Redalyc Sistema de Información CientíficaRed de Revistas Científicas de América Latina, el Caribe, España y Portugal Avargues Navarro, María Luisa; Borda Mas, Mercedes; López Jiménez, Ana María Working Conditions, Burnout and Stress Symptoms in University Professors: Validating a Structural Model of the Mediating Effect of Perceived Personal Competence The Spanish Journal of Psychology, Vol. 13, Núm. 1, mayo-sin mes, 2010, pp. 284-296 Universidad Complutense de Madrid España Disponible en: http://redalyc.uaemex.mx/src/inicio/ArtPdfRed.jsp?iCve=17213039023 The Spanish Journal of Psychology ISSN (Versión impresa): 1138-7416 firstname.lastname@example.org Universidad Complutense de Madrid España ¿Cómo citar? Número completo Más información del artículo Página de la revista www.redalyc.org Proyecto académico sin fines de lucro, desarrollado bajo la iniciativa de acceso abierto
The Spanish Journal of Psychology Copyright 2010 by The Spanish Journal of Psychology2010, Vol. 13 No. 1, 284-296 ISSN 1138-7416 Working Conditions, Burnout and Stress Symptoms in University Professors: Validating a Structural Model of the Mediating Effect of Perceived Personal Competence María Luisa Avargues Navarro, Mercedes Borda Mas, and Ana María López Jiménez Universidad de Sevilla (Spain) The purpose of this study has been to test, with a sample of 193 Professors of the University of Seville, a structural model on the mediating role of personal perceived competence in the appearance of burnout syndrome and stress symptoms under potentially stressful work conditions. The instruments used to evaluate were a socio-demographic and work-related data questionnaire, The Maslach Burnout Inventory (M.B.I.), The Labour Scale of Stress and the Magallanes Stress Scale. The model of strategy implementation and LISREL 8.71 were used. The estimated model was adjusted satisfactorily, ascertaining the mediating effect of perceived competence in the effect exerted by the work conditions studied on the depersonalization and personal fulfillment, as well as in the appearance of stress symptoms. The effect on the emotional exhaustion dimension was not confirmed. The latter also acted on the estimated model as a mediating variable, facilitating the negative impact of stressors on emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment. Keywords: occupational stress, burnout, perceived personal competence, university professors. El objetivo de este trabajo ha sido poner a prueba, en una muestra de 193 profesores de la Universidad de Sevilla, un modelo estructural sobre el papel mediador de la competencia personal percibida en la aparición del síndrome de burnout y la sintomatología de estrés ante condiciones de trabajo potencialmente estresantes. Los instrumentos de evaluación fueron: un cuestionario de datos sociodemográficos y laborales elaborado al efecto, la Escala Laboral de Estrés (ELE), el Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) y la Escala Magallanes de Estrés (EMEST). Se utilizó la estrategia de “desarrollo del modelo” y el programa LISREL 8.71. El modelo estimado se ajustó satisfactoriamente, constatándose el papel mediador de la competencia percibida en el efecto ejercido por las condiciones de trabajo estresantes sobre la despersonalización y realización personal, así como sobre la sintomatología de estrés. No se confirmó su efecto mediador sobre la dimensión cansancio emocional. Esta última actuó también en el modelo estimado como variable mediadora, facilitando el impacto negativo de los factores estresantes sobre despersonalización, realización personal y sintomatología de estrés. Palabras clave: estrés laboral, burnout, competencia personal percibida, profesores de universidad. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to María Luisa Avargues Navarro. Departamento de Personalidad, Evaluación y Tratamiento Psicológicos. Universidad de Sevilla. Camilo José Cela s/n. 41018 Sevilla. (Spain). Phone: +34-954557806. Fax: +34-954557807. E-mail: email@example.com. 284
OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AMONG UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS 285 Nowadays it can be said that empirical evidence achieve a given objective (expectation of the result), butleads us to believe that work-related stress and burnout with one further component: the belief that one is capablesyndrome are frequent health problems for university of this (expectation of self-efficacy) (Rueda, Pérez &faculty, and that the consequences of this have been dire Bermúdez, 2005).(Dua, 1994; León & Avargues, 2007; Winefield & Jarrett, In this way, Wallston supports Albert Bandura’s (1977)2001; Winefield, Gillespie, Stough, Dua & Hapuararchi, Theory of Self-efficacy, but while the two concepts overlap,2003). In Spain, however, changes to the system of higher they refer to two markedly different phenomena. Withineducation have piqued researchers’ interest in this subject: the concept of perceived control, we may distinguishthe creation of the European Space for Higher Education empirically between general beliefs about our world andand changes to the normative framework that regulates the ourselves (perceived personal competence), and specificprofessor/researcher profession. expectations within specific contexts (self-efficacy) With this in mind, it is no surprise that the majority (Fernández-Castro & Edo, 1994). While self-efficacy isof studies have been descriptive, and have focused a contextual