regression analyzes in three steps are presented in table 1.

In order to answer the question 1 and question 2 whether positive reappraisal and organizational climate play the roles of the parallel operating mediators in the relationship between stress and burnout (Model 4), a multiple mediation analysis was performed using MACRO proposed by Preacher and Hayes (2008).

Table 1. Occupational stress management strategies and organizational climate as predictors of occupational burnout

Step 1 – relationship between stress and occupational burnout; Step 2 – relationship between stress management strategy and occupational burnout; Step 3 – relationship between organizational climate and occupational burnout; step 3.1. – relationship between organizational climate and psychophysical exhaustion; step 3.2. – relationship between organizational climate and a lack of commitment to relationships; step 3.3. – relationship between organizational climate and professional inefficacy; step 3.4. – relationship between organizational climate and disappointment.

The mediation model is presented below (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Multiple Mediation Model with two mediators of the relationship between occupational stress and burnout by a positive reappraisal and organizational climate

It was noticed that the a1, a2 and b2 paths turned out to be statistically significant, except for the b1 path (p = .16). In order to verify the significance of indirect effects, including the a1xb1 effect, the bootstraping test (n = 5000) was used in the next stage of the analyzes. Mediation summary is presented in table 2.

Table 2. Mediation analysis using macro PROCESS V.4.1. – specific data

The results of the analyzes indicate a statistically significant total effect (c), (β = .45; p < .001) including the sum of the direct stress effect on burnout (c’) and the sum of both indirect effects (a1xb1 + a2xb2). The results revealed a significant indirect effect of impact of occupational stress on professional burnout through organizational climate (a1xb1; β = .30; CI [.12; .48]). At the same time bootstrapping test confirmed statistically insignificant indirect effect of stress on burnout through positive reappraisal as stress management strategy (a2xb2; β = .05; CI [–.01; .16]). Moreover, the direct effect (c’) of stress on burnout in the presence of both mediators became statistically insignificant (β = .10, p = .45). Since the indirect impact of positive reevaluation is irrelevant, it means that the superiors as a dimension of organizational climate plays the role of the full mediator in the relationship between occupational stress and burnout in the study group. In other words, there is complete mediation between stress and burnout through the organizational climate dimension – superiors.


The aim of this study was to investigate the mediating effect of stress management strategies and organizational climate on the relationship between stress perceived at work and occupational burnout in manual workers.

According to current knowledge, chronic stress related to organizational climate is a prerequisite for the development of occupational burnout and one of its inevitable consequences. Evidence supporting this claim comes from studies conducted in a large population of people working in different types of professions (Maslach, Leiter, 2005; Canu et al., 2021; Schaufeli 2021). On the other hand, stress management (coping) is considered by other authors as a mediating factor between stress and occupational burnout, and numerous studies have also confirmed its moderate role in relation between stress and burnout (Aspinwall, Taylor, 1992; Klonowicz, 2001; Cox, Griffiths, Rial-Gonzalez, 2006; Carver, Connor-Smith, 2010; Li et al., 2015). The part of this study, which aimed to examine the indirect impact of stress management strategies in relation to stress and burnout, did not confirm such a contribution. Positive reappraisal turned out to be a significant predictor of occupational burnout, however, this stress management strategy did not play role as a mediator of the relationship between stress and burnout in present study. Despite the result obtained in this study, the numerous empirical evidence described in the literature confirming the role of this variable in coping with difficult situations, including the prevention of burnout. Positive reappraisal as a strategy is a personal resource that plays an important role in the stress transaction (Lazarus, Folkman, 1984) and burnout process (Demerouti et al., 2001). Positive reappraisal as a stress management strategy may prove effective if workers have very little or no direct influence on the real change of a specific situation, but they may perceive a new, positive aspect of their own experience in it. It requires mentalization and indepth reflection, because it is associated not only with the reduction of unpleasant emotional stress, but also with a change in the cognitive representation of the problem by noticing the value and meaning of a certain event, as well as opportunities for personal development. In this sense, attributed to this strategy by the authors of a measurement tool, positive reappraisal is classified as one of the problem-focused strategies whose protective effect against burnout has been proven in many studies (Lazarus, Folkman, 1984; Sęk, 2004; Juczyński, Ogińska-Bulik, 2009). Therefore, it would be advisable to replicate the research on a larger sample, to check again the mediation effect of this factor (Demerouti et al., 2001).

