SELF-ESTEEM AND WORKPLACE STRESS OF ALBANIAN ACADEMIC STAFF

Authors: Lediana XHAKOLLARI (1), Migena KECAJ (2)
Keywords: self-esteem, workplace stress, academic staff, higher educational institutions.

DOI:10.26758/12.1.21

Lediana XHAKOLLARI (1), Migena KECAJ (2)

(1) University of Shkoder “Luigj Gurakuqi”, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Albania

(2) University of Shkoder “Luigj Gurakuqi”, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Teaching, Albania, e-mail: migena.selcetaj@unishk.edu.al

Address correspondence to: Lediana XHAKOLLARI, University of Shkoder “Luigj Gurakuqi”, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Psychology and Social Work, Albania

E-mail: lediana.xhakollari@unishk.edu.al

Abstract.

Objectives. Work stress is experienced almost by all employees of all professions and academic staff are no exception. The aim of this study was to investigate the level of workplace stress in relation with the self-esteem academic staff working at the educational institutions in Albania. One of the objectives of the study was to exploring the possible differences on self-esteem and on workplace stress among academic staff according different demographic variables.

Material and methods. The data were collected during September 2019, through an on-line questionnaire. Three tools were used in this study: questionnaire about demographic data, Workplace Stress Scale and Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale. A total of 182 academic staff of Albanian Higher Education Institutions participated in this study.

Results. According to the data obtained 52.7% of the academic staff reported experiencing moderate levels of workplace stress and 45.6% reported low level of workplace stress. Majority of participants 86.8% reported experiencing high level of self-esteem. Statistically significant negative correlation was detected between workplace stress and self-esteem. There was no significant correlation between self-esteem and personal characteristics of participants related to age and years of experience in teaching, between workplace stress and personal characteristics of participants related to age and years of experience in teaching.

Conclusions. Teacher with higher self-esteem report less workplace stress and teacher with higher workplace stress report a lower self-esteem. Higher education institutions have to manage and protect their staff from increasing levels of stress and also they have to take actions to enhance the self-esteem and the wellness of the academic staff.

Keywords: self-esteem, workplace stress, academic staff, higher educational institutions.

Introduction

Self-esteem

Self-esteem has long been considered an essential component of good mental health and has been focus of studies for many researchers in recent years (Saadat, Ghasemzadeh, & Soleimani 2012). James (1980) defined the concept of self-esteem regarding the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction that one has toward oneself. Self-esteem is generally used to describe a person’s feelings of self-worth, involving variety of beliefs and the extent to which individuals values themselves (Reber & Reber, 2001).

Rosenberg (1965) well known for the self-report instrument for evaluating individual self-esteem (RSES) considers self-esteem a component of self-concept and defines it as an individual’s set of thoughts and feelings about his or her own worth and importance, that is, a global positive or negative attitude toward oneself. In his studies he stated that self-esteem is a psychological trait and affect the total aspects of human activity (Rosenberg, 1965). The considerable attention that has been given to self-esteem is most likely due to the fact that self-esteem was once believed to play a causal role in many important life outcomes. Widespread interest in self-esteem began to build during the 1970s as results emerged that linked self-esteem with variety of social problems including drug abuse, unemployment, academic underachievement, and violence (Zeigler-Hill, 2013, p. 1).

Studies reveal differences in overall functioning of individuals depending by their level of self-esteem. Having high self-esteem provides people with good feelings about themselves, self-confidence and self-efficacy influencing in a positive way their personal, social and professional development. They feel good about themselves. They are able to cope effectively with challenges and negative feedback, and they live in a social world in which they believe that people value and respect them. High self-esteem leads to success, better communication, judgments, way of thinking, decision-making. People with high self-esteem are able to cope effectively with unfamiliar situation, challenges and even difficult situations as failure, lost etc. Meanwhile, low self-esteem provides people with negative feelings about themselves which affect the relationships with others. It has a huge impact on our personal and professional lives. They feel that are not capable proving low self-confidence, fear of trying and of new, unfamiliar events, situations. Substantial evidence shows a link between self-esteem and depression, shyness, loneliness, and alienation being aversive for those who have it (Heatherton & Wyland, 2003, p. 219).

