ArticlePDF Available


Stress and burnout for health care professionals have received increasing attention in the literature. Significant administrative, societal and political changes have impacted on the role of workers and the responsibilities they are expected to assume. Most writers suggest that social work is a highly stressful occupation, with stress deriving in particular from role conflict between client advocacy and meeting agency needs. This article reviewed the social work literature with two questions in mind: Are social workers subject to greater stress than other health professionals? What factors contribute to stress and burnout among social workers? We found that most of the literature was either anecdotal or compared social worker stress with general population norms rather than with stress levels of workers in comparable professions. Such empirical research as is available suggests that social workers may experience higher levels of stress and resulting burnout than comparable occupational groups. Factors identified as contributing to stress and burnout included the nature of social work practice, especially tension between philosophy and work demands and the organization of the work environment. There was some evidence that supervision and team support are protective factors. Yes Yes
Journal of Mental Health (2002) 11, 3, 255–265
ISSN 0963-8237print/ISSN 1360-0567online/2002/030255-11 © Shadowfax Publishing and Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/09638230020023642
Address for Correspondence: Chris Lloyd, IMHS, Gold Coast Hospital, 108 Nerang Street, Southport Q 4215,
Australia. Tel : 07 55718506; Fax: 07 55718948; E-mail: u
Social work, stress and burnout: A review
1IMHS, Gold Coast Hospital, Department of Occupational Therapy, Southport,
2Department of Psychiatry & 3School of Social Work and Social Policy, University of
Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Stress and burnout for health care professionals have received increasing attention in the literature.
Significant administrative, societal and political changes have impacted on the role of workers and the
responsibilities they are expected to assume. Most writers suggest that social work is a highly stressful
occupation, with stress deriving in particular from role conflict between client advocacy and meeting
agency needs. This article reviewed the social work literature with two questions in mind: Are social
workers subject to greater stress than other health professionals? What factors contribute to stress and
burnout among social workers? We found that most of the literature was either anecdotal or compared
social worker stress with general population norms rather than with stress levels of workers in
comparable professions. Such empirical research as is available suggests that social workers may
experience higher levels of stress and resulting burnout than comparable occupational groups. Factors
identified as contributing to stress and burnout included the nature of social work practice, especially
tension between philosophy and work demands and the organization of the work environment. There
was some evidence that supervision and team support are protective factors.
Social workers have previously been iden-
tified as being at risk of experiencing stress
and burnout (Acker, 1999; Egan, 1993; Gilbar,
1998; Sze & Ivker, 1986; Um & Harrison,
1998). Social work is strongly client-based,
with workers being involved in complex so-
cial situations. As such they can experience
many of the conflicts that are evident in
human service work (Cournoyer, 1988; Pines
& Kafry, 1978; Soderfeldt et al., 1995). In
addition, the last decade has seen a transfor-
mation in the nature and practice of social
work, as a result of administrative, societal,
and political change (Jones & Novak, 1993;
Kurland & Salmon, 1992). A number of
writers have commented that much of what is
known about stress and burnout among social
workers is anecdotal and there is a lack of
systematic research findings on this subject
(Collings & Murray, 1996; Gibson et al.,
1989; Soderfeldt et al., 1995; Taylor-Brown
et al ., 1981; Thom pson et al., 1996).
Cournoyer (1988) suggested that human serv-
ice professionals tend to underestimate the
extent of distress experienced by social work-
ers. A recent survey of the literature found
only a few systematic studies of burnout in
social workers; this is in contrast to what is
256 Chris Lloyd et al.
known about burnout in other human service
fields (Soderfeldt et al., 1995).
This article will examine sources of stress
and stress outcomes (especially burnout) that
are experienced by social workers.
Definition of stress and burnout
Stress can be defined as the emotional and
physiological reactions to stressors (Maslach
et al., 1996; Zastrow, 1984). A stressor is a
demand, situation or circumstance that dis-
rupts a person’s equilibrium and initiates the
stress response of increased autonomic
arousal. Prolonged stress is associated with
chronic anxiety, psychosomatic illness and a
var iety of o ther e moti onal prob l ems
(Caughey, 1996; Taylor-Brown et al., 1982;
Zastrow, 1984). Burnout is a particularly
serious feature of chronic stress and one that
can impair the human service worker’s effec-
tiveness (Collings & Murray, 1996). Burn-
out is a syndrome with dimensions of emo-
tional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and re-
duced feelings of personal accomplishment
(Maslach et al., 1996). A key dimension of
the burnout syndrome is increased feelings of
emotional exhaustion where workers feel they
are no longer able to give of themselves at a
psychological level. A second dimension is
depersonalisation, meaning that workers re-
spond to persistent stress by developing nega-
tive, cynical attitudes and feelings about their
clients. The third dimension is reduced per-
sonal accomplishment, meaning the worker
views their work negatively and feels dissat-
isfied with their work accomplishments
(Maslach et al., 1996).
Does social work philosophy and values
make it inherently stressful?
Writers such as Pines & Kafry (1978) pos-
tulated that social workers are a rather homo-
geneous group, emotionally, whose sensitiv-
ity to clients’ problems make them vulner-
able to work stress. Rushton (1987) queried
whether people who are vulnerable to depres-
sion choose social work rather than another
occupation because, unconsciously, they wish
to work through personal problems by help-
ing others. It has been suggested that, for
most social workers, the need to be helpful is
a primary motive in their choice of profession
and this need can easily lead to over involve-
ment with patients thereby contributing to
stress (Acker, 1999; Borland, 1981; Egan,
The very core of social work lies in rela-
tionships with clients. Even when social
workers are engaged with clients who have
clearly unrealistic or inappropriate demands
or expectations, there is potential for internal
conflict. Much emphasis is placed during
training on the relationship between client
and social worker (Rushton, 1987). Rushton
(1987) suggested that because social workers
are taught to be non-judgemental in their
relationships with clients, they might find it
hard to admit that the personalities and atti-
tudes of clients make eff ective service re-
sponse difficult or impossible. As a result
they may persevere and assume personal
responsibility or agency responsibility f or
There is a commonly held belief that social
work is a highly stressful occupation as a
result of conflicting roles, status, functions
and contexts (Dillon, 1990; Gilbar, 1998;
Rushton, 1987). In the health system there
has been increasing emphasis on instrumen -
tal outcomes and throughput and decreasing
emphasis on the worth of the individual. This
has the potential for conflict for social work-
ers as they continue to maintain supportiv e
relationships based on social work values
(Borland, 1981). Kurland & Salmon (1992 )
considered that social workers face ever in-
creasing pressures as the problems they deal
Social work, stress and burnout 257
with reflect the societal changes and the in-
creasing stress of everyday life.
There may be conflict between social work
ideals (f or example, advocacy, social justice,
client self-determination, and empowerment)
and expected role performance (Balloch et
al., 1998; Borland, 1981; Dillon, 1990; Jones
& Novack, 1993; Rushton, 1987). Reid et al.
(1999) noted that these kinds of conflicts
were experienced by social workers under-
taking Mental Health Act assessments. So-
cial workers experienced conflict between
acting as patients’ advocates and represent-
ing their interests, and the responsibility to
ensure patients and others are safe.
Competing values between administrators
and social workers have been identified as a
source of stress (Borland, 1981; McLean &
Andrew, 2000). This is particularly evident
in health care settings, where it may be seen
that social work values are not always cost
effective. Social workers have little power or
control in a physician-dominated authority
structure, for example, discharge planning
offers a classic example of responsibilit y
without decision-making power (Borland,
1981; Kadushin & Kulys, 1995) where expe-
diencies of hospital management frequently
require patients to be discharged before they
feel ready to leave. The work carried out by
social workers is problem centred and often
involves choosing between unsatisfactor y
alternatives (Rushton, 1987).
Status and autonomy as sources of social
work stress
Dillon (1990) suggested that social work-
ers often have little control over whom they
see, the nature and length of contacts with
clients, the range of expert functions they will
be requested to carry out, and the value placed
by others on their work. According to Dillon
(1990), others misinterpret social work as
just being nice or doing the common sense
things that anyone can do. It has been sug-
gested that there is confusion about roles and
tasks within social work itself and with how
to demonstrate effectiveness (Rushton, 1987).
A number of writers have mentioned that
how others (including work colleagues and
the public) view social work is a source of
stress for social workers (Collings & Murray,
1996; Gibson et al., 1989; Jones et al., 1991;
Smith & Nursten, 1998). Jones & Novak
(1993) considered that this has resulted in
challenges to the legitimacy and identity of
social work.
A qualitative study conducted by Reid et al.
(1999) found that social workers in mental
health reported that they felt frustrated be-
cause their role was misunderstood by others
and that their range of skills was neither
adequately understood nor adequately val-
ued by other health service staff. Likewise,
Kadushin & Kulys (1995) found that social
workers experienced conflicting role expec-
tations, that other members of the team did
not understand the social work role and did
not appreciate what they accomplished.
McLean & Andrew (2000) found that stress
resulted f rom role conflict, disagreement
about good practice, and lack of recognition.
Role conflict intensifies the amount of burn-
out and job dissatisfaction experienced by
social workers (Um & Harrison, 1998).
Social workers are susceptible to changes
in social policy and legislation that have
characterised much of the western world.
Rushton (1987) suggests that changes in the
UK including the new emphasis on financial
management as opposed to professional ex-
pertise have adversely affected social work-
ers. Balloch (1998) identified the devalua-
tion of practice skills, cutbacks in support and
supervision, and the lack of career opportuni-
ties for those who remained in social work
258 Chris Lloyd et al.
rather than making the move into manage-
ment as being consequences of changes in
public administration. It has been suggested
that social workers lack the resources and the
staffing to do the work required of them and
that new legislation is giving them further
responsibilities with limited control or au-
tonomy (Jones & Novak, 1993; Michalski et
al., 1999; Rushton, 1987). Social workers
face a conflict between the demands made on
them as employees and their expectations of
some professional autonomy (Banks, 1998;
Rachman, 1995; Rushton, 1987).
Organisational structure and climate
Since the introduction of health care re-
forms, the organisational context of social
work is attracting increasing attention as a
possible cause of job stress (Kadushin &
Kulys, 1995; McLean & Andrew, 2000;
Rachman, 1995). Stress resulting from or-
ganisational factors is a concern to many
employers owing to the substantial human
and economic costs it incurs (Bradley &
Sutherland, 1995). Cushman et al. (1995)
found that respondents identified a number of
stressors related to the organisation of work.
These included lack of funding, personnel
shortages, high worker turnover rates, lack of
linkages to other work units, attitudes of
other health professionals, and working in a
bureaucratic environment. Additional or-
ganizational constraints include the pressure
to discharge patients more quickly, no time to
provide counselling or emotional support,
and lack of co-operation from hospital staff
(Kadushin & Kulys, 1995). Collings &
Murray (1996) found that the most powerful
predictor of overall stress related to the pres-
sure involved in planning and reaching work
Individuals are normally assigned and fol-
low certain roles in their work setting. The
expectations of the occupant of the role and
the expectations of other members of the role
set regarding that role influence how the
occupant perceives and performs the role
(Egan & Kadushin, 1995). Jones (1993) in
his study of child welfare administrators f ound
that they experienced professional role con-
flict, as well as organizational goal conflict .
The participants reported significant instances
of role conflict to the extent that others had
conflicting role expectations of them. Sze &
Ivker (1986) commented that it is not known
why social workers in a given setting or role
perceive that they are under more stress or are
more subject to strain than workers in other
settings or roles.
Bradley & Sutherland (1995) conducted an
investigation of occupational stress among
professional and support staff within a social
services department in north-west England.
The participants consisted of 63 social work-
ers (85% response rate) and 74 home helps
(response rate 79%). The findings from this
study about the main sources of stress for
social workers were similar to that reported
by Collings & Murray (1996). The social
workers reported higher levels of stress as a
result of organisational structure and climate,
particularly relating to the problems of work-
ing in a climate of low morale (Bradley &
Sutherland, 1995).
As organisations change and previously
well-established work practices are replaced
by more complex and overlapping roles, all
workers are susceptible to stress associate d
with role ambiguity. Role ambiguity was
found to be an important source of dissatis-
faction for social workers in research carried
out by Balloch et al. (1998). They f ound that
the most f requently mentioned sources of
subjective stress included being exposed to
conflicting demands, being expected to do
things which were not part of the job, being
unable to do things which should be part of
the job, and being unclear about what was
expected. Role ambiguity occurs when there
Social work, stress and burnout 259
is uncertainty about the scope of the job and
about the expectations of others. Stress aris-
ing from unclear goals or objectives can
ultimately lead to job dissatisfaction, lack of
self-confidence, a lowered sense of self-es-
teem, low motivation to work, and intention
to leave the job (Sutherland & Cooper, 1990).
Rabin & Zelner (1992) found that lack of job
clarity predicts high turnover and burnout,
regardless of the type of setting. They sug-
gested that job clarity could be a preventive
factor in burnout.
