A cross-case analysis of faculty and administrator stress in higher education: do I stay, or do I go?




Thomas, Kimberly Rachal


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Common stress studies have explored educational stress through a quantitative lens, or with a faculty perspective, or through elementary or secondary perspectives (Antoniou, Ploumpi, & Ntalla, 2013; Collie, Shapka, & Perry, 2012; Wells, 2013). This research attempted to understand occupational stress by comparing both higher education faculty and administrators. The purpose of this study was to explore how two faculty and two administrators described occupational stress at a South Texas University. Grounded in interpretivism, this study incorporated three stress theories to examine stress in higher education: French, Caplan, and Harrison’s (1984) Person-Environment Fit Theory, Karesek’s (1979) Demand-Control Theory, and McGuire’s (1983) Uncertainty Theory. A multiple-case study approach was utilized to explore occupational stress and coping. For the purpose of this study, individual, single-case analysis occurred first. Each participant was examined through an independent lens, separate from all other cases. Secondly, within-case analysis was used to explore each group as a case: faculty and administrators. Categories and themes collected from each case helped determine similarities within the faculty and administrator stress experiences. Finally, cross-case analysis was used to explore the “thematic analysis across the cases” (Creswell, 2007, p.75).
Although each of the four research participants encountered stress differently, the findings revealed that each participant experienced stress on a psychological level. They dwelled on issues and contemplated their motives and the motives of others. They tried to understand and rationalize how and why they were dealing with their stressful situations. Each participant mentally assessed the role they and others had in causing the encounter to be perceived as stressful. The findings demonstrated that no matter the job title, employees who have a negative working environment and/or negative relationship with their supervisors experience higher levels of stress. Employees who were pleased with their working environments experienced stress from pushing themselves to excel more and to be recognized for their efforts.
The research in this study revealed various implications for higher education institutions regarding supervisor and employee relationships. In developing a better understanding of internal conflict, institutions can maintain and/or improve employee relationships, which then have a positive impact on institutional operations


A dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR of EDUCATION in EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.


administrators, burnout, faculty, higher education, occupational stress, stress



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