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Managerial stress and job satisfaction in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong.


While job stress in various occupations has gained the attention of experts in both academic research and occupational health care, there is a dearth of information about stress levels among managers in the sport and recreation industry, especially in women and in the Asian culture. Because managers are an important force in delivering sport and recreation services to citizens, the purposes of this study were to examine the job stress and job satisfaction of sport and recreation managers in Hong Kong, and to discern the relationship between stress and job satisfaction. Sport and recreation managers experienced moderate stress (M =3.63, SD = 0.67) and were satisfied with their jobs (M = 3.79, SD = 0.64). Work relationships (Beta = -.44, p <.001), organizational climate (Beta = -.36, p <.001), home/work balance (Beta = .26, p <.01), and personal responsibility (Beta = .23, p <.01) were important determinants of their job satisfaction. A comprehensive understanding of job stress and job satisfaction is important for minimizing the impact of potential stressors on today's workforce.


Numerous studies have examined job stress and related issues of managers, executives, and administrators across the world. Most studies have examined the stress levels and sources of stress of the study populations (Cooper & Marshall, 1976; Rodham & Bell, 2002), and the relationship between stress and job satisfaction (Bogg & Cooper, 1995; Lu, Tseng, Cooper, 1999; Siu, Lu, & Cooper, 1999; Yang, Che, & Spector, 2008). Some scholars have studied characteristics of administrators including Type A personality, physical and mental well-being (Ivancevich, Matteson, & Preston, 1982; Schaufeli, Tanis, & Rhenen, 2007), locus of control (Chen & Silverthome, 2008; Lu, Kao, Cooper, & Spector, 2000), coping skills (Kirkcaldy, Trimpop, Williams, 2002; Siu, et al., 1999), turnover intention (Gellis & Kim, 2004), and organizational commitment (Jamal & Baba, 2000; Scandura & Lankau, 1998; Siu, 2002). While many variables were identified as outcomes of excessive job stress, or as factors related to job stress, a comprehensive understanding of the sources of job stress is important for minimizing the effect of potential stressors on today's workforce.

Research on the sources of stress began in the 1970s. Cooper and Marshall (1976) described over 40 possible job-related stressors. In examining these potential stressors, five categories stood out: (1) factors that are intrinsic to the job, (2) factors related to one's role in an organization, (3) relationships at work, (4) career development, and (5) organizational structure and climate. In developing the Occupational Stress Indicator (OSI), Cooper, Sloan, and Williams (1988) added a work/family conflict factor to the list. An explanation of each of the aforementioned categories is presented below.

Factors that are intrinsic to the job include the physical work environment, time pressures, and workload (Cooper et al., 1988). Factors related to one's role in an organization include role conflict and role ambiguity. The quality of relationships at work, or more specifically a lack of solid relationships at work, can be a stressor for some managers (French & Caplan, 1970; Lindorff, 2001). Career development includes opportunities for promotion within an organization and job security. Organizational structure and climate includes the extent to which employees are involved in decision making (Williams, 1996). The work/family conflict refers to the constant struggle to meet the needs of both the family and a demanding work environment (Cooper et al., 1988). Research findings have suggested that job stress is a complicated issue that involves not only the individual, but also the interpersonal and physical environment.

In addition to job stress, researchers have examined job satisfaction. Some studies found negative correlations between job satisfaction and employee turnover (Cotton & Turtle, 1986; Du, 2009). High employee turnover is associated with high human-resource management costs because the organization needs to recruit and train new staff. Turnover is especially expensive if it occurs at the managerial level. Therefore, organizations should seek to facilitate high employee job satisfaction. The negative effects of job stress on job satisfaction should also be investigated (Bogg & Cooper, 1995; Lu et al., 1999).

Although there are many studies on this issue in various populations, no studies have investigated the sources of managerial stress and job satisfaction in the sport and recreation industry and in Hong Kong, a prime example of a modern Asian culture. Additionally, no studies have previously examined this issue in Asian women.

Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city with a working population of about 3.68 million (Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, 2010). During the past few decades, there has been significant growth in Hong Kong for sport and recreational managers. Beijing recently hosted the Olympic Games, and Hong Kong hosted the Equestrian competition for those Games. Additionally, in 2009, Hong Kong hosted the East Asian Games. Major annual sporting events, such as the Hong Kong Marathon and the International Rugby Sevens Tournament, are continuing to expand. All of these events signal the need to increase research related to managers and administrators in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong.

