Purpose: The purpose of this study was three-fold. Firstly, it examined whether there was
a positive relationship between the two burnout dimensions of emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation, for career women in particular. Secondly, this relationship was further
examined by considering whether stressful life events and racial differences moderated
the association between emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Thirdly, racial
differences in depersonalisation were assessed.
Motivation for study: In the fast paced environment of the 21st century, individuals are
faced with increased demands which they need to address at an ever-increasing rate. This
can translate into burnout, which is quickly becoming an epidemic. Existing theories on
burnout postulate that burnout and its dimensions develop in a specific order, in that
depersonalisation develops from increased levels of emotional exhaustion. Although
several studies have tested this theory, limited research exists on how the relationship
between emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation may be influenced by negative
factors outside of the work environment (i.e., stressful life events). In addition, the
relationship between the burnout dimensions has not been assessed in relation to racial
differences in the unique cultural context of South Africa. Studies have shown that burnout
is detrimental both on an individual and collective level, and can result in extensive cost
implications for organisations. Therefore, this research could assist organisations, perhaps
including South African organisations, to understand which factors may accelerate the
occurrence and development of burnout and its dimensions. Subsequently, organisations
may be advised to introduce tailored interventions to reduce or prevent burnout from
Research design, approach, and method: A post-positivistic quantitative research
strategy was used with a sample of 31 female participants, aged between 25 and 60 years
of age. Participants were employed at a higher education institution in South Africa. Data
were obtained through the use of an online questionnaire consisting of three measurement
scales: the emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation scales from the Maslach Burnout Inventory General survey, and a stressful life events checklist. Data were analysed
through the use of hierarchical multiple regression analysis and a one-way ANOVA.
Main Findings: The results contradicted previous studies on burnout dimensions as the
relationship between emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation was not significant.
Furthermore, both stressful life events and race did not have a significant impact on the
relationship between emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Finally, the different
racial groups assessed in this study did not differ significantly in terms of levels of
Practical Implications: Based on the findings of this study, organisations should not gear
burnout interventions toward specific groups of women, that is, women experiencing
greater stressful life events or women from specific racial groups, as these factors do not
appear to have an influence on the occurrence of burnout or its dimensions. In addition,
the occurrence of depersonalisation does not seem to be avoided by addressing levels of
emotional exhaustion in women.
Contribution/value-add: The study makes a knowledge contribution to the existing gap in
burnout research regarding the development of emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation, and the impact that stressful life events and race can have on this
relationship. Even though the hypotheses were not supported, it adds value by equipping
organisations with additional information regarding which factors to include or exclude
when designing interventions to address burnout.
Mini Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2017.