A decade after the first study of Swedish lawyers’ working conditions in which participants showed high level of emotional exhaustion and medium level of cynicism was conducted a second survey (n=1812) that aimed to extend the research on lawyers’ work demands and resources and to investigate changes in Swedish lawyers’ stress and burnout levels which occurred during the past ten years. In 2017, practicing Swedish lawyers experience emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy, have difficulties to disengage from work demands reflected through unnecessary checking of work-related communication during non-office hours and through the negative coping mechanism of over commitment. Burnout levels, sleep-related problems, and work-life balance were predicted by a number of work characteristics. The strongest predictors were found to be leadership, job satisfaction, and dispositional mindfulness indicating their important preventative role.
In recent years there is a raise in the number of articles that concern the psychological state, health and wellbeing of lawyers all over the world. From India (Patel, Rajderkar & Naik, 2012), Sri Lanka (Samarasekara, Yajid, Khatibi, & Perera, 2015) and Taiwan (Tsai, Huang, & Chan, 2009) through Australia (Chan, Poynton & Bruce, 2014) and the United Kingdom (Mills, 2010) to the United States of America (Clarke, 2015; Daicoff, 1998) lawyers, psychologist and researchers are trying to raise awareness to issues related to lawyers’ increased experience of work stress and job dissatisfaction leading to alcohol abuse, depression and suicides.
Catrin Mills (2010) reviewed publications and studies that declared lawyers for one of the most stressed and dissatisfied occupations in the United Kingdom. Levels of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide incidents amongst lawyers and the number of lawyers who wanted the leave the profession were rising.
Concerned about lawyers’ mental health Chan, Poynton and Bruce (2014) reported results from the first Australian study of relationships between stress, anxiety and depression of lawyers and work conditions characteristic for the legal profession. Participants that reported severe to extremely severe symptoms were 18% for depression, 15% for anxiety and 16% for stress. These rates were described by the authors as ‘alarmingly high’ (Chan et al., 2014, p. 1098) even if they were just a few points above the levels of depression and anxiety of the general Australian population. One third of the lawyers, participating in the survey, were at medium or high risk of alcohol abuse. More importantly a positive relationship was found between depression, stress, and anxiety scores and job related characteristics—job satisfaction, effort-reward ratio, over commitment, work-family conflict, and practice ethos. This means that higher levels of depression were characteristic for lawyers who experienced greater job dissatisfaction and by lawyers who experienced inability to meet family responsibilities due to work commitments.
Not surprisingly, the topic is most discussed in the United States of America. Brian Clarke (2015), a lawyer who left practice career because of a clinical depression and become a law professor, aimed to raise awareness of the danger of mental illnesses that lawyers and law students were facing. In a series of blog posts he shared his opinion about the need to publically discuss the growing body of study results declaring that lawyers suffered from depression a couple times more than the general population. He was especially concerned about mental health of law students and stated that lawyers and specifically law professors should address personality traits of lawyers and characteristics of the law profession and the study of law that contribute to greater number of mental health problems experienced by lawyers.
Susan Daicoff (1998; 2004; 2006; 2012) is a former lawyer who left private legal practice to become law professor, researcher and writer on topics related to psychology of lawyers, lawyers’ personality, distress and dissatisfaction, etc. Important points of her works are summarized and presented later in this work. However, she is concerned with issues similar to those expressed by Clarke (2015).
For Swedish lawyers, first data about their work conditions were collected in 2006 (Näsström & Mesick, 2006). The conduction of the study was influenced by the increased number of lawyers’ sick leaves due to stress-related symptoms (Hellberg, 2002; Swedish Bar Association, 2004). Näsström and Mesick (2006) concluded that 4 Introduction to survey of Swedish lawyers – 2017 Swedish lawyers were to a greater extent emotionally exhausted and with average scores on the cynicism scale, both predicted by their workload and over commitment.
Stress and Burnout
Definition of stress
In order to better understand the concept of stress it is required to first have some basic knowledge about the interrelationship of the three systems that function parallel to maintain a person—these are the physiological, psychological and social systems. A common trait of all of them is that they develop over time and undergo changes (Trumbull & Appley, 1986). The physiological system has subsystems which functioning depends on biochemical and neurological processes. The efficiency of the physiological subsystems is evident by the subjective state of health of one’s body, the availability to perform work and create work products, and by waste products. The psychological system is also characterized by subsystems, for example memory, cognition, perception, emotional experience and regulation, etc. The psychological subsystems are generally influenced by the functioning of some or all of the physiological subsystems and their processing is assessed through characteristic personality traits, temperament types, behavioral patterns, learning outcomes, etc. The social system includes different social and moral norms and values, cultural attitudes and differences, social in-group belongingness, etc. The role of the social system is to provide support for the other two major systems.
The dynamic process model of stress of Trumbull and Appley (1986) explains stress as a process by which functioning of one or more of the systems described above is damaged due to a discrepancy between a stressor and the carrying capacity of one or all of the systems of a person. The stressor is a demand that can be real or perceived and ‘may arise from an eventful, chronic or cumulative’ (Trumbull & Appley, 1986, p. 34) events and from ‘a change within the systems’ (Trumbull & Appley, 1986, p. 34). Stress results when the distance between demands and carrying capacity increases beyond given optimal level that is tolerable for the organism, e.g. even if demands increase beyond normal level stress would not be experienced when carrying capacity is still able to meet the demands and the distance between them remains optimal.
Definition of burnout
Burnout is a special case of stress experience that is related to work and work outcomes. Burnout is described as a stress response that results in negative work related attitudes and behaviors (Schaufeli & Enzman, 1998).
