Too afraid to teach: The impact of job characteristics and trait anxiety on burnout through state anxiety

Karin Proost*, Anja Van den Broeck, I.C.M. Van Seggelen - Damen, Bert Schreurs

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


    Purpose: In this study, we draw from the Job Demands-Resources model (JDR, Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001; Bakker & Demerouti, 2007; Bakker & Demerouti, 2017) and the underlying Conservation of Resources Theory (COR; Hobfoll, 1989; Hobfoll & Shirom, 2001) to suggest that teaching is a highly demanding and stressful job which leads to burnout through elevated levels of state anxiety. This may especially be the case for teachers high on trait anxiety as they are expected to react with elevated levels of state anxiety to stressful situations (Rudaizky, Page, & MacLeod, 2012; Shell & Husman, 2008) but may also experience more prolonged and intensified effects of state anxiety (Rudaizky et al., 2012) and may be less able to cope with state anxiety (Sagar, Busch, & Jowett, 2010). As such, we suggest that trait anxiety is an important strengthening factor in the process through which teachers develop state anxiety and consequently burnout. 
    Methods: Data were collected on a weekly basis. A base line measure was taken at week 1, followed by three weekly questionnaires, which were available from Friday through Sunday in order to control the timeframes in which responses were recoded. To start the first survey, respondents clicked on a link that was hosted by an external service (i.e., qualtrics). They also entered a personal code that was used to match this survey with the weekly surveys. Teachers’ anxiety was measured with the Dutch translation of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1983). This questionnaire assesses both how the respondent feel at the present time (i.e., state anxiety) and in general (i.e., trait anxiety).
    Results: The results of a PROCESS analysis (model 59), advocated by Hayes (2017) to test moderated mediation, showed that state anxiety mediates the relationship between job demands and burnout at all levels of trait anxiety. Specifically, the 95% biased correct bootstrap intervals for the indirect effect were respectively equal to .14-.34 at low levels of the moderator, .16-.32 at the average level of the moderator, .15-.35 at high level of the moderator. Job demands measured in week 1 related significantly positive to state anxiety measured in week 2, B = .31, SE = .15, p = .03. State anxiety (week 2) related significant to burnout, measured in week 3, B = .67, SE = .18, p = .00. The interaction with trait anxiety was not significant but the main effect of trait anxiety on burnout was significant, B = .90, SE = .25, p = .00.
    Limitations: An important limitation of the current study is that data were collected through self-reports, which may suffer from common method variance. Research/Practical Implications: In this study, we suggest that a plausible and sofar neglected underlying mechanism for the relationship between job demands and mental breakdown in terms of burnout is state anxiety. State anxiety can be defined as nervousness and worries about failure (Spielberger, 1985). Anxious employees feel tense and emotionally aroused combined with negative thoughts about failing and not being able to live up to expectations. This momentary emotional state can be triggered by a demanding work context.
    Originality/Value: The literature to date does not offer a clear insight into the underlying process between job characteristics and burnout. The novelty of this study lies in the fact that we show that state anxiety may explain why teachers experience burnout upon a high level of job demands. Moreover, we show that this effect is not only prevalent for teachers high on trait anxiety but for all teachers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
    EventEmotions 2019: 7th International conference on emotions, well-being, and health - Tilburg University , Tilburg, Netherlands
    Duration: 16 Oct 201918 Oct 2019


    ConferenceEmotions 2019


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