Feelings of Loneliness among School Principals: Experiences, Causes and Coping Strategies


Source: Leadership and Policy in Schools


This study explored principals’ perceptions of their own loneliness and their styles of coping with it. The study posed two questions: (1) How do school principals experience the personal and organizational factors that influence their loneliness in various work contexts? (2) What strategies do school principals use to cope with their sense of loneliness and when are these strategies are expressed? Based on 12 semi-structured interviews with Israeli school principals, it was found that they express two distinctive aspects of loneliness as perceived by the interviewees: a sense of abandonment by their superiors and a sense of alienation in relation to school staff. Likewise, the paper revealed five strategies that school principals use to deal with loneliness in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of building a good rapport with teachers and getting support from role players inside and outside the school. Practical implications are provided.

Several practical recommendations are suggested. The findings of the study can help school principals to identify the causes of their loneliness and to use appropriate strategies to deal with these causes. A key factor in the principal’s loneliness is a tense relationship between him/her and the staff. Thus, school principals should consider creating rapport with the school staff and initiate various actions such as holding staff meetings with teachers and openly share decision-making. Likewise, most of the principals highlighted the importance of getting support from outside the school. Accordingly, it is important to encourage school principals to use external consulting, such as mentoring and organizational adviser.

In addition, principal–supervisor relations have a significant influence on the principal’s feelings and specifically on his/her sense of loneliness. Therefore, it is recommended to train supervisors in aspects of consultation and emotional support for school principals. Finally, policymakers should concentrate on designing in-service training programs for school principals and supervisors in order to help them to cope with loneliness more effectively.

Updated: Nov. 06, 2019