Scientific article
Open access

Illegitimate tasks as a source of work stress

Published inWork & Stress, vol. 29, no. 1, p. 32-56
Publication date2015

Illegitimate tasks represent a task-level stressor derived from role and justice theories within the framework of “Stress-as–Offense-to-Self” (SOS; Semmer, Jacobshagen, Meier, & Elfering, 2007). Tasks are illegitimate if they violate norms about what an employee can properly be expected to do, because they are perceived as unnecessary or unreasonable; they imply a threat to one's professional identity. We report three studies testing associations between illegitimate tasks and well-being/strain. In two cross-sectional studies, illegitimate tasks predicted low self-esteem, feelings of resentment towards one's organization and burnout, controlling for role conflict, distributive injustice and social stressors in Study 1, and for distributive and procedural/interactional justice in Study 2. In Study 3, illegitimate tasks predicted two strain variables (feelings of resentment towards one's organization and irritability) over a period of two months, controlling for initial values of strain. Results confirm the unique contribution of illegitimate tasks to well-being and strain, beyond the effects of other predictors. Moreover, Study 3 demonstrated that illegitimate tasks predicted strain, rather than being predicted by it. We therefore conclude that illegitimate tasks represent an aspect of job design that deserves more attention, both in research and in decisions about task assignments.

  • Threat to self
  • Well-being
  • Strain
  • Fairness
  • Justice
  • Role stress
  • Self
  • Job design
Research group
Citation (ISO format)
SEMMER, Norbert K. et al. Illegitimate tasks as a source of work stress. In: Work & Stress, 2015, vol. 29, n° 1, p. 32–56. doi: 10.1080/02678373.2014.1003996
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0267-8373

Technical informations

Creation10/10/2017 11:42:00 AM
First validation10/10/2017 11:42:00 AM
Update time03/15/2023 2:15:04 AM
Status update03/15/2023 2:15:03 AM
Last indexation01/17/2024 1:10:52 AM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack