Personality Type and Work Stress

You've seen him or her at work: aggressive, racing against the clock, competitive, always multitasking. The typical type A personality type. Recently, experts have examined whether personality type plays a role in workplace stress. They found personality type did-and didn't-correlate to stress.

A recent study broke type A behavior into four dimensions—leadership, aggression, being "hard-driven," and eagerness-energy—and then looked at whether type A behaviors affect work stress. The results were interesting. High scores on the dimension of leadership predicted low work stress; high scores on the other three dimensions predicted high work stress.

The researchers believed these results were due to an imbalance between effort and reward, a key contributor to workplace stress. Individuals who scored high on leadership also scored high on work effort, but their efforts came with high work rewards. Unlike their peers, they perceived they had control over their jobs. This mirrors earlier studies, which found that perceptions of lack of control result in higher stress levels.

What is Stress?

Stress is the result of some challenge—physical, chemical, or emotional--that requires us to either adapt to or suffer physical or mental tension. Left unchecked, stress can take a toll on our health by triggering certain mood and behaviors that convey health risks. For example, prolonged chronic stress—such as we experience in the workplace—is associated with the onset of depression, tension, and anger.

Men and women handle stress differently. Women are three times more likely to develop depression in response to stress. However, women also have a strong support network, so they seem to be better able than men to cope with stress.

Managing Workplace Stress

Researchers identify two primary forms of coping with stress: problem-focused and emotion-focused. Surprisingly, type A personalities and depressive types tend to rely on emotionally-focused forms of coping. They are more likely to seek moral support from others, turn to religion, and reinterpret stressors in a more positive light.

Whether or not your personality type predisposes you to high workplace stress, you can incorporate stress reduction techniques such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation into your life, which will also improve your perception of your own competence and leadership ability.


Taina, Hintsa, Ph.D., Mirka, Hintsanen, Ph.D., Markus, Jokela, Ph.D., Pulkki-Raback, Laura, Ph.D., Keltikangas-Järvinen, Liisa PhD. "Divergent Influence of Different Type A Dimensions on Job Strain and Effort-Reward Imbalance." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Volume 52 - Issue 1: pp 1-7. Web. January 2010.

"Personality Types Impact on Response to Stress." Web.