Understanding Staff Burnout and Wellbeing Resources in Faith-based Humanitarian Organizations and Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureates Open Access

Leonard, Leslie (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/m613mz526?locale=en


The Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate organizations (HHPLs) and international faith-based humanitarian organizations (FBHOs) have been internationally recognized for their achievements, and the positive impacts of their collective work have reached billions of people around the world. However, while burnout is extensively documented in health care professions, little is known about the negative impacts on humanitarian staff from chronic exposure to work-related stress. Further gaps exist in knowledge about the existence and effectiveness of resources at these organizations for addressing burnout and supporting wellbeing.

The purpose of this project is to (1) identify the various factors in the work lives of HHPL and FBHO employees that contribute to burnout, (2) understand how HHPLs and FBHOs differ in their staff experience of burnout and their provision of staff resources related to wellbeing, and (3) inventory resources and discuss strategies that support staff wellbeing in all its forms.

Respondents from 14 HHPLs and 9 FBHOs completed an online survey answering questions about their staff’s experience of burnout and their organizations’ wellbeing resources.

The most common contributing factors to burnout among both HHPLs and FBHOs were related to organizational culture and other internal workplace factors, with supervisors and/or other leaders cited by 85.7% of HHPLs (n=12) and 66.7% of FBHOs (n=6). The differences between the two groups differed in terms of wellbeing resources and support staff – namely, the employment of chaplains or other religious/spiritual advisors (66.7% of FBHOs [n=6] and 7.1% of HHPLs [n=1]). Similarly, 42.9% of HHPLs (n=6) indicated that they employ none of the types of support staff listed, compared to 22.2% of FBHOs (n=2).

If they are interested in confronting the issue of burnout, humanitarian organizations should make staff wellbeing a priority, by improving existing organizational resources and policies and/or implementing new strategies to address burnout. This study highlights an opportunity for further research into the possible spiritual dimensions of burnout, including the particular benefits of staff chaplains at secular organizations. 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction. 1

Background and Rationale. 2

Problem statement 4

Purpose statement 5

Research questions. 5

Significance statement 6

Definition of terms. 7

Chapter 2: Comprehensive Review of the Literature. 10

Introduction. 10

Burnout 11

A Background on Burnout 11

General causes and symptoms of burnout 11

Burnout in Healthcare Practitioners. 12

Moral Distress, Moral Disempowerment, and Moral Injury. 13

Burnout in Humanitarian Workers. 14

Workplace factors that contribute to burnout 14

Impact of Burnout on Work. 15

Faith-based Organizations. 16

Typology for understanding faith-based organizations. 16

Secular vs. Faith-Based Humanitarian Aid. 19

Religious/spiritual wellbeing as protective against burnout in health care settings. 20

Ethical considerations. 22

An Ethical Dilemma Amidst Competing Priorities. 22

A Matter of Moral Obligation. 24

Addressing Burnout 24

Figure 1. Visual representation of Antares Foundation’s guidelines for managing stress in humanitarian workers 26

Summary of current problem & study relevance. 27

Current Status of Humanitarian Burnout Problem.. 27

Public Health Impact 28

Chapter 3: Methods. 29

Introduction. 29

Population and sample. 29

Procedures. 31

Instruments. 31

Data analysis. 32

Ethical considerations. 32

Limitations and delimitations. 33

Limitations. 33

Delimitations. 34

Chapter 4: Results. 35

Introduction. 35

Respondents. 35

Overview of Findings. 37

Specific Findings. 39

Turnover. 39

Table 1. Top reasons for staff turnover among HHPLs and FBHOs. 40

Burnout 40

Table 2. All factors contributing to burnout among HHPLs, by category. 44

Table 3. All factors contributing to burnout among FBHOs, by category. 45

Burnout for Headquarters/Main office staff vs. Remote/Field staff. 46

Burnout for National/Local vs. Foreign/Expatriate staff. 48

Quality & Effectiveness of Existing Resources. 49

Figure 2. Adaptation of Antares Foundation’s framework of organizational components for employee wellbeing. 50

Table 4. Frequency table for evaluation of resources among HHPLs. 50

Figure 3. Mean scores for evaluation of resources among HHPLs. 51

Table 5. Frequency table for evaluation of resources among FBHOs. 51

Figure 4. Mean scores for evaluation of resources among FBHOs. 52

Support Staff. 52

Table 6. Frequency table for HHPL and FBHO support staff. 53

Resources that Address Wellbeing. 53

Table 7. Frequency table for staff wellbeing resources among HHPLs. 53

Table 8. Frequency table for staff wellbeing resources among FBHOs. 55

Staff Use & Need. 56

General Evaluation. 59

Figure 5. Frequency distribution of HHPL resource accessibility. 59

Figure 6. Frequency distribution of FBHO resource accessibility. 60

Figure 7. Frequency distribution of HHPL staff receptivity to resources. 60

Figure 8. Frequency distribution of FBHO staff receptivity to resources. 61

Figure 9. Frequency distribution of HHPL resource staff need fulfillment 61

Figure 10. Frequency distribution of FBHO resource staff need fulfillment 62

Table 9. Frequency table for resource accessibility, staff receptivity, and need fulfillment among HHPLs and FBHOs. 62

Barriers. 62

Table 10. Frequency table of barriers to resources among HHPLs and FBHOs. 63

Resource Wish List 63

Stress. 64

Support/Resources. 65

Summary. 66

Chapter 5: Discussion and Recommendations. 67

Discussion. 67

Recommendations. 69

Recommendations for Further Research. 70

Recommendations for Action. 71

References. 73


Appendix A. Organizational Characteristics of HHPL Respondents. 77

Appendix B. Organizational Characteristics of FBHO Respondents. 79

Appendix C. The Hilton Humanitarian Prize. 81

Appendix D. Sample Population of Faith-based Humanitarian Organizations. 83

Appendix E. The Hilton Wellbeing Project Survey. 84

Appendix F. Faith-based Organizations Wellbeing Survey. 99

Appendix G. Additional Resources for Organizational Wellbeing. 117

Appendix H. Components of Organizational Wellbeing, with Examples from Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureates 123

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