BackgroundMental health and stress prevention aspects related to workplace in hospitals are gaining increasingly more attention in research. The workplace hospital is characterized by high work intensity, high emotional demands, and high levels of stress. These conditions can be a risk for the development of mental disorders. Leadership styles can hinder or foster work-related stress and influence the well-being of employees. Through leadership interventions, leaders may be encouraged to develop a stress-preventive leadership style that addresses both, the well-being of the leaders and of the subordinates. A comprehensive qualitative description of leaders' experiences with interventions on the topic of stress-preventive leadership is yet missing in the literature. Therefore, we address leaders of middle management regarding the development of stress-preventive leadership styles through supporting interventions. The research questions are: How do leaders of middle management perceive their leadership role in terms of effectiveness in stress prevention? Which potentials and limits in the implementation of stress-preventive leadership are experienced?
MethodsThe study follows a qualitative research design and content analysis. We conducted individual interviews with leaders of middle management (n = 30) of a tertiary hospital in Germany for the participatory development of an intervention. This intervention, consisting of five consecutive modules, addressed leaders of middle management in all work areas within one hospital. After participation in the intervention, the leaders were asked to reflect on and evaluate the implementation of the contents learned within focus group discussions. Overall 10 focus group discussions with leaders (n = 60) were conducted.
ResultsThe results demonstrate that leaders of middle management perceived potentials for a stress-preventive leadership style (e.g., reflection on leadership role and leadership behavior, awareness/mindfulness, and conveying appreciation). However, limits were also mentioned. These can be differentiated into self-referential, subordinate-related, and above all organizational barriers for the implementation of stress-preventive leadership.
ConclusionsSome of the organizational barriers can be addressed by mid-level leadership interventions (e.g., lack of peer-exchange) or possibly by adapted leadership interventions for top management (e.g., lack of stress-preventive leadership styles in top level management). Other organizational limits are working conditions (e.g., staff shortage) that can only be influenced by health policy decisions.