Maslach, Jackson and Leiter (1996) extended the definition of burnout which they operationalized in the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). They stressed that burnout is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in healthy people. It is a state of emotion- 5 Introduction to survey of Swedish lawyers – 2017 al exhaustion and depersonalization that results in reduced personal accomplishment (Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996; Schutte, Toppinen, Kalimo, & Schaufeli, 2000).
Dimensions of burnout
Maslach et al. (1996) defined three general components of burnout which are conceptualized as three individual scales in the Inventory. Originally, Maslach Burnout Inventory was developed in order to measure burnout in the so called contact professions in which employees’ work involves being aware of and eventually helping to resolve personal problems of the recipients. With that in mind, the scales of the originally developed Maslach Burnout Inventory, Emotional Exhaustion, Cynicism and Personal Accomplishment, were designed to address specific characteristics of the work environment of these professionals, namely the close contact with people and their personal lives and problems which often involved dealing with a range of negative emotions. Later, a version of MBI, the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS) was created for the assessment of burnout in any occupation (Schutte et al., 2000). The scales of the MBI-GS reflect the original three scales but were redesigned, so that the effect of the originally implied idea that burnout results mostly from personal contact between professionals and recipients was removed. MBIGS scales are Exhaustion, Cynicism and Professional Efficacy. Exhaustion refers to the feeling of being out of emotional resources and being unable to give yourself. Cynicism describes an attitude towards work that is characterized by indifference, negativity and depersonalization.
Professional efficacy is related to employees’ expectations of their work effectiveness. As a component of burnout it reflects the tendency of an employee to evaluate his/her work accomplishments negatively and is characterized by job dissatisfaction. Scores of the scales are analyzed separately and a total score reflecting the scores of three scales is not calculated. Results on the scales Exhaustion and Cynicism appear to be highly correlated while Professional Efficacy is independent from them. To consider the presence of a burnout syndrome a subject is expected to receive high scores on Exhaustion and Cynicism and a low score on Professional Efficacy. Burnout is thought to reflect one end of a continuum. On the other end is engagement which is characterized by an optimistic and positive attitude towards work reflected in good performance and confidence in personal effectiveness (Maslach et al., 1996; Schutte et al., 2000).
Causes of burnout
It was already stated that burnout is syndrome that describes a specific work-related state of mind. It is therefore not surprising that its development is caused by organizational and work specific characteristics and not by personality traits (Maslach & Leiter, 1999; Schaufeli & Enzman, 1998) but it could be potentially enhanced by age, gender and education level (Maslach & Leiter, 1999).
Consequences of burnout
Because burnout affects employees’ ability to cope with work demands and their personal efficacy it also directly affects work outcomes and work quality. It is very important to note that there is a very broad range of burnout consequences that extend beyond employees’ wellbeing. Burnout also affects organizations and their clients or service recipients; it is related to decreased service quality and has effect on turnover rates, absenteeism, low morale, physiological wellbeing and personal life of employees (Maslach et al., 1996).
Maslach et al. (1996) found out that police officers who scored high on Emotional Exhaustion were described by their wives as angry, tense and physically exhausted when returning from work and the officers themselves reported incidents of feeling angry with their wives and children and were more willing to spend time alone than with their families. It was also observed that they were more likely to experience insomnia and to use alcohol to cope with stress.
Subjects with higher scores on Emotional Exhaustion and lower scores on Personal Accomplishment felt more dissatisfied with available job development opportunities (Maslach et al., 1996).
Stress among lawyers
Elwork and Benjamin (1995) tried to adapt the general model of stress to the profession of lawyers. They identified the following three groups of circumstances and characteristics of lawyers and their work environment—stressors, consequences of stress and interventions.
Stressors that according to Elwork and Benjamin (1995) are characteristic for the profession of lawyers are related to their workload, tasks and time constraints. In the form of stressors lawyers also experience strains that result from aspects of the legal system and of norms and values specific for the communication between lawyers and other law professionals and between lawyers and their clients. Strains can also result from unrealistically high or unspoken expectations on the part of clients and from the responsibility to solve problems that in most cases affect their clients’ personal lives.
An interesting concept is that of professional mystique based on the theory of Cherniss (1980) and listed by Elwork and Benjamin (1995) as a possible stressor. The concept of professional mystique is not specific to the occupation of law professionals but to all qualified professions. It describes a phenomenon related to the existence of an unrealistic representation of given profession and its representatives. Because of this mental representation both sides might have unrealistically high expectations—on the part of the client that might affect his/her expectation of a positive result that is impossible to be fulfilled; on the part of the lawyer that might lead to too high expectations of his/her professional abilities and work duties. When none of the expectations could be satisfied, both sides would likely feel disappointed.
The third group of stressors in the model of Elwork and Benjamin (1995) is called personal factors among which are type A behavior, aggressiveness, analytical thinking. Although Elwork and Benjamin (1995) listed personal factors under the category of stressors, they assumed that personal factors might in fact moderate the relationship between stressors and stress consequences. Näsström and Mesick (2006) found it reasonable to list them in a separate category.
Stress related patterns found among subgroups lawyers found in the first survey
Statistically significant differences regarding work conditions, health problems, and burnout were found with respect to practice area, gender, age, experience, and location (Näsström & Mesick, 2006). Family law attorneys and criminal lawyers reported higher levels of qualitative workload, exhaustion, and cynicism, health- and sleep-related problems and lower professional efficacy compared to business lawyers. Women reported higher levels of quantitative workload and exhaustion and more health- and sleep-related problems than men. Lawyers in the rest of the country experienced higher qualitative workload and lower professional efficacy compared to lawyers in metropolitan areas. Finally, junior lawyers reported higher levels of qualitative and quantitative workload, over commitment, exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. Although significant, gender, age, experience, and location differences were small.