The second tested variable, i.e. organizational climate and, as it turned out, its most important dimension – superiors was also identified not only to be significant predictor of occupational burnout among the surveyed manual workers, but also a significant full mediator of burnout. Since the influence of positive reappraisal turned out to be statistically insignificant in mediating the relationship between stress and burnout, and the indirect effect of organizational climate – significant, and at the same time its introduction to the regression equation made the relation-ship between stress and burnout statistically insignificant, so this variable plays the role of a total mediator.

The detailed results of this study indicate, that superiors were the most important dimension of organizational climate. It is strongly related to the lack of commitment in relationships and psychophysical exhaustion of workers. On the other hand, disappointment with work increased moderately along with the deterioration of scores for the second dimension of organizational climate, i.e. organization of work. However, none of the factors of organizational climate was related to professional inefficacy as a dimension of occupational burnout. The results of the statistical analysis of mediation (total effect) showed that the superiors as a dimension of organizational climate and positive reappraisal as a stress management strategy reduce the direct impact of stress on occupational burnout to the extent that the primary relationship between stress and burnout becomes statistically insignificant. However, the influence of the two mediators differs significantly (indirect effects). The organizational climate plays a very important role in this respect, while positive reappraisal is a minor role. According to the assumptions of the mediation model, both relations (indipendent variable – mediator) and (mediator – dipendent variable) should be statistically significant for mediation to occur (Preacher, Hayes, 2008; Hayes, 2013). The relationship between stress and positive reappraisal is important, but positive reappraisal with burnout is not. The insignificant indirect influence of this variable was confirmed by the bootstrapping test. As a psychological construct, organizational climate is one of the contextual risk factors for burnout inherent in organizations, and these are the strongest determinants of burnout according to previous studies and this is consistent with the concept of occupational burnout presented by the internationally recognized expert in the field of burnout exploration, Christina Maslach (Maslach, Leiter, 2021). Low scores for the factor ‘support from superiors’ indicate a lack of trust of employees in the organization and its leaders, belief in their lack of interest, concern for development and good relationships between co-workers, lack of motivation and rewards for the efforts and achievements of personnel, and the use of a management style focused on achievements and strictly-followed procedures, instead of caring for the support and subjective treatment of subordinates. Another factor, the organization of work, is an element of organizational climate reflecting structuration, work coordination, and the allocation of tasks that accounts for the competencies, needs, abilities and capacities of employees and the control of work performance. The low level of responsibility and autonomy, as well as the monotonous, repetitive nature of the tasks performed daily by the surveyed manual workers are considered unfavorable factors in this respect. The significant predictive effect of organizational climate on burnout was demonstrated by Bronkhorst et al. (2014) in research among employees of health care organizations, Lubrańską (2014) in respondents representing different professions (working with data, ideas, people, and things), Nawrat (2014), who investigated the effects of organizational climate on the psychological costs of work (regarding health, development, values, functioning at work and family life) in the employees of diversified businesses, Vallen (1993), who surveyed hotel workers, D’Alleo and Santangelo (2011), who investigated call center-operators, or Lavian (2012), who tested teachers working in different types of schools. They showed that a good organizational climate was significantly associated with a Lower level of burnout, especially supporting atmosphere among co-workers and developing relationships-oriented leadership styles. Most of the studies tested the direct predictive effect of organizational climate on occupational burnout. Fewer researchers have attempted to test this variable as a mediator of stress perceived at work and occupational burnout, which seems important in the present study.

There are also practical implications of the present study. One of them is the great responsibility of superiors for the health of their subordinates, including the prevention of occupational burnout, since superiors have a major impact on organizational climate, particularly through their management style, building good interpersonal relations, and the use of fair incentive systems. On the other hand, human resources management entails great responsibility, and it seems reasonable to provide professional support to superiors, and not only to their subordinates.


This study has some limitations such as the small sample size and, therefore general conclusions should be drawn with appropriate caution. Nevertheless, it makes some contribution to understanding the mechanisms of occupational burn-out and sets directions for further research into the significant modifiers of occupational burnout for the health protection of employees.


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