This article explains the Job Demand Control Model by Robert Karasek in a practical way. After reading it, you will understand the basics of this powerful effectiveness and stress management tool.
What is the Job Demand Control Model?
In 1979, with his Job Demand Control Model (JDC model), US sociologist Robert Karasek presented an assessment of stress and stress factors in the work environment (labour intensity) and health promotion in the workplace.
It has become one of the best-known models with regard to workload and work-related stress and emphasises two important aspects:
- Height of strain (demands) – These are the requirements that are set at work, including work rate, availability, time pressure, effort and difficulty. Such requirements represent the psychological stressors in the work environment.
- Decision latitude (control) – This concerns the freedom an employee has to control and organise his own work. This latitude refers to the control that employees have about their duties and how they want to perform these tasks. It consists of both competence and decision-making authority.
Both the job requirements and the management capabilities can be low or high. The Job Demand Control Model shows that the strain itself does not lead to high psychological stress. It is about the combination of the strain and the decision latitude that the job offers.
If the latitude to organise your work according to your own ideas is limited, this can lead to symptoms of stress. If it is possible for him to regulate the work himself, an employee can often handle the workload more adequately and is more motivated.
The Job Demand Control Model is aimed at balancing requirements and autonomy; the decision latitude someone has. Robert Karasek posits that employees, who have demanding jobs, experience a lot of stress if they cannot decide when they do the work.
As soon as the (element of) control becomes less or is barely present at all, the workload will feel higher, leading to stress. Conversely it is also true that despite the high demands of the job, the personal control is actually a nice addition that leads to employees feeling far less stressed.
In jobs where control is given to time and deadlines, employees experience a lot more stress than when they can decide and use their own time schedule. This form of autonomy is therefore much more important in stress development than the complexity and high demands of the tasks.
Job Demand Control Model Segments
Robert Karasek has put his Job Demand Control model in a diagram. The horizontal x-axis shows the job demands, which can by high or low.
The vertical y-axis shows the job decision latitude, which can also be high or low. From this Job Demand Control Model, you get four situations that have been explained below:
This is about the combination of not very demanding tasks and control latitude for the employee and the freedom to decide their own schedule. This section includes the most routine jobs.
The intrinsic motivation of employees in these type of jobs is very low and they do not see it as a challenge to embrace new challenges. Employees with those kinds of jobs quickly get bored.
This refers to very demanding and/or complex jobs with very little control. The employee has no control and has to do as he is told. The lack of decision latitude can also be the result of deadlines. The risk of stress is very high for these types of jobs.
These jobs are simple jobs with little to no decision latitude. This includes a lot of repetitive and production jobs. The risk of stress for these types of jobs is lowest. Employees in these types of jobs show very little initiative and are wait-and-see and passive.
These jobs are highly demanding jobs that allow the employee to decide when he does his work. As a result of the high level of decision latitude, he does not experience his job as stressful, despite it being very psychologically demanding.
According to Robert Karasek, those types of jobs provide sufficient intrinsic motivation and employees are open to accepting new challenges. That subsequently creates room for development, growth and challenges.
The Job Demand Control Model focuses on the balance between the desires of employees and their autonomy. It indicates that those who have a high degree of work pressures and experience a low degree of control have an increased risk of stress.
The jobs stress model is characterised by its simplicity and can be used to identify and analyse psychological fatigue or work-related stress in employees.
It also offers starting points for interventions. If an employee finds his workload to be high due to the large number of tasks he needs to complete, the manager is would be wise to ask him about the degree of control latitude.
If the same employee finds it difficult that he has little or no influence on the organization of his work, then the job stress model shows that he is in a stressful job, but actually needs a more active job. As such, the possibilities are diverse.
It is the manager’s task to speak to his employee about this and to come up with joint solutions. That way, the job stress model can also be used to measure employee satisfaction and motivation.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is the Job Demand Control Model by Robert Karasek applicable in your daily work? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for finding the balance between the desires of employees and their autonomy?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Häusser, J. A., Mojzisch, A., Niesel, M., & Schulz-Hardt, S. (2010). Ten years on: A review of recent research on the Job Demand–Control (-Support) model and psychological well-being. Work & Stress, 24(1), 1-35.
- Karasek, R., & Theorell, T. (1992). Healthy Work: Stress, Productivity, and the Reconstruction Of Working Life. Basic Books.
- Karasek Jr, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative science quarterly, 285-308.
- Rijk, A. E., Blanc, P. M. L., Schaufeli, W. B., & Jonge, J. (1998). Active coping and need for control as moderators of the job demand–control model: Effects on burnout. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 71(1), 1-18.
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