Low self-esteem impacts the quality of life and increases of the risk for experiencing suicidal thoughts (Nguyen, Wright, Dedding, Pham, & Bunders, 2019). Brown (1993) stated that individuals with higher self-esteem are more satisfied with their lives, have fewer interpersonal problems, achieve at a higher and more consistent level, and are less susceptible to psychological problems (e.g., anxiety and depression) and physical illness than those with lower self-esteem.

One possible function of self-esteem is that it may serve as a resource that protects individuals from potential threats such as rejection or failure. That is those with high self-esteem are thought to be less affected by negative experiences and to recover from these sorts of experiences more quickly than individuals with low self-esteem (Zeigler-Hill, 2013). Developing positive beliefs, transcending negative ones, and committing to meet one`s own emotional needs are all part of high self-esteem. And high self-esteem is what allows people to take the risks necessary to continue growing throughout life (Carlock, 2013).

There are plenty of studies about self-esteem in relationships, friendships and everyday life but how important is it in the workplace and among academic employees in university?

Workplace stress

Workplace stress has long been addressed by the international health and work organizations as it has a serious impact on the health of employees, their quality of life and work performance. What is workplace stress and the related factors with it? It is explained as a combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation which can lead to stress. Prolonged stress may have negative effects on mood, cognitive capacity, immune function, and physical health (Matsumoto, 2009, p. 524).

These reactions may be expressed in form of physical or emotional manifestations including such as headache, muscular tensions, stomach ailments, anxiety, frustrations, etc. Stressed employers may experience fatigue, low levels of satisfaction, and feelings of being unmotivated, unengaged, less cooperative, and productive at their work environment. These elements consequently lead to a reduction in the quality of work (Kotteeswari & Sharief, 2014). Workplace stress can also lead to increased disease and mortality rates in a country (Le Fevre, Jonathan, & Kolt, 2003).

While global studies on workplace stress are expanding, the literature and researches in Albania are very few not giving the right attention to an important issue. The study realized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Albania, found that elements that reduce stress in the workplace such as employee participation at the organization, participation to decision-making, as well as employee motivation at work (World Health Organization, 2019), are at unsatisfactory levels (Gega, 2018). In another study about the level of stress at the workplace in Albania reveals that (48.5%) of people included in the study experience a moderate level of stress and a significant percentage (12.4%) experience problematic stress level. These results show that work-related stress has a high prevalence among employees in Albania (Gega, 2019).

An academic career has been seen as a safe and high-status option, with satisfactory and autonomous opportunities, but this has changed dramatically in recent years. The growth in student numbers and the stronger emphasis on research, coupled with the financial pressure that affects the level of the work demand for professors and life of education professionals. All these changes have negative effect on the physical and mental health in the academic domain (Rossi, Meurs, & Perrewé, 2015).

What about the workplace stress among university teachers in Albania?

Workplace stress among academic and general staff of universities from across the globe indicates that the phenomenon of occupational stress in universities is alarmingly widespread and increasing (Winefield, 2000; Gillespie, Walsh, Winefield, Dua, & Stough, 2001). For many years university teacher’s main job was teaching but nowadays they have more duties and work to do such as arranging seminars and conferencing, working on projects, conducting meetings, students counseling etc., which overload their job. Recently, a number of substantial changes in the Albanian higher education sector have significantly impacted the organizational structure of higher educational institutions and the work of academic staff. Teacher universities are affronting new challenges in education system.

Chadha, Sood, and  Malhotra (2012) have identified stressors among teachers as role overload, conflicting job roles, lack of influence over the work environment, inadequate work environment, demands made by external agencies, poor relations with students, lack of support from the principal, school climate and culture. These stressors affect to poor job performance.