Consequences of stress among lawyers
Similar to the understanding that burnout affects employees’ work and personal life as well as their organizations, the clients of the organizations and the quality of products and services (Maslach et al., 1996), Elwork and Benjamin (1995) described two groups of consequences of stress among lawyers. The first group are consequences that affect lawyers, specifically their wellbeing. Here are mental and physical health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, impaired professional efficacy, disabilities and decreased quality of life. The second group includes consequences that affect lawyers’ clients and the legal system in general due to inefficient and incompetent representation and violations of ethical norms and rules.
Elwork and Benjamin (1995) described two groups of interventions—psycho legal interventions and reforms of the legal system—that aimed to moderate the effects of experienced stress and to decrease the severity of the consequences. Psycho legal interventions include different forms of psychological education, trainings, courses in psychology, the development of interpersonal skills and abilities to communicate efficiently, etc. Reforms of the legal system are suggested as a possible way to reduce work stress experienced by lawyers because, as explained earlier, stressors are divided in two groups and the second one includes stressors that result from aspects and characteristics of the legal system which a single lawyer has no power to change or control.
Linking lawyers’ success to personality factors
Summarizing 40 years of empirical research on lawyers’ and law students’ personalities, values and goals, decision-making styles, motives and moral development Susan Daicoff stated about American lawyers that they ‘differ from the general population’ (Daicoff, 1998, p. 548). In this and other of her works (Daicoff, 2006; Daicoff, 2012) she offers extensive discussions on problems related to lawyers’ growing job dissatisfaction, their professionalism and the negative public opinion about lawyers and their work. As was noted earlier, even though Elwork and Benjamin (1995) defined lawyers’ personality factors as stressors, they actually saw them as a variable that might moderate the effect of stressors on lawyers’ wellbeing. A similar approach towards problems inherent of the law profession and possible solutions that might alleviate them is taken by Daicoff (1998; 2012). She basically states that understanding lawyers’ personalities is important not only because some of their traits and characteristics might be the cause of lawyers’ distress, mental health problems and job dissatisfaction but more importantly because there are specific personality traits that cause lawyers’ professional success. On her opinion, it is wisely to carefully review and analyze proposed solutions and changes of the legal system and education from the perspective of personality traits that are typical for most lawyers and even necessary for a person to choose this occupation and become a lawyer.
A number of factors, traits and skills have been identified in empirical studies of lawyers in Canada and the USA (Daicoff, 2012). Daicoff (2012) summarizes them in four broad categories as follow:
- Intrapersonal skills—awareness, values and abilities related to the self (motivation, diligence, self-knowledge, independence, etc.)
- Intrapersonal management competencies (work process organization, professional development, stress management, etc.)
- Interpersonal skills—awareness related to other people (understanding others and their behavior, emotions and moods, being tolerant and patient, etc.)
- Interpersonal management competencies—skills and abilities related to business development, building connections, dealing and communicating with other people (clients, business partners, colleagues), etc
It seems that a number of skills have been identified as inherent to lawyers more often than others. These are ‘drive, honesty, integrity, understanding others, obtaining and keeping clients, counseling clients, negotiation, problem solving, and strategic planning’ (Daicoff, 2012, p. 828). Additionally, Daicoff summarizes that a growing body of research on lawyers’ personalities has recognized lawyers as ‘more competitive, dominant, achievement-oriented, focused on the economic bottom line, and analytical than the general population’ (Daicoff, 2012, p. 830).
Based on social identity theory, organizational identification is referred to as the degree to which an employee identifies his-/herself as being a part of (or belonging to) given organization (Carmeli, Gilat, & Waldman, 2007; Moksness, 2014). Organizational identification is influenced by favorable organizational status and prestige, organizational 9 Introduction to survey of Swedish lawyers – 2017 performance and by items with the logo of the organization (Carmeli et al. 2007; Moksness, 2014). From the two aspects of organizational performance—perceived social responsibility and development and perceived market and financial performance—the former is found to have greater effect on organizational identification (Carmeli et al. 2007). Companies and organizations should engage in activities that foster stronger organizational identification on the part of employees because it has direct effect on member adjustment which in turn influences job performance (Carmeli et al. 2007). In sum, employees who strongly identify themselves with the organization they work for fit easier in the organization and perform better on their tasks.
Organizational commitment relates to the extent to which an employee is loyal to the current organizations expressed through his/her willingness to stay with the organization, work for its success and feel proud of being part of it as opposed to employment commitment which is a general commitment to paid work (Turunen, 2011). Stronger organizational commitment is a desirable goal in western countries because of its relationship to turnover rates and absenteeism (Turunen, 2011).
The concept of job involvement or work engagement describes the state of mind and the effort with which an employee executes his/her work tasks and is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma, & Bakker, 2002, as cited in Ringl, 2013). Vigor refers to the positive attitude of employees towards their jobs and the persistence with which they overcome work-related obstacles and difficulties. Dedication involves the emotional component of work. Dedicated employees find meaning in the work they do; they commit to their job and experience positive emotions in regard to it. Absorption describes a certain level of engagement— one in which an employee is so engrossed in work and focused on his/her tasks that he/she finds it difficult to stop working.
