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Timms, C., Brough, P. & Graham, D. (2012). Burnt-out but engaged: The co-existence of psychological burnout and engagement. Journal of Educational Administration, 50(3), 327-345. doi:


Document 2 of 6 Burnt-out but engaged: the co-existence of psychological burnout and engagement Author: Timms, Carolyn; Brough, Paula; Graham, Deborah ProQuest document link

Abstract: Purpose - This research sought to identify groups of school employees who were more similar in their responses to burnout and engagement measures, for the purpose of exploring what was similar in their school experiences. The profiles created in the present research enable a clearer appreciation of what is common to groups of school employees who are experiencing empowerment, ambivalence or distress in their work environments. Design/methodology/approach - The current research used K-means cluster analysis to identify school employees (n=953) who were most similar in regard to levels of burnout and engagement in order to achieve some sense of what was common at a group level. Findings - This process identified five distinct respondent profiles using the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI) and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES). Subsequent MANOVA analyses identified significant differences between cluster groups on the six areas of work-life (control, workload, reward, community, fairness and values) and hours of work. Practical implications - One of the most pressing problems faced by school administrators is that of identifying the most

appropriate and strategic interventions to use with teaching staff in order to maintain motivation in the face of

work pressures. The current research provides some practical insights into the experiences of school employees that may provide direction for such administrators. Originality/value - By grouping respondents with similar attitudes towards their work this research has provided for more insight into the experiences to those

respondents who do not fall at either end of the burnout-engagement continuum. As such it provides for more effective intervention strategies with employees who are at-risk. Links: Check for Full Text Full text: The incidence of psychological burnout within organisations has been the subject of research since the condition was first described by [14] Freudenberger (1974). Burnout's signature symptoms of worker exhaustion and cynicism ([37] Maslach et al. , 2001) have repercussions in terms of workers' negative perceptions of their jobs and ensuing implications for their mental health including reductions in dedication and enthusiasm, symptoms which are reduced performance, reduced initiative and creativity, and increased turnover and absenteeism ([13] Fink, 2003; [35] Maslach and Leiter, 1997). This experience can be particularly devastating for teachers who often view career success in terms of personal fulfilment ([15] Friedman, 2000). According to

Friedman, the actual experience of teaching collided with novice teachers' expectations of a meaningful and

fulfilling career. Friedman saw this as an existential crisis to which many people responded by becoming burned out. According to Friedman, this led people to either adapt and recuperate or relinquish the profession. Research demonstrating how burnout develops within a particular organisational context can be highly valuable

for the application of intervention strategies that focus on changing the adverse environmental predictors of employee distress (e.g. [4] Brough et al. , 2009; [12] Dworkin, 2001). Work engagement on the other hand has been described as an antithesis to burnout: engagement is characterised by individual perceptions of energy, effectiveness, and motivation at work ([46] Schaufeli and Bakker, 2003) and a feeling that work is meaningful and fulfilling ([44] Saks, 2006). Saks' viewpoint in relation to engagement provides a mirror-reflection of [40] Pines (1993)4, p. 36) who maintained the source of burnout lay in a "sense of failure in the existential quest for meaning" (see also [15] Friedman, 2000) and corroborates the viewpoint of [37] Maslach et al. (2001) that burnout and engagement are opposite poles of the one construct. The research literature has found ample evidence that it is not in the best interests of organisations to ignore the proliferation of burnout among their workers ([23] Kelloway and Day, 2005). This is because work burnout is

characterised by emotional exhaustion and distancing ([37] Maslach et al. , 2001), leading to a reduction of

creative engagement and "dragging of feet" ([24] Kim and Mauborgne, 1998), withdrawal of voluntary cooperation ([13] Fink, 2003) and "working to rule" ([4] Brough et al. , 2009) all of which are counterproductive


to success ([23] Kelloway and Day, 2005; [35] Maslach and Leiter, 1997). Hence, the burnout of employees has important implications for schools and education systems as well as social and existential implications for individuals. More recent organisational research has taken the lead of the positive psychology movement ([48] Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). [45] Schaufeli (2004) suggested that just as good health is a great deal more than the absence of disease, engagement in work is a good deal more than the mere absence of burnout (see also [23] Kelloway and Day, 2005). Schaufeli's later research (e.g. [47] Schaufeli et al. , 2008) has found that engagement and burnout consistently produce negative relationships, and these relationships vary from moderate to strong (r =-0.30 to -0.65). Not only does this finding countervene previous assertions that

