Director's leadership and burnout among residential child care workers : possible implications for practice

Pinchover, Shulamit and Attar-Schwartz, Shalhevet and Matattov-Sekeles, Hila (2015) Director's leadership and burnout among residential child care workers : possible implications for practice. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 14 (2). ISSN 1478-1840

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This commentary essay discusses the findings of a study involving direct care workers of children in residential care and their perspectives regarding aspects of leadership in their institutions, in order to identify key implications for practice. The article is based on a large study conducted in Israel that examined perspectives from children, residential care workers and directors on various aspects of the social climate of their institution. In this piece we focus on the reports of 201 direct care workers in 24 Jewish residential care settings for at-risk children on levels of burnout, including emotional exhaustion and low sense of personal accomplishment with their work. We examine correlates of this phenomenon, including, among other aspects, their perception of the leadership of their institution's director. The study uses the conceptual framework suggested by Hoy, Smith & Sweetland (2002) originally used to examine the leadership of school principals. We adapted it to the residential child care context, to examine collegial leadership and trust in the director. Collegial leadership refers to workers' perceptions of the director's commitment to them and of the openness and supportiveness expressed in the leadership behaviour of the director towards his or her workers. Trust includes workers' confidence in the reliability, intentions, competence and honesty of their director. The study found that higher levels of perceived collegial leadership and higher levels of trust in the director were linked with lower levels of workers' burnout. These findings emphasize the importance of a positive working atmosphere and trusting relationships between workers and directors. The findings also highlight the benefits of a director sharing his or her knowledge with staff and his or her openness to the staff's views. Some possible key implications of these findings, which are further discussed in this article, include recommendations for directors' training and supervision, routine monitoring of the social climate in children's residential care settings, and the development of leadership models in those settings.

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