Managing the Stress of Change in the Public Sector


The current report considers the key findings and implications of the article entitled “Managing the Stress of Public Change in the Public Sector” by Marie McHugh and Shirley Brennan. The report consists of three sections, including a brief summary of the article, key learning points derived from the article, and application of the article’s key points to a real case within the UAE context.

Section 1

The article under consideration focuses on the topical issue of stress and stress management at the workplace in the public sector. In particular, the authors critically analyze and study these issues in the UK public sector that underwent the essential transformations and changes in the 1970s-1990s, which, respectively, affected employees. The article emphasizes that these changes not only impacted daily functioning of public sector organizations within the country by making them service- and client-oriented, but also increased the extent of stress experienced by all workers. However, this increase in the level of stress experienced by workers is rarely studied by the researchers and noted by management. Therefore, the authors carried out a study of stress in one public organization in the UK and came to the conclusion that work of all employees was significantly affected by stress. The article lists the most notable adverse effects of stress and emphasizes that these affects make employees’ stress a costly burden for any organization, unless it is properly addressed by the management. Hence, the authors suggest making stress management an organizational responsibility and implement a holistic approach that is entitled as Total Stress Management that should be viewed as an integral part of total quality management. The article provides a detailed description of this four-stage approach, envisioning respectively audit, recognition, training, and evaluation. Overall, the article is essential for understanding the issue of job-related stress and an effective program of stress management that can be implemented by any organization that functions in a volatile and rapidly changing environment.

Section 2

There are several key learning points that relate to stress and stress management in the public sector that can be derived from the article under consideration. Firstly, the authors point out “The pressures associated with the new climate of competition, renewed emphasis o quality of service and accountability, allied to the uncertainty which is characteristic of organizational change, are potential sources of stress”. Hence, it means that the level of job-related stress intensified for employees working in a rapidly changing and transforming environment. This conclusion is applicable both to private and public sectors that have to comply with ever-changing needs and preferences of customers and compete with other organizations. Secondly, based on the survey conducted by the authors, it is evident that all employees experience job-related stresses, in particular caused by uncertainty, excessive volumes of work, lack of sufficient information to carry out their job properly, lack of knowledge about their place in the new service-oriented organization, and “concerns about their posts becoming obsolete because of technological advances”. It means that the management has to be aware of the listed concerns that result in stress, as otherwise, employees may fail to fulfill their duties or even quit. Thirdly, in connection with the first two key points, the article emphasizes that “it is good management practice to care for the welfare and personal well-being of staff”, including management of stress. Hence, good managers of any organization are not only aware of stresses experienced by their employees, but also realize that stress is an unnecessary cost that can and must be addressed and decreased. Furthermore, they value their employees as the most valuable assets of the organization and include stress in programs that are aimed at ensuring both individual and organizational health. Fourthly, another key learning point, derived from the article, concerns an effective stress management program suggested by the authors, which is called Total Stress Management and consist of four stages – audit, recognition, training, and evaluation. Thus, under the suggested program, the management should promote problem identification and acceptance of the fact that stress is a serious concern and a potential organizational cost. Afterwards, it should assess absenteeism, productivity, and labor turnover, in order to develop the most efficient ways of addressing these consequences of job-related stress. Then, training of the staff and senior managers on stress management should be conducted in order to ensure their commitment to the program. Finally, the program should be reinforced and made on-going to adddress the problem in the long term.

Section 3

Currently, the public sector in the UAE undergoes tremendous changes with a key focus on making it more client- and service-oriented, as well as “flexible and future-proof”. As a part of these changes, there are expected to be fewer ministries and more service-oriented departments, which will certainly generate a lot of stress for employees of the public sector. When Dubai has launched its transformation of the public sector, there occurred a lot of changes, including a shift from being a rule-setter into a public servant. However, little attention has been paid in Dubai and in the rest of the UAE to stress experienced by employees of the public sector. In turn, the emphasis has been made on making them more efficient and productive, which has been achieved through introducing the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Government Excellence Award. Similarly, researchers have focused on promotion of employee loyalty and commitment in the UAE, yet they have failed to recognize stress as an essential factor influencing individuals’ employment. Therefore, the Dubai public sector can significantly benefit from adopting the Total Stress Management program into their daily functioning. Besides, organizations both within private and public sectors of Dubai and the UAE, in general, should recognize stress as an integral factor impacting their employees’ performance and seek to reduce the level of stress through the four stages mentioned above. This way, the announced transformation of the public sector in the UAE can run more smoothly and be more beneficial for all the stakeholders involved.


Withal, the article under consideration raises an extremely topical issue that is present all over the world, both in the public and private sectors. Under the influence of various external and internal factors, both sectors undergo tremendous changes and have to constantly innovate to remain competitive and render high quality services to customers. However, the topic of job-related stress experienced by employees of such organizations remains largely understudied and unaddressed, which creates serious costs and problems for these organizations. Therefore, all sectors globally, including the public sector in the UAE, are supposed to focus more of their attention on stress and its management in order to ensure the well-being of both employees and organizations.