engagement and burnout are polar constructs, but it introduces the possibility that some individuals may experience aspects of burnout (e.g. exhaustion) and engagement (e.g. absorption) concurrently or within a short time-frame. The research of [51] Wang and Lee (2009) introduces the concept of work empowerment whereby workers

become motivated by a supportive work environment and assume an active orientation towards that environment (see also, Laschinger and [40] Finnegan, 2005; [28] Laschinger et al. , 2004; [38] May et al. , 2004). Hence, people who perceive that their work environment provides excellent avenues of communication and promotes their sense of control, feelings of mastery, esteem and belonging, are likely to be "empowered" and to be involved in creative thinking, innovation and increased productivity (e.g. [20] Kanter, 1977). From an educational perspective, and further indicating close linkages between work burnout and engagement, [7] Byrne

(1994) associated aspects of burnout (cynicism and emotional exhaustion) with demise of such sources of teacher empowerment. The research-practice gap While academic debate continues in regard to the nature of burnout and engagement ([30] Leiter and Maslach,

2004; [46] Schaufeli and Bakker, 2003), administrative personnel in organisations have to make daily decisions 22 March 2014 Page 9 of 81 ProQuest that affect outcomes in the workplace and the well-being of individuals. [3] Barlow and Nock (2009) noted that management personnel struggle with applicability of findings from academic research to particular situations

and often promote unconstructive practices. An example of this was provided by [34] Maslach and Goldberg (1998) who reported that many managers regard workers' burnout as a sign of individual weakness and hence unsuitability for the job. [17] Heaney and van Ryn (1990, p. 418) observed that organisational stress intervention programs (often established for the best of intentions) "fall prey to victim-blaming over-emphasis on individual control of the experience of stress". This has resonance with [2] Bakker and Demerouti's (2007) observation that theoretical understanding of how burnout develops has been obscured by an overabundance of clinically oriented but individually-focused organisational interventions. Regrettably, the mindset that blames the individual leads to exacerbation, rather than relief of burnout with dire consequences for organisations.

[42] Rynes et al. (2002, p. 164) found that "the biggest gaps between research findings and practitioner beliefs concern some of the most central issues in HR: first, how to choose the best employees and, second, how to effectively motivate them through appropriate goal-setting and effective performance management". [43] Saari

and Judge (2004) suggested this research-practice gap is attributable to a lack of accessibility of academic research to people unfamiliar with advanced statistical techniques. Saari and Judge's observation is pertinent in view of the fact that theoretical investigations invariably involve empirical studies that use large samples of

respondents (nomothetic research). According to [26] Lamiell (2007, p. 173) the problem with such studies is

that "variation and co-variation studies actually generate knowledge about attributes, with the individuals serving in such studies merely as "place-holders" along the scales of measurement used to define quantitatively the variable(s) of interest". This is an interesting observation in view of the fact that research in organisational processes is essentially about people and its purpose is to improve organisational functioning. The onus then is placed on researchers to produce robust theoretical research illustrated by appropriate analyses which have both a direct practical application, and which are understood by a wide readership. The current research This research suggests that common work characteristics produce varying levels of engagement and burnout which are experienced simultaneously by individual workers ([47] Schaufeli et al. , 2008). The current research also aims to reduce the research-practice gap in this field by providing analyses that are recognised for their

practical interpretation. Consequently, an important aim of the current research is to identify characteristic

respondent profiles in regard to worker burnout and engagement. It is posited that this will provide a more efficacious base on which organisational psychologists and school administrations can target measurably


effective interventions in the interest of improving employee mental health and improve educational outcomes. This is because the profiles so identified will be readily recognisable. The current study focuses on the experiences of members of the Queensland Independent Education Union ([41] QIEU, 2005). The QIEU represents school employees in Independent schools (which constitute one-third of schools) in Queensland, Australia. The QIEU reported that members experienced "increased content of jobs (often through understaffing), less time for rest breaks, balancing more simultaneous demands, deadline tightening and the concept of working until the job is done" ([41] QIEU, 2005, p. 1). Like teachers elsewhere (e.g. [13] Fink, 2003) teachers in Queensland have experienced a mandatory increase in accountability measures that involve increasing amounts of paperwork (e.g. [39] NAPLAN, 2011). Time that is necessary to

complete requisite paperwork is never factored into the school day ([19] Howe, 2005, [50] Timms et al. , 2007). Within this context the research specifically tests the following hypotheses:

H1. Burnout and engagement co-exist at varying levels, as evidenced by the production of distinct groups (clusters) of responses to these variables.