expectation based on the extent to whichon analyzing the prevalence of these syndromes, their one believes they are capable of carrying out a particulartriggers and the influence of moderating variables that behavior in a particular moment, perceived competence isare demographic and professional in nature (Caramés, a more general belief.2001; Durán, Extremera & Rey, 2001; Gillespie, Walsh, The thesis proposed in the present study is thatWinefield, Dua & Stough, 2001; Guerrero, 2003; Hogan, perceived personal competence has a mediating effectCarlson & Dua, 2002; León & Avargues, 2007; Viloria on the experience of occupational stress and burnout& Paredes, 2002; Winefield et al., 2003). However, there syndrome. This is not to be confused with the assumptionhas been scarcely any study of the influence of personal that people with a high level of perceived personalmoderating variables (coping strategies, locus of control, competence will experience less stress and, consequently,perceived efficacy, optimism, feelings of competence, less burnout syndrome, than those with less perceivedetc.), which could either facilitate or inhibit the experience personal competence, when faced with a potentiallyof stress and burnout syndrome in this population (Leung, stressful situation (e.g., Fernández-Castro, Álvarez,Siu & Spector, 2000; Hetty van Hemmerk, 2002; Otero, Blasco, Doval & Sanz, 1998; Martínez, Fernández-CastroSantiago & Castro, 2008; Paulik, 2001; Salanova, Cifre, & Aparicio, 2004), or certain stress-generating situationsGrau & Martinez, 2005; Taris, Schreurs & Van Iersel-Van (e.g., Fernández-Castro, Martínez-Sánchez & Ortiz,Silfhourt, 2001). For a more thorough review of the main 1999). On another note, a positive correlation has beenfindings of research in this area, please consult Avargues observed between perceived personal competence and(2006). the personal fulfillment dimension of burnout syndrome. Due to the fact that changing the university system is Meanwhile, a negative correlation has been found betweenno easy task, it is necessary to deepen our study of the perceived personal competence and the dimensions thatpersonal variables that may mediate the appearance of comprise the “core of burnout” (emotional exhaustionstress and burnout syndrome. Specifically, the academic and depersonalization) (Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999; Lee &model that is being installed is based on the development Ashforth, 1996). Following Fernández-Castro’s (1999) lineof new competencies. The authors of this study have of thought for a moment, consider that elevated feelingscome to understand that the study of perceived personal of personal competence could facilitate the formation ofcompetence among university faculty, and its mediating high expectations of self-efficacy and the development ofeffect on the experience of stress and burnout syndrome, active coping strategies, which are negatively correlatedis amply justified. With this in mind, the results obtained with experiencing stress. This may be particularly truecould be useful in forming programs for the prevention when people are in new situations with which they lackand treatment of stress syndromes in this population. direct, personal experience. Take, for example, the In the present study, Wallston’s (1992) concept of situation at hand in our university system, a consequencepersonal competence has been utilized in lieu of the of the process of joining the European Space for HigherInternal Locus of Control concept. Perceived personal Education.competence is understood as a general belief about the It is also worth noting the contributions of Gil-Monte,extent to which one is capable of achieving his or her Peiró and Valcárcel (1998) about the etiology, processdesired goals or objectives (this differs from the Locus and consequences of burnout syndrome, and an emphasisof Control, which is limited to causal beliefs about on reciprocity, or transaction. The relationship betweenthe relationship between actions and results, and does experiencing stress (because of mental overload, under-not incorporate the concept of personal efficacy). This load, conflict of role or role ambiguity) and its consequencesbelief implicitly includes the notion of Internal Locus (stress symptoms, health problems) may be mediated by theof Control, the belief that with a given action, we may onset of burnout syndrome (stress response). Still, whether
286 AVARGUES NAVARRO, BORDA MAS, AND LÓPEZ JIMÉNEZor not the syndrome appears is determined by one’s way of The object of this study is to test the structural,coping with stressful situations. The effectiveness of one’s theoretical model proposed by the authors, of thecoping depends on certain personal, cognitive variables mediating effect of perceived personal competence on therelated to professional performance, such as feelings of manifestation of burnout syndrome and stress reactionsperceived personal competence. Therefore, perceived or symptoms in university faculty (see Figure 1). Thispersonal competence may mediate stress by inhibiting the model has been constructed according to the contributionsonset of burnout syndrome and other consequences of stress. of authors such as Dorman (2003), Fernández-Castro Also note that feelings of competence may vary as (1999), Gil-Monte & Peiró (1999), Gil-Monte et al. (1998),a function of the working conditions to which people Grau, LLorens, Burriel, Salanova & Agut (2004), Lee &are exposed. Ergo, there are professional situations that Ashforth (1996), Rueda et al. (2003), Salanova, Cifre etfacilitate the development of competence and others al. (2005), and Salanova, Martínez et al. (2005), amongthat debilitate it, producing a crisis in one’s feelings of others. The majority of their contributions, however,efficacy and making way for the appearance of burnout have either referred to samples of non-faculty or of non-syndrome (Salanova, Martínez & Lorente, 2005). It is to university teachers.be expected, then, that perceived personal competence As Figure 1 conveys, in the model proposed, perceivedmodulates the negative effects that stressful situations personal competence would exercise a mediating role onmay have on working people (since it directly, negatively the relationship between stressful working conditions andaffects the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization the appearance of burnout syndrome and stress symptoms.dimensions, and also directly, positively impacts feelings In other words, stress resulting from working conditionsof personal fulfillment). However, perceived personal would influence all three dimensions of the syndrome,competence may also be directly, negatively affected while indirectly influencing the professors’ stress throughby situations that generate stress, such that it adopts a perceived personal competence. Perceived personalmediating role between stressful situations and the onset competence would directly and negatively affect theof burnout syndrome. emotional exhaustion and depersonalization dimensions,Figure 1. Proposed Theoretical Model of the Mediating Effect of Perceived Personal Competence on the Onset of Burnout Syndromein the Context of Occupational Stress.
OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AMONG UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS 287and would directly and positively affect the personal clusters within the population, 63% PDI and 37% PAS,fulfillment dimension of work. according to data reported by the Annual Statistical Guide Regarding stressful working conditions, they would to the US (2003/4).have a direct and positive effect on the emotional exhaustion In the study presented here, the sample was compriseddimension of burnout syndrome. The model predicts of the 193 participants in the PDI group, of which 127that professional overload would be the most significant were men (65.8%) and 66 were women (34.2%). Thoseantecedent to the emotional exhaustion dimension, while percentages do not vary significantly from the populationrole ambiguity would directly and negatively affect the either, considering that 68.6% are men and 31.4% arepersonal fulfillment dimension of burnout syndrome. women. Participants ranged in age from 24 to 69 years old,Furthermore, these factors would influence the levels of with a mean of 40.9 years old (SD = 10.5).perceived personal competence directly and negatively. On another note, as for the onset of burnout syndrome, Instrumentsaccording to the model, the emotional exhaustion dimensionshould directly, positively affect the depersonalization The instruments used to evaluate were:dimension. Equally so, the personal fulfillment dimension • Sociodemographic and Occupational Datashould directly, negatively affect the depersonalization Questionnaire. It consists of 10 questions, fivedimension. that are sociodemographic in nature, four about Last, we suggest that the emotional exhaustion occupational characteristics and one that asks fordimension will directly, positively affect the presence of an eight-digit code that would ensure participants’indicators and symptoms of stress. anonymity (See Table 1). • Occupational Stress Scale (ELE) (Fernández Methods Ríos, 1995). We used a version of this scale that was revised and adapted by León & AvarguesParticipants (2004). The scale evaluates potentially stressful aspects of occupational activities and the items The present study forms part of a wider work of research consist of 49 affirmative statements (see Table 2)by Avargues (2006), conducted at the University of Seville with seven response options ranging from “Totally(the US from here on) that includes a sample of professors false” to “Totally true.” In the initial scale, theand research faculty (PDI from here on) and another items are grouped into five subscales: occupationalsample of administration and service staff (PAS from here overload (understood as having too much to do inon). The sampling procedure employed was a multistage, little time), conflict of role (this refers to demandsrandom cluster sampling, with random selection of thesampling elements (Departments, Schools and Buildings). contrary to the wishes and responsibilities of theRandom route sampling was also used, as were personnel employee), overqualification (refers to one’s beliefquotas (proportionally fixed as a function of the group one that he or she is more qualified or capable thanbelonged to, PDI or PAS, and sex) to determine the final what is required to perform one’s work) and last,elements included, or people interviewed. incompetence (or feeling incapable of successfully In this study, 720 surveys were distributed and 315 carrying out one’s job). The subscale was revised towere collected, all of which were valid. The response determine whether or not it could be used as a goodrate was 43.7%, higher than that of other, similar research measure of perceived personal