A study on the relationships among stress, coping strategies and job burnout of mainstream secondary school principals in Hong Kong
This study investigates the relationships between the occupational stress, coping strategies and burnout amongst mainstream secondary school principals across government, aided and private sectors of Hong Kong. The study tests a modified version of Administrator Stress Cycle Model (Gmelch and Chan 1995) in terms of principals' perceived stressors, most frequently used coping strategies and level of burnout. Next, it investigates occupational stress, coping strategies, and burnout level in relation to nine demographic variables. Furthermore, it identifies the best predictors of burnout and the most effective coping moderators. All school principals from 450 mainstream secondary schools were invited to participate in the study with a return rate at 70%. They were asked to complete four questionnaires including demographic information, the modified Gmelch and Swent Administrative Stress Index, the modified Allison Coping Preference Scale and the modified Maslach Burnout Inventory. Results of the study show that Boundary-Spanning Stress emerged as the top stressor. The most preferred coping strategy was the use of Positive Attitude. Principals' burnout levels in Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization and Personal Accomplishment were moderate. Different types of significant relationship were found between the nine demographic variables and stress, coping strategies and burnout. Strong predictors of burnout in all three subscales were identified. Significant coping moderators buffering the effect of stress on burnout were found. The construct validity of the three modified instruments was established. The modified model on the Administrator Stress Cycle was statistically confirmed. The study concludes that the education reforms generated considerable stress on mainstream secondary school principals. Although the means of Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization were moderate, further analysis suggested that it might be reasonable to speculate that the burnout levels of Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization were high, which deserve our serious attention. Principals' work performance and well-being might be adversely affected if they have to continuously take on increasing tasks arising from the education reforms without substantial government support, policy changes and intervention programmes such as stress management.