Work Satisfaction and Stress in the First and Third Year of Academic Appointment
Olsen, Deborah, Journal of Higher Education
Organizations within and outside of academe have become increasingly interested in the training and socialization of successful professionals. Interest has been fueled by growing evidence that the socialization process exercises important effects on a host of work-related variables, for example, work commitment, motivation, performance, productivity, stress, satisfaction, and turnover |for example, 11, 15, 16, 23, 24, 26~. Schein and others have identified a "success spiral syndrome," according to which early career successes generate both the opportunities and the desire for later success |34~. Work on organizational demography has suggested that early socialization experiences are important because of the heightened receptivity of the individual to the norms and values of the organization and profession and the lasting effects of socialization over the course of a career (cohort effects) |31~. Various arguments for the importance of early adaptation and achievement can be found in the literature on higher education as well |for example, 3, 4, 10~. Moreover, scholarly arguments appear to be buttressed by the first-hand impressions of both faculty and administrators who perceive faculty's ability to "hit the ground running" as critical to later success and satisfaction within academe |36, 39~.
The faculty development literature shows that the early years of a faculty appointment, in particular, the first three years, are a period of intense socialization |4, 18~. Retrospectively, faculty report the early years to be the most difficult period of an academic career, a time of high stress and low satisfaction |3~. Yet, it remains unclear precisely what lessons faculty learn during their first years, what professional hurdles remain, and what issues pose the most significant threat to future satisfaction and success |4, 18~. We know a fair amount about the kinds of satisfactions, dissatisfactions and stresses faculty experience overall, but have little understanding of the specific sources of stress and satisfaction that shape faculty development at different career stages or how these stresses and satisfactions interact. Given evidence in the literature of a "perceptibly weakened morale" among faculty and a declining pool of faculty applicants, the question of how junior faculty successfully adapt and even manage to excel in the first years of appointment would seem to be particularly critical at the present time |6~.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards of a Faculty Career
The intrinsic rewards of an academic career have traditionally been viewed as central to faculty satisfaction |1, 5, 6, 18, 30~. Intrinsic rewards have been variously defined but, in general, pertain to the nature of the work itself |1~. Hackman and Lawler cite as examples of intrinsic rewards, the opportunity for independent thought and action, feelings of worthwhile accomplishment, opportunities for personal growth and development, and job-related self-esteem |20~. Internal rewards are particularly salient for professionals, like academics, who
experience higher order need satisfaction (e.g., needs for personal growth and development or for feelings of worthwhile accomplishment) on a continuing basis without the strength of desire for additional satisfaction of these needs diminishing. Indeed, it may be that additional satisfaction of higher order needs actually increases their strength (Alderfer, 1969). This is an important possibility since it suggests that the opportunity for the development of continuing (and even increasing) motivation is much more a reality when higher order needs are engaged than is the case for more easily satisfied lower order needs |20, p. 262~.
Empirical work indicates that "new recruits" to a profession may actually experience substantial dissatisfaction and higher rates of turnover when their work fails to provide them with a sense of opportunity, challenge, and accomplishment |14~. …