Stress outcomes – morbidity, job
satisfaction, burnout and staff
Thompson et al. (1996) found high levels
of emotional distress in their study of field
social work staff in the UK. Seventy-four per
cent of the respondents showed borderline or
pathological levels of anxiety. In looking at
occupational stress amongst Northern Ire-
land social workers, Gibson et al. (1989)
found that 37% of respondents were identi-
fied as ‘cases’, that is, they described symp-
toms that could be classified as mild psychi-
atric morbidity. A later study by Caughey
(1996) of 36 participants who worked in one
social services district office, found that 72%
of the respondents displayed signs of psychi-
atric morbidity as measured by the GHQ28.
In a study looking at the psychological strains
experienced by social workers in Hertford-
shire, Jones et al. (1991) found that 55% of
the sample experienced anxiety and that lev-
els of anxiety increased as perceived de-
mands increased. In a study of the effects of
burnout and work stress on family relations,
social workers who experienced more in-
tense burnout were more likely to demon-
strate depression, anxiety, and irritableness,
and lower marital satisfaction (Jayarante et
al., 1986).
Bennett et al. (1993) studied three groups
of social workers, including those w orking in
the areas of child health, adult mental health
and adult physical dysfunction, to examine
sources of stress, coping strategies, and stress
outcomes. They f ound that the measure of
mental distress was substantially higher than
the norms for any other occupational group.
The study produced evidence of relativel y
high levels of both work-related anxiety and
trait depression amongst all social workers
when compared to normative population s
and workers in other professions. Similarly,
Bradley & Sutherland (1995) found higher
levels of ill health for social workers and
home help workers in comparison with the
normative group. The social work symptoms
of distress included physical exhaustion (51%)
and emotional exhaustion (38% ). Thus the
measure of mental health found that both
home help workers and social workers re-
ported poorer mental well-being than other
occupational groups.
Balloch et al. (1998) conducted a survey in
five different local authorities in England to
explore the relationship between levels of
satisf action, dissatisfaction and stress among
social services staff. Interviews were carried
out with 1276 people (response rate 87%).
The mean GHQ score for the sample was
higher compared to previous research, with
managers scoring higher than staff. Staff
who experienced role ambiguity had signif i-
cantly higher GHQ scores than those who felt
confident about what their jobs entailed.
Recently, it has also been found that a signif i-
cant proportion of social work lecturers were
suffering from borderline levels of anxiety
and depression (Collins & Parry-Jones, 2000).
Job satisfaction is of particular importance
since an individual tends to apply for or stay
in a satisfying job, and avoid or leave a
dissatisfying job. The importance of job
satisf action is evidenced by its consistent
correlation with absenteeism and turnover
260 Chris Lloyd et al.
(Hagen, 1989; Himle et al., 1986; Martin &
Schinke, 1998). Jayaratne & Chess (1984)
investigated stress and burnout among 144
community mental health workers, 60 child
welfare and 84 family services workers. They
found that reported levels of emotional ex-
haustion and depersonalisation did not diff er
signif icantly between child welfare workers
and community mental health workers. The
family services workers recorded significantly
lower levels of depersonalisation. Forty per
cent of the sample thought that they would be
likely to change jobs.
Previous research by Maslach et al. (1996)
predicted that burnout would be related to the
desire to leave one’s job. Gibson et al. (1989)
found that 73% of respondents had thought of
leaving social work at some point, with half
of the respondents having considered leaving
in the past year. A number of other studies
have also found a high percentage of social
workers intending either to leave the profes-
sion entirely or leave their current position
(Hagen, 1989; Himle et al., 1986; Samantrai,
Gibson et al. (1989) conducted a study of
occupational stress in Northern Ireland of
176 field social workers using the Maslach
Burnout Inventory (MBI Maslach et al.,
1996). Results from this study revealed that
47% of social workers were in the moderate
intensity burnout category in terms of fre-
quency and intensity of the emotional ex-
haustion subscale and 42% were high inten-
sity on the depersonalisation subscale. On
the subscale that measures burnout due to
feelings of lack of personal accomplishment,
social workers exhibit high levels. All of the
respondents fell into the high burnout cat-
egory for frequency (100%) and almost all
for intensity (98%). It is evident then that the
main manifestation of burnout among the
social work sample was in feelings of per-
sonal accomplishment. Gibson et al. (1989)
considered that feelings of lack of accom-
plishment of professional objectives might
well be more likely in a profession, which
attracts those with idealism, which is not
subsequently realised in practice. Findings
such as these illustrate considerable disen-
chantment with day-to-day social work prac-
Himle et al. (1986) conducted a cross-
cultural comparison of the perceptions of job
satisfaction, burnout and turnover between a
national sample of social workers in Norway
and a national sample of social workers in the
USA. The Norwegian social workers re-
ported higher levels of burnout, job dissatis-
faction and intent to leave their jobs than
American workers. Among the work-related
stressors, Norwegian workers reported higher
levels of stress related to role ambiguity, role
conflict, job challenge, value conflict, and
financial rewards, and less stress related to
promotion and workload than American
workers. Himle et al. (1986) concluded that
the strongest predictor of all dimensions of
burnout is the challenge of the job.
Martin & Schinke (1998) conducted a study
to determine levels of job satisfaction and
burnout in mental health workers. Two hun-
dred family/children and psychiatric workers
of seven social service organisations in the
New York metropolitan area were surveyed
using the Minnesota Satisfaction Question-
naire, the MBI, and the Staff Burnout Scale
for Health Professionals. Fifty-seven per
cent of psychiatric and 71% of f amily/chil-
dren workers identified themselves as being
moderately or severely burnt out. It was
concluded that the absence of certain integral
job facets, for example, promotional oppor-
tunities and remuneration are associated with
staff burnout.
In England, Prosser et al. (1999) conducted
a longitudinal study examining mental health,
burnout and job satisfaction of mental health
Social work, stress and burnout 261
staff. They found that being based in the
community was associated with higher GHQ-
12 scores when compared to in-patient staff.
Being a social worker was associated with
higher stress, lower job satisfaction, and higher
levels of emotional exhaustion as measured
by the MBI. Acker (1999) found a significant
relationship between involvement and emo-
tional exhaustion. He concluded that social
workers are negatively affected by working
with clients with severe mental illness.
Protective factors: Supervision and team
Various forms of social support protec t
against burnout (Maslach et al., 1996) and a
number of social work researchers have ex-
amined the effects of emotional support on
moderating the impact of job stress (Coady et
al., 1990; Himle et al., 1986, 1989; Koeske &
Koeske, 1989; Um & Harrison, 1998). Um &
Harrison (1998) found that social support
acted as an intervening and moderating factor
between burnout and job dissatisfaction.
Supervision is a major form of social worker
support and social workers often turn to their
supervisors for assistance with cases and for
help with the further development of skills
(C ollings & Murr ay, 1996; Mizrahi &
Abramson, 1985; Rushton, 1987). Himle et
al. (1989) examined the ability of emotional
support to buffer the impact of job stress.