Australian academic staff identified five major sources of workplace stress including: insufficient funding and resources; work overload; poor management practice; job insecurity; and insufficient recognition and reward (Gillespie et al., 2001). Workplace stress depends not only by the external factors but also by internal once. Self-esteem is one of the internal factors that can influence the way we affront the stressful situations.

Many studies show the relationship of stress and self-esteem at multiple levels. As it is mentioned before self-esteem is an individual resource and can help people manage stressful events and their responses to them (Taylor, Lehman, Kiefe, & Seeman, 2006). Galanakis, Palaiologou, Patsi, Velegraki and Darviri (2016) affirm that stressful events affect self-esteem and self-esteem in turn affects the way people react to stress and cope with it. Self-esteem affects people’s reaction to stressful events and in addition the way individuals cope with stress.

The purpose of this study was to observe the correlation between stress and self-esteem and to use this knowledge in order to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and as a result eliminate psychological dysfunction and improve quality of people’s life at work.

Material and methods

The study used a descriptive correlational design. The data of the study were collected from different higher educational institutions. Of these, 182 academic staff working at higher educational institutions in Albania during the academic year 2019-2020 participated at this study. The data are collected during September 2019, through an on-line questionnaire. Three tools were used in this study: questionnaire about demographic data, workplaces tress scale, and self-esteem scale.

The questionnaire about demographic data was intended to collect data about personal characteristics of participants. These included gender, age, scientific degree or academic title, years of experience in teaching, marital status, scientific field of qualification, institution.

Rosenberg self-esteem scale is a 10-item Likert scale with answered on a four point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. A 10-item scale that measures global self-worth by measuring both positive and negative feelings about the self. The scale is believed to be uni-dimensional (Rosenberg, 1965). Total scores range from 10 to 40, with higher scores representing higher self-esteem. The scale measures state self-esteem by asking the respondents to reflect on their current feelings. Five of the items have positively worded statements and five have negatively worded ones. The scale was translated in Albania language. Internal consistency of the scale, as measured by Cronbach`s alpha was .72.

Workplace Stress Scale was assessed using the Workplace Stress Scale developed by the Marlin Company, North Haven, United States of America and the American Institute of Stress, Yonkers. The workplace stress scale consists of eight items describing how often a respondent feels an aspect of his or her job. The scale is in the five-point Likert response format, ranging from never (scored 1) to very often (scored 5). High scores are indicative of higher levels of job stress. Respondents’ total scores are interpreted as follows: scores of 15 and below are interpreted as relatively calm, 16–20 is interpreted as fairly low in work stress, 21–25 is interpreted as experiencing moderate levels of work stress, 26–30 is interpreted as experiencing severe levels of work stress and 31–40 is interpreted as experiencing a potentially dangerous level of work stress. The authors of this study assessed the validity of the scale by seeking opinions of nurses as experts. Internal consistency of the scale, as measured by Cronbach`s alpha was .76.

Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, standard deviations). They were analyzed by SPSS statistical package version 24.  Some variables were compared using t-test or analysis of the variance (ANOVA) test, and for assessment of the relationships between variables is used Pearson correlation analysis.

Results

Table 1 displays the characteristics of the participants. A total of 182 academic staff of Albanian Higher Education Institutions participated in this study. The majority of participants were female (70.3%). The minimum age of participants was 24 years and the maximum was 70, with a mean age of 40.78 ± 9.46. Less than half (48.4%) had PhD degree. Majority of participants were married (70.3%) and had the educational qualification on social science (69.2%) The average years of experience teaching was 12.13 ± 7.72 years.

Table 1

Characteristics of Participants (No = 182) (to see table 1, please click here)

The majority 86.8 % (n = 158) of the academic staff reported experiencing high levels of self-esteem and the rest 13.2% (n=24) moderate level of self-esteem. Only 3 teachers reported experiencing high levels of workplace stress; 52.7% (n=96) of the academic staff reported experiencing moderate level of workplace stress and 45.6% (n=83) low level of workplace stress.

