Working Conditions, Burnout and Stress Symptoms in University Professors: Validating a Structural Model of the Mediating Effect of Perceived Personal Competence

Article excerpt

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.

Nowadays it can be said that empirical evidence leads us to believe that work-related stress and burnout syndrome are frequent health problems for university faculty, and that the consequences of this have been dire (Dua, 1994; León & Avargues, 2007; Winefield & Jarrett, 2001; Winefield, Gillespie, Stough, Dua & Hapuararchi, 2003). In Spain, however, changes to the system of higher education have piqued researchers' interest in this subject: the creation of the European Space for Higher Education and changes to the normative framework that regulates the professor/researcher profession.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that the majority of studies have been descriptive, and have focused on analyzing the prevalence of these syndromes, their triggers and the influence of moderating variables that are demographic and professional in nature (Caramés, 2001; Durán, Extremera & Rey, 2001; Gillespie, Walsh, Winefield, Dua & Stough, 2001; Guerrero, 2003; Hogan, Carlson & Dua, 2002; León & Avargues, 2007; Viloria & Paredes, 2002; Winefield et al., 2003). However, there has been scarcely any study of the influence of personal moderating variables (coping strategies, locus of control, perceived efficacy, optimism, feelings of competence, etc.), which could either facilitate or inhibit the experience of stress and burnout syndrome in this population (Leung, Siu & Spector, 2000; Hetty van Hemmerk, 2002; Otero, Santiago & Castro, 2008; Paulik, 2001; Salanova, Cifre, Grau & Martinez, 2005; Taris, Schreurs & Van Iersel-Van Silfhourt, 2001). …