H2. The burnout and engagement clusters will demonstrate criterion-related validity with common measures of the school environment. In regard to H2 , which will be tested using the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), it is noted that [31] Leiter and 22 March 2014 Page 10 of 81 ProQuest Maslach (2006) framed their measures in terms of respondents' "match" or "mismatch" with the work environment. Of the six areas of worklife (control, reward, community, fairness and values), five can be

expected to have clear positive relationships with work engagement and negative relationships with work burnout ([27] Laschinger and Finegan, 2005; [36] Maslach and Leiter, 2008). Given that previous research (e.g. [6] Brough and Williams, 2007; [27] Laschinger and Finegan, 2005; [36] Maslach and Leiter, 2008) has found that workplace fairness was a critical factor in the erosion of work engagement and in the development of burnout the following sub-hypotheses of H3 are advanced:

H2.1 Fairness will demonstrate significant positive relationships with those groups that are high in work engagement and negative relationships with those groups that are high in work burnout. H2.1 It is hypothesised that control, reward, community and values will demonstrate significant positive

relationships with those groups that are high in work engagement and negative relationships with those groups that are high in work burnout. H2.3 It is hypothesised that high workload and longer work hours reported by respondents will be consistent with increased exhaustion reported by groups that are high in burnout. Finally, it is noted that [15] Friedman (2000) indicated that those teachers experiencing burnout tended to be new to the profession. As most novice teachers are invariably younger than their more experienced colleagues it is expected that younger school employees will be more highly represented in the groups that are high in burnout.

Method Participants and procedure This research is based on self-report responses to two independent research investigations, grouped into one

sample for convenience. Respondents to both investigations responded to pen and paper surveys distributed to

members of an Australian education union at different times. Surveys were distributed to members of the Queensland Independent Education Union (QIEU) in Australia by means of a random draw of the membership database on two separate occasions. Members of QIEU include teachers, principals, school officers, services

staff and early childhood education staff; with teachers constituting the majority. On the first occasion surveys were posted to 1,000 union members and a response rate of 25 per cent ( n =248) of completed surveys was achieved. On the second occasion the survey was distributed to 2,800 different union members and also yielded a response rate of 25 per cent (n =705) respondents. The combined dataset from the two data collections comprised 252 (26.5 per cent) male and 701 (73.5 per cent) female respondents. The mean age of respondents fell within the 45 to 49 year age banding (age range between 20 to 60+ years). This is consistent with figures reported in an Australian Department of, Education, Science and Training report ([11] DEST, 2003), which cited the median age of Australian teachers as 43 years. Respondents reported working from 5 ( n =3, 0.4 per cent) hours to 105 (n =3, 0.4 per cent) hours per week with a mean of 46 hours (SD =12.88). Most employees worked on a full-time basis (n =745; 78 per cent), 188 (20 per cent) respondents worked part-time

and the remaining 17 respondents (2 per cent) were employed on a casual basis. Qualitative responses from

the three individuals who reported working extremely long hours (> 80 hours per week) demonstrated that two of these three people were employed as specialist teachers involved in the production of school productions (a


drama and a music teacher) and the third was a physical education teacher whose role involved taking students away on school camps throughout the semester. Measures Work engagement. The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES; [46] Schaufeli and Bakker, 2003) was employed to assess individual levels of work engagement. The UWES consists of three subscales:

dedication (e.g. "I am proud of the work that I do"); vigour (e.g. "At my job I feel strong and vigorous"); and absorption (e.g. "Time flies when I am working"). 22 March 2014 Page 11 of 81 ProQuest

Responses are recorded on a seven-point frequency scale from 0 (never) to 6 (always). High scores therefore high levels of dedication, vigour and absorption. Estimates of internal reliability (Cronbach's alpha) were acceptable for all three subscales, dedication: 0.83; vigour: 0.77; and absorption: 0.77. Psychological burnout. The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI; [10] Demerouti et al. , 2002) was employed to

measure burnout. The OLBI consists of two subscales:

exhaustion (e.g. "There are days when I feel tired before I arrive at work"); and disengagement (e.g. "It happens more and more often that I talk about my work in a negative way"). Responses are recorded on a four-point scale from 1 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree). High scores indicate high burnout. Estimates of internal reliability (Cronbach's alpha) were acceptable for both subscales within the two respective samples; exhaustion: 0.76 and disengagement: 0.73.