The overall responses to the workplace stress are shown in Table 2. The rating scale ranged from 1 = Never to 4 = Very often, so that mean scores greater than 3 indicated higher levels of stress, and mean scores less than 3 indicated lower levels of stress. In general, academic staff reported experiencing low levels of workplace stress with a mean of 2.38. Responses to the individual items suggest that the university staff experience less stress regarding control or input over their work duties and most stress regarding deadlines or overload of their work.

Table 2

Responses to the workplaces stress scale (No 182) (to see table 2, please click here)

There were examined the relationships between the two study variables (workplace stress and self-esteem) and demographic characteristics of participants. Table 3 shows these statistics.

Table 3

Correlations between the two study variables (self-esteem and workplace stress) and age and professional experience (to see table 3, please click here)

Statistically significant negative correlation was detected between self-esteem and workplace stress (r= -.33; p=.000). There was no significant correlation between workplace stress and personal characteristics of participants related to age (p=.244) and years of experience in teaching (p=.512).

There was no significant correlation between self-esteem and personal characteristics of participants related to age (p=.216) and years of experience in teaching (p=.113). Even after controlling the variables like age and years of professional experience, there was again a significant negative relationship between self-esteem and workplace stress (r= – .332; p=.000).

A percentage of 46.9% female respondents (n=60) and 42.6% of male respondents (n=23) reported a low level of workplace stress. While 51.6% of female respondents (n=66) and 55.6% of male respondents (n=30) reported a moderate level of workplace stress. Severe level of workplace stress was reported by 1.6% of female respondents (n=2) and 1.9% of male respondents (n=1).

T-test was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different gender. There was no statistically significant difference on workplace stress across the gender of participants (p > .05) (table 4).

Table 4

Relation between workplace stress and gender of participants. (to see table 4, please click here)

A percentage of 10.9% of female respondents (n=14) and 18.5% of male respondents (n=10) reported moderate level of self-esteem. While 89.1% of female respondents (n=114) and 81.5% of male respondents (n=44) reported a high level of self-esteem.

T-test was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different gender. There was statistically significant difference on self-esteem across the gender of participants (p = .011 < .05). Female teachers had e tendency to have a higher self-esteem than male teachers (table 5).

Table 5

Relation between self-esteem and gender of participants. (to see table 5, please click here)

A percentage of 46.1% of married respondents (n=59), 43.8% of single respondents (n=14), 50% of divorced respondents (n=2), 100% of widow respondents (n=2), and 37.5% of cohabitations respondents (n=6) reported a low level of workplace stress. While 51.6% of married respondents (n=66), 56.3% of single respondents (n=18), 50% of divorced respondents (n=2) and 62.5% of cohabitation respondents (n=10) reported a moderate level of workplace stress. Only 3 married respondents reported high level of workplace stress.

The One-way analysis of variance was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different civil status. There was no statistically significant difference on workplaces stress across the different marital status of participants (p > .05).

A percentage of 10.2% of married, 25% of single and divorced, and 12.5% of cohabitation respondents reported a moderate level of self-esteem. While 89.8% of married, 75% of single, 75% of divorced, 100% of widow and 87.5% of cohabitation respondents reported a high level of self-esteem.

The One-way analysis of variance was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different civil status. The hypothesis is formulated as no significant difference in the means score of faculty member having different civil status regarding their self-esteem levels and One Way ANOVA was used.  Table 6 shows the relation between self-esteem and civil status of participants. There was no statistically significant difference on self-esteem across the different marital status of participants (p > .05).

Table 6

Relation between self-esteem and civil status of participants. (to see table 6, please click here)

Among 182 respondents, 56.5% of staff with MSc, 43.2% of staff with PhD, 35% of associate professors and 62.5% of professors reported a low level of workplace stress. While 43.5% of staff with MSc, 53.4% of staff with PhD, 65% of associate professors and 37.5% of professors reported a moderate level of workplace stress. Only 3 respondents with PhD reported high level of workplace stress. The One-way analysis of variance ass applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different educational qualification. There was no statistically significant difference on workplaces stress across the different educational qualification of participants (p > .05).

