Victor Savicki's study, entitled "Comparison of Culture and Burnout in English and Scottish Child and Youth Care Workers" "collected [data from child and youth care workers] in England and Scotland...The larger study examined the contributions of culture, work environment, coping styles, and demographic variables as they related to burnout in thirteen different cultures" (Savicki, 2000, paragraph 2). This research merits evaluation by not only child and youth care workers in England and Scotland, but also by teachers working anywhere, who, like youth and child care workers, have clients with socio-emotional problems.
With Regard to Burnout
Three variables, measured by The Maslach Burnout Inventory: "Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization, and Personal Accomplishment (Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996)...Emotional Exhaustion is the extent to which a worker feels worn out and drained by the job"; "Depersonalization is the extent to which workers think about and treat [clients] and their families in an unfeeling and impersonal manner"; and "Personal Accomplishment describes the extent to which workers feel successful in their work." (Ibid., paragraph 13).
With Regard to Culture
"Hofstede identifie[s]...[four variables as] important characteristics of a culture" (Ibid., paragraph 15). They are Individualism vs Collectivism, Masculinity (Career Success) vs Femininity (Quality of Life), Power Distance, and Uncertainty Avoidance. Savicki measured these four by using the Hofstede's Cultural Work Value Scale.
Individualistic cultures emphasize personal action [;] collectivist cultures[,] group action...[;] masculine cultures[,] autonomy [;] feminine cultures[,] social-consciousness In high Power Distance cultures bosses believe that they can dictate the behavior of the subordinate...In low Power Distance cultures bosses understand that they must consult and collaborate with subordinates to direct their behavior High Uncertainty Avoidance cultures develop rules to cover a broad range of possibilities. Low Uncertainty Avoidance cultures let individuals react more spontaneously. (Ibid., paragraph 15)
With regard to Work Environment
Savicki measured seven variables using R. H. Moos' Work Environment Scale:
Peer Cohesion[:] the amount of support that is perceived in co-workers. Supervisor Support[:] the extent to which management encourages [all] workers to be supportive of each other. Autonomy[:] the degree to which workers are encouraged to make their own decisions. Task Orientation[:] the extent to which the work environment emphasizes good planning. Work Pressure[:] the extent to which the press of work dominates the job milieu. Control[:] the extent to which management [enforces] rules [on] workers Innovation[:] the extent to which new approaches are emphasized. (Ibid., paragraph 17)
Educational Significance of the Study
For teachers, the study's significance seems obvious:
Burnout has important consequences for child and youth care workers [and for teachers]....High burnout results in physical and psychological difficulties at work and elsewhere which lead to lower productivity and eventual harm to...individual[s] and to the organization[s] in which they work. In contrast, low burnout results in individual[s] thriving and growing in their work. The challenges of work stress invigorate and energize the worker to produce more and to become innovative. (Ibid., paragraph 9)
The study provides other insights into burnout:
Typical burnout workshops have tended to focus on activities such as physical exercise, meditation, guided fantasy which fall into the escape coping category (Potter, 1987). While such methods may yield short-term relief, control coping strategies such as systematic problem solving may prove to be more productive in the long run. (Ibid., paragraph 40)
In short, "while escaping from the travails of a stressful situation may provide temporary relief, direct action focused on the source of stress seems to have had more satisfying long term results" (Ibid., paragraph 40).
Other useful information:
If work tasks can be paced to challenge and not overwhelm workers, they may experience more engagement with their work and find work invigorating in spite of a fast pace (Riolli-Saltzman & Savicki, 2000). Likewise, clear, unambiguous work structures allow workers to predict their work activities more clearly; thus reducing the fear of unanticipated demands which may descend in some random fashion. (Ibid., paragraph 41)
Overall Rating of the Study
Although the study uses volunteers, as convenience samples, which limits generalizability, "this does not mean...the findings are not useful" (McMillan & Schumacher, 1997, p. 169). Clearly the results of Savicki's research are useful for teachers.
In defense of his using convenience samples: "It is not possible [for ethical reasons] to conduct simulation studies of burnout. Such a restriction makes it difficult to find qualified participants. The current sample, while not randomly chosen or precisely matched, meets a standard frequently used in such studies" (Savicki, 2000, paragraph 23).
My rating of the study:
Using this Likert-like scale, I don't rate the study critical because it deals with youth and child care workers rather than teachers, but I rate it very important because of its educational significance.
Significance for Students and the General Public
Secondary Alternate education requires teachers and youth care workers who can successfully help students deal with socio-emotional issues in positive ways. Regular education also requires teachers with those skills. More and more, mainstream teachers find themselves dealing with troubled youths.
Burned out teachers, however, likely cannot properly help. Students without help can make poor choices that can adversely affect themselves, their families, and the general public at large. Sometimes these poor choices translate into one or more of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, careers in crime, and incarceration. On the other hand, teachers who don't burn out gain experience and expertise in dealing with students with socio-emotional issues. Teachers who don't burn out have enough energy to direct these students in the art of making decisions that benefit rather than harm themselves.
Clearly, this research does merit evaluation by not only child and youth care workers, but also by teachers, who, like youth and child care workers, have clients with socio-emotional problems. Simply put, students need experienced teachers who avoid burnout; those teachers can make a difference.