Work environment. Six aspects of the work environment were assessed by six subscales from the Areas of Work-life Survey (AWS; [31] Leiter and Maslach, 2006). All responses are recorded on a five-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). High scores therefore indicate higher levels of each work characteristic. The six subscales consist of:

Workload (six-items), for example: "I have enough time to do what's important in my job";

Control (three-items), for example: "I have control over how I do my work"; Reward (four-items), for example: "My work is appreciated"; Community (five-items), for example: "I am a member of a supportive work group";

Fairness (six-items), for example: "Management treats all employees fairly"; and Values (five-items), for example: "My values and the organisation's are alike". Cronbach's alpha estimates for the six subscales were acceptable, ranging from 0.72 to 0.83 (see Table I [Figure omitted. See Article Image.]). Data analyses Missing data were addressed using expectation maximisation in SPSS. K -means cluster analysis was deemed to be the most expeditious method of grouping the respondents who were most similar in the defining variables ([8] Clatworthy et al. , 2005). K -means cluster analysis is most commonly used in medical research to classify groups of similar individuals in the interests of designing the most appropriate interventions ([32] McLachlan, 1992). [8] Clatworthy et al. (2005) suggested, because it highlights distinctive patterns of responses, that cluster

analysis is useful for tailoring interventions in health psychology. For example, [9] Cortina and Wasti (2005)

successfully used K -means cluster analysis to classify three types of coping behaviour (detached, avoidant negotiating and support seeking) in women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. In the current research it was decided to use K -means cluster analysis to pin-point employee experience at five points on the

continuum between high work engagement and severe burnout:

high work engagement; moderate work engagement; ambivalence; moderate burnout; and severe burnout. The pre-determined number of clusters technique was referred to by [32] McLachlan (1992, p. 32) as a "mixture-likelihood based approach to clustering". According to McLachlan it is of considerable utility because it assumes a well-defined model where data can be classified according to existing theory. Initial analyses were conducted with random samples from the data set extracting 50 per cent to ensure that results were consistent. Following previous recommendations ([9] Cortina and Wasti, 2005), confirmation of the five distinct clusters

were found in: equivalence and extent of Euclidean distance between the groups in each data set; the

distribution of the burnout and engagement variable means; and identification of two distinct groups who reported work engagement at differing intensities, two distinct groups who reported work burnout, and a middle


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group who reported neither burnout nor engagement.


The bivariate correlations and scale reliabilities are displayed on Table I [Figure omitted. See Article Image.]. Significant negative correlations were produced between dedication and disengagement (r =-0.63, p <0.001) supporting H1 concerning a negative relationship between the burnout and engagement variables. Workload was significantly and positively associated with both exhaustion (r =0.63, p <0.001, thus generally supporting H2.3 ), and surprisingly with absorption (r =0.24, p <0.001). Similarly disengagement produced significant

negative correlations with reward (r =-0.39, p <0.001) and values (r =-0.45, p <0.001), thus supporting

expectations in H2.1 . Table II [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] provides the mean scores and standard deviations of the research variables. K-means cluster analyses


test H1 , K-means cluster analyses were conducted. The five clusters were assigned group names reflecting


distribution of each of the burnout and engagement constructs based on existing theory. The standardised

scores at the centre of each group of the resulting five clusters are listed in Table III [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] and illustrated in Figure 1 [Figure omitted. See Article Image.]. The first cluster produced comparatively high scores for engagement and low scores for burnout and so was named the Empowered group. The Empowered group represented 18 per cent ( n =171), the second cluster (Under-pressure) also produced above mean scores for the engagement variables and above mean scores for the burnout dimension of exhaustion.

Under-pressure respondents were therefore dedicated and absorbed by their work, but were also affected by

exhaustion and tended to ambivalence in regard to the engagement variable of vigour. Accordingly 24 per cent (

n =233) of respondents, were represented by the Under-pressure group. Mean scores for the third Unengaged

cluster were more variant compared to the other groups. Respondents in the Unengaged group indicated they

were not exhausted or absorbed in their work and were ambivalent in regards to dedication and vigour. Accordingly 23 per cent ( n =219) were described by the Unengaged group.