They reported that emotional support by both
supervisors and co-workers is associated with
lower levels of burnout, work stress and
mental health problems. Fahs Beck (1981)
identified lack of support on the job, particu-
larly executive support, was a correlate of
Coady et al. (1990) found that there was no
signif icant relationship between scores on
the emotional exhaustion and depersonalisa-
tion subscale and the social workers percep-
tion of team support. However, social work-
ers that perceived the team as being support-
ive had higher scores on the measure of
personal accomplishment, indicating less risk
of burnout. In looking at perceived supervi-
sor support, Coady et al. (1990), found that
there was no correlation between perceived
supervisory support and social workers scores
on the subscales of emotional exhaustion or
personal accomplishment. There was, how-
ever, a signif icant difference in scores on the
depersonalisation subscale. The findings
suggest that social workers who perceive
their supervisor as supportive have less po-
tential for burnout. As an extension of these
findings, Collings & Murray (1996) found
that one aspect of supervision that was pre-
dictive of high levels of stress perceived that
one’s supervision was primarily geared to
protecting supervisors.
Koeske & Koeske (1989) found that work-
load had no direct effect on burnout but quite
a substantial effect when the moderating im-
pact of support was considered. Heavy work-
load produced more burnout, but only when
social support was low. The element of work
load most relevant to burnout (under low
support) were the number of clients seen in a
typical day, the average hours per day spent
in direct client contact and the percentage of
crisis interventions .
There is a strong perception in the profes-
sion that stress is a problem and that it is
particularly associated with role ambiguity,
discrepancies between ideals and work out-
comes and personal vulnerability character-
istics of people who enter the profession. The
quantity and quality of the empirical research
is weak but there is some evidence that social
workers experience high levels of stress and
consequent burnout, especially as measured
by the MBI personal accomplishment dimen-
262 Chris Lloyd et al.
sion. This may have to do with the discrep-
ancy between the ideals of social work and
what social workers actually do in practice.
Of the various sources of stress as being
identified as being characteristic of social
work, only two could be said to be inherent.
These are the appeal of the profession to
vulnerable or unstable people and the idealis-
tic and reforming philosophy of the profes-
sion. All the other stressors are contextual
and relate to organisational and role deploy-
ment issues.
The literature suggesting that the profes-
sion appeals to vulnerable or unstable people
is either taken from a personal account or an
expressed belief. There is little evidence to
support this, although a number of studie s
have found high levels of psychiatric morbid-
ity as measured by the GHQ (Balloch et al.,
1998; Caughey, 1996; Collins & Parry-Jones,
2000; Gibson et al., 1989; Thompson et al.,
1996). Social workers have also been found
to have high levels of general anxiety and
depression (Bennett et al., 1993) and poorer
mental well-being (Bradley & Sutherland,
1995) as compared to the normative popula -
tion. It is difficult to determine whether this
psychiatric symptomatology was already
present or, whether, the perceived stresses
experienced by the social workers resulted in
them developing such high levels of emo-
tional distress.
Social work is a profession that aims to
improve social functioning by the provisio n
of practical and psychological help to people
in need. The accepted view held by social
workers is that many of their clients’ difficul -
ties are linked in diverse ways to their social,
economic, and political status in society (Jones
& Novak, 1993). Marked changes in societal
expectations and service delivery have cre-
ated difficulties for social workers to work
within this frame of reference. This then
results in a discrepancy between the ideals of
social work and their expected role perf orm-
Organisational factors that have been iden-
tified as contributing to the burnout process
for social workers include role ambiguity,
role conflict, challenge of the job, and job
autonomy. From the literature it appears
evident that social workers experience a high
degree of role ambiguity and role conflict.
With changes to organisational structures, it
would seem that social workers are unable to
use the skills they have learnt as others have
conflicting role expectations of them. Their
professional concepts have been undermined
and they have been confronted with ethical
dilemmas about how to best meet client need
within a framework of reform and regulation.
Social workers have been expected to deal
with the plight of clients with reduced au-
tonomy and reduced resources. It is not
surprising then to find a high degree of burn-
out on the dimension that measures feelings
of personal accomplishment .
From the earlier literature, there is some
evidence that social workers in mental health
experienced lower levels of burnout than
hospital or welfare social workers. However,
this is not a consistent picture with only a few
comparative studies and one study showing
social workers in family work having less
depersonalisation than mental health social
workers. In hospital settings, a medical model
is followed, which has implications for social
workers in terms of status differences and the
demands placed on social workers by the
medical profession that are frequently at odds
with social work values. The social services
have been identified as stressful for social
workers as they f ind themselves with fewer
resources to meet the needs of clients with
multiple social issues. It must be noted,
however, that there is a great diversity of
social work roles and hence the potential for
high variability in stress.
Social work, stress and burnout 263
Health and social care have changed mark-
edly in relation to the organisation and deliv-
ery of services. In order to respond to these
changes, it is necessary for the individua l
professions to develop effectiveness in their
own areas of practice to further develop their
own professional identity. The fact that so-
cial worker’s knowledge base has been largely
taken from that of allied fields means that
their unique contribution to the team is not
always clearly understood or valued (Dillon,
1990; Rabin & Zelner, 1992; Reid et al.,
1999). The degree to which social workers
are able to define their own job domain will
depend on their ability to actively negotiate
their desired aims and methods, as well as to
resist attempts by other professions to define
social work areas of expertise (Rabin &
Zelner, 1992). Job clarity can be defined as
the degree to which the worker is aware of
his/her own authority to decide treatment
methods; of areas considered to be his/her
domain of expertise; and of the expectation s
held by clients, supervisors and colleagues
(Rabin & Zelner, 1992).
From descriptive accounts, the literature
has identified social work as being a profes-
sion that is at high risk of stress and burnout.
The studies that have been conducted have
revealed that social workers are experiencing
stress and burnout but the picture is unclear as
to whether they experience more stress and
burnout than comparable occupational
groups. Although there is some indication,
they experience higher levels of burnout as
compared to normative populations particu-
larly on feelings of reduced personal accom-
plishment. The range of measures used in
different studies makes it difficult to compare
results. Researchers have been interested in
studying a variety of factors associated with
stress and burnout. Demographic variables
do not appear to be signif icantly related to
stress and burnout. Most of the factors re-
lated to the individual social worker were not
associated with stress and burnout. Organi-
sational factors such as work pressure, work
load, role ambiguity, and relationship with
supervisor have been identified as primary
predictors of these feelings. Only a few
client-related factors were mentioned in the
studies. Risk factors associated with burnout
appeared to include the lack of challenge on
the job, low work autonomy, role ambiguity,
difficulties in providing services to clients,
and low professional self-esteem. Moderat-
ing influences were mainly found to be su-
pervisory support. Further research is war-
ranted to examine a wider range of potential
stressors and the development of strategies
for alleviating stress, for example, increased
opportunities for supervision and better mana-
gerial and team support. Research effort can
then result in the development of more effec-
tive strategies designed to lessen and prevent
work-related stress. Increased knowledge in
this area could greatly influence the job ef-
fectiveness and satisfaction of social work-
Acker, G. (1999). The impact of clients’ mental illness
on social workers’ job satisfaction and burnout.
