Superintendent stress: The impact of personal, professional, and organizational characteristics on stress for superintendents in the southeastern United States

Augustus Courtney McGarity


Current literature concerning the superintendency indicated an increasing rate of turnover along with a perceived applicant shortage in both quantity and quality due principally from increasing work-related stress. The goal of this study was to determine the dynamic multilevel relationship between specific personal and professional superintendent characteristics and their perceived stress levels coalesced with specific organizational characteristics. The proposed association and assessment of this relationship between superintendent stress and his or her personal-professional characteristics in accordance to the organizational elements that constitute the administrator's environmental construct is defined by the researcher as the measure of superintendent compatibility. This study examined the relationship between personal, professional and organizational characteristics and superintendent stress. Using each school district in 10 southeastern states and 300 school districts in Texas, a total of 1,433 superintendents were surveyed. The research instrument consisted of the Administrative Stress Index and Compatibility Inventory. Three principals and the board chair for each school district were also surveyed to determine the relationship between superordinate and subordinate evaluations of the superintendent. Of this sample group, 359 superintendents completed both the Administrative Stress Index and the Compatibility Inventory. The Administrative Stress Index consisted of 35 questions disaggregating superintendent perceived work-related stress into four stress dimensions: role-based, task-based, conflict-mediating, and boundary-spanning stress. The Compatibility Inventory included 66 Likert-scale questions that assessed multivariate components of the superintendent's personal, professional characteristics along with the organization's characteristics. Variables used within this instrument were developed through a series of interviews with superintendents from each of the 11 states in the sample and an extensive literature review. Through a factor analysis, 10 components were extracted and means of these subscales were used along with a thorough selection of personal, professional, and organizational characteristics to determine their relationship to the four stress factors. The hypotheses were tested through a descriptive analysis, application of Pearson moment correlations and multiple regression models. Findings also reflected an investigation into the relationship between matched superintendent, principal, and board chair compatibility responses and the four stress dimensions. Specific personal and professional characteristics and combinations of characteristics that interact with organizational characteristics to elicit a flux of stress for superintendents were identified and used to develop a compatibility construct to provide school districts and superintendents an identification of antecedents that elevate or accentuate levels of stress within a working relationship.