competence. It wasstudies conducted in Spain (Guerrero, 2003) and similar concluded that it could indeed be used as a generalto the rate reported in international studies (Dua, 1994; measure of that variable, so we used the scoresWinefield & Jarret, 2001). The sampling error was 4.9%, obtained on this subscale to measure perceivedwith a confidence level of 95.5%, and the probability personal competence (e.g. Avargues, 2006).of someone being surveyed presenting with burnout To test its construct validity (León & Avargues,syndrome was .28. That probability was established by 2004), an exploratory factor analysis, a Principalthe 3rd European Working Conditions Survey, conducted Components Analysis, and a Varimax rotation werein 2000 by the European Working Conditions Observatory performed. Of the factors obtained, eleven whenFoundation. the Kaiser criterion was applied, the first five were The 315 surveys recovered and processed were from Fernández-Ríos’s scale (1995). Nevertheless,stratified in the following way: 193 belonged to the PDI we retained a seventh factor we call lack of orgroup and 122 belonged to the PAS group, 61.2% and scarcity of resources because it could be important38.7%, respectively. Those percentages do not entail in the context of our study in which not only PDIsignificant variance compared to the relative sizes of the are evaluated, but also PAS. The rest of the factors
288 AVARGUES NAVARRO, BORDA MAS, AND LÓPEZ JIMÉNEZTable 1Description of the sample in terms of Sociodemographic and Occupational Variables (n = 193)Sociodemographic and Occupational Variables Personnel Frequency %Civil status Single 50 25.9 Married or living with a mate 128 66.3 Divorced or separated 11 5.7 Widowed 4 2.1Do you have children? Yes 118 61.1 No 75 38.9Number of children One 28 14.5 Two 49 25.4 Three or more 41 21.2Occupational association State-employed faculty 115 59.6 University-employed faculty 78 40.4University campus Health sciences 33.16 Social Sciences and Law 32.12 Hard sciences 33.68Occupational Experience Years worked at the US Mean and SD Range 12.81 (9.39) (1-45) were not included in the study because their content respectively. Also, this instrument has highly overlapped with one of the other factors and/or they acceptable measures of convergent and discriminant were measured by only one item. The explained construct validity. variance for the final six factors was 50.86% and • Magallanes Stress Scale (EMEST). (García, Magaz the KMO value (Kaiser-Meyer-Oldkin) was .84. & García, 1998). It consists of 15 elements, each Those factors required six subscales from which of which refers to a “minor” functional alteration. we obtained scores on the variables included in The person being evaluated reports how frequently the model. Each item in the subscale was assigned this has occurred over the last two months, from a factorial weight/value greater in absolute value 0 = “Never” to 3 = “Often”. Separately, none of than .3. Table 2 displays the items comprising these alterations would indicate stress, but their each subscale and their corresponding Cronbach’s accumulation combined with a high frequency alpha coefficients. The score on each subscale was of occurrence could be interpreted as a sign that computed by taking the arithmetic mean of the the individual is under stress. This test evaluates scores obtained on each item in the subscale. physiological alterations commonly accepted • The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) (Maslach & as “stress reactions,” or symptoms of stress. The Jackson, 1986). An adaptation of this by Seisdedos test-retest correlation coefficient and Cronbach’s in 1997 for TEA Editions was used. The measure alpha coefficient were .75 and .82 for this scale. consists of 22 closed response elements to estimate Furthermore, tests of validity have obtained the frequency, ranging from “Never” to “Everyday,” with which one experiences certain feelings acceptable measurements (see García, Magaz & and attitudes at work. These feelings coincide García, 1998). with the three dimensions of occupational stress syndrome for professionals who work directly with Procedure people: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and decreased personal accomplishment. Their Six people were selected to administer the surveys: reliability indices, according to their Cronbach’s four research scholarship students at the US, and two alpha coefficients, were: .90, .79 and .71, research scholarship students at the National Center for
OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AMONG UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS 289Table 2Matrix of rotated components Ol (1) RA (2) CR (3) C (4) Oq (5) LR (6) α=.902 α=.836 α=.859 α=.787 α=.654 α=.81749. I would need more time in order to complete my assigned tasks .8093. I have an excess of work .79613. I should stay late at the office to finish all of my assigned work .7898. I do not have enough time to do all the tasks demanded of me .76742. I am sometimes assigned a lot of work to do in a limited time. .75023. I am sometimes assigned a lot of tasks to do at once .72033. The excess of work does not allow me any time to rest .71318. I have enough time to finish all my work .69246. Sometimes I have to bring work home to be able to finish all the tasks .598assigned me34. I would need help from specialized personnel to efficiently complete .460some of my work12. I have to do things one way that