Preventing Burnout in Sign Language Interpreters

Maslach (1982) conceptualizes burnout as emotional exhaustion and cynicism, which erodes an individual’s ability to effectively engage in work. A known antecedent to burnout across a variety of occupations, including interpreting, is chronic job stress (Delisle, Lariviere, Imbeau, & Durand, 2005; Swartz, 1999). The multidimensional construct of perfectionism is one personality trait noted in the literature (Flett & Hewitt, 2002) that affects how an individual perceives and manages stressors and it is consistently associated with burnout. Perfectionism is characterized by a tendency to set and strive for high personal standards and has both detrimental and beneficial potential (Stoeber & Otto, 2006). Investigators focusing on sign language interpreters have identified a wide range of cognitive and personality factors that contribute to the effective management of stress, such as perfectionistic traits (Bontempo & Napier, 2011). In contrast, negative appraisals of work, self-doubt and self-criticism are consistently associated with the development of burnout amongst sign language interpreters (Qin, Marshall, Mozrall, & Marschark, 2008; Schwenke, Ashby & Gnilka, 2014). Within the extant literature there is evidence that perfectionistic traits, influence an individual’s personal assessment of work demands and can contribute to the development of burnout. A new literature review in the Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association explores the issue of burnout within the field of interpreting by considering the role of perfectionism, stress and coping, and lays the groundwork for additional research.

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