Coping with Information Technology

Coping with Information Technology

Anne Beaudry (Concordia University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-659-4.ch029
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New information technology implementations, as major modifications to existing ones, bring about changes in the work environment of individuals that trigger an important adaptation process. Extant research on the adaptation process individuals go through when a new IT is implemented in their working environment is rather limited. Furthermore, variance theories and models useful to explain IT adoption and use are not well suited to study the dynamics underlying the adaptation process. Coping theory, because it links antecedents, adaptation behaviors, and outcomes altogether, provides a rich lens through which we can study individuals’ IT-related adaptation process. A better understanding of this process will enable researchers and practitioners to understand and predict IT acceptance and related behaviors and thus to better manage them. This chapter presents coping theory, its underlying assumptions and inherent components, discusses its application, highlights the complementarities with existing models and theories currently used in IS research, and provides several avenues for future research in this area.
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Coping Theory

In psychology, there are three main models of coping (Folkman, 1992). The ego-psychology perspective considers coping as an unconscious adaptive defense mechanism that manages instinct and affect, reduces tension, and restores an individual’s psychological equilibrium (White, 1974). Defense mechanisms are structured hierarchically in terms of their maturity, and coping is one of the most mature adaptive processes along with sublimation, suppression, and humor. In the personality perspective, coping is a personality trait that reflects an ability to effectively face environmental challenges (Grasha & Kirschenbaum, 1986). Therefore, an individual’s coping behavior can be predicted by one’s coping trait, disposition, or style (Folkman, 1992). Examples of research in this stream include innovativeness (Kirton, 1976) and locus of control (Rotter, 1966). Both models, although useful for understanding some individual behaviors, have important limitations and have received, over the years, mixed support from empirical studies1.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Coping: “The cognitive and behavioral efforts exerted to manage (reduce, minimize, or tolerate) specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person” (Folkman, Lazarus, Gruen, & DeLongis, 1986; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).

Secondary Appraisal: Second step of the appraisal where one assesses the level of control one has over the situation and what can be done.

Primary Appraisal: First step of the appraisal where one assesses the importance and relevance of a given event/situation. At this stage, one determines the likely consequences of the event.

Appraisal: “The cognitive evaluation of a particular situation or event” (Lazarus, 1966). The appraisal is realized in two steps labeled primary and secondary appraisals.

Emotion-Focused Coping: Cognitive and behavioral acts performed in the aim of restoring a sense of stability (i.e. regulating emotions and reducing tensions).

Problem-Focused Coping: Cognitive and behavioral acts performed in the aim of managing the situation (i.e. solving the problem or taking advantage of it).

Coping Process: Coping Theory (Lazarus, 1966) depicts the coping process as made of two key components which continuously influence each other: appraisal and coping.

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