With this growth, there has also been an increase in overall job stress among many occupations. According to a survey report released by the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSH, 2002), 41.2% of the working population in Hong Kong experienced "high work stress. Among managerial job holders in Hong Kong, 51.2% perceived high work stress. In the United Kingdom, job-related stress is much lower, with only 18.5% of the population reporting high work stress (OSH).

The primary research questions related to sport and recreation management in Hong Kong are: What are the levels of stress for managers in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong and do they vary by gender or employment type? How does stress relate to job satisfaction in this sample, and what are the job stressors most related to job satisfaction? The secondary research question is: Do job-stress and job-satisfaction levels vary by age, marital status, education level, or work experience?



The target population for this study was managers and administrators in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong, including governmental civil servants, managers working at non-government organizations (NGO), and the private sector. Since participants might hold different job titles, for the ease of sampling, individuals with titles like director, executive, manager, assistant manager, or officer were considered appropriate for the study.

In Hong Kong, the sport and recreation industry is composed of three sectors. The first sector is the sport branch of the Leisure and Culture Services Department (LCSD). This sector is the governmental department responsible for making sport policies, providing funds and guidelines for sport activities, and managing the public sport and recreation facilities in Hong Kong. The second sector, namely NGOs, consists of the National Sports Associations (NSA), YMCAs, and YWCAs in Hong Kong. Non-government organizations are responsible for their respective sport development in Hong Kong. They have two unique features--they are nonprofit and they are independent from government (Bach & Stark, 2004). The third sector, known as the private sector, includes residential clubhouses, private fitness clubs, and theme parks such as Disneyland and Ocean Park. Private organizations share a similar objective of making profits. With a purpose of gaining some knowledge about sector differences, the authors collected data from managers in all three types of organizations.

A convenience sampling approach was used in this study. Through all possible connections of the authors, 600 questionnaires were sent out. Approximately an equal number of managers were contacted in NGO and government sectors, but the authors were only able to approach about half of the number of managers in the private sector. In total, 343 completed questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 57%. Response rate was maximized by making a personal visit or phone call to non-responders about one week after the questionnaires were distributed.

Data check and cleaning were performed using SPSS descriptive analyses. No extreme cases were identified in the Box plot, and the 5% trimmed mean values were similar to the original mean values with a difference of less than 0.1 out of the highest possible mean value of 6. Therefore, all cases were retained for the final analysis.

The sample included 145 male (42.3%) and 198 female (57.7%) participants. Most of the managers (90.4%) were younger than 45 years old, about half (50.9% or n = 174) were between 25 and 34 years of age, and less than 20% were either younger than 25 (n = 68) or between 35 and 44 years old (n = 67).

About 67.6% of the respondents (n = 232) were single, 29.2% (n = 100) were married, and 3.2% (n =11) were divorced. Most of them had a college education, with 223 holding an Associate or Bachelor's Degree (65.4%) and 15.2% (n = 52) holding a Master's Degree. Only 19.4% (n = 66) had just a secondary school education. Table 1 summarizes the number of years that participants worked in a managerial position. The amount of experience reported varied from less than 2 years to more than 10 years.
Table 1 Working Experience on Managerial Positions

 N Percent %

Less than 2 years 117 34.3

2-5 years 95 27.9

6-10 years 46 13.5

over 10 years 83 24.3

Total 341 100.0

WSPAJ Vol. 21, No. 1 Spring 2012

The work settings of participants varied as well. The majority of participants (52.6%) were from a NGO, and nearly a quarter of respondents were from the LCSD (government) or the private sector (23.4% and 24%, respectively).


The survey instrument used for this study was the Occupational Stress Indicator 2 (OSI-2). The first version of this instrument was developed in 1988 by Cooper and colleagues. In 1996, Williams conducted a thorough review of all studies using the first version of the OSI. Based on his analysis, a shortened version--OSI-2--was formed (Williams & Cooper, 1996). The items from both scales were subjected to a factor analysis. The instrument has been validated and employed in various studies across the world and it has acceptable reliability and validity, especially when examining managerial stress. Researchers (Lu et al., 1999; Siu, Donald, & Cooper, 1997; Siu et al., 1999) translated the OSI-2 into Chinese and the instrument has been largely adopted in the Chinese community, including in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan. Therefore, the OSI-2 was considered appropriate and was adopted for this study.

