Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Health care sciences and services, Occupational health

Publication Details

A thesis submitted to Technological University Dublin for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, February 2023.


Teaching has been classified by researchers as a high stress profession. Stress in teaching has been reported to have many negative health outcomes and also affects productivity. The literature also reports that stress in teaching is a difficult matter to resolve satisfactorily, with mixed outcomes from interventions. An emergent cause of work-related stress in education is IPC and this study sets out to investigate the prevalence of this underreported phenomena.

A sample of 25 teachers working in Irish second level schools were recruited. Semi structured interviews were conducted to report on the experiences of stress, it’s causes and effects both inside and outside the school environment. The literature identified that interpretative phenological analysis was the most suitable methodology to obtain teachers experiences of stress in schools, this qualitative approach was used to obtain data from participants.

It was found that 22 out of 25 participants reported high levels of interpersonal conflict, (IPC) between colleagues in schools. The majority of participants, 24 out of 25 were also fearful to report stress they were experiencing within their school. An inability of participants experiencing IPC to escape from colleagues was found to be exacerbating stress for participants. A further feature of IPC was that it may have been caused, in a non-intentional and non-repetitive manner. IPC also appears to differ from other challenging workplace misbehaviour identified in the literature. This fear to report stress, high levels of IPC and a perceived inability to escape from this conflict caused considerable stress to participants resulting in very difficult and detrimental working conditions for those affected.

IPC has been described as “a process that occurs between independent parties as they experience negative emotional reactions to perceived disagreements and interference with the attainment of their goals”. Interpersonal conflict however, has not received the same level of research attention. This thesis also supports the idea of re-interpreting interpersonal conflict as a separate category of psychosocial risk, alongside established and reported challenging behaviours such as bullying and incivility.

The findings are a matter of concern for those teachers working in the Irish second level sector. Furthermore, if findings in this study can be generalised, which seems likely, then the health and wellbeing of Irish second level teachers is being substantially and negatively impacted. Furthermore, the lack of successful stress interventions in the educational sector does not seem to offer practical solutions for the prevention of interpersonal conflict. The standalone nature of interpersonal conflict identified in this study warrants further research to investigate dedicated and pragmatic interventions to reduce this particular cause of workplace stress. Finally, research as to whether IPC manifests itself in other workplaces with similar conditions, for example third level teaching is also required.