Health and Social Work, 24, 112–119.
Balloch, S., Pahl, J. & McLean, J. (1998). Working in
the social services: Job satisfaction, stress and
violence. British Journal of Social Work, 28, 329–
Banks, S. (1998). Professional ethics in social work –
what future? British Journal of Social Work, 28,
Beemsterboer, J. & Baum, B. (1984). ‘Burnout’:
Defintitions and health care management. Social
Work in Health Care, 10, 97–109.
Bennett, P., Evans, R. & Tattersall, A. (1993). Stress
and coping in social workers: A preliminary inves-
tigation. British Journal of Social Work, 23, 31–44.
264 Chris Lloyd et al.
Borland, J. (1981). Burnout among workers and admin-
istrators. Health and Social Work, 6, 73–78.
Bradley, J. & Sutherland, V. (1995). Occupational
stress in social services: A comparison of social
workers and home help staff. British Journal of
Social Work, 25, 313–331.
Caughey, J. (1996). Psychological distress in staff of a
social services district office: A pilot study. British
Journal of Social Work, 26, 389–398.
Coady, C., Kent, V. & Davis, P. (1990). Burnout among
social workers working with patients with cystic
fibrosis. Health and Social Work, May, 116–124.
Collins, S. & Parry-Jones, B. (2000). Stress: The per-
ceptions of social work lecturers in Britain. British
Journal of Social Work, 30, 769–794.
Collings, J. & Murray, P. (1996). Predictors of stress
amongst social workers: An empirical study. Brit-
ish Journal of Social Work, 26, 375–387.
Cushman, L., Evans, P. & Namerow, P. (1995). Occu-
pational stress among aids social service providers.
Social Work in Health Care, 21, 115–131.
Cournoyer, B. (1988). Personal and professional dis-
tress among social caseworkers. Social Casework:
The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, May,
Dillon, C. (1990). Managing stress in health social
work roles today. Social Work in Health Care, 14,
Egan, M. (1993). Resilience at the front lines: Hospital
social work with AIDS patients and burnout. Social
Work in Health Care, 18, 109–125.
Egan, M. & Kadushin, G. (1995). Competitive allies:
Rural nurses’ and social workers’ perceptions of
the social work role in the hospital setting. Social
Work in Health Care, 20, 1–23.
Fahs Beck, D. (1987). Counselor burnout in f amily
service agencies. Social Casework: The Journal of
Contemporary Social Work, 68, 3–15.
Gibson, F., McGrath, A. & Reid, N. (1989). Occupa-
tional stress in social work. British Journal of
Social Work, 19, 1–6.
Gilbar, O. (1998). Relationship between burnout and
sense of coherence in health social workers. Social
Work in Health Care, 26, 39–49.
Hagen, J. (1989). Income maintenance workers: Burned-
out, dissatisfied and leaving. Journal of Social
Service Research, 13, 47–63.
Himle, D., Jayaratne, S. & Thyness, P. (1986). Predic-
tors of j ob satisfaction, burnout and turnover among
social workers in Norway and the USA: A cross-
cultural study. International Social Work, 29, 323–
Himle, D., Jayaratne, S. & Thyness, P. (1989). The
effects of emotional support on burnout, wor k
stress and mental health among Norwegian and
American social workers. Journal of Social Service
Research, 13, 27–45.
Jayaratne, S. & Chess, W. (1984). Job satisfaction,
burnout, and turnover: A national study. Social
Work, 24, 448–453.
Jayaratne, S., Chess, W. & Kunkel, D. (1986). Burnout:
Its impact on child welfare workers and their
spouses. Social Work, 31, 53–59.
Jones, M. (1993). Role conflict: Cause of burnout or
energiser? Social Work, 38, 136–141.
Jones, F., Fletcher, B. & Ibbetson, K. (1991). Stressors
and strains amongst social workers: Demands, con-
straints, and psychological health. British Journal
of Social Work, 21, 443–469.
Jones, C. & Novak, T. (1993). Social work today.
British Journal of Social Work, 23, 195–212.
Kadushin, G. & Kulys, R. (1995). Job satisfaction
among social work discharge planners. Health and
Social Work, 20, 174–186.
Koeske, G. & Koeske, R. (1989). Workload and burn-
out: Can social support and perceived accomplish-
ment help? Social Work, May, 243–248.
Kurland, R. & Salmon, R. (1992). When problems
seem overwhelming: Emphases in teaching, super-
vision, and consultation. Social Work, 37, 240
Martin, U. & Schinke, S. (1998). Organizational and
individual factors influencing job satisfaction and
burnout of mental health workers. Social Work in
Health Care, 28, 51–62.
Maslach, C., Jackson, S. & Leiter, M. (1996). Maslach
Burnout Inventory Manual. Palo Alto: Consulting
Psychologists Press.
McLean, J. & Andrew, T. (2000). Commitment, satis-
faction, stress and control among social services
managers and social workers in the UK. Adminis-
tration in Social Work, 23, 93–117.
Michalski, J., Creighton, E. & Jackson, L. (1999). The
impact of hospital restructuring on social work
services: A case study of a large, university-affili-
ated hospital in Canada. Social Work in Health
Care, 30, 1–26.
Mizrahi, T. & Abramson, J. (1985). Sources of strain
between physicians and social workers: Implica-
tions for social workers in health care settings.
Social Work in Health Care, 15, 33–51.
Pines, A. & Kafry, D. (1978). Occupational tedium in
the social services. Social Work, November, 499–
Pottage, D. & Huxley, P. (1996). Stress and mental
health social work: A developmental perspective.
International Journal of Psy chiatry, 42, 124–131.
Prosser, D., Johnson, S., Kuipers, E., Dunn, G.,
Szmukle r, G., Re id, Y., Be bbi ngto n, P. &
Social work, stress and burnout 265
Thornicroft, G. (1999). Mental health, ‘burnout
and job satisfaction in a longitudinal study of men-
tal health staff. Social Psychiat ry and Psychiatric
Epidemiology, 34, 295–300.
Rabin, C. & Zelner, D. (1992). The role of assertiveness
in clarifying roles and strengthening job satisfac-
tion of social workers in multidisciplinary mental
health settings. British Journal of Social Work, 22,
Rachman, R. (1995). Community care: Changing the
role of hospital social work. Health and Social
Care in the Community, 3, 163–172.
