Improving Employee Psyche

An important aspect of leadership is the development and protection of an employee’s psyche. By psyche, I mean the inner workings of the mind and soul of an employee. But why is this important?

© 2009 Torley. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#29).

© 2009 Torley. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#29).

One of the biggest problems that an employer faces is employee burnout.  Employees lose interest in their jobs and often either become ineffective or just quit and move on.  Employers invest too much in new employees to have rapid and unnecessary turnover.

In the educational arena, it is no different.  Research shows that nearly one-fourth of first-year teachers do not stay on for a second year.  Many teachers never finish the first few years in a school.  While some will try another school, many never return to the classroom.

What can leaders do to improve this situation?  Sergiovanni (1992) cited research from Hackman and Oldham (1976) that identified five ways that leaders can build the psyche of employees.  Education leaders can glean valuable insight from these tips:

* Use more of their talents and skills (skills variety)

Seek every opportunity to use teacher’s music, art, athletic, etc. skills; teaching second grade can become mundane quickly.  Help the teacher expand their horizons.  

* Engage in activities that allow them to see the whole and understand how their contributions fit into the overall purpose or mission (task identity)

Set up collaborative work groups for curriculum development, extracurricular activities, and professional development.  It is important that feelings of isolation not become part of the teacher’s mindset; rather, leaders should strive to implement strong team building concepts.

* Help teachers view their work as having substantial and significant impact on the lives or work of other people (task significance)

Remind teachers regularly that their role is part of what “makes the world (school) go round.”  Teachers need regular reminders that what they do matters.  Effective leaders should continually seek opportunities to drive home the message of task significance.

* Allow teachers to experience discretion and independence in scheduling work and deciding classroom  arrangements and instructional procedures (autonomy)

This can be a struggle for some leaders; however, good teachers thrive when given discretion in areas of classroom decorum, procedure, and pedagogy.  Effective leaders remember that teachers are not robots; they can be in tune with the school spirit without being identical to all other teachers.

* Get firsthand, and from other sources, clear information about the effects of their performance (feedback)

Have parents or students send notes to let teachers know just how that teacher “made a difference.”  Look for data that indicates that students are making appropriate or better progress.  Identify anecdotal evidence that demonstrates teacher impact on students and parents.

The effective school leader understands that teacher effectiveness ultimately determines the overall success of the school.  The role of the school principal is paramount.  Parental support for the school is absolutely needed.  Esprit de corps makes the working environment enjoyable.  But at the end of the day, ineffective teachers lead to an ineffective school

Effective school leaders work to improve teacher psyche.  Why?  Teachers with a strong psyche are more effective teachers.

What can you do this week to improve the psyche  of your teachers?  

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Sergiovanni, T.  (1992).  Moral leadership:  Getting to the heart of school improvement.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.