Among 182 respondents, 19.6% of staff with MSc, 10.1% of staff with PhD, 12.5% of associate professors and 12.5% of professors reported moderate level of self-esteem. While 80.4% of staff with MSc, 89.9% of staff with PhD, 87.5% of associate professors, and 87.5% of professors reported high level of self-esteem.

The One-way analysis of variance was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different educational qualification. The hypothesis was formulated as no significant difference in the means score of faculty member having different educational qualification regarding their self-esteem levels, and One Way ANOVA was used.

Table 7 shows the relation between self-esteem and educational qualification of participants. There was a statistically significant difference on self-esteem across the different educational qualification of participants (p < .05). Compared to others, teachers with lower scientific degree (Master of Science) in general had lower level of self-esteem.

Table 7

Relation between self-esteem and educational qualification of participants. (to see table 7, please click here)

Among 182 respondents, 62.1% of staff with the qualification on natural science, 64.3% of staff with the qualification on social science, and 66.7% of staff with qualification on formal science, 83.3% of staff with qualification on sports science reported a low and very low level of workplace stress. While 24.1% of staff with qualification on natural science, 25.4% of staff with qualification on social science, 23.8% of staff with qualification on formal science and 16.7% of staff with qualification on sports science reported a moderate level of workplace stress.

The One-way analysis of variance was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different scientific field of qualification. There was no statistically significant difference on workplaces stress across the different scientific fields of qualification of the teachers (p > .05).

Among 182 respondents, 20.7% of staff with qualification on natural science, 9.5% of staff with qualification on social science, 19% of staff with qualification on formal science reported a moderate level of self-esteem. While 79.3% of staff with qualification on natural science, 90.5% of staff with qualification on social science, 81% of staff with qualification on formal science and 66.7% of staff with qualification on sport science reported a high level of self-esteem.

The One-way analysis of variance was applied to test the statistical difference among the respondents with different scientific field of qualification. The hypothesis was formulated as no significant difference in the means score of faculty member having different scientific field of qualification regarding their self-esteem levels and One Way ANOVA was used. Table 8 shows the relation between self-esteem and scientific field of qualification of participants. There was no statistically significant difference on self-esteem across the different scientific fields of qualification of participants (p > .05).

Table 8

Relation between self-esteem and scientific field of qualification of participants. (to see table 8, please click here)

Discussions

Job stress in academia is due to imbalance between job demands and their ability to respond. Academic staff involved in research and teaching may give rise to a conflicting situation as both need energy and concentration. The symptoms found among lecturers are tiredness, sleeping problem and concentration. These are more visible when more workload is expected to attract external research funds (Winefield et al., 2003).

This study revealed that despite only three teachers experienced high level of stress at work, almost half of teacher participated in the study had moderate level workplace stress. This group of academicians have the potential to experience high level of workplace stress if the stressors persist to impact them. One of the main stressors of academicians was the fact that for different administrative and academic work were established unreasonable deadlines. Also they often were overload with too much work which was difficult to be handle. Another stressor of the academic staff at work revealed by this study was the inappropriate recognition or rewards for good performance. So, in order to decrease the general level of workplace stress of academic staff it is necessary that the reward system of the universities to be more flexible. Also the general management and leadership style must be more organized and flexible and do not pose unreasonable deadlines to the staff.

For college and university faculty, many of the leading stress producers are time-related, including feeling overloaded with work responsibilities, having inadequate time to attend to personal matters, and lacking sufficient time to keep current in one`s discipline. In an era characterized by increased public expectations for faculty productivity and accountability as well by institutional cost-saving initiatives that have resulted in faculty often needing to accomplish more with fewer resources, it is not surprising that time is perceived by many academics to be exceedingly short supply (Buckholdt & Miller, 2013).

The literature revealed that alongside the participation and empowerment strategies, if the academic staff received enough remunerations (salary, incentives and allowances), faculty welfare (health care services, recreational facilities) and were made to love the teaching profession, they would be more committed to the job and their performance will be increase (Kinsler, 2010).