should be done differently and under .413different conditions4. I have difficulty with the work I am assigned .38019. I sometimes have to make a great effort to complete my work .3606. I do not know the criteria by which I will be evaluated for a promotion .737or a raise41. No one explains how my work will be evaluated .69221. The objectives and goals of my work are unclear .6681. I do not know what possibilities or opportunities there are for me to .646move ahead or ascend in the hierarchy45. I do not have the necessary information about the objectives and .632results of my work29. I do not know how to improve my achievement at work .54511. I do not have information about how to develop my abilities in order .502to be successful at my job16. I do not know what is expected of me in my work .48126. I know exactly what is expected of me at work .38935. I am sometimes asked to do things against my better judgment .80232. I am sometimes asked to behave in a way at work that is against my .723moral judgment37. I sometimes have to modify my behavior so that it is compatible with .629the demands of an individual or group7. It sometimes happens that two or more people expect things of me that .607are contradictory27. The things I do are smiled upon by some, but not by others .60517. I sometimes find myself in situations in which contradictory behaviors .603are demanded of me36. I sometimes receive orders from my supervisors that are not clear .59831. I am not provided with the information I need to correctly do my job .4702. I work with two or more groups that act very differently14. In some circumstances, I do not think I am fully capable of doing .712my job
290 AVARGUES NAVARRO, BORDA MAS, AND LÓPEZ JIMÉNEZTable 2 (Cont.)Matrix of rotated components Ol (1) (2) RA CR (3) C (4) (5) Oq (6) LR α=.902 α=.836 α=.859 α=.787 α=.654 α=.81740. When important problems arise at work, I know how to resolve them .639efficiently48. I complete the tasks I am assigned with great ease .60447. I sometimes think I should have a lower-level job than the one I have .5899. I sometimes do not know how to complete the tasks I must do .57720. I think I am sufficiently qualified and capable to have a higher-level job -.57639. I make mistakes easily while doing my work .50024. I sometimes find myself worried about the specialization my job requires .448of me43. In some circumstances, I need help to be able to complete my work .3795. My abilities and knowledge base are much greater than what is required to .658perform my job15. The work I do does not achieve any of my objectives or aspirations .63544. The tasks I do are below my level of ability .53010. I am sufficiently capable to be assigned a job with greater responsibility .51025. I consider my job to be rather easy and monotonous .47830. My job is in accordance with my personal values .46128. I do not have the technical materials necessary to perform my job .71822. The resources I have access to do not correspond to the level of .698responsibility that my job requires38. I am not given the personnel resources necessary to perform my job .625(1) Overload=Ol; (2) Role ambiguity=RA; (3) Conflict of role=CR; (4) Competence=C; (5) Overqualification=Oq; (6) Lack ofresources=LR.Protections, which is both funded by and a branch of the Data AnalysisNational Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.The selection criteria were: having expressed a desire to The proposed model was estimated using LISRELparticipate voluntarily and being prepared to administer 8.71. Maximum likelihood estimation was used. Althoughpsycho technical tests and to conduct interviews. They this method requires multivariate normality, it is alsowere informed of the following: the survey’s objective, the very robust when the condition of normality is not metpopulation of interest to the study, the size and composition (Schemelleh, Moosbrugger & Müller, 2003).of the sample, the sampling technique utilized, the The analysis strategy employed was the “Modelconditions under which the evaluation instruments would Development Strategy” (Jöreskg & Sörbom, 1993). This calls for an initial, hypothetical model to be proposed, basedbe applied, and how to treat any difficulties or incidences on different theoretical contributions gleaned from otherthat could arise during data collection. Each proctor research on the subject. Next, that model was successivelywas assigned a center where they would administer the tweaked according to modification indices and thesurvey, the random-route to be followed, and the number significance of estimated coefficients. Direct effects thatof surveys they should administer according to a pre- were not found to be significant were eliminated. However,established personnel quota. while modifying the model, we remembered the theoretical When each participant was asked to join the study, they assumptions at its core and only made changes that couldwere informed, on an individual basis, of the research be reconciled with those assumptions. This ensured notobjectives and the condition of anonymity. If the person only the model’s empirical validity, but its theoreticalin question accepted, he or she was then provided with the validity, too. The use of this strategy was justifiable givenevaluation instruments to be filled out and returned to the that we believe the theoretical contributions made to thisaddress indicated on the envelope. point are lacking in the population studied.
OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AMONG UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS 291 Results estimated. On a related note, the measurement model was not included in the analysis because the ratio of number of Table 3 displays the descriptive statistics and subjects to number of variables required would have beencorrelations between the study’s variables. As we predicted, very small.perceived personal competence was positively correlated The data’s fit to the estimated model was highlywith feelings of personal fulfillment and negatively with the satisfactory, as the measurements of goodness of fit show;dimensions emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, these are included in Table 4.as well as with stress symptoms. The correlations between Also, the proportion of explained variance for eachstress produced by working conditions and the perceived endogenous variable studied reaches, or nearly so, 25%personal competence variable were also found to be in the majority of cases (see Table 5) such that at thenegative. individual level, the effect size is considered acceptable. In accordance with the strategy used, the adjusted Generall speaking, the majority of the proposedmodel is presented in Figure 2. The measures of error correlations in the theoretical model seem to be confirmedwere not included in the Figure although they, too, were in the estimated model, such that the mediating effectTable 3Descriptive Statistics and Correlations between Variables (N = 193) Mean SD (1) LR (2) Ol (3) CR (4) Oq (5) RA (6) C (7) CE (8) D (9) PF(1) LR 7.69 3.64(2) Ol 39.88 13.30 .32**(3) CR 44.5 14.83 .45** .47**(4) Oq 13.96 5.45 .26** -.02 .36**(5) RA 17.94 6.61 .28** .25** .55** .44**(6) C 34.52 6.09 -.17* -.53** -.47** -.24** -.42**(7) EE 18.38 10.03 .24** .58** .47** .22** .32** -.47**(8) D 5.06 4.62 .08 .23** .27** .19** .16* -.37** .41**(9) PF 36.83 7.23 -.02 -.20** -.16* -.21** -.21** .35** -.32** -.34**(10) SS 12.77 6.91 .17* .31** .32** .15* .18** -.26** .59** .15* -.28**** p < .01 * p < .05(1) Lack of resources=LR; (2) Overload=Ol; (3) Conflict of role=CR; (4) Overqualification=Oq; (5) Role ambiguity=RA; (6)Competence=C; (7) Emotional exhaustion=EE; (8) Depersonalization=D; (9) Personal fulfillment=PF; (10) Stress symptoms=SS.Table 4Goodness of Fit Measures for the Structural Model Absolute Fit Measures Incremental Fit MeasuresGoodness of fit measures MFF Ji-squared Ji-squared RMSEA NFI NNFI CFI IFIPDI 35.26 34.48 .0086 .96 1 1 1Values Collected (p = .41; (p = .45; (p = .92; df = 34) df = 34) df = 34)Recommended values < .08 >.90 > .90 Approx. 1 Approx. 1Table 5.Proportion of Explained Variance for the Dependent Variables in the Structural Measurement Model Emotional Personal StressVariables Competence Depersonalization Exhaustion Fulfillment SymptomsExplained Variance 38% 42% 23% 16% 35%
292 AVARGUES NAVARRO, BORDA MAS, AND LÓPEZ JIMÉNEZ **p <.01; *p <.05Figure 2. Structural model of perceived personal competence’s mediating effect on the appearance of burnout syndromewithin the context of occupational stressof perceived personal competence on the appearance effects are those of overload on emotional exhaustionof burnout syndrome can be confirmed (see Figure 2). (t = 7.82) and on perceived personal competence (t = -7.77),Nevertheless, as we commented earlier, some direct and the direct effect of role ambiguity on competencecorrelations were eliminated that were not found to be of (t = -5.06). Also note the effect of emotional exhaustionsignificance (p ≥ .05; -2 ≤ t ≤ + 2). As such, the direct on stress symptoms (t = 9.99) and the effect of perceivedeffect of perceived personal competence on emotional personal competence on personal fulfillment (t = 4.28).exhaustion has not been confirmed, nor have the effets In light of the description of the direct effects presentedof conflict of role or overqualification on competence. in the estimated model (see Figure 2), and the indirectLack of resources and the direct effect of role ambiguity effects presented in Table 6, it may be said that in this study,on personal fulfillment and emotional exhaustion were the mediating effect of perceived personal competencealso eliminated. In addition, the estimated model includes has been confirmed. Specifically, the estimated modela new correlation not hypothesized on in the theoretical confirms this mediating effect on the experience ofmodel between the variable stress symptoms and personal feelings of fulfillment and of depersonalization. Alongfulfillment (see Figure 2). those lines, feelings of perceived personal competence Furthermore, perceived personal competence is mediate the influence of the overload factor and the effectsignificantly, negatively correlated with depersonalization of the role ambiguity factor on the dimensions of burnoutand is positively correlated with personal fulfillment. It syndrome. As for the levels of depersonalization takingis also true that while emotional exhaustion positively place, the mediating effect of the competence variable isinfluences depersonalization, personal fulfillment has a two-fold. First, it seems to be the only variable to mediatenegative impact on depersonalization. Last, we would like the effect of the factors mentioned above and second,to highlight the positive influence of emotional exhaustion it mediates those factors together with the personalon the onset of stress symptoms. The most significant direct fulfillment variable (see Figure 2).
OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AMONG UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS 293Table 6Matrix of Indirect, Total, Standardized Effects of the Exogenous Variables on the Endogenous Variables Overload Conflict of role Overqualification Role AmbiguityDepersonalization .26 ** .05* .05* .07**Personal fulfillment .20** .02 .02* .09**Stress symptoms .30 ** .11** .10* -.-** p <.01,* p <.05 As for the statistical significance of the indirect effects, et al., 2004; Llorens et al., 2005; Salanova, Cifre et al.,note that except for the indirect effect of conflict of role 2005; Salanova, Martínez et al., 2005), and by the resultson personal fulfillment (t = -1.91), the values obtained are of this study as well. For both occupational overload andall significant (see Table 6). It is also worth noting that ambiguity, in addition to being an obstacle to adequatelylike the direct effects, the indirect effect of occupational performing one’s job, these conditions are hard to changeoverload on stress symptoms presents with the highest t in the context of a university. The transformations that arevalues (t = 6.16). Also observe the t value obtained for the occurring as a consequence of the European Space foreffect of role ambiguity on personal fulfillment (t = -3.27) Higher Education, and legislative changes, have broadly(see Table 6). affected the role of the instructor. For example, the In view of this model (see Figure 2), we may deduce that creation of new job responsibilities and titles, changingthe correlation between stress produced by occupational salaries and a different system for employees to befactors and the emotional exhaustion dimension is not promoted are not always clearly defined. Other studiesmediated by feelings of competence, as was hypothesized have demonstrated that people’s beliefs about personalin the base, theoretical model (see Figure 1). On the competence are useful when it comes to coping with aother hand, the mediating effect of perceived personal stressful situation that is potentially within one’s control.competence and emotional exhaustion on personal Otherwise, the positive impact of those beliefs on one’sfulfillment and depersonalization were, in fact, confirmed. wellbeing could be debilitated or could even becomeAs one might have expected, the emotional exhaustion harmful (Helgeson, 1992; Fernández-Castro et al., 1999).dimension mediates the effects of the factors overload, On another note, it is not surprising that the only factors found to negatively affect the competence variable wereconflict of role and over qualification on depersonalization, conditions of overload and role ambiguity. Conflict of rolepersonal fulfillment and stress symptoms (see Figure 2). and over qualification, on the other hand, are associated, in this study and in others, primarily with the development Discussion of emotional responses (Boada, Diego & Argulló, 2004; Byrne, 1994; Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999; González-Camino, In the adjusted model, perceived personal competence Sáinz, Osca & Martínez, 2003; Lee & Ashforth, 1996; Gil-acts as a mediator of the effects of overload and role Monte et al., 1998; Salanova, Martínez et al. 2005).ambiguity, which agrees with the results of previous Similar to the findings of the present study, many otherresearch studies (Cifre, Llorens & Salanova, 2003; studies have reported no significant effect of perceivedDorman, 2003; Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999; Gil-Monte et personal competence on the emotional exhaustional., 1998; Grau et al., 2004; Llorens, García-Renedo & dimension (e.g. Dorman, 2003; Gil-Monte, 2005; Gil-Salanova, 2005; Salanova, Cifre et al., 2005; Salanova, Monte et al., 1998). Nevertheless, other studies haveMartínez et al., 2005). Salanova, Cifre et al. (2005), for reported that effect as significant, but at a very low levelexample, found that among university professors and (Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999; Grau et al., 2004; Lee &students, stressful organizational factors not only directly Ashfoth, 1996; Llorens et al., 2005; Salanova, Cifre et al.,influence the development of the dimensions of burnout 2005; Salanova, Martínez et al., 2005). Similarly, speakingsyndrome, but they do so by means of perceived personal to the depersonalization dimension, the data reportedcompetence, which exercised a negative, or inhibitory follows the same pattern. In other words, in some studies,effect, on the appearance of the syndrome. though not in the present one, no significant, direct effects Also, factors such as working conditions (assessed in were found (Gil-Monte et al., 1998), while in others theythe present study) may weaken one’s feelings of personal were (Cherniss, 1993; Cifre et al., 2003; Grau et al., 2004;competence. This fact, which Harrison (1983) elucidated Lee & Ashfoth, 1996; Llorens et al., 2005; Salanova,previously in his model of social competence, has been Martínez et al., 2005; Thompson, Page & Cooper,supported by the findings of more recent research (Grau 1993). It is certain that the data provided for those two