Organizational ft and organizational sacrifice (elements of job embeddedness) are positively related to work engagement (Ringl, 2013) and personal resources (e.g. self-efficacy, optimism, etc.) have positive effect on temporal work engagement moderated by high level of challenge demands (Bakker & Sanz-Vergel, 2013). Cited results mean that employees would feel more involved in their job if they fit well in the organization they are working for and if they think that leaving their current organization would be extremely difficult for them. Work engagement level can also vary temporally because of the presence or absence of challenging job demands (demands that give an employee a chance to learn and grow as a professional). High level of challenge demands strengthens the positive influence of employee’s personal resources on work engagement on a weekly basis (Bakker & Sanz-Vergel, 2013). Higher level of employees’ work engagement is important for the organizations due to its positive relationships to employees’ performance and positive job attitudes (Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002, as cited in Ringl, 2013).
Work-related email communication and its relationship to stress
The past 10 to 15 years are characterized by an increased use of different types of mobile devices that allow the user to be online constantly and to have access to his/ her email account and other communication tools available online. Dabbish and Kraut (2006) regarded email communication as ‘the most successful and widely used form of computer-mediated communication’(p. 431) but researches often emphasized the negative relationship between work-related email use and stress (Barley, Meyerson, & Grodal, 2011; Dabbish & Kraut, 2006; Mark, Iqbal, Czerwinski, Johns, & Sano, 2016).
Barley, Meyerson, and Grodal (2011) summarized that the relationship between email overload and stress is discussed from two different points of view—the work life literature and the literature related to communication technologies overload. Both perspectives imply that increased experience of stress based on email overload is because of an overall increase in working hours—handling communication issues extends the amount of work to be done because it represents an additional task that needs to be executed—but propose different mechanisms of how this happens. Studies in the work-life literature state that email communication leads to work overload because the constant access to email allows an employee to work during non-office hours and hinders his/her ability to disengage from work. Studies related to communication technologies state that these technologies in general and email in particular contribute to the sense of being overloaded because they extend the amount of work employees should do on their own. In the past communication activities were handled by secretaries and assistants—now everyone has to take care of his/her email messages and telephone conversations alone.
Empirical studies investigated the relationship of email communication overload and strategies of email management with stress, productivity and task coordination (Barley et al., 2011; Dabbish & Kraut, 2006; Mark et al., 2016). The time spent on handling emails was positively related to the perceived sense of being overloaded (Barley et al., 2011) meaning that an increase in the time spent on doing emails should lead to an increase of employee’s experience of overload. Interestingly, this effect was found only by employees who were engaged extensively with other types of communication (e.g. phone calls, meetings, etc.). Similar results were found by Mark, Iqbal, Czerwinski, Johns, and Sano (2016) who reported that the increase of time spent on email on a daily basis led to increase of employees’ stress level and to decrease in their performance. However, longer time spent on emails affected performance positively by employees who checked emails on self-interruptions (as opposed to external notifications) and clustered email use 2-3 times a day (as opposed to constant use) suggesting that successful email managing strategies might help to diminish email related stress. Further, email volume is also positively associated with overload moderated by job characteristics and email managing strategies (Dabbish & Kraut, 2006). Feelings of overload reduced by employees who experienced autonomy in their work, kept the number of emails in the inbox and the number of folders in their email account small. Additionally, greater overload was associated with decreased task coordination.
It’s impossible to imagine the 21st century without the Internet and without all kinds of online accessible social and communication media. Their use will probably continue to rise during the following years. And because refusing to use email and other communication technologies in work and personal life is not an option, organizations 11 Introduction to survey of Swedish lawyers – 2017 and employees are expected to put an effort in minimizing email and communication related stress and overload while applying appropriate stress managing techniques.
Understanding Effort - Reward Imbalance , Over-commitment and Their Relationships to Health and Wellbeing
According to the model of Siegrist, effort-reward imbalance reflects the ratio between the effort put by employees into their work and the reward they receive for the work done (Lau, 2008). Both represent two sides of a social contract that states that the value of the reward should be similar to that of the effort. Poorer effort-reward ratio occurs when effort exceeds reward and is associated with health issues, psychiatric disorders, alcohol abuse, etc. (Lau, 2008; Steptoe, Siegrist, Kirschbaum, & Marmot, 2004). Another component of the model is over-commitment which is described as improper coping with demands characterized by excessive and exhaustive commitment to work (Lau, 2008; Steptoe et al., 2004). Overcommitment is experienced as being overwhelmed by pressure at work and unable to relax and disengage from work during non working hours (Tei-Tominaga, Akiyama, Miyake, & Sakai, 2009). over-commitment is also hypothesized to be related to adverse health effects. It is also expected that over-commitment might moderate the effects of effort-reward imbalance on health and wellbeing (Lau, 2008).
Salivary cortisol is a measure of a physiological stress response. Higher levels of cortisol are associated with higher levels of stress and with poorer wellbeing (Steptoe et al., 2004). Steptoe, Siegrist, Kirschbaum, and Marmot (2004) found gender differences between overcommitted men and women on cortisol levels by waking-up and over the working day. In their study, overcommitted men had higher levels of waking cortisol and higher average levels of cortisol during the day compared to overcommitted women. Cortisol levels of overcommitted men increased in 30 minutes after waking-up compared to non overcommitted men.
Lau (2008) found that high-skilled workers showed higher levels of over-commitment than low-skilled workers. He reported association between over-commitment and health-related variables and between effort-reward ratio and health-related variables. The strongest associations were found with burnout and psychological distress indicating that higher levels of effort-reward imbalance as well as higher levels of over-commitment are associated with higher levels of burnout and experienced distress. In a study of relationships between temperament types and efforts, rewards and over-commitment, Tei-Tominanga, Akiyama, Miyake, and Sakai (2009) found that some temperaments were predictors of experienced over-commitment. Depressive and anxious temperaments were predictors of perceived effort and of overall rewards while depressive, anxious and hyperthymic temperaments were predictors of over- 12 Introduction to survey of Swedish lawyers – 2017 commitment. Taking into account that ‘temperaments underlie the major dimensions of personality’ (Tei-Tominaga et al., 2009, p. 510) results indicating that specific temperament types are associated with over-commitment are very important on the part of applying successful strategies for stress management.