Finally, the fourth and fifth clusters (Burnout and Severe Burnout) demonstrated different levels of severity of burnout with above mean scores for the burnout variables of exhaustion and disengagement. The Burnout

group contained one quarter of respondents (26 per cent; n =248) and The Severe Burnout group represented 9

per cent (n =82). Table IV [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] presents the Euclidean distances between the

centres of the groups identified in the K -means cluster analysis and demonstrates that the five groups were

clearly defined, with the largest distance occurring between the two extreme groups of Empowered and Severe Burnout. Age group and gender distribution relation to clusters

In order to ascertain possible influence of age and gender in regard to cluster distribution, two Chi -square-


tests were conducted on these categorical variables (age groups, gender and cluster membership). There was a significant relationship between gender and cluster membership χ2 (4)=10.05, p <0.05 and also between age group and cluster membership χ2 (32)=2.61, p <0.05. Subsequent Cramer's -Vtests

however provided evidence that these associations (although significant) were small with r =0.10 for gender and r =0.12 for age groups. Table V [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] provides details of respondents' gender and age groups in relation to their cluster membership. All age groups were represented in all clusters

however, consistent with the finding for significance, some slight trends were evident. The majority ( n =107,

62.5 per cent) of members of the Empowered group were over 45 years old and the majority (n =48, 58.7 per cent) of members of the Severe burnout group were less than 45 years old. Cluster validation via MANOVA analyses Finally, to test H3 , the criterion-related validity of each of the five clusters was tested with the six Areas of Worklife variables ([31] Leiter and Maslach, 2006) plus work hours. Control, workload, reward, community, fairness, values and work hours were assessed in relation to each cluster via one-way between-groups

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multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA). The level of probability for these analyses was set at 0.008 using

a Bonferroni adjustment, which was surpassed in all cases. The results of the analyses are presented in Table

VI [Figure omitted. See Article Image.], where it can be seen that significant results were produced on all counts

with reasonably large effect sizes for the AWS variables. The Empowered group for example, produced higher

means scores for five of the six work environment variables, compared to the other respondent groups. Workload was unique in producing a differing pattern of mean scores: respondents from the Under-pressure


group demonstrated higher scores in workload than did those from the Empowered group. Respondents within the Burnout and Severe Burnout groups produced lower scores for fairness, reward and workload variables, in comparison with the other respondents. As the AWS variables were measured on a five-point scale it is observed that higher scores (above 3) indicated agreement and lower scores indicated disagreement that this was respondents' experience in their school. In regard to mean work hours, the Under -pressure group reported longer work hours than all other groups (see Table VI [Figure omitted. See Article Image.]). Discussion Consistent with the research hypotheses, the cluster analyses identified groups of like-minded individuals in regard to engagement and burnout. In support of H1 the research demonstrated variations in correlations in

regard to engagement and burnout variables ranging from -0.04 (between absorption and exhaustion), to -0.63 (between dedication and disengagement) with the majority of relationships between engagement (vigour, dedication and absorption) and burnout (disengagement and exhaustion) being of moderate strength. Likewise,

the under-pressure group demonstrated that it is possible for aspects of work engagement (particularly absorption and dedication) to co-exist with exhaustion. These observations are consistent with [46] Schaufeli and Bakkers' (2003) proposal that burnout and engagement are distinct constructs and also with [49] Sonnentag's (2005) warning that long work hours that do not afford time for psychological detachment will lead inevitably to exhaustion in spite of people feeling dedicated to their work. It is noted that respondents from the Under-pressure group worked comparatively long hours. Assessments of the clusters' criterion-related validity (H2.1 to H2.3 ) provided further support for the clusters,

with distinct associations produced between the burnout and engagement groups and the areas of work-life. The positively slanted variables of control, reward, community, values and the key variable of fairness demonstrated consistency, in regard to the empowered group and the two burnout groups. This partially supports H2.1 and H2.2 . Likewise the prediction of H2.3 that higher scores on workload and longer work hours

would occur with respondents' reporting of exhaustion was supported. What was surprising about H2.3 is that in addition to the two Burnout groups, this configuration was also apparent in the Under-pressure group who reported that they were engaged in their work. Further Chi-square analyses were conducted in order to ensure that personal variables unrelated to the work environment (such as age group and gender) did not influence

