Shared Stressors and Stress Coping Strategies in Start-up Teams
Keywords:entrepreneurial stress, shared stressors, communal stress coping, start-ups, teams, entrepreneurial well-being
Engaging in new entrepreneurial efforts sets many demands for individuals involved, and many of those demands impact the well-being of the people in a start-up company. One common issue linked to well-being is stress. Prior research has indicated that a majority of all entrepreneurs experience stress on a regular basis (e.g. Shepherd et al., 2010). Furthermore, a recent study by Wach et al. (2021) identified that entrepreneurial stress differs from the stress that salaried employees with no entrepreneurship responsibility face in their work. The “overall high and persistence level of stress” (Wach et al., 2021) calls for stress research focusing on entrepreneurial setup. Since entrepreneurship is a wide concept and entrepreneurs as a category includes a wide variety of entrepreneurial individuals and teams, an even tighter scoping of stress research is defendable.
This study studied a sub-category of entrepreneurial organizations called early-stage start-ups. This cohort of companies faces lots of uncertainties concerning the market, technology, and competition. Thus, it can be logically argued that these companies have stressors that are typical to their stage of development as well as difficult to solve due to the scarce resources that a young start-up possesses.
The research design adopted was based on treating entrepreneurial stress as a collective effort as well as putting emphasis on the dynamic and volatile nature of the presence of stress in daily start-up operations. The longitudinal approach (study period of 3 weeks) and team-based fresh (video) entries by the teams (4 start-up teams of 2 to 5 people each) were tackling some of the methodological challenges of prior research. Both the experienced stressors and the coping strategies used got recorded and subjected to thematic content analysis. The findings identified stress-related characteristics typical for team-based operating model and also communal coping strategies including those that are rarely reported in the studies of coping strategies on the individual level. The findings contribute academically to the theory-building on the well-being of entrepreneurs and on a pragmatic level for entrepreneurs acting in their typically stress-laden environment as well as for the support and educational organizations for entrepreneurship.