|dc.description.abstract||Tertiary institutions in South Africa are being called to account for the quality of education
that they provide. Evidence suggests that staffs at all levels are working longer hours than in
the past in order to adhere to the above-mentioned requirement. Non-academic personnel in
universities are the key performers to establish service quality. They know that they have to
support academic staff in their main roles of research and teaching at institutions of higher
education. Different support personnel groups within a university experience distinct
The nature of the support personnel's work is continuous and demanding. Support personnel
must deal with the dilemmas inherent in simultaneously administering, supervising
instruction, being accessible, delegating and accepting responsibility. Multiple personal and
professional qualities seem to be needed to carry out the job successfully. Not surprisingly,
then, support personnel in tertiary institutions can be extremely prone to experience burnout
and occupational stress.
The objective of this research was to determine the relationship between burnout, strain and
job characteristics and to determine whether dispositional optimism moderates the effect of
job characteristics on burnout. A stratified random sample (N = 334) was taken of personnel
working in universities in the North-West province. The Maslach Burnout Inventory -
General Survey, the Health subscales of ASSET and the Life Orientation test (revised edition)
were used as measuring instruments. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to
analyse the results.
The results of the study showed that work overload and certain task characteristics (for
example, no possibilities for independent thought and action) caused personnel to experience
exhaustion as well as cynicism, which resulted in strain. On the other hand, certain task
characteristics (for example, variety in work, adequate management and job security) were all
linked to higher professional efficacy, which, in turn, resulted in less experienced strain.
Exhaustion and cynicism, both of which are dimensions of burnout, were also significantly
correlated. Dispositional optimism, however, was related to lower exhaustion and professional
efficacy, which resulted in less experienced strain and burnout. Therefore, it seems that
optimism moderates the effects of job characteristics on exhaustion.
Recommendations were made for future research||