cluster distribution. While these analyses did achieve significance, the actual strength of relationships were quite small, all age groups were represented all cluster groupings. Therefore, it is advanced that these other variables exerted minimal influence on cluster structure. It is however pertinent to the current findings that younger employees were more highly represented in the two Burnout groups. This was consistent with [15] Friedman's (2000) observation of burnout among novice teachers. It is also interesting to note that the majority of members of the Empowered group were in fact older employees. The empowered group The name for the first cluster grouping was derived from [27] Laschinger and Finegan's (2005) study of trust

and respect in the workplace. According to [28] Laschinger et al. (2004, p. 527) empowered workers are enabled to take "the initiative and respond creatively to the challenges of the job", because of favourable

organisational characteristics. Similarly, [20] Kanter's (1977) vision of organisational characteristics that fostered

worker empowerment included well structured and operational communication systems, workers' sense of control, mastery of and meaningfulness of their work, and a feeling of belonging that fostered self-esteem. The 22 March 2014 Page 14 of 81 ProQuest first group of educational employees identified in this research were initially judged to be empowered on the

basis of their dedication, absorption and energy for their work, and negative responses to the burnout variables of exhaustion and disengagement and supported by responses on the AWS (including fairness and community). The provision of a fair and supportive work environment (particularly reflected in administrative attitudes and behaviours) which acts to buffer employees from the development of burnout, has also been observed elsewhere (e.g. [16] Harvey et al. , 2003; [24] Kim and Mauborgne, 1998; [36] Maslach and Leiter, 2008). The importance of management attitudes was emphasised by [18] Howard and Johnson (2004) who found that such support was instrumental in building teacher resilience in spite of problematic student (and sometimes parent) behaviour in low socio-economic areas. The ability of such supportive work environments to actually protect workers from experiencing burnout is an interesting observation and provides further impetus to the research identifying how school administrations may work actively to directly influence employee health and performance

outcomes via the provision of adequate supervisor support in particular (e.g. [5] Brough and Pears, 2004; [27]

Laschinger and Finegan, 2005; [36] Maslach and Leiter, 2008). The under-pressure group


Respondents in the Under-pressure group differed from the Empowered group in that although they tended to report that they were engaged in their work they also reported exhaustion, a correspondingly high workload and long work hours. As the Under-pressure group also indicated reasonably high levels of absorption it is posited that these educational employees may find their work absorption to be a "two edged sword". [49] Sonnentag (2005) for example, suggested that a lack of opportunity for "down time" from work is associated with involuntary detachment and disengagement from work (i.e. cynicism), even though people might well find their work absorbing. According to [49] Sonnentag (2005, p. 273), people who are unable to "switch off job related thoughts" and devote their undivided attention to non-work matters, are at risk of developing the involuntary detachment that is characteristic of the cynicism (disengagement) component of burnout. [47] Schaufeli et al.

(2008) found that the absorption component of work engagement also loaded with workaholism. [47] Schafeli et

al. (2008) believed that workaholism is distinguished by compulsion to work rather than enjoyment of work, whereas [33] McMillan and O'Driscoll (2008) indicated that workaholics find this compulsion to work enjoyable.

While the current study did not include a measure of workaholism; it is possible that the experiences of the under-pressure cluster capture some of its characteristics. Clearly, respondents in this group were exhausted, their high dedication and absorption has resonance with [33] McMillan and O'Driscoll's (2008) account of workaholism. Moreover, the fact that this group reported longer work hours and increased exhaustion echoes the previously mentioned warnings of Sonnentag that inability to achieve voluntary psychological detachment from work will have negative psychological health consequences. It is therefore suggested that school administrations who do not pay particular attention to sources of pressure in the work environments of their most dedicated employees risk an undermining of their vigour and enthusiasm for their work by means of sheer exhaustion. The unengaged group

While [47] Schaufeli et al. 's (2008) investigation did observe moderate negative correlations between the facets

of burnout and engagement, previous research has continued to investigate the experience of those who are at either end of the burnout or engagement spectrum. The defining variables within the third "Unengaged" cluster demonstrated clear indications that respondents were not exhausted but nor were they absorbed in their work. Furthermore, these workers were ambivalent in regard to dedication, disengagement and vigour. Interestingly,

this group reported comparatively short working hours, suggesting that long work hours were not necessarily responsible for their lack of work engagement. It could be assumed that these respondents are people to whom work is secondary to other aspects of their lives (e.g. increased salience of non-work aspects; [22] Kalliath and Brough, 2008) and therefore attitudes towards work are somewhat ambivalent. 22 March 2014 Page 15 of 81 ProQuest [13] Fink's (2003) observation of how teachers become de-motivated as a result of well-intended organisational reforms may also be pertinent. Fink described a school staff weighed down by increasingly intrusive bureaucratic requirements in regard to teaching and overseen by a school management team which, in order to