The survey consisted of two subscales, namely the Job Stress Scale and the Job Satisfaction Scale. There were 40 items for the Job Stress Scale, each using a 6-point Likert-type scale with 1 meaning "definitely not a source of stress" and 6 meaning "definitely a source of stress;" higher scores meant higher stress levels. The 40 items were categorized into eight stress factors: (1) work overload, (2) work relationships, (3) home/work balance, (4) managerial responsibility/ role, (5) personal responsibility, (6) hassles, (7) career issues/recognition, and (8) organization climate. In the present study, the scale demonstrated acceptable internal consistency (a = .96).

The Job Satisfaction Scale had 12 items, and again, a 6-point Likert scale was used. The number 1 represented "strongly dissatisfied" and 6 represented "strongly satisfied". The higher the score, the more satisfied the individual felt about his or her job. The 12 items were categorized into two factors: (1) satisfaction toward the job, and (2) satisfaction toward the organization. For the present study, the scale had acceptable reliability (a= .92).

Data analyses were conducted with SPSS 15.0. The overall levels of job stress and job satisfaction among the sport managers were examined using descriptive statistics, and the differences across groups (e.g., employment setting, age, gender, education, working experience) were tested using one-way ANOVA. Pearson Product Moment Correlation was performed to test the relationship between job stress and job satisfaction, and multiple linear regression was used to test job stressors that have a significant effect on sport managers job satisfaction.


The overall mean job-stress level, regardless of employment setting, was 3.63 (SD = 0.67) on a 6-point scale, which indicated moderate stress. One-way ANOVA showed that the job-stress level of managers in government (3.82 [+ or -] 0.57) was significantly higher than of those working in NGOs (3.56 [+ or -] 0.65) [F(2, 338) = 4.42, p < .05]. Private sector managers reported an overall mean stress level of 3.60 (SD = 0.74), not significantly different from either government administrators or NGO managers. The differences in subscale stress factors among the three groups are presented in Table 2. As shown, government administrators perceived the highest stress level from personal responsibility, workload, and a lack of recognition; NGO managers perceived the highest job stress from a lack of recognition; and private sector managers perceived the highest stress from personal responsibility, workload, and an uninspiring organizational climate.
Table 2 Mean Scores of Job-Stress Factors among Managers
of Government, Non-Government, and Private Organizations

 Government NGO Private

Sources of Job Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD

Overall value 3.82 0.57 3.56 0.65 3.60 0.74

Workload 4.04 0.85 3.66 0.89 3.86 0.93

Relationships 3.87 0.68 3.58 0.80 3.51 1.00

Home/Work 3.53 0.84 3.4 0.80 3.41 0.87

Managerial 3.49 0.66 3.09 0.81 3.22 0.87

Personal 4.10 0.68 3.75 0.83 3.90 0.82

Hassles 3.58 0.64 3.46 0.72 3.50 0.77

Recognition 3.99 0.97 3.87 0.93 3.61 1.00

Organizational 3.97 0.68 3.71 0.77 3.86 0.88
The scoring keys were: 1 = very definitely not a source of
stress; 2 = definitely not a source of stress; 3 = generally
is not a source of stress; 4 = generally Is a source of
stress; 5 = definitely a source of stress; 6 = very definitely
a source of stress.

Stress levels varied significantly by age group [F (3, 337) = 4.16, p < .01]. Post Hoc tests showed that managers ages 35 to 44 (3.84 [+ or -] 0.62) perceived significantly higher stress levels than their counterparts who were less than 25 years old (3.48 [+ or -] 0.68, p < .05). The stress levels of other age groups were statistically similar. However, a tendency was observed that stress levels tended to increase among participants 25 to 44 years old, and decreased after the age of 45.

Significant differences in stress were also present based on level of education [F (2, 337) = 6.57, p < .01]. Post Hoc tests showed that managers holding an Associate or Bachelor's degree reported the most job stress, and their stress (3.72 [+ or -] 0.61) was significantly higher than managers whose highest education level was secondary school (3.41 [+ or -] 0.77, p < .0 1). No other between-group variation was identified.

Gender [F (1, 340) = .04, p = .85], marital status [F (2, 339) = 1.79, p = .17], and working experience [F (3, 336) = 1.04, p = .38] had no significant impact on job stress.

