What lessons can be learnt by examining the experiences and coping styles of a group of teachers working in the same stressful workplace: a school in a socio-economically disadvantaged area?

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McNally, Chris
Issue Date
BA Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Workplace stress is a serious health issue with potentially very severe effects. The sources of workplace stress tend to be context specific. The teaching profession, particularly when the school is in a socio-economically deprived area, is accepted as being one of the most stressful occupations. This research examines one such school and seeks to identify the particular stressors in that school, looks at the coping strategies of the teachers, and proposes ways to reduce the overall stress experienced. All 14 frontline teachers in the school took part in the research. The hypothesis is that, by examining the experiences and coping strategies employed by such a group, very context-appropriate lessons can be learned that will help create a healthier work environment. The research was conducted using two standard questionnaires and a set of open questions to elicit the experiences and views of each teacher. The Maslach Burnout Indicator-Educators Survey was used to measure the degree to which each teacher by stress. This instrument is specifically adapted for the teaching profession. The Coping Responses Inventory was used to measure the stress-coping profile of each teacher on eight subscales. The open questions recorded the teachers' experiences of stress, their preferred coping approaches, and their suggestions on reducing workplace stress. The findings recorded significant agreement on the stressors in this workplace. It also identified that, while stress level on average were relatively low, a number (29%) of the teachers were experiencing serious stress levels and that coping strategies in some cases had the effect of increasing the experienced stress. The teachers indicated a preference for a more participative and team-based approach in their workplace.