TerpTopics: DEMAND-CONTROL SCHEMA: Job-related stress and American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters.

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Occupational Effectiveness

"As the Paradigm Shifts"


Demand Control Theory (D-S)

Way back in 1979, an American academician named Robert Karasek was studying and theorizing about the implications of occupational stress and its impact on the employee health. 

Some years later, before 1990, a Swedish academician, Torres Theorell, pulled up a chair to join Karasek at the table of job-related stressor studies. 

Together, Karasek and Theorell developed the Demand-Control (D-C) theory. Using it, they demonstrated a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the skills, knowledge, abilities, and competencies each of us brings to work coupled with the resources and tools made available once we arrived, and the amount of occupational stress we experience. 

Using the model of D-C Theory, Karasek and Theorell were able to clarify for workers and management exactly what had been the spurs under the saddle: Chronic workforce health problems were caused or predisposed by the interactive dynamic between occupational demands and the preparedness, readiness, and abilities of employees, including environmental factors such as adequate and appropriate materials, equipment, chairs, and so on, 

They had found a gap between what was being demanded and what were the accessible controls (resources) workers could utilize to satisfy the demands - a mismatch that could make Jon and Kate's "Summer of Oh-Nine" seem, by comparison, like a stroll in the "Occupational Park." Good stuff, no doubt about it. 

Always good to get a handle on short-comings and nuisance-factors. Gives you the ammo you need to fight the good fight, fix it all up, unlearn what's not working for you and learn what to do differently or better. Phew! 

The end of this part of Karasek and Theorell's story sets the stage for the next; 2001 was only eleven short years away.


Demand Control Schema (DC-S)

In the decade that followed Karasek and Theorell's D-C theory, another team were developing their take on it.  By 2001, Robyn Dean and Robert Pollard had applied Demand-Control theory to the world and work of sign language interpreting. 

Dean and Pollard used their findings to not simply bring a customized approach to understanding and mitigating the effects of stressors endemic to our practice - all good stuff, mind you - but, now that they're on a roll, they are fundamentally shifting the paradigm within which new interpreters are prepared. 

In their Demand Control Schema (DC-S), Dean and Pollard find four discrete kinds of demands that come to bear on the interpreter at work. 

These four demand categories are: 

1. Environmental; 

2. Interpersonal; 

3. Paralinguistic; and 

4. Intrapersonal. 

Environmental Demands 

Environmental challenges are those related to setting: the required lexicon; the weather or temperature; the configuration and availability of necessary things; the tasks and job descriptions of consumers and others within their sphere of influence. 

Interpersonal Demands 

Interpersonal challenges include: personalities; understandings and misunderstandings, preconceived notions; and idiosyncrasies of those interacting with interpreting stakeholders. 

Paralinguistic Demands 

The prefix para- means alongside or beyond. Paralinguistic challenges include the stuff that accompanies or surpasses mere vocabulary or syntax; but, can make or break the communication: Is it clear? Is there an accent or dialect that impedes it? Do the stakeholders understand the subject, are they communicating concepts effectively? Is the discourse coherent? Are there "lazy communicators" involved, or is everyone equally concerned with communication success? 

Intrapersonal Demands 

Intra- means within. These are the emotional, psychological, and emotional experiences of the interpreter: Too hot? Hungry? Sleepy? Angry? Frustrated? Afraid? Confident?



The controls an interpreter might use to satisfy workplace demands include: skill; knowledge; ability; competence; decision-making experience; and any other resources she or he can call upon while on the job. Is the interpreter prepared? Does the interpreter have emergency plans in place, ready as needed? Is the interpreter making effective communication choices? Making sound cultural mediation decisions? Managing fatigue, hunger, boredom? 

Dean and Pollard have identified three critical points during which time the interpreter is called upon to make key control decisions. 

The three critical points in time are: 

1. Pre-assignment

 - education, vocabulary, subject competence; nutrition; health;

2. Assignment

 - interpretive choices; relationships with other; ethical integrity and decision-making; and

3. Post-assignment

 - reflection and analysis; professional development activities; continued ethical and professional integrity. 

Once the assignment is completed, DC-S becomes a tool to be used for analysis, the interpreter checking the effectiveness of his or her use of controls to satisfy demands.


To Learn More 

To learn more about the Demand-Control Schema (DC-S) and its potential to favorably impact interpreter education and preparedness, and, ultimately, performance effectiveness and job satisfaction, check out:


Dean and Pollard offer lectures and workshops related to DC-S.  For workshop details and information, click here.

This page was edited: 11/24/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 10, 2009.
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TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.






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