In the context of the university, the teachers’ day to day is full with a series of responsibilities that may be listed, such as: planning task, providing guidance, providing services to the community, assistance and consultations, commitment to the discovery of new knowledge and its dissemination, participation in commissions, lectures, among others. All these factors may be associated with alterations in their self-esteem (Zebide, Rusanka, & Gordana, 2020). But this study reveal that in general academic staff experience high levels of self-esteem.

In the research on “occupational stress among university teachers”, authors found out that two third of the university faculty reported that they perceived job stress at least half of the scheduled time. Faculty also expressed burnout, health problems caused by job stress (Blix, Cruse, Mitchell, & Blix, 1994). Academics reported higher levels of stress relating to pay and benefits, overload and work-life balance (Barkhuizen & Rothmann, 2008).

This study showed that was no statistically significant difference on workplace stress across the gender of participants. This finding was consistent with the findings of the study of Oteer (2015), in which the differences in the work-place stress and its subsequent problems due to the variable of gender were not significant in the overall score. The study of Kabito, Wami, Chercos, & Mekonnen (2020), with academic staff of University of Gondar, showed that gender had insignificant association with work-related stress. The study conducted on Zimbabwe University lecturers was also reported that there was no significant association between gender and work related stress (Masuku & Muchemwa, 2015). But in the study of Slišković & Maslać Seršić (2011) with 1168 academics form four larges Croatian universities, women on average reported greater exposure to stress at work. Also, the study of Solanki and Mandaviya (2021) provides significant evidence of gender differences in perceived stress within a sample of academic professionals at one university in the state of Gujurat, India. Researchers found substantial dissimilarities in job stress and its dimensions among females and males. Female respondents scored high in job stress.

One of the research questions of this study was if exist any significant relationship between self-esteem and workplaces stress. At the end the study revealed that that between self-esteem and workplace stress exist a significant negative relationship. Other studies on different population had discover the same relationship between these two variables. For example, the study focused on call center counselors discovered that job stress had a significant negative effect on self-esteem (Yang, Ju, & Lee, 2016). In another study with nurses, self-esteem was negatively associated with work-related stress (Lee, Loo, & Choi, 2013). Self-esteem could be a protective factor against stress (Rojo López, Cifuentes Férez, & Espín López, 2021).

Conclusion

In general, academic staff experience high levels of self-esteem and low levels of workplace stress. The main finding of this study was the fact that between self-esteem and workplace stress exist a significant negative relationship. Teacher with higher self-esteem, report less workplace stress and teacher with higher workplace stress report a lower self-esteem.

The majority of academic staff (86.8%) participated on this study had a high level of self-esteem and only 3 teachers (1.6%) experience high level of workplace stress. There was no significant correlation between workplace stress and the age and years of experience of teachers. There was not statistically significant difference on workplace stress across the gender, different marital status, different educational qualification, and different scientific fields of qualification of the teachers.

There was no significant correlation between self-esteem and the age and years of experience of teachers. There was no statistically significant difference on self-esteem across the different marital status, and different scientific fields of qualification of participants. Female academic staff, had higher self-esteem than male, and less experienced academic staff. Compared to others, teachers with lower scientific degree (Master of Science) in general had lower level of self-esteem.

Higher education institutions have to manage and protect their staff from increasing levels of stress and also, they have to take measure to enhance the self-esteem of the academic staff. Since the general level of self-esteem of all participants in this study was high, the focus must be placed on enhancing more the general level of self-esteem of academic staff.  A special focus must be put on promoting the qualification of the academic staff which had only a Master of Science degree providing them a positive and challenging career development opportunity.

Acknowledgements

A summary of this paper was presented at the online international conference: Individual, family, society – contemporary challenges, fourth edition, 6 to 7 October 2021, Bucharest, Romania and published in the journal Studii şi Cercetări de Antropologie, No. 7/2021.

The publication of this article is supported by University of Shkoder “Luigj Gurakuqi”.

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