Effort-reward imbalance and over-commitment in lawyers
High-skilled white-collar workers showed greater over-commitment than low-skilled workers and reported higher levels of perceived effort (Lau, 2008). Over-commitment is described as a specific trait pattern of coping with demands that is characterized by elements of type A behavior (Tei-Tominaga et al., 2009). Lawyers are highly skilled professionals associated with type A behavior. They might represent a group of professionals that tend to experience over-commitment because of personality and work characteristics inherent to lawyers. Approximately half of the respondents in a survey of Australian lawyers perceived that for them effort was greater than the corresponding reward (Chan, Poynton, & Bruce, 2014). Higher levels of effort-reward imbalance and over-commitment were associated with higher levels of depression and stress.
Aims of the current study
As mentioned earlier, first results regarding work conditions, stress and burnout level, and health problems of Swedish lawyers were obtained in 2005 (Näsström & Mesick, 2006). The survey consisted of the following 7 scales: Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey, Quantitative Workload, Qualitative Workload, Well-Being at Work, Over-commitment, Health Disorders and Sleep Quality. Same scales were also used in the current survey in order to obtain quasi-longitudinal data. That would allow us to compare the data from 2005 and 2016 and to analyze the change in work conditions and stress levels of lawyers that possibly occurred during the last decade. The second goal of this survey was to create a more comprehensive analysis of lawyers’ work conditions and to gain insight into the current psychological state and wellbeing of Swedish lawyers. We were interested in extending the survey in order to assess a greater number of job and work characteristics that could possibly be related to wellbeing and mental health. Because of that we had to include in the survey additional scales. These were the following 5 scales: Organizational Commitment (with three subscales: Organizational Identification, Job Involvement and Organizational Loyalty), Work-Life Balance, Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, Email Stress/ Behavior Scale, Leadership Skills and Social Support.
Main research objectives
- To check reliability of new scales
- To examine descriptive statistics parameters for all scales used in study and to compare burnout levels with normative values 13 Introduction to survey of Swedish lawyers – 2017
- To investigate relationship between demographic characteristics (age, years of experience, number of colleagues, gender, main type of practice, position and geographical area) and scores on all scales
- To investigate relationship between E-mail Stress/Behavior, Leadership, MAAS and other scales used in the study
- To examine differences between samples from 2005 and 2016 in terms of scores on all variables used in both studies, as well as in terms of gender differences
- To examine how Quantitative workload, Qualitative workload, Job Satisfaction, Over-commitment, as well as Email Stress/Behavior, Leadership, MAAS, Social support and Organizational Commitment influence burnout (Exhaustion, Cynicism, Professional efficacy), Sleep problems and Work-life balance, after controlling for demographic variables.
The survey was sent out via email to all active members of the Swedish Bar Association, from the platform Surveymonkey. Two reminders were sent out to those that did not respond.
Only active lawyers were included in the survey. Lawyers who were inactive due to retirement, disability pension, long-term sick leave, personal leave, parental leave, etc. were not taken into account. In total, 5178 questionnaires were sent out and 1812 lawyers participated in the current study. Therefore, response rate was 34,9% Demographic structure of the sample is presented in Table 1. Table 2 presents a comparison of demographic structure in two studies – 2005 and 2016.
It can be concluded that sample structure was similar in both studies. Majority of samples in both studies were males (62.4% in 2016 study) lawyers from urban areas (66.8% in 2016 study). Main type of practice for the majority of the sample was business law (55.6% in 2016 study). Average age of participants was approximately 50 years, their professional experience was about 15 years and the number of colleagues, on average, was 35. In a 2016 study, additional questions regarding position were included, and almost ¾ of lawyers in the sample indicated they were owners or partners, compared to only ¼ of employees.
Data were collected using a questionnaire compiled by the authors for this purpose (Appendix E).
Participants’ working conditions were investigated using the scales quantitative work- load (Beehr, Walsh & Taber, 1976), qualitative workload (Sverke, Hellgren & Öhrming, 1997), job satisfaction at work (Hellgren, Sjoberg & Sverke, 1997 based on Brayfield & Rothe, 1951) and over-commitment (Sverke & Hellgren, 2002). The scale quantitative workload refers to the quantity of the work burden (3 items; e.g. “I often have much to do at work”) while qualitative workload refers to the qualitative content (4 items; e.g. “My work contains elements that place too high demands with regards to my ca- pacity”). Job satisfaction at work indicates respondent’s satisfaction with their work (3 items; e.g. “I am satisfied with the work I have”), while over-commitment reflects difficulty separating work life from the private (6 items; e.g. “My work is on my mind even on weekends”). The statements are ranked on a scale from 1 (not true at all) to 5 (completely true), where high scores on qualitative and quantitative workload and over-commitment indicate a high rate of work-related strain, while high scores on well-being at work indicate great satisfaction with the work.
Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey
The three dimensions of burnout were assessed with the scales Exhaustion, Cynicism, and Professional Efficacy, which constitute the MBI-GS questionnaire (Swedish translation by MBI-GS, Schutte et al., 2000). The Exhaustion scale consists of 5 items and measures respondent’s lack of emotional energy (e.g. I feel emotionally drained by my work.). Scores on the Cynicism scale consisting of 5 items (e.g. I’ve become less engaged by my work.) reflect the level of an indifferent or aloof attitude to work. The third scale—Professional Efficacy—concerns respondent’s experience of work effectiveness and consists of 6 items (e.g. I am sure I am effective and get things done at work.). Items are rated on a 7-point Likert- type scale from 0 (never) to 6 (always), with high scores on the Exhaustion and Cynicism scales, combined with low scores on the Professional Efficacy scale indicating a state of burnout.
Sleep quality was examined by a 4-item scale, assessing the prevalence of different forms of sleep problems (e.g. “I wake up several times a night and have trouble falling back asleep”). The claims are ranked on a scale of 1 (never or almost never) to 5 (al- ways or almost always), where high scores indicate a large number of sleep problems. (Gustafsson, 2003).
Email stress / behaviors scale
In order to investigate specific email use habits we created for the current study a scale intended to rate patterns of managing work-related email during non-office hours. The scale consists of two items (for ex. During non-office hours I check my work-related e-mail often) related to the ability to disengage from work in my free time. Items were rated on a 5-point scale from 1 (do not agree at all) to 5 (fully agree).
The 5-Item Leadership Skills scale from the Civic Attitudes and Skills Questionnaire (CASQ; Moely, Mercer, Ilustre, Miron & McFarland, 2002) was used to assess respon- dents’ ability to lead. The scale has good internal reliability, α = .79 (Moely et al., 2002). An example item from the scale is ‘I am a good leader’. Items were rated on a 5-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The scoring of items 1 and 4 was reversed before summing the total score for Leadership Skills. A higher total score reflects greater effectiveness and confidence in the respondent’s abilities to lead.
Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale
A short version of the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS; Brown & Ryan, 2003) was used in this survey. Originally, MAAS consists of 15 items rated on a 6-point scale from 1 (almost always) to 6 (almost never). The scale measures the level of dis- positional mindfulness, e.g. the level of awareness and attention experienced to what is happening in the present. A higher total score (the sum of scores of all items) reflects a higher level of dispositional mindfulness. The short version consists of only six of the items (e.g., I find myself doing things without paying attention).
Work life balance
The balance between work duties and demands and personal life and responsibilities was assessed through a single Likert-type item (My working hours fit in with my family or social commitments outside work), rated on a 4-point scale from 1 (absolutely dis- agree) to 4 (absolutely agree).
This measures perceived social support at work, and is closely related to the social cohesion in teamwork. Examples of items include “People work well together.” and “I get along well with my superiors.” The Social Support Subscale is part of the Swedish Demand-Control-Support Questionnaire (Sanne, Torp, Mykletun, & Dahl, 2005), which was adapted from the Job Content Questionnaire (Karasek et al., 1998). It has six items, rated on a 4-point scale from 1 (absolutely disagree) to 4 (absolutely agree).
Organizational commitment was studied with the Organizational Commitment scale that consists of three subscales. The overall reliability and the reliability of each of the subscales are high (Buchanan II, 1974). The organizational identification subscale has two items (I feel a sense of pride in working for this organization.) that measure feelings of belongingness to the organization on a 4-point Likert-type scale from 1 (absolutely disagree) to 4 (absolutely agree). The job involvement subscale also consists of two items (I live, eat, and breathe my job.) rated on the same 4-point scale and measures the level of engagement and attachment of employees to their work. The last subscale, organizational loyalty, again has two items (I have warm feelings toward this organization as a place to live and work.) that are rated on a 4-point scale from absolutely disagree to absolutely agree and measures certain type of feelings that employees experience regarding the organization they are working for.
The questionnaire also included questions on demographics; gender, age, main type of practice (Business law, Criminal law or Human law), position (Owner / Partner or Employee), geographic area (Stockholm/Malmo/Gothenburg or Rest of country), professional experience (in years) and number of colleagues at the survey participants’ office. Questions regarding business focus and geographical area were deemed interesting by the representatives of the Bar Association. In the survey there was also space for lawyers’ to comment freely, which however has not been analyzed in the present study.
The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software was used for data analysis. Descriptive statistics and psychometric properties of scales used in the survey were obtained. In order to investigate differences between groups (2005 and 2016 sample, males and females, owners/partners and employees, different type of practice) Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was performed. In order to analyze relationships between numerical variables, correlation analyses as well as hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses were employed.
I & II - Psychometric Properties And descriptive statistics for scales used in the survey
In Table 3 reliability and descriptive parameters for all scales used in the 2016 study are presented. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of reliability range from .671 for Organizational Identification sub-scale to .939 for Job Satisfaction scale. It can be concluded that internal consistency of all scales is acceptable.
It can be concluded that lawyers experience greater quantitative than qualitative workload. Levels of quantitative workload and over-commitment are moderate (3.38 and 3.37, respectively, on a scale ranging from 1 to 6), whereas qualitative workload is lower (average value is 2.28). Average level of job satisfaction is relatively high (mean value of 4.14 on a scale ranging from 1 to 6). Average score on the Sleep quality scale indicates a moderate level of sleep problems. Lawyers experience high levels of Professional Efficacy (mean score of 4.56 on a 0-6 scale), moderately low levels of Exhaustion (M=2.13) and low levels of Cynicism (M=1.8). Scores on Email Stress/Behavior scale and Leadership scale indicate moderately high levels of e-mail communication related stress (M=3.68) and leadership (M=3.83). MAAS scores were quite high (M=4.65) and work-life balance scores as well as social support scores relatively low (M=2.86 and M=2.78, respectively). Organizational Commitments scores as well as its Job Involvement and Organizational Loyalty subscales scores showed moderate average values. On the other side, scores on the Organizational Identification Loyalty scores were higher. According to the categorization of MBI-GS scores (Maslach et al1996) based on a North American sample of large number of professionals (N=3727) (Table 4), Swedish lawyers from 2016 sample, based on their average scores, are in medium category for all three dimensions.