294 AVARGUES NAVARRO, BORDA MAS, AND LÓPEZ JIMÉNEZdimensions are inconclusive. However, if in the present on emotional exhaustion (Byrne, 1994; Lee & Ashforth,study, perceived personal competence influences one’s 1996; Gil-Monte et al., 1998; Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999;level of depersonalization, but not emotional exhaustion, Salanova, Martínez et al. 2005). That is to say, occupationalthis would make sense from the point of view that overload and conflict of role preferentially trigger andepersonalization is an emotionally-based, maladaptive emotional response (which, remember, indicated the beliefcoping strategy (emotional withdrawal). The data found that one has greater abilities than the job requires andin other studies has demonstrated the correlation between therefore that the job’s tasks are boring and monotonous,perceived personal competence and coping styles. In not being able to put into practice one’s other abilities).this way, it may be concluded that perceived personal The data collected also coincides with the findings ofcompetence is positively associated with the use of the research that has considered as a stressor the very contenttask-resolution-based style of coping, and is negatively of one’s work, such as the variety of abilities used, whatassociated with the style of coping that involves an the tasks are, and the perceived significance of the work,inadequate handling of one’s emotions (Rueda et al., among others (e.g., Boada et al, 2004; González-Camino2003). To put it another way, one who feels competent et al., 2003; González, Ripoll, Caballer, Ferreres, Peiró &may not avoid experiencing stress and even emotional Gil, 1998; Zurriaga, González, Ripoll & Caballer, 1998).exhaustion, but it will nevertheless facilitate the ability to On the other hand, not having found direct effects of rolecope adaptively with that stress, as opposed to burning out. ambiguity on emotional exhaustion could be explained The majority of authors seem to agree that, as the present by the data reported by other authors, which allows onestudy’s estimated model describes, perceived personal to conclude that role ambiguity generates, above all,competence positively influences the development of cognitive-aptitudinal responses (Gil-Monte et al. 1998;feelings of personal fulfillment at work, highlighting this Schwab & Iwanicki, 1982).dimension’s cognitive-aptitudinal nature (Dorman, 2003; Last, the fact that emotional exhaustion appears toGil-Monte, 2005; Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999; Lee & Ashfoth, be the only variable that directly affects one’s level of1996). In other words, perceiving oneself as having a high stress symptoms, in effect increasing them, supports thelevel of personal competence will positively impact his or results of other studies on this subject that this dimensionher wellbeing and emotional adjustment, which has been is the only one directly responsible for the appearance ofdemonstrated through scientific research (e.g., Rueda et stress symptoms (e.g. Boada et al., 2004; Gil-Monte etal., 2003; Sanz & Villamarín, 1996; Smith & Wallston, al., 1998; Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999). Furthermore, the1992). Thus, it is important to develop preventative finding that occupational overload is the factor with themeasures, ways of promoting the development of this most significant effect was also reported in several othertype of belief. As we mentioned earlier, in this population, studies in this are.feelings of competence stifle the negative impact of stress To conclude, this study has confirmed the importantfrom overload and role ambiguity on feelings of personal mediating role of perceived personal competencefulfillment and inhibit depersonalization. on the onset of feelings of personal fulfillment and Let us now shift the focus of this discussion to the depersonalization. Also, said feelings mediate the effectsrole played by the emotional exhaustion dimension in of occupational overload and role ambiguity which, ifthe estimated model. It can be said that this variable acts you recall, presented as the most significant. It has alsoas a protagonist, it being the only dimension of burnout been confirmed that while perceived personal competencesyndrome affected directly by stress-generating working appears to diminish or inhibit the negative effect ofconditions. Furthermore, in the estimated model, it seems stressful occupational factors, the emotional exhaustionto be the only mediating variable of the effects of overload, dimension facilitates those stress effects.conflict of role and over qualification on the onset of Keeping in mind all that has been revealed, and withstress symptoms. As we previously touched on, it also an eye to intervention, any program of intervention shouldparticipates in the mediating effects that those factors address both organizational and personal spheres. Firstexercise over the other two dimensions of the syndrome, and foremost, prioritize any actions that could favorpersonal fulfillment and depersonalization. When it comes working conditions that reduce the production of stress,to conflict of role and over qualification, it is the only primarily stress brought on by occupational overload andmediating factor. role ambiguity. Second, techniques should be applied These findings fall in line with the results of many to control not only cognitive, but also physiologicalother research studies on burnout, confirming the direct responses to stress.influence of occupational overload on one’s level of In closing, let us highlight possible limitations toemotional exhaustion (e.g. Cifre et al., 2003; Cooper & the scope of the present study: a) the random samplingKelly, 1993; Dorman, 2003; Gil-Monte & Peiró, 1999; procedure employed. The number of participants wasSalanova, Cifre et al., 2005), as well as conflict of role only controlled in terms of working sector, campus and
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