Why do Illegitimate Tasks Cause Pain? Qualitative Job Insecurity as an Underlying Mechanism

Kottwitz, Maria U.; Otto, Kathleen; Elfering, Achim; Vásquez, Mauricio E. Garrido; Braun, Sophie; Kälin, Wolfgang (2021). Why do Illegitimate Tasks Cause Pain? Qualitative Job Insecurity as an Underlying Mechanism. Scandinavian journal of work and organizational psychology, 6(1), p. 3. Stockholm University Press 10.16993/sjwop.125

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Musculoskeletal complaints are widespread and highly relevant stress-related consequences calling for the detailed exploration of antecedents. We propose that illegitimate tasks (i.e., tasks that do not conform to an employee’s occupational role) constitute one of these work-related antecedents. This study further examines whether illegitimate tasks are associated with concerns about deteriorating working conditions (qualitative job insecurity) as a mechanism leading to musculoskeletal pain. This hypothesis was tested in a German longitudinal sample with 109 employees using a time lag of six weeks. Supporting our assumptions, the results revealed an indirect effect of qualitative job insecurity on the relationship between illegitimate tasks and musculoskeletal pain controlling for the initial level of musculoskeletal pain. The underlying effects remained significant under control of age, sex, and type of contract. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show that illegitimate tasks predict musculoskeletal complaints by raising concerns about future deterioration in working conditions. Especially when it seems unavoidable to assign tasks that do not correspond to an employee’s occupational role, supervisors should make sure that illegitimate tasks are distributed fairly among team members and conveyed in an appreciative manner.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Work and Organisational Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Kottwitz, Maria Undine, Elfering, Achim, Kälin, Wolfgang


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Stockholm University Press




Christine Soltermann

Date Deposited:

04 Mar 2022 14:40

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:35

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

mediator; musculoskeletal pain; stress; threat; working conditions





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