Reid, Y., Johnson, S., Morant, N., Kuipers, E., Szmukler,
G., Thornicroft, G., Bebbington, P. & Prosser, D.
(1999). Explanations for stress and satisfaction in
mental health prof essionals: A qualitative study.
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology,
34, 301–308.
Rushton, A. (1987). Stress amongst social workers. In
R. Payne & J. Firth-Cozens (Eds.), Stress in Health
Professionals (pp. 167 –188). Chichester: John
Wiley & Sons.
Samantrai, K. (1992). Factors in the decision to leave:
Retaining social workers with MSWs in public
child welfare. Social Work, 37, 454–458.
Smith, M. & Nursten, J. (1998). Social workers’ expe-
rience of distress – moving towards change? Brit-
ish Journal of Social Work, 28, 351–368.
Soderfeldt, M., Soderfeldt, B. & Warg, L. (1995).
Burnout in social work. Social Work, 40, 638 646.
Sutherland, V. & Cooper, C. (1990). Understanding
Stress. London: Chapman and Hall.
Sze, W. & Ivker, B. (1986). Stress in social workers:
The impact of setting and role. Social Casework:
The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, March,
Taylor-Brown, S., Johnson, K., Hunter, K. & Rockowitz,
R. (1981). Stress identification for social workers
in health care: A preventative approach to burn-out.
Social Work in Health Care, 7, 91–100.
Thompson, N., Stradling, S., Murphy, M. & O’Neill, P.
(1996). Stress and organizational culture. British
Journal of Social Work, 26, 647–665.
Um, M.Y. & Harrison, D.F. (1998). Role stressors,
burnout, mediators, and job satisfaction: A stress-
strain-outcome model and an empirical test. Social
Work Research, 22, 100–115.
Zastrow, C. (1984). Understanding and preventing
burn-out. British Journal of Social Work, 14, 141
... Research indicates that social workers are at risk for compassion fatigue, stress-related burnout, and vicarious trauma (in the form of exposure to another person's trauma history for example) due to the emotionally demanding nature of the work (Collins, 2008;Grant & Kinman, 2011;Lloyd, King & Chenoweth, 2002;Portnoy, 2011). This was further corroborated by participants who recognised that there is a high 'burnout rate' (Participant 5) and 'vicarious trauma in people working' (Participant 4) in non-government organisations (NGOs), because 'we see things that we shouldn't see' (Participant 5). ...
... This was corroborated by participants in this study who spoke of having a vocation, being passionate, and going above and beyond for their clients. Research indicates that, due to the emotionally demanding nature of their roles, social workers risk compassion fatigue and stress-related burnout (Collins, 2008;Grant & Kinman, 2011;Huxley et al., 2005;Lloyd et al., 2002;Portnoy, 2011), something that was highlighted by participants who recognised the potential for burnout and vicarious trauma, which may result in stress leave, and family relationship breakdown. However, participants argued that the largest risk for burnout is the frustration experienced when going above and beyond, and putting in time and effort into assisting their clients, without it being recognised by the government in recurrent funding. ...
Full-text available
As Australia’s rates of imprisonment, and recidivism rates of returned citizens, continue to rise, it is becoming increasingly important to better understand how to support returning citizens to adequately prepare them for a life post-release and enhance their (re)integration. While recent research focuses on what we need to do to successfully support the community transition of incarcerated persons following release to reduce recidivism, current research focuses on program characteristics and what constitutes a successful program. Consequently, there appears to be a lack of research examining the impacts of removing throughcare support programs designed to successfully transition returning citizens. This exploratory study examines the consequences of removing a successful reintegration program in Tasmania – the Reintegration for Ex-Offenders’ Program (REO) – run by The Salvation Army between July 2011 and July 2015, when it was defunded under the Liberal government. Using a purposive, snowball sampling approach, the study employed a qualitative methodological approach to conduct semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders involved with the REO program. The thematic analysis of the interview data demonstrates that removing a transitional and accommodation support program results in significant consequences, including suicide of returned citizens. In addition to finding a pattern of ‘program churn’ of funding and defunding a range of support programs for returning citizens, participants highlighted key consequences as: gap in services; lack of support and housing; loss of relationships and trust between service providers and returned citizens, as well as between organisations; loss of human resources; persons remaining in the system for longer than required; persons being released with no transitional support or accommodation, resulting in reoffending; and health implications for returning citizens and service providers. The findings of this study, therefore, have significant implications for understanding the very serious consequences of simple government decisions to defund a program in this sector.
... In 2020, over 669 thousand qualified social workers in China played a vital role in social service and local governance (1). However, social workers have a high risk of burnout, which is considered a worldwide issue (2)(3)(4)(5) and concerns the social work industry in China (6,7). Existing literature associated social workers' burnout with their mental and physical health problems, such as depression (8,9), sickleave absences (10), and self-reported health problems (11). ...
Full-text available
Background Since the 2000s, local governments have contracted out more and more social services to social work organizations in China. Social workers are thus experiencing the inconsistency between local governments' and clients' demands and the deviation from the professional duty of helping clients, which may result in conflicting and unclear roles in their jobs and further lead to burnout. Based on the Role Stress-burnout Model and the previous theoretical and field-work investigations, this study examined the effects of the government-client work interaction frequency gap on social workers' burnout as well as the mediating effects of role ambiguity and conflict and the moderating effects of the non-front-line work. Methods A cross-sectional study of 2,643 front-line social workers and 2,599 supervisors or managers from 56 major cities all over China was conducted. Work burnout was measured by the 22-item three-dimension Maslach's Burnout Inventory Scale. Rizzo et al.'s 14-item scale measured role conflict and ambiguity. The government-client working interaction frequency gap was measured by the difference between the five-point level of work interaction frequency with governments minus the one with clients. Structural equation modeling was adopted to test the mediation and moderation models. Results Results showed that for the front-line social workers, besides directly reducing personal accomplishment, the government-client work interaction frequency gap could indirectly neutralize its alleviating effects on emotional exhaustion (Mediating effect ratio = −63.64 %), make its total effects on depersonalization significant (37.03%), and reduce personal accomplishment further (23.08%) through increasing social workers' feeling of role conflict. However, the above mediating effects of role conflict were not significant for social workers with extra management or supervision workload, revealing the moderating effects of non-front-line work. Conclusions This study revealed that front-line social workers in China who had more work interaction with governments and less with clients could have higher role conflict, increasing their burnout further. Therefore, social work educational programs should include adequate mental adjustment courses and practical emplacement to prepare students for the potential role conflict. Furthermore, higher-level governments should issue relevant regulations to form a collaborative rather than an employment relationship between local governments and social worker organizations.
... Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma within the workforce have often been linked with increased feelings of burnout. 1 Some studies have predicted clinician burnout at more than 50%. 2 For example, it has been found that social workers have higher levels of stress and burnout when compared to other occupational groups due to the nature of the practice and the work environment. 3 Some studies have also predicted over 50% of physicians and 30% of nurses experience burnout. 4 Historically, burned-out workers leave the workforce at higher rates than their colleagues experiencing compassion satisfaction. ...
There has been increased attention on the role of indirect trauma and the need for burnout prevention for behavioral health workers. Though frontline workers traditionally serve high needs and vulnerable populations, pandemic challenges have involved service delivery pivots to meet social distancing and safety guidelines, and have resulted in staff shortages and increased caseloads, increased use of maladaptive coping skills such as substance use, and increased mental health concerns within the workforce. Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma within the workforce have often been linked with increased feelings of burnout. A socio-ecological model can provide a multilevel framework for addressing burnout and increasing resiliency among frontline workers. This article discusses recommendations for preventing burnout on an individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and societal level. Prevention interventions include increasing training, mentorship, peer support, supervision, organizational culture, and interdisciplinary licensure efforts.
... Because the nature of the social work profession demands social workers to actively listen and empathize with clients (Gelfand, 1973;Hepworth et al., 1997;Mullins, 2011), research indicates that social workers whose work involves direct practice are more likely to experience compassion fatigue and burnout (Bride, 2007;Cuartero and Campos-Vidal, 2018;Slattery and Goodman, 2009). On an organizational level, high caseloads, a lack of peer support, opportunities for promotion, ambiguous role definition, and autonomy lead to worker burnout (Craig and Sprang, 2010;Font, 2012;Lloyd et al., 2002;Maslach and Leiter, 1997;Mor Barak et al., 2001;Strolin-Goltzman, 2010). The severe emotional and physical effects of compassion fatigue and burnout experienced by practitioners are reflected in high turnover rates in juvenile crime programs (White et al., 2015) and it causes soaring financial costs in agencies (Rhineberger-Dun and Mack, 2020). ...
In the past few decades, both the local and international press have addressed flaws within the juvenile justice systems in Chile. However, very few studies have examined the support provided to social workers working in this field. This article, using exploratory survey research methods, explores the perspective of social workers about how these systems support their well-being and overall work functioning. The survey uses a snowball sampling technique to reach social workers who work in nonprofit organizations serving juvenile offenders in the metropolitan region in Chile. The results show that social workers are experiencing moderate levels of compassion fatigue. Different issues emerged centered on a lack of organizational support related to teamwork, training, and pay.
... unexpected, given the stressful nature of work in human service organisations and the helping professions (Astvik et al., 2014). Indeed, human service organisations and social work are considered high-stress occupations, and this is an internationally recognised problem (Lloyd et al., 2002). The relatively high rates of dedication reported in this study are inextricably linked to perceptions of job demands, control and support, which are well-documented relationships (Mauno et al., 2010). ...
Full-text available
Dedication to work is about enthusiasm for the job and feelings of pride and inspiration from one's work, which is important due to its influence on work performance. We have surveyed dedication to work among 1347 trained social workers and street-level bureaucrats with other educational backgrounds in the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration. By using the Job Demand-Control-Support model, we examined the relationship between perceived working conditions and dedication to work. The results revealed rather high levels of dedication to work among street-level bureaucrats in an activation work context, and highest among those who most strongly supported welfare conditionality measures. Whereas perceptions of demand were negatively associated with dedication, perceptions of control and support yielded positive relationships, with the latter variable being the most salient predictor of dedication to work. Educational background seems to be less important, and minor differences in the prediction of dedication were found between educational groups. ABSTRAKT Dedikasjon til arbeid handler om entusiasme for jobben, samt opplevelse av stolthet og inspirasjon for arbeidet. Dedikasjon er viktig fordi det virker inn på arbeidsprestasjoner. Vi har kartlagt dedikasjon blant 1347 sosialarbeidere og bakkebyråkrater med annen utdanningsbakgrunn ved NAV-kontor i hele Norge. Ved bruk av Krav-kontroll-støtte-modellen undersøkte vi sammenhenger mellom opplevde arbeidsforhold og dedikasjon til arbeid. Resultatene viste relativt høye nivåer av dedikasjon til arbeid blant bakkebyråkratene i en aktiverings-kontekst, og høyest blant de som støttet aktiveringspolitikken sterkest. Mens oppfatninger av høye arbeidskrav var negativt assosiert med dedikasjon, var oppfatninger om stor grad av kontroll og støtte positivt korrelert med dedikasjon. Sistnevnte variabel var den mest fremtredende prediktoren for dedikasjon til arbeid. Utdanningsbakgrunn ser ut til å vaere mindre viktig, og det ble funnet mindre forskjeller i prediksjon av dedikasjon mellom utdanningsgruppene.
The main goals of this article are to promote the use of the experience sampling method (ESM) in library and information science education and research, by describing its origin in flow theory and demonstrating its use in a study of information and communication technology (ICT) use (i.e., electronic record-keeping systems, email, text messaging, social media, online meeting tools, apps) among rural child welfare workers. This article reviews the methodological considerations of ESM and demonstrates, step by step, how to structure such a study and approach data analysis. Findings, conclusions, and implications of the rural child welfare worker study are also reviewed. This paper will be of use in courses on theory, research, information behavior, information practices, technology adoption and use, and the assessment of information programs and services. It can be used to further orient students to theory, to help them make the connection between theory and method, and to promote critical thinking about research findings and conclusions.
This article aimed to determine the association between role stress and depressive symptoms, as well as the moderating role of job autonomy on the role stress‐depressive symptoms relationship. The data came from the China Social Work Longitudinal Study. Depressive symptoms were measured with Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale. Role stress was assessed using two standardized scales of role conflict and role ambiguity. Job autonomy was assessed with a measure derived from the Job Content Questionnaire. We found that role conflict and role ambiguity were positively associated with depressive symptoms, while job autonomy was negatively associated with depressive symptoms. In addition, job autonomy was found to act as a moderator against the detrimental effect of role ambiguity on depressive symptoms. Our findings suggest that measures focusing on improving job autonomy and decreasing role stress are necessary to improve social workers’ psychological well‐being.
