What role do leadership and job demands play in teacher well-being and turnover intentions?

Rebecca Collie conducted a survey of 426 Australian teachers. Through this research, she sought to find out which factors are involved in teachers' well-being and turnover intentions (Collie, 2023).

Predictors: resources and job demands

Collie examined the role of three resources in well-being and turnover intentions:
  1. autonomy-supportive leadership;
  2. relatedness with colleagues;
  3. relatedness with students;
She also investigated the role of three job demands:
  1. autonomy-undermining leadership;
  2. time pressure;
  3. disruptive behavior of students.

Outcome variables: well-being and turnover intentions

Collie used well-being and turnover intentions as outcome variables in her study. She looked at three aspects of well-being:
  1. subjective vitality;
  2. behavioral engagement;
  3. professional growth.
With turnover intentions the following is meant: the extent to which the teacher has plans to look for another job and to leave the current job.


The figure below shows the main results of the study:

Here are the findings in words:
  1. Autonomy-supportive leadership predicts all three aspects of well-being (professional growth, subjective vitality, and behavioral engagement) and lowers turnover rates;
  2. Autonomy-thwarting leadership is a direct and fairly strong predictor of turnover intentions;
  3. Relatedness with students predicts behavioral engagement and subjective vitality;
  4. Relatedness with colleagues predicts professional growth;
  5. Disruptive student behavior is neither a predictor of well-being nor of turnover intentions;
  6. Time pressure is a predictor of lower vitality, of higher behavioral engagement and a predictor of turnover intentions.


How can these findings be useful to educational leaders? I think we can distill three simple lessons from them:
  1. Provide autonomy support as a manager. Things you can do to support individuals' basic need for autonomy, such as taking their perspective seriously, giving them choices, encouraging their own initiative and experimentation, involving them in decisions whenever possible, giving them a clear reason (rationale) for any requests. Note: Offering autonomy goes hand in hand with offering structure, for example by offering clear goals, discussing progress, and offering competency-supportive feedback. Within an autonomy-supportive environment, there is also room for developing relatedness with both students and colleagues.
  2. Avoid an autonomy-supportive leadership style. These are things like authoritarian, coercive language, trying to motivate through punishment, rewards or conditional esteem, a lot of control, etc. Refraining from these kinds of demotivating things is probably just as important as providing autonomy support. Autonomy-thwarting directly predicts the tendency of the teacher to want to leave. 
  3. Look for opportunities to limit the time pressure for teachers. If the time pressure becomes too great, the risk that they want to leave increases.