In addition, the number and percentage of lawyers in each category was calculated (Table 5). Finding that more than one third (36%) of lawyers were classified into the category of high cynicism should be taken into consideration.
III - Demographic characteristics and relevant variables
Correlations of all relevant variables with age, years of experience and number of colleagues are presented in Table 6. Gender differences are presented in Table7. Differences related to the main type of practice are presented in Table 8 and differences related to position in company (owner/partner or employee) in Table 9. Finally, differences related to geographical area are presented in Table 10.
Older lawyers as well as lawyers with more experience seem to have higher levels of Mindfulness, better work-life balance and report higher job satisfaction. On the other side, they experience lower levels of social support, lower levels of emotional exhaustion, lower levels of stress related to e-mail communication, lower levels of both quantitative and qualitative workload as well as over-commitment, lowers level of cynicism, less problems with sleep and lower levels of organizational commitment. Professional efficacy and leadership are not significantly correlated with age or years of experience. Lawyers working in smaller companies have better work-life balance and lower stress related to email communication, quantitative workload and over-commitment. However, their level of experienced social support, perception of professional efficacy, organization identification and leadership scores are also lower. However, these correlation coefficients are quite small (no higher than r=.175).
Females have higher scores on2 Exhaustion, Sleep problems, Over-commitment, Social Support, both Quantitative and Qualitative workload, Email Stress/Behavior, Professional Efficacy and Leadership. Males are more successful in maintaining good work-life balance and have significantly higher scores on MASS, compared to females. On the other hand, no significant gender differences exist in terms of Job satisfaction, Cynicism, Organizational Commitments (and its subscales). When h2 compared, it can be concluded that gender primarily impacts Exhaustion (4.6% of variance), Sleep problems (3.6% of variance) Over-commitment (2.3% of variance), For all other variables, gender explains less than 2% of variance.
Differences between lawyers with different main type of practice were found only for3: Exhaustion (lawyers from business low have significantly lower scores compared to other two groups – criminal and human law, who do not differ between themselves, Sleep problems (lawyers from business low have significantly lower scores compared to other two groups), Qualitative workload (lawyers from business low have significantly lower scores compared to other two groups), Social Support (lawyers from business low have significantly higher scores compared to other two groups), Email Stress/Behavior (lawyers from business low have significantly higher scores compared to other two groups), Quantitative workload (lawyers from business low have significantly lower scores compared to other two groups), MAAS (lawyers from business low have significantly higher scores compared to lawyers form human law field), Cynicism (lawyers from business low have significantly lower scores compared to their colleagues form human law field) and Leadership (business lawyers have significantly higher scores compared to their colleagues form human law field). On the other hand, type of practice is not related to Job Satisfaction, Over-commitment, Professional Efficacy, Work-life balance and Organizational Commitment. Position can explain 3.4% of variance in Exhaustion, 2.4% of variance in Sleep problems and 2.1% of variance in Qualitative workload. For all other scales, position explains less than 2% of variance. Differences between owners/partners and employees were examined only on the subsample of 480 lawyers from business law organizations with 25 or more lawyers. This subsample consists of 54% owners/partners and 46% employees. Results are presented in Table 9.
Owners and partners have significantly higher scores on4 Job Satisfaction, Organizational Loyalty, Work-life balance, Organizational Commitment, Organizational Identification, MAAS, Leadership and Perceived Efficacy. Employees have significantly higher scores on Exhaustion, Cynicism, Sleep problems, Qualitative workload, Over-commitment, Social Support as well as Email Stress / Behavior scale. No significant differences were found in terms of Quantitative workload and Job Involvement. When h2 compared, we can conclude that position can explain 10.3% of differences in Exhaustion, 8.9% of variance in Cynicism, 8.7% of variance in Job Satisfaction, 7.5% of variance in Organization Loyalty, 6% of variance in Work-life balance, 5.3% of variance in Organizational Commitment and Organizational Identification. For all other variables with significant differences, position can explain less than 5% of variance.
Lawyers from metropolitan areas have significantly higher scores on Email Stress/Behavior scale, Leadership scale, Social support scale and Quantitative workload. On the other side, lawyers from the rest of the country showed higher scores on Qualitative workload. For all other variables, significant differences with respect to practice area were not found. Geographical area can explain 1.1% of variance in ability to disengage from checking work related emails. For all other variables with significant differences, location can explain less than 1% of variance in scores.
IV - Email Stress / Behavior, Leadership and MAAS correlates
Inability to disengage from checking work related emails positively correlates with Over-commitment, Exhaustion Job Involvement, Sleep problems, Quantitative overload, Qualitative workload, Organizational Commitment total score, Cynicism as well as with Social support. (Inability to disengage from checking work related emails correlates with Organizational commitment total score. However, more detailed analysis shows that it does not correlate significantly with Organizational Identification or Organization Loyalty subscales, but only with Job Involvement subscale. On the other hand, ability to disengage from checking work related e-mails is positively correlated with MAAS, Work-life balance and Job Satisfaction – higher scores on these scales are related to better ability to disengage from checking work related emails. Dispositional mindfulness positively correlates Job Satisfaction, Professional Efficacy, Leadership, Work-life balance as well as with Organizational Loyalty and Organizational Identification sub-scales and Organizational Commitment total score. On the other hand, MASS negatively correlates with Cynicism, Exhaustion, Qualitative workload, Sleep problems, Over-commitment, Quantitative workload, Email Stress/ Behavior and Job Involvement. In the sub-sample of owners/partners, Leadership positively correlates with Professional efficacy, Job satisfaction, MASS as well as with Social support, Organizational Identification subscale and Organizational Commitment – total score and negatively with Cynicism, Qualitative workload and Exhaustion.
