An exploratory study of the ways in which print media constructs our perceptions of the organisational phenomenon of stress.
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The topic of stress is one that has been explored for many years, as individuals have aimed to understand this phenomenon, as well as provide insight into why stress occurs and how it occurs. Besides the interest in this phenomenon, it becomes apparent when examining literature pertaining to this topic that little or no consensus exists surrounding its definition. However, what these diverse accounts do share is an extremely individualised conceptualisation of stress, which homogenises the stress experience. Hobfoll (1998) critically argues that as much as stress is interpreted and experienced at the level of the individual, the experience and interpretation transpires within a social context, a context that constructs and hence influences the experience itself (Hobfoll, 1998). One particular vehicle that plays a role in constructing one's perceptions regarding the phenomenon of stress is that of the Print Media. This study therefore aims to challenge these individualistic conceptualisations by exploring the ways in which the Print Media constructs our perceptions of the organisational phenomenon of stress. The sample for this research consists of four newspaper groups, namely the Business Day, Sunday Times, Mail and Guardian, as well as all those newspapers that fall under the company title Independent Newspapers. Only articles found between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 2004 are drawn upon. The data is organised and analysed on the 'thematic method of analysis' which consists of both 'theory-led' and 'inductive' thematic analysis. This analysis provides insight into the construction and understandings of organisational stress presented by the Print Media, understandings that tend to, on the whole, construct the stress experience at the level of the individual, independent of the role of the organisation in the process. However, there is a group of articles that move away from these constructions to critically note the role of the organisation and the social in one's understandings of organisational stress, and in the stress experience itself.