Cash or kudos: Addressing the effort-reward imbalance for academic employees.

This paper reports the findings of a study into the factors influencing psychological well-being of academic staff working in a U.K. Higher Education Institution. The study utilized the effort-reward imbalance (ERI) model as a framework to examine the balance between the effort academic staff commit to their work and the reward they receive in relation to the model’s three reward systems: remuneration, career progression, and self-esteem. This study utilized qualitative methodology to investigate the experiences of academic staff engaged in predominantly teaching activities (n = 39). In particular, the focus groups considered the factors affecting the effort they commit to their work and the characteristics of work that help them feel rewarded. This allowed consideration of the ERI model’s reward systems and exploration of a wider range of reward systems within an academic context. The findings reinforce the use of the ERI model for evaluating factors that influence the well-being of academic staff, providing insight into the extrinsic effort that academic staff commit to work, as well as recently evolved demands from student expectations and learning capability. Informal reward mechanisms, relating to student interaction and pedagogical impact, were found to have a prominent effect in helping academic staff feel rewarded for their work. This provides a possible explanation for academic staff overcommitment to their work in order to maintain informal sources of reward, in the absence of more formal institutional mechanisms. The limitations and implications for future research and practice, including possible interventions to restore effort—reward imbalance for academic staff, are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)