How Do School Leaders Influence Workers' Stress?
Stress among school workers and teachers is a growing global concern, specifically in Chile. This has worsened in post-pandemic times. School leadership can be a key factor for school performance and employee well-being. In Chile, although research in this area is still limited, it has suggested the importance of the role of school leaders in the work environment. The local context seems to affect the school leaders’ capacity to promote well-being. While the leaders’ influence on workers’ work stress and well-being is well established, we don’t know its mechanisms. It is not clear how personal and local contextual factors that influence school leaders' ability to manage work psychological risks are associated with work stress. Informed by conceptual frameworks of risk management, this dissertation helps to address current gaps in knowledge by probing the impact that leaders have on work stressors in a school setting within a school district in Chile. The author used mixed methods to accomplish this study’s objectives. Quantitative data were obtained from the Questionnaire of Psychosocial Risk Surveillance in the Workplace collected from 1,194 school workers of Talcahuano School District (DAEM) in 2018. The Qualitative data was obtained by conducting 12 semi-structured interviews with principals and pedagogical heads of the Talcahuano School District in 2022.Four key findings from this study will advance empirical knowledge of School leaders' abilities to manage and change the work environment: (1) The extent of school leaders’ influence on job stress is significant and relative. This influence is not the same for all psychosocial risks; for some, the leaders had no impact. Also, leaders’ capacity to influence the work environment varied by the school setting's meso and macro level factors that constrain leaders' abilities to mitigate these risks. (2) In addition to contextual constraints, School leadership substantially influences some risk factors compared to other predictors related to the school context and school leader characteristics. In the quantitative analysis, Quality of Leadership is a significant predictor of some stress-related risks and alone explains 8% of the variance in Psychological Demand and 23% of the variance in Meaningful Work. Qualitative results also suggest some possible ways for leaders’ practices and behaviors to influence other risks. (3) Leaders' general approach to work stress is characterized by their idea that work stress is a reaction to the whole environment of the educational system (micro, meso) and that they can manage stress among staff by focusing primarily on the socio-emotional aspect of the school and its environment. (4) School leaders implied that they can better reduce the stress level of workers with support at the meso and macro levels of management. The results also shed light on trends in pandemic and post-pandemic Schools’ work-stress.