When job satisfaction was examined, the mean value was 3.79 (SD = 0.64), which indicated that managers were generally satisfied with their job. A one-way ANOVA revealed no significant difference in managers' job satisfaction among the three types of organizations [F (2, 338) =1.27, p = .28]. Since significant differences in stress levels were identified based on age and education, ANOVAs were applied EO test the effects of these two factors on job satisfaction. Neither age [F (3, 337) = 1.61, p = .18] nor education [F (2, 337) = 1.55, p = .21] had a significant impact on a managers' job satisfaction. Similarly, gender [F (1, 340) = 3.41, p = .07], marital status [F (2, 339) = 2.00, p = .14], and working experience [F (3, 336) = .50, p = .69] had no significant impact.

A Pearson correlation analysis was conducted to test the relationship between job stress and job satisfaction, and a small but significant negative correlation was found (r = -.25, p < .001). Linear regression analysis indicated that the eight stress factors could predict 23% of job satisfaction [R2 = .23, F (8, 330) = 12.13, p < .0011, with work relationships (Beta = -.44, p <.001), organizational climate (Beta = -.36, p < .001), home/work balance (Beta = .26, p < .01), and personal responsibility (Beta = .23, p < .01) being the four most significant predictors of job satisfaction. Independent samples t-tests were further conducted to compare each stress factor for males and females. No significant gender difference was found.


Managers and administrators in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong generally perceived moderate stress and job satisfaction. This finding was encouraging for the industry, but it does not mean that the job stress issue is not important for this particular population. Sport and recreation is a rapid growing industry in Hong Kong, and managers play an important role in boosting growth. The industry has some unique characteristics, such as sport and recreation event organizing. Event management is project-based, so at certain stages a manager's job stress could increase.

An interesting finding of the present study was that government administrators reported higher stress levels than their NGO counterparts. This is not in agreement with Bogg and Cooper (1995), who found that civil servants in the United Kingdom perceived lower stress than private-sector executives. A possible explanation for the differences in these findings is that the data were collected during two different time periods. For the present study, data were collected several months before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, so government administrators were working within a very tight schedule to ensure the success of hosting the Equestrian Games in Hong Kong. Therefore, they may have perceived higher levels of stress due to their personal responsibilities and workloads.

Surprisingly, the present study did not find gender differences in the job-stress levels among the sport and recreation managers and administrators. This is in contrast to a number of previous studies with business managers in Hong Kong and Taiwan that reported women experiencing higher levels of stress than men (Siu et al., 1999). In addition, women business managers were more affected by some stressors (e.g., managerial role) than their male counterparts. Lu et al. (1999) argued that the managerial role was more masculine, requiring characteristics such as toughness and assertiveness, which may conflict with the socially accepted traits of femininity. It was also noted that in those studies, there were about 20% more male respondents than female respondents, yet in the present study, female respondents accounted for 57.7% of the total sample. With convenience sampling used in this study, it is hard to tell if the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong is truly female-dominated. It is possible that this study, compared to the others, included more females. It is also possible that the number of females in sport administration is growing in Hong Kong. Another possible reason for our unique findings may be that gender differences in leadership styles are lessening, or that women in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong are experiencing lower levels of stress and higher levels of acceptance than their female counterparts in the business world or in sports administration in other countries. Clearly, additional research is needed because if it is true that women in managerial roles in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong are experiencing less job stress, more growth in opportunities, and more acceptance than women in managerial roles in business or in sport in other parts of the world, the women of Hong Kong should be studied and emulated. If we can learn more about the factors that make this population so unique (and less stressed), we can translate that information to other sectors of employment and to other areas in the world so that healthy and successful leadership opportunities for women will continue to increase.

Another interesting finding was that job stress differed by age. Specifically, individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 years old had higher stress levels than those younger than 25 or older than 45 years old. These differences could occur because individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 may be experiencing role conflict or additional pressures as parents or spouses that younger and older workers may not experience.

The present study reported a small but significant negative correlation between job stress and job satisfaction among managerial staff working in the sport and recreation industry in Hong Kong, which is in agreement with previous research (Cotton & Tuttle, 1986; Lu et at., 1999). Significant predictors of job satisfaction (out of the eight tested) were relationships at work, organizational climate, home/work balance, and personal responsibilities.