fulfil mandated requirements, had become "gatekeepers instead of innovators" ([13] Fink, 2003, p. 114). Fink observed that the first casualties of such changes were co-curricular activities (such as sports supervision)

which take place after school hours, and for which schools are reliant on teacher volunteers. Fink's observation

echoes that of [24] Kim and Mauborgne (1998) who suggested that withdrawal of employees' voluntary cooperation was a direct consequence of perceptions of loss of fair processes within an organisation. [21] Karasek and Theorell (1990, p. 174) also described a condition they termed "job-induced passivity" due to circumstances in which work induced "deconstruction of work capacity". According to [21] Karasek and Theorell

(1990), when people experience a chronic inability to influence outcomes within their work they develop patterns of coping that are characterised by reductions in initiative and creativity, thereby affecting organisational productivity. Indeed, these observations are consistent with those of [41] QIEU (2005) in their documentation of the work intensification experienced by their members. Important questions remain in regard to the Unengaged group, specifically: what impact does this "disengagednot burnt out condition" actually have on levels of employee health and performance? Are these ambivalent employees merely the unmotivated and passive workers as described by [21] Karasek and Theorell (1990), or has something occurred within organisational or national parameters which has caused a shift in employees' attitudes ([12] Dworkin, 2001; [13] Fink, 2003; [24] Kim and Mauborgne, 1998)? Or are these workers best described as emotionally withdrawn from work and therefore, inclined to exhibit counterproductive behaviours

such as "working to rule" and other (potentially more serious) deviant behaviours (e.g. [4] Brough et al. , 2009)?

The two burnout clusters Finally, the two burnout clusters represented a substantial proportion of the sample and were distinguished only


by the severity of the burnout experience. Research has consistently demonstrated that worker burnout has negative consequences for organisations (e.g. [2] Bakker and Demerouti, 2007; [35] Maslach and Leiter, 1997). [1] Albrecht (2002) observed that managements who did not enjoy the trust of the workforce because of perceptions of lack of integrity (as evidenced in the Burnout groups by high rates of disengagement), would be obliged to expend time and energy actively forcing compliance and dealing with opposition in their workforces, which in turn produces further resentment in workers. Research has also noted that disengagement (cynicism) develops in response to a serious exhaustion experience; serving as a coping mechanism as the individual seeks to extract some meaning from the distress experienced by their work environment (e.g. [30] Leiter and Maslach, 2004; [49] Sonnentag, 2005). While the Severe burnout group represents a small proportion of the

total sample, it is important for two reasons. First, the cluster analysis has enabled this group (with its extreme

experience) to be identified as a separate entity to others in the study. Second, it is salient that the majority of its members represented the younger age groups in the current study. [15] Friedman (2000) suggested that such

individuals wouldl seek alternative career fulfilment (see also [35] Maslach and Leiter, 1997). [12] Dworkin (2001) charted teacher burnout patterns across three waves of mandatory educational reforms in the US (1987, 1991 and 1998). According to Dworkin, the ensuing impact on teachers' work generated widespread burnout, which in itself became a coping mechanism that effectively insulated teachers because they ceased to care, and consequently, were not actively stressed by new waves of reform. The current research did not specifically target the impact of the most recent Australian Government's educational reform program ([39] NAPLAN, 2011), however, it is possible that many of the respondents in the current research faced major adjustments in their working lives because of it which in turn impacted severely on their mental well-being. Implications This research is valuable for demonstrating how workers with similar perceptions of work can be grouped

22 March 2014 Page 16 of 81 ProQuest according to their levels of psychological health. This has a practical application for the tailoring of interventions to the specific employees who are in most need of them, rather than the adoption of a general "one size fits all" approach. The identification of people whose experiences were similar to those found in the Unengaged group

(where people tended to be ambivalent to aspects of their work environment) could on the other hand, suggest that priority should be given training of school administrators. This intervention would also be appropriate for employees within the two burnout groups. Finally, employees falling within the Under-pressure group would benefit most from interventions targeting workload and work-life balance. In conclusion, this research demonstrates the value of employing cluster analyses techniques to provide specific information to organisations concerning both the actual make-up of their engaged and burnt-out workforce, and the most efficacious intervention strategies to suit these specific groups of employees. Research limitations The cross-sectional nature of this research ensured that it is only possible to observe relationships between variables, rather than determine causal directions. This research therefore requires replication within a

longitudinal research design in order to empirically test the hypothesised causal relationships. Thus, the specific

levels of burnout and engagement described by each cluster should be tested in a predictive research design assessing the work environment variables as (Time 1) antecedents. A further limitation of the current research lies in low response rates; this is a widely recognised problem of research involving surveys, which according to

