Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, and the Canadian universities Laval and Québec at Trois-Rivières investigated the relationship between motivation at work and burnout.

They mainly enlight the association between an instructor’s inspiration to play out his or her different assignments at work and the side effects of passionate depletion that prompt wear out or drop out.

Based on it, scientists developed a new analytical model that allows for a precise description of the tasks that are problematic so that improvements can be applied where most needed. Scientists believe that they can apply their model to other professions too.

In 2007, Québec researchers launched a study to find out the reasons behind the shortage of primary and secondary school teachers. The fact that about 30% of them left the sector within the first five years.

Julien Chanal, a psychology researcher at UNIGE said, “There are a few sorts of inspiration that clarify why we pick a specific livelihood.  The reasons why an individual opts for teaching are not necessarily the same as the reasons that motivate him or her to perform the various tasks associated with his job.”

“For example, it is easy to imagine that teachers derive little enjoyment from having to monitor students at the lunch break. “We used statistical modeling to distinguish the reasons why someone chooses teaching and their motivations to undertake the range of tasks it consists of. This enabled us to examine the hierarchical and multidimensional nature of motivation.”

Usually, two types of motivation govern an individual’s behavior: autonomous motivation and controlled motivation. Autonomous motivation is connected to basic psychological needs and controlled motivation, related to the social benefits or pressures that surround the profession.

Chanal said, “We know that these various regulations impact differently on the behavior and well-being of individuals. In fact, controlled motivations have negative effects while autonomous motivations have positive consequences.”

“With respect to multi-dimensional perspective, it is vital to all the while consider a moment level of the progression of inspirations: situational inspiration, i.e. the different assignments to be performed with regards to a given employment; and logical inspiration: the general reasons that drive a person to take part in a specific profession.”

For teaching, they measured six situational motivations: lesson preparation, the teaching itself, student assessment, classroom management, administrative tasks (managing absences, meetings with parents, etc.) and complementary tasks. The goal was to better understand how the various situational and contextual factors generate good integration into the profession or, conversely, how they foster burnout symptoms.

Claude Fernet, professor in the Department of Human Resources at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières said, “To assess the link between the different motivations for teaching and the symptoms of burnout, we sent a questionnaire that was completed by 806 elementary and high- -school teachers in French-speaking Québec, all of whom had been working for five years or less-school teachers in French-speaking Québec, all of whom had been working for five years or less.”

Their new statistical modeling analyze the data of the questionnaires along with integrating every type of motivation. Thus, it identifies the ones with the strongest impact on the burnout symptoms and to prevent it from occurring.

During experiments, scientists found that the model can potentially show the analysis at contextual level by showing autonomous motivations play a strong protective role in preventing burnout. At the same time, controlled motivations have a relatively little negative impact. On the other hand, at the situational level, autonomous motivations have a weak protective effect, whereas controlled motivations have a strong negative impact on emotional exhaustion.

Frédéric Guay, professor in the Department of Educational Fundamentals and Practices at the University of Laval said, “This means we can target where the action is needed and how to prevent burn-out; in other words, situational tasks rather than the overall context of teaching and training teachers.”

Chanal urges, “The results provide an incentive to devise interventions in the education sector to minimise psychosocial pressures at work. This will boost the motivation of teachers during the socialization process, and to reduce the risk of drop out.”

“Our hierarchical, multi-dimensional model of motivation is applicable to all professions. It should now be used to prevent burn-out rather than simply cure it.”

REFERENCEUniversity of Geneva (UNIGE)