WOW PhD candidate co-publishes as first author in renowned psychology journal

Is the stress of your next performance appraisal getting you down? It might not be a bad thing.

Mitchell Raper, PhD Candidate

WOW PhD candidate Mitchell Raper (School of Applied Psychology) decided to pursue this concept further in his thesis entitled: ‘Is your stress the same as my stress? The role of stressor appraisals’.

‘I became interested in occupational stress and coping during my 2nd year of undergrad when I was completing the Organisational Psychology elective’, he says.

‘I was attending a lecture on occupational stress and coping and was amazed by this concept called “eustress”, where stress can be motivational and beneficial under the right circumstances. I always believed that stress is inherently “bad” and was fascinated by this idea that stress can actually be good. It was during my Honours year where I read more about different theories of eustress, particularly the Transactional Model of Stress and Coping and the Challenge-Hindrance Framework, which is now the theoretical foundation of my PhD’.

Mitchell has recently co-authored with his supervisor Professor Paula Brough the article ‘Seeing into the future: The role of future‐oriented coping and daily stress appraisal in relation to a future stressor’ in Stress & Health.

Recent research has identified the value of distinguishing between employee’s appraisals of their work‐based challenge, hindrance, and threat job demands, and of how employee’s future‐oriented coping is associated with key occupational outcomes. Mitchell’s PhD study extends this research by assessing the extent to which employee’s proactive and preventive coping techniques each directly and indirectly predict challenge, hindrance and threat appraisals.

Utilising a daily diary design, 89 undergraduate students completed five daily surveys focused on a common future stressor. Results suggested daily appraisals do not change as much as expected, with only challenge appraisals reducing across the 5‐day period. However, both proactive and preventive coping moderated daily stress appraisals, such that when proactive coping was high, challenge appraisals increased and hindrance appraisals decreased. Similarly, preventive coping appeared to reduce both hindrance and threat appraisals.

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Although this project has indicated that appraisals may not differ much on a daily level, the moderating effects of proactive and preventive coping were observed. Proactive copers appear to have high challenge appraisals and reduced hindrance appraisals, while preventive copers tend to have reduced hindrance and threat appraisals over time.

Organisational interventions could be developed to increase proactive coping in workplaces to create happier, healthier and more productive employees.

‘I recommend that future research should investigate how proactive personality and future time orientation are able to distinguish between proactive and preventive coping, as well as simultaneous assessments of challenge, hindrance and threat appraisals, which will allow researchers to better understand the complexity of the occupational stress and coping process’, says Mitchell.

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He was also able to publish his honours thesis and provide advice for peers hoping to produce publications.

‘I would always keep in mind the journals you are wanting to submit to, and write for their audience. I found reading through the latest issues of journals I wanted to submit to helped me develop and structure my article. I would also recommend being extremely succinct with your writing – You don’t have the luxury of explaining theoretical concepts and ideas in great detail in many journal articles due to tight word limits, so save those words for your thesis literature review chapters’.

Mitchell is currently collecting data for his final study, which will be written up as two articles focusing on how employees perceive and cope with their day-to-day demands of their job, and how personal resources such as resilience can help employees with their eustress.