Burnout Contagion Processes Among Teachers1


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    This research is part of the concerted research action on “Fatigue at Work” granted by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; #580-01-010) and was supported in part by NWO Grant #310014, “Burnout Contagion,” to Arnold Bakker. We thank Renée van der Hulst and Janneke Brouwer for their help with data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Arnold Bakker, Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, P. O. Box 80.140, NL-3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands. e-mail: A.Bakker@fss.uu.nl.


This study of 154 Dutch high school teachers examined processes by which occupational burnout may transfer from one person to another. Two conditions that may increase the probability of burnout contagion were investigated; namely, individual teachers' susceptibility to emotional contagion, and the frequency with which teachers are exposed to colleagues with student- and work-related problems. Consistent with hypotheses derived from theories about emotional contagion, the results suggest that bumout contagion was most pronounced under these 2 high-risk conditions. Specifically, the prevalence of perceived burnout among participants' colleagues was most strongly related to individual teachers' burnout (i. e., emotional exhaustion and depersonalization), when the teachers were highly susceptible to the emotions of others and when they frequently communicated with each other about work-related problems.