June 01, 2008

The mistreated teacher: a national study

Purpose – This study seeks to identify 172 American elementary, middle, and high school teachers' perceptions of the major sources and intensity of the experience of mistreatment by a principal, the effects of such mistreatment, how these perceptions varied by demographic variables, teachers' coping skills, and teachers' perceptions of contributing factors.

The authors: Joseph Blase, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
Jo Blase, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
Fengning Du, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California, USA

...With respect to teachers, several large-scale international studies of workplace mistreatment/abuse across occupations in Great Britain (Hoel and Cooper, 2000), Sweden (Leymann, 1992b), Norway (Matthiesen et al., 1989), Ireland (Irish Taskforce on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, 2001), and Australia (Queensland Government Workplace Bullying Taskforce, 2002) indicate that public school teachers are among the high- risk occupations for mistreatment/abuse. In fact, one of the most prominent web sites in the world devoted to workplace mistreatment (www.bullybusters.org) has reported that teachers were among the largest group of abused workers, and another high-profile web site (www.bullyonline.org) reported that teachers were the largest group of enquirers and callers. Recently, the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse (NAPTA) launched a web site (www.endteacherabuse.org) devoted to addressing the specific problem of teacher abuse...

Effects of abuse

A great deal of research has emphasized the deleterious effects of abusive workplace conduct on a victim's psychological-emotional health, physical-physiological health, work performance and relationships with coworkers, and personal life. Examples of negative effects on psychological-emotional health that appear in the research literature include the following: reduced job satisfaction, negative feelings (e.g., desperation, incompetence, inadequacy, embarrassment, guilt, shame, self-doubt, loneliness, powerlessness), loss of concentration, obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts, distrust, cynicism, anxiety, emotional exhaustion, compulsivity, burnout, disorientation, shock, chronic fear, sociophobia, panic attacks, hypervigilance, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, suicidal thoughts, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Negative effects of mistreatment/abuse on physical-physiological health include hair loss, back and neck pain, headaches and migraines, skin disorders, racing heart rate, loss of strength, significant weight changes (loss or gain), ulcers, chest pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, high blood pressure, angina, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ, heart arrhythmia, and heart attacks. Negative effects on work performance and relationships with coworkers revealed by research include work impairment (i.e. decreases in initiative, creativity, risk taking, commitment, concentration, effort, work time, ability to do job), distrust, tardiness, absenteeism, voluntary attrition, stress and strain, job mistakes, sabotage, social withdrawal, isolation from colleagues, deterioration of relationships, impaired individual and group decision making, thoughts of quitting, change of career goals, withdrawal from extra-role and social involvements, and deterioration of quality of relationships with clients. Effects on family and personal life include increases in family conflict and deterioration of relationships among family members, and loss of friendships...

Stress is considered an interactional phenomenon; it is a function of perceived situational demands and an individual's perceived ability to cope with such demands. Stress and strain result from a perceived imbalance between situational demands and perceived coping abilities. When individual coping proves to be ineffective and exposure to stressors prolonged, structural and functional damage to an individual can be expected (Cox, 1978). Keashly (1998, 2001) argued that because of relative power differences, mistreatment/abuse by a superior will tend to significantly undermine a victim's coping abilities. To wit, a limited number of studies have investigated victims' coping responses to abusive superiors. In general, such studies indicate that direct action by a victim (e.g., reporting an abuser to a superior or a union) resulted in no response, efforts to protect the abuser, or reprisals against the victim...

Effects of principal mistreatment

The ten most frequently reported effects on teachers participating in our survey were (in rank order) as follows: stress (90.7 percent of participants), resentment (80.8 percent), anger (75 percent), insecurity (70.3 percent), a sense of injustice and moral outrage (70.3 percent), self-doubt (68 percent), anxiety (65.7 percent), sense of powerlessness (64.5 percent), maintenance of silence (64 percent), and bitterness (64 percent) (see Table II). The least frequently reported effects of principal mistreatment were use of alcohol (14.5 percent of the participants), worsened allergies or asthma (14 percent), smoking (12.2 percent), ulcers (3.5 percent), use of illegal drugs (1.7 percent), and PTSD (0 percent).

With regard to teaching, participants were asked, “Overall, how much did your principal's mistreatment undermine your effectiveness as a teacher”: 4.1 percent of the teachers responded not at all, 18.6 percent responded minimally, and 27.3 percent, 28.5 percent, and 21.5 percent responded moderately, significantly, and severely, respectively. In short, 77.3 percent indicated that principal mistreatment markedly undermined teaching...

Losing one's career

Zapf and Gross (2001) found that victims of long-term bullying advised others to leave their place of employment more often (22 percent) than they advised any other coping strategy. The Irish Taskforce on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying (2001) reported that 11 percent of those who recently had been bullied quit their jobs, and 14 percent indicated that they had considered withdrawing from the labor force completely. Furthermore, The External Advisory Committee on the Defence Forces (2002) found that 51 percent of mistreated victims had applied for a transfer or thought about leaving their jobs. Similarly, in our current study of teachers, slightly over half of the participants indicated that principal mistreatment was so harmful that they were unable to cope, and over three-quarters (76.7 percent) reported that they would leave their teaching positions because of the harm caused by their principal's mistreatment. Even more alarming, we found that half (49.4 percent) of the teachers we studied “wanted to leave teaching altogether” because of their mistreatment. This astounding percentage of teachers willing to relinquish their chosen careers, clearly a “last resort” coping strategy, underscores the overwhelming deleterious effects of principal mistreatment on teachers and teaching; this is particularly ominous in light of current and predicted teacher shortages
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. I am suffering health effects as the result of pressure from a principal who insists we work 12 months, plan our vacations around her demands, attend in-service two weeks of the summer break and, the newest thing, follow her newest religious fling instead of teaching in the non-denominational format as formerly assigned. This person reschedules events and then treats us as idiots when we can't attend because we actually planned vacation, weddings, etc. (this person's words) during the summer break.

I feel trapped, hurt, infuriated, anxious and poor because I can't afford to quit. It has left me job-hunting two weeks before school starts because, though I teach for less than minimum wage so I can be home with my family as much as possible, I can not take the stress any longer.

Anonymous said...

it's a disgusting field. Blame the teacher is rampant. If they could, we'd all be in ducking chairs.