This study aimed to employ a social survey method to define the social, familial, and economic stresses experienced by a sample of 135 Saudi social workers who work with people with disabilities. It also aimed to understand the impact of these stresses on the degree of burnout these workers experienced in the following three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. Findings We found that the degree of social, familial, and economic stress among social workers was moderate, whereas the degree of depersonalization was high; emotional exhaustion was medium; and personal accomplishment was low. We found a medium proportional correlation between the total stress experienced by a social worker and the emotional exhaustion they were likely to experience, which had a weak inverse correlation with personal accomplishment. Social workers’ total stress predicted their burnout to be 18.7% in terms of emotional exhaustion, 19.6% for depersonalization, and 7.5% for personal accomplishment. These predicted values also differed with regards to each focus. There was no correlation between workers’ burnout and the quantitative demographic variations. Applications The social and familial stresses encountered by social workers working with disabled individuals should be considered in order to map the causes of their suffering and, ultimately, to establish ways of alleviating the severity of the burnout they experience. Finally, there was evidence to support the idea that a review of their monthly salaries might serve as a solution to burnout.
Full-text available
This paper examines the ethical implications of recent changes in social work, particularly in relation to the conception of social workers as professionals guided by a code of ethics. These changes include the fragmentation of the occupation, the increasing proceduralization of the work and the growing focus on consumer rights and user participation. Some people have argued that codes of ethics are becoming increasingly irrelevant in this climate, in that they assume a unified occupational group and are based upon professionals' definition of values without consultation with service users. On the other hand, it has also been maintained that it is ever more important to retain and strengthen codes of ethics in order to maintain professional identity and to defend the work of the profession from outside attack. This paper explores the relevance of a code of professional ethics for social work, focusing particularly on the British Association of Social Workers' code, in the context of the changing organization and practice of the work. It considers two alternative approaches: the 'new consumerism' which focuses on the worker's technical skills (rather than professional ethics) and consumer rights (as opposed to professional obligations); and a 'new radicalism' which stresses the worker's own personal or political commitment and individual moral responsibility (as opposed to an externally imposed code of professional ethics). It is concluded that the changes in social work do threaten the notion of a single set of professional ethics articulated in a code, and that, in some types of work, this model is less appropriate. However, there is still mileage in retaining and developing a code of ethics, not as an imposed set of rules developed by the professional association, but as part of a dynamic and evolving ethical tradition in social work and as a stimulus for debate and reflection on changing and contradictory values.
Full-text available
Stress has been a focus of attention for several years among various professional groups, including social work. However, only limited attention has been given to stress experienced by academics and even less to social work lecturers. This paper examines job satisfaction, felt pressure and stress amongst social work lecturers in the United Kingdom. It looks at demands, supports and constraints, psychological well-being, the impact of the department and the institution, and changes that might alleviate stress. The results obtained are compared, where possible, with studies of social workers and, in particular, academics in general. A 60-item postal questionnaire was sent to all social work lecturers in the United Kingdom; 322 responses were received. Respondents enjoyed undertaking a wide variety of tasks and apparently received varying amounts of support from their managers. The social work lecturers experienced high levels of job satisfaction and stress scores were similar to those of the general United Kingdom population. But a significant proportion-one quarter-of social work lecturers were suffering from borderline levels of anxiety and depression. Overall, social work lecturers' responses were more favourable than the responses of other academics and social workers. In common with other research on stress, this study suggests that pressure and stress should not be seen primarily as individual problems, but as a product of interactions at team, department and institutional levels, and at the home/work interface.
Human services organizations generally do not have methods for identifying early signs of distress among social caseworkers. The author discusses a developmental-interactional model that allows supervisors, administrators, and workers to assess personal and professional distress.
This article reports the results of a study of occupational stress undertaken with a large sample of Northern Ireland field social workers, including both main grade practitioners and first line senior social work managers employed as team leaders. This study formed part of a wider interprofessional study of social workers, nurses and teachers; publications for the latter two professions along with interprofessional comparisons are in preparation and this present article focuses on the social worker cohort.The design and methods are described and demographic characteristics of the social work sample are provided, with their views about social work. Stressors are identified in both professional and private lives. The effects of stress as manifested through the General Health Questionnaire and the Maslach Burnout Inventory are examined and the social workers' views on various stress coping strategies are discussed.
Eighty-seven social workers, working in nine different mental health settings, were administered four questionnaires tapping the following variables: assertiveness in daily life; assertiveness in the job setting; role clarity; and job satisfaction. Stepwise regression analysis showed assertiveness in the job setting to be strongly correlated with role clarity. Assertiveness in daily life was also significantly correlated with role clarity. Assertiveness in the work setting was significantly correlated with job satisfaction, although it was riot as powerful a predictor of satisfaction as of role clarity. Number of years of job experience was the most powerful predictor of job satisfaction. The implications for social work training and supervision are described in light of the importance of assertive communication in maintaining job clarity and job satisfaction within multidisciplinary settings.
A major survey of the social services workforce (Balloch et al., forthcoming), carried out in the Research Unit at the National Institute for Social Work, has produced new data about sources of job satisfaction and about the incidence of stress and violence. The survey took place in five different local authorities in England, and interviews were carried out with 1276 individuals, selected from four groups of staff: managers, social work staff, home care workers and residential staff. The results suggested that those who work in the statutory social services do experience more stress and violence than workers in other parts of the health and welfare services. However, different jobs presented different hazards. In general, home care workers were the most satisfied with their jobs, and were also the group least likely to be stressed or to experience violence in the course of their work. By contrast, residential workers, especially those with management responsibilities, were most at risk of both violence and stress. Men were more likely than women to experience violence, while other groups with a higher than average risk of stress included younger members of staff, and managers and social work staff responsible for elderly people.
The purpose of this study was to develop and empirically evaluate a model that delineated the processes whereby clinical social workers experience burnout and job dissatisfaction in their workplaces. First, on the basis of an array of relevant variables as stress-strain (burnout)-outcome (job dissatisfaction), the proposed model specified interrelationships among work stressors and burnout, the intervening factors between burnout and job satisfaction, and the final outcome variable, job satisfaction. Then the theoretical model was translated into an empirically testable model. Finally, the model was tested with a sample of 165 clinical social workers in Florida by using linear structural relation (LISREL) techniques. The results of analysis of components fit indicated that role conflict did intensify the amount of burnout and job dissatisfaction. Social support acted as an intervening and moderating factor between burnout and job dissatisfaction. Implications for social work practice are provided.
Recognizing the current concern relating to social workers facing distressing experiences, a qualitative research investigation was undertaken which asked workers of grade 3 or above within a social services department to recall one distressing experience encountered in their working life. Each was asked to describe the experience and recount the immediate and longer term impacts of the experience. They were then asked to evaluate what had been helpful and unhelpful in their attempts to deal with, and process, the experience. Finally, they were asked what organizational structures they thought should be in place to help workers affected by distressing experiences. Both qualitative and quantitative evidence is presented. An unexpected repercussion of the study was that the interviewer was asked to share the findings with his employer's Divisional Management Team who expressed interest in making appropriate provision for staff care.