Skip to content Skip to navigation

Sources of Faculty Stress

Message Number: 
38

Folks: 

You are encouraged to send comments on books you have read of particular value to graduate students, postdocs, and beginning faculty. Here is one such report that should in fact be of interest to all faculty. 

Rick Reis 

------------------ 511 words ---------------- 

Sources of Faculty Stress 

Walter Gmelch, author of COPING WITH FACULTY STRESS* , interviewed more than 4,000 faculty in more than 100 institutions across the United States and in so doing identified five major sources of stress: 

REWARDS AND RECOGNITION - inadequate rewards and insufficient recognition in teaching, research, and service. 

TIME CONSTRAINTS- having insufficient time to keep informed of current developments and to prepare for classes, made worse by numerous meetings, interruptions and other demands on faculty time. 

DEPARTMENTAL INFLUENCE - attempts to influence departmental and institutional policies and direction while at the same time recognizing that one lacks authority. 

PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY - high self-expectations and the realization that professional identity rests upon the extent of scholarship, publications, and presentations. 

STUDENT INTERACTION - conflicts with students over evaluating, advising, and teaching. [5] 

Upon further analysis Gmelch found: 

As faculty received tenure and moved to higher academic ranks of associate and full-professor, not all areas of faculty stress declined....only the stress from time constraints and professional identity declined with age and experience.... Married women professors experienced more stress from time constraints and personal identity. Overall, some stress factors are associated with lower rank and untenured status as well as gender, marital status, age, and experience. 

Gmelch notes that there is a difference between distress and eustress. Distress is caused by negative stress such as conflicts with students or colleagues, whereas eustress is positive stress whose source is pleasant factors such as receiving tenure or publishing a paper. He goes on to list ten most troublesome stress traps for professors. They are: 

1. Imposing excessive high self-expectations. 

2. Securing financial support for scholarship. 

3. Having sufficient time to keep abreast with developments in field. 

4. Receiving insufficient salary. 

5. Striving to publish one's scholarship. 

6. Having too heavy a workload. 

7. Job demands interfering with personal activities. 

8. Feeling progress in career is not what it could be. 

9. Receiving interruptions from telephone and drop-in visitors. 

10. Attending too many meetings. 

The remainder of Gmelch's book deals with ways of coping with faculty stress. His approaches are based on the following propositions: 

1. The individual is the most important variable; no single coping technique is effective for all faculty at all institutions. 

2. Faculty cannot change the world around them, but the can change how they relate to it. 

3. Coping techniques must be sensitive to cultural, gender, social, psychological, and environmental differences in individuals and institutions. 

4. Faculty who cope best develop a repertoire of techniques to counteract different stressors in different situations. 

5. A faculty member's repertoire of techniques should represent a holistic approach to coping, such as exercise, social support, sound dietary practices, self-management skills, personal hobbies, and supportive attitudes. 

COPING WITH FACULTY STRESS is a small (85 page) book packed with a great deal of practical advice. It should be on the desk of every faculty member and university administrator. 

* W. H. Gmelch, Coping With Faculty Stress, London, Sage Publications, 1993, pp. 26-27, copyright ? 1993, Sage Publications, Inc., reprinted by permission of Sage Publications, Inc..