Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Pollock, Katina


This qualitative research explores Jamaican secondary school principals’ work and occupational well-being. Research on the topic of principals’ work and occupational well-being has largely been conducted in developed countries (e.g., Canada, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, etc.). The aggregate conclusion in these countries suggests that principals’ work has implications for their occupational well-being. Given that Jamaica, a developing nation, has adopted North American leadership standards and policies, it is necessary to examine if Jamaican secondary school principals’ work presents occupational well-being issues. Through qualitative semistructured interviews with 12 Jamaican secondary school principals, the study investigated these principals’ work. Specifically, principals’ work within their socioeconomic, geographical, and community contexts were examined to understand if they experienced any challenges. Explored in the study were the occupational well-being issues principals experience, if any, and the strategies principals employ to cope with such issues. The conceptual framework—work and occupational well-being—was used to examine and understand the emerging findings through the interpretivist paradigm. Several themes and subthemes emerged from the data. The results suggested that Jamaican secondary school principals’ work affect their physical, mental, cognitive, and social occupational well-being. In their attempt to cope with these different occupational well-being issues, principals have employed individualized strategies to cope with their occupational well-being issues. Driving this reliance on individualized strategies is the existing social, structural, and cultural stigma around mental health/well-being in the Jamaican society. The shared perspectives among these principals provide a glimpse of their occupational well-being that perhaps need further investigation. The findings in this study have significance for policy and program development, theory and practice in Jamaica and the Caribbean in areas specific to principals’ work and occupational well-being.

Summary for Lay Audience

Jamaican secondary school principals’ work is changing. This change is evidenced in their work demands and workload, and their occupational well-being. I undertook this qualitative research was undertaken to understand 12 Jamaican secondary school principals’ work, specific to the actions, activities, practices, and behaviours they engage in that their occupational well-being. The finding from qualitative semistructured interviews with 12 principals, who identified as male and female, indicate that they are experiencing work challenges. The challenges these principals experience in their geographical, community, and socioeconomic contexts have impacted their occupational well-being. Evidence from the findings indicate the principals are experiencing physical, mental/ psychological, cognitive, and social occupational well-being issues. These relational occupational well-being issues include anxiety, powerlessness, frustration, exhaustion, low energy, and overwhelmingness to name a few. Given the lack of support from the ministry, principals in this study engage in multiple individualized strategies to cope with their occupational well-being issues. These individualized strategies include but not limited to spiritual beliefs in God, mindfulness meditation, and social networks of support. At the centre of these individualized strategies is the rooted mental health stigma in the Jamaican society, with the majority of principals relying on their spiritual beliefs in God. What is needed is structural change at the national level through education about the stigma around mental health to encourage greater access to care. This study captures the importance of having a healthy cadre of principals to ensure the principalship does not lose its appeal.