[25] Krosnick (1999) would not necessarily affect substantive conclusions. It is noted that potential respondents were contacted by random draws of a membership database. This is in accordance with [25] Krosnick's (1999, p. 541) observation that, "when probability sampling methods are used, it is no longer sensible to presume that lower response rates necessarily signal lower representativeness". Conclusions The research overall demonstrated that the experience of both psychological burnout and engagement can occur simultaneously; supporting suggestions that the two constructs are independent and negatively correlated, rather than two extremes of one continuum. The research also demonstrated that the experiences of burnout and engagement are not uniform, but rather are characterised by varying levels of both constructs, which form distinctive groups. These groups in turn, are associated with specific characteristics of the work environment. Thus, this research offers an explanation for the mixed results reported in both the engagement

and burnout literature (e.g. [37] Maslach et al. , 2001; [47] Schaufeli et al. , 2008); burnout and engagement do

not exhibit linear relationships with work characteristics, but instead the associations vary according to the balance of burnout and engagement simultaneously being experienced.


In spite of a wealth of research linking the burnout experience to work environments, it would appear that many administrations continue to operate within guidelines which view the burnout experiences of their workers as signs of their individual weakness or unsuitability for the job ([24] Kim and Mauborgne, 1998; [35] Maslach and Leiter, 1997; [34] Maslach and Goldberg, 1998; [36] Maslach and Leiter, 2008). This is unfortunate in terms of lost opportunity for employees and the inability of their organisations to achieve the best outcomes. It is clear that engaged school employees are empowered to exert initiative and creative solutions to problems. It is also apparent that burnt out employees are less productive and are more likely to seek alternative work. While previous research has acknowledged that many employees fall between these two extremes, few studies have investigated their experiences though a simultaneous burnout/engagement lens. The current study, through the

identification of five specific engaged-burnout clusters of employees, has demonstrated how employees' needs

differ. Thus, a "one size fits all" approach to organisational interventions is therefore not necessarily the most effective approach. Instead interventions that specifically target these individual groups of workers are strongly recommended and are considered likely to produce improved individual and organisational outcomes.

NAPLAN Summary Report Part of this research is funded by a Griffith Health Institute Project Grant. This support is gratefully 22 March 2014 Page 17 of 81 ProQuest acknowledged. In addition, the generosity and practical assistance of Ms Roslyn McLennan and Mr Terry Burke of the Queensland Independent Education Union is gratefully acknowledged. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Congress of Applied Psychology Conference, Melbourne, Australia, July



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Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, Vol. 22, pp. 472-89. Appendix Corresponding author Carolyn Timms can be contacted at: carolyn.timms@jcu.edu.au

AuthorAffiliation Carolyn Timms, Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, and School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Brisbane, Australia Paula Brough, Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia Deborah Graham, School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Brisbane, Australia Illustration Figure 1: Groups identified in the K -means cluster analysis Table I: Bivariate correlations and reliability alphas of the research variables

Table II: Means and standard deviations of study variables Table III: Distribution of Z scores and group names assigned as a result of the cluster analysis Table IV: Proximity matrix of Euclidean distances between cluster groups

Table V: Frequency distribution of age groups and gender within cluster groups Table VI: MANOVAs, means and standard deviations of AWS variables and work hours in cluster groups Subject: Studies; Teaching; Workers; Work environment; Performance management; School employees;

Burnout; Classification: 9130: Experimental/theoretical; 8306: Schools and educational services; 6500: Employee problems Publication title: Journal of Educational Administration Volume: 50 Issue: 3 Pages: 327-345 Publication year: 2012 Publication date: 2012 Year: 2012

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing, Limited

Place of publication: Armidale Country of publication: United Kingdom Publication subject: Education


ISSN: 09578234 Source type: Scholarly Journals Language of publication: English Document type: Case study DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09578231211223338 ProQuest document ID: 1011048022 Document URL:


Copyright: Copyright Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2012

Last updated: 2012-06-15 Database: ProQuest Central