V - Comparison between 2005 and 2016
Before comparison in terms of relevant variables, two samples were compared in terms of their demographic structure (Table 2). Samples do not significantly differ in terms of age and number of colleagues. Years of experience are significantly higher in 2016, but only for, on average, 1.12 years, compared to 2005 study. Proportion of lawyers according to their main type of practice and geographical area are similar in both surveys. On the other hand, the proportion of males and females in the sample slightly differs in two studies. In the 2005 sample, males/female ratio was approximately 8:2 and in the 2016 sample it was 6:4. Given that two samples were similar in terms of demographic variables examined, comparison between two surveys is justifiable. Results of comparison are presented in Table 12.
Between 2005 and 2016 scores on following variables increased: Professional Efficacy (Mean difference=0.21, 1.6% of variance explained), Sleep problems (Mean difference=0.18, 1.3% of variance explained), Over-commitment (Mean difference=0.21, 1.1% of variance explained), Cynicism (Mean difference=0.12, 0.3% of variance explained) and Qualitative workload (Mean difference=0.06, only 0.1% of variance explained). It can be concluded that these significant changes are quite small. In addition, gender differences in 2005 and 2016 were compared (Table 13).
In 2005 females reported higher levels of Exhaustion, Sleep problems and Quantitative workload. In 2016, females reported higher levels of Exhaustion, Sleep problems, Over-commitment, Quantitative workload, Qualitative workload and Professional Efficacy. For Job Satisfaction and Cynicism, gender differences were found neither in 2005 nor in 2016. It can be concluded that gender differences in 2016 existed in terms of 6 variables, compared to only 3 variables in the 2005 study. To summarize, Exhaustion, Sleep problems and Quantitative workload have been more present among female lawyers, compared to their male colleagues (confirmed in both 2005 and 2016 survey). In addition, Over-commitment, Qualitative workload and Professional Efficacy, which showed no gender differences 2005, were found to be higher among female lawyers in 2016 survey.
VI - Hierarchical Regression Models
Illustration of hierarchical regression models is presented in Figure 1. For each of five outcomes, separate hierarchical multiple linear regression analysis was performed, with all predictors and all control variables. Control variables were included in the first step of each hierarchical regression model and main predictors in the next step. Categorical control variables were coded as binary 0-1 variables, prior analysis. Results are presented in Table 14.
All predictors taken together can explain 56.9% of variance in Exhaustion, 48.8% of variance in Cynicism, 35.5% of variance in Professional Efficacy, 30.9% of variance in Sleep problems and 28% of variance in Work-life balance. In all five models, after controlling for demographic variables, main predictors significantly increase predictive potential of the model. After controlling for controlling for influence of demographic variables, significant predictors of Exhaustion, sorted by their impact, are: Job Satisfaction (-), Over-commitment (+), Mindfulness (-), Quantitative workload (+), Qualitative workload (+), Job Involvement (+) and Social Support (-). Lawyers who are more satisfied with their job, less over-committed, with higher levels of mindfulness, with lower workload, less involved in job and with better social support are less likely to be exhausted. If we analyze additional contributions of demographic variables, lawyers working in business law, lawyers with more experience and male lawyers are less likely to be exhausted. Significant predictors of Cynicism (after controlling for demographic variables), sorted by their impact, are: Job Satisfaction (-), Mindfulness (-), Qualitative workload (+)and Leadership (-). Lawyers who are more satisfied with their job, with higher levels of mindfulness, with lower qualitative workload and higher levels of leadership tendency are less likely to report cynicism. If we analyze additional contributions of demographic variables, older and female lawyers are less likely to report cynicism. Significant predictors of Professional Efficacy (after controlling for demographic variables), sorted by their impact, are: Leadership (+), Mindfulness (+), Job Satisfaction (+), Qualitative workload (-), Organizational Identification (+), Job Involvement (+) and Over-commitment (-).Lawyers with higher levels of leadership and mindfulness, who are more satisfied with their job, with lower qualitative workload, higher organizational identification and job involvement and less over-committed are more likely to feel higher professional efficacy. If we analyze additional contributions of demographic variables, junior lawyers and female lawyers report higher professional efficacy. Significant predictors of Sleep problems are Over-commitment (+), Mindfulness (-), Job Satisfaction (-) and Email Stress Behavior (+). Lawyers who are less over-committed, with higher levels of mindfulness, more satisfied with their job and with better ability to disengage from checking work related emails have better sleep quality. In addition, younger lawyers, male lawyers and lawyers working in the field of business law have better sleep quality. Significant predictors of Work-life balance are Quantitative workload (-), Organization Identification (+), Over-commitment (-) and Social support (+). Lawyers with lower levels of quantitative workload, more identified with their organizations, less over-committed and with better social support have better work-life balance. In addition, older lawyers and lawyers working in smaller companies have better work-life balance.
Job satisfaction and Mindfulness are found to be the most important predictor of burnout (they are among top three predictors for all three dimensions of burnout). Mindfulness can also predict Sleep problems. Leadership is the most important predictor of Professional Efficacy and can also predict Cynicism. Email Stress/Behavior is a significant predictor only for Sleep problems.
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