Tips for Leaders: 9. Managing Stress and Avoiding Burnout

Jan 23, 2024 | Blogs

Tips for Leaders: 9. Managing Stress and Avoiding Burnout

Jan 23, 2024 | Blogs

‘It is a common belief that there is just one dimension to job stress – work overload. Indeed, work overload is considered to be a synonym for stress. But in our Burnout model, overload is only one of six mismatches in the workplace.’ (Maslach and Leiter, 2000)

The six specific sources of burnout at work are:

1. Lack of Control. Your sense of control over what you do is undermined or limited and you don’t have a lot of say in what’s going on.

2. Values Conflict. There is a disconnect between your own core values and the core values of the organisation.

3. Insufficient Reward. You feel taken for granted, not recognised, and/or undercompensated.

4. Work Overload. Your workload is too much, too complex, or exceeds the amount of time available.

5. Unfairness. You or others are treated unfairly, there is a culture of favouritism, and promotions are seen as biased.

6. Breakdown of Community. You work with patronising colleagues, there is no mechanism for conflict resolution, and feedback is non-existent.

How can we, as school leaders, manage our own and the stress of others and help avoid burnout?

      • Understand and evaluate the pressures from external sources versus the pressures from within the organisation itself – what can you do to reduce the internal pressures?
      • Reflect whether staff have opportunities for rest and recovery and time for professional growth and development?
      • Evaluate how constructive you are in managing your own and others workload? Do you know what pressures your staff maybe facing beyond the school gates?
      • Reflect how often you recognise and value staff efforts. Social recognition for a job well done helps motivation. Do extrinsic and intrinsic motivation match the amount of effort and time put in?
      • Consider if there is a perception of unfairness? Do staff believe there is favouritism where some are praised, recognised, or rewarded more? Is there an inherent bias across the organisation? How can senior leaders make staff more aware of bias and act upon them?
      • Analyse how well you and senior leaders walk the talk regarding the school mission statement and values.
      • Find out whether staff feel comfortable with having someone in the school with whom to discuss important issues with. If you have an open-door policy, is it truly open?
      • Consider how much time is spent on building relationships within the organisation. Does everyone share the same values? How supportive and trusting are staff towards each other?
      • Have you a definition of staff wellbeing that is understood by all? Do you implement a culture of staff wellbeing that is not tokenistic?

Believe it or not, we need stress in order to live. Stress is a natural by-product, just like the wear and tear on a car. In fact, ‘eustress’ is the name given to positive stress that helps us to concentrate, be alert and perform at our best. Experiencing positive stress is good for our wellbeing.

However, if we are stressed for long periods of time, without giving our minds and bodies a chance to recover, we can start to do damage to ourselves.’  (Adrian Bethune and Emma Kell, Teacher wellbeing and self-care, 2021)

    This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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