The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Educational Administration and Leadership, K-12: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. John Eller

Second Advisor

Dr. Kay Worner

Third Advisor

Dr. Roger Worner

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Miller

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Principal Stress Factors



The purpose of this study was to examine stress and coping factors of select Minnesota secondary school principals. The study also intended to examine differences in job stresses experienced by male and female secondary school principals, strategies employed by select Minnesota secondary school principals to cope with job stresses, varied strategies used to cope with job stresses employed by male and female secondary school principals in Minnesota, and the manner in which job stresses of select Minnesota secondary school principals change as a function of position longevity.

It is imperative to examine stressors in the lives of administrators and the strategies used to cope with those stresses. If those stressors are not examined and addressed, stressors may well lead to personal suffering and job ineffectiveness (Vanderpol, 1981). [A] substantial amount of research indicates that principals experience a high level of stress due to the variety of tasks performed in their diverse roles (Whitaker, 1996). High levels of stress can lead to burnout which, in turn, can lead to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment (Maslach and Jackson, 1986).

According to the research, principals must be able to establish clear lines of authority, clear job descriptions, realistic system wide goals and objectives, have training in conflict resolution, and be able to organize personal support groups (Kottkamp and Mansfield, 1985). Understanding the role of the principal and the stress that he or she faces diminishes the likelihood of principal burnout.

The research design employed quantitative methods. Study data were gathered through the use of the Administrative Stress Index (ASI) survey developed by Walter Gmelch and Boyd Swent. The study’s sample group was identified from among members listed on the membership database of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP). Study data were collected using SurveyMonkey.

Data from 200 principals were analyzed to examine stresses and coping strategies reported by select Minnesota secondary school principals. Using analysis of variance calculations, demographic variables, stress factors and coping strategies were analyzed to determine statistically significant relationships.

Statistics were analyzed to determine the mean value of the respondents’ answers to the 35 work related situations that were sources of concern. The researcher used the framework of Gmelch and Gate (1998), which identified four causes of stress: role-based, task-based, boundary spanning, and conflict mediating stress. The researcher categorized the 35 work-related situations in the ASI into one of Gmelch and Gate’s categories. In addition, information was gathered from an open-ended question about sources of concern of job stresses experienced by principal respondents.

Findings from the study reported, that overall, principals were rarely bothered by the work-related situations as identified by the Administrative Stress Index. However, the research literature does suggest that principals face large amounts of stress, and it is imperative they develop strategies to cope with stressful situations. Effective coping strategies aid principals in avoiding emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment; this in turn will reduce burnout and maintain efficacy on a professional organizational manner.



The completion of this dissertation has truly been a journey. Throughout this journey, there are many people to whom I express my greatest gratitude. Because of your endless support, this dissertation has become a reality.

A very special thank you to my professors at St. Cloud State University and my committee members: Dr. John Eller, Dr. Kay Worner, Dr. Roger Worner, and Dr. Nicholas Miller. Thank you for the countless hours of reviewing my dissertation drafts and the guidance you have provided throughout this journey. What I have gained from each of you has made me a better person and leader.

To Cohort V, you were the best to work with. I loved every weekend we were able to spend together. Our weekends were always fun and our conversations resulted in great learning. I could not have asked for a better group of people to be part of my life.

A special thank you to my friends: Jim, Kim, Heather, Amy, Abi, Liz, Connie, and Paul who were always willing to help, provide encouragement, give suggestions, and support in completing this journey.

To my parents, Carole and James Perry and my aunt Mary Ann Johnson, who have been with me every step of the way. No matter what I have needed they are the first ones to always help. Their encouragement, stories, and laughter were a blessing. Thanks for all the lessons you have taught me along the way.

Finally, thank you to my husband, David Schneider, who has spent countless hours listening to my research, providing encouragement, and support throughout this journey. I am very thankful for your endless love and support.



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