"Relationships at work," referring to relationships between subordinates and supervisors, were significantly linked to job satisfaction. It is logical that when subordinates do not get along with their supervisors, job stress will increase and job satisfaction will decrease. Lu et al. (1999) reported a similar finding in that relationships were one of the top stressors in Taiwanese business managers. The implications of this finding are that organizations should foster positive working relationships and provide conflict resolution resources to supervisors and subordinates (e.g., ombudsmen).

Organizational climate was also a statistically significant predictor of job satisfaction. This is in agreement with Bogg and Cooper (1995), who also reported that organizational climate was a significant determinant for senior civil servants' job satisfaction. Organizations should work to foster mutual support and open communication among employees. A supportive work environment not only enhances job satisfaction, but also protects employee health (Taylor, 2008).

Home/work balance was a third significant predictor of job satisfaction, which is in agreement with previous research (OSH, 2002). Managers need to work on their personal time-management skills and learn how to allocate and balance their time between work and family. More seasoned administrators would concur that family time should not be sacrificed for occupational achievement; however, idealism and reality are often two different concepts. It was interesting that females in this study did not show significantly higher stress levels than males in the dual role of working and taking care of family, but previous research has shown mixed results (Maki, Moore & Grunberg, 2005). Some researchers found that women could experience significantly more stress due to time demands of both work and family, whereas others found that individuals were able to balance the work and home demands. Regardless of gender or stress level, it is clear that organizations having better arrangements for reducing employee work-life conflicts see enhanced retention (Decry, 2008).

Finally, personal responsibility was a fourth significant predictor of job satisfaction. Taking personal responsibility in managerial work often involves making important decisions, exercising power, and tolerating uncertainties. Such responsibilities, as noted by other researchers (Lu et al., 1999; Siu, Cooper, & Donald, 1997), may cause distress among Chinese managers as the Chinese culture values "guanxi" (meaning relationships). Sometimes, making important decisions and exercising power may negatively affect others (e.g., colleagues, important clients), which might spoil the "guanxi." However, possessing such decision-making power may at the same time be a symbol of social status. As a result, although managers feel stressed about taking on difficult responsibilities, they are still satisfied with being able to do so.

While the aforementioned factors play a role, they predicted only 23% of job satisfaction. This indicates that other factors, not yet established in this questionnaire or this study, may play a role in job satisfaction. For example, it is possible that factors such as personality characteristics, organizational resources, and employee training could play a role.

The bottom line is that organizations can help reduce or eliminate administrators' job stress, which should improve job satisfaction. Cartwright and Boyes (2000) provided several recommendations. First, organizations should conduct a stress audit using a previously validated questionnaire such as the OSI. A stress audit can raise awareness and it should be the first step in a stress-management program. Sport and physical education experts also strongly recommend regular physical exercise as a stress-management strategy, as it can facilitate physiological changes that negate the unhealthy aspects of stress (Burnham & Wilcox, 2002; Nabkasorn et al., 2006.). A third strategy is to implement workshops that enable managers to improve their communication and time-management skills.

Despite our novel findings, there are some limitations to this study. Due to the unique characteristics of sport and recreation managers in Hong Kong, these findings may not be generalized to other managerial populations. The major stressors and the relationship between stress and job satisfaction can vary, depending on the employment environment and culture. Convenience sampling also limits the interpretation of the study findings.

Future researchers may wish to investigate the relationship between stress and job satisfaction in sport managers in other parts of the world, study the strategies that can help sport managers to cope with stress in order to maintain a high level of job satisfaction, or examine this unique population that does not demonstrate gender differences in job stress and job satisfaction.


The present study, for the first time, investigated the issue of job stress among the sport and recreation managers in Hong Kong. Levels of stress varied by employment setting and age, but not by gender, marital status, or years of experience. Differences in job satisfaction based on job sector, age, education, gender, marital status, or years of experience were not evident. There were four factors that were statistically significant predictors of job satisfaction: relationships at work, organizational climate, home/work balance, and personal responsibilities. If specific sources of job stress and job satisfaction are known, employers can do a better job retaining their workforce.


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Mei Du, East China University of Science and Technology; Mee-Lee Leung & Frank H. Fu, Hong Kong Baptist University; Lynda Ransdell, Boise State University


Mei Du School of Sports Science and Technology 130 Meilong Road, Xuhui District Shanghai, China 200237


Phone: 86-13817946811

Fax: 86-21-64252919
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Title Annotation:Original Research Article
Author:Du, Mei; Leung, Mee-Lee; Fu, Frank H.; Ransdell, Lynda
Publication:Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9HONG
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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