Term of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Paul M. Brinson, Jr

Committee Member 1

Linda M. Arthur

Committee Member 2

Ralph P. Gornto


Principals today are constantly in the public eye. Every decision made subjects him/her to the scrutiny of staff and faculty, students, central office personnel, parents, community members, and board members. Contemporary principals are asked by their superintendents to lead reform efforts effectively or face the possibility of dismissal. Principals often face the dilemma of balancing politics in an effort to appease board members and the superintendent while simultaneously implementing critical change efforts in their schools. Hess and Kelly (2005) suggested that as principals attempt to lead reform efforts, they often go blindly into these positions unprepared and enter the principalship with a naivety towards the political aspect and importance of relationship building. In 2008, Polka and Litchka used the term “professional victim syndrome” (PVS) to describe the condition confronted by educational leaders, especially superintendents, who experienced a career crisis where their professional and personal reputations were tarnished and they were challenged with navigating political waves in order to survive.

In this study, the extent to which the PVS exists among principals was examined, how they came to be professional victims; and what mechanisms were used to cope with the crisis experienced. A mixed-methods approach was used for data collection. Members of the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals (GAMSP) and the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP) were asked to complete the Professional Victim Survey for Middle and Secondary Principals. Out of the 443 total valid responses to the survey, 133 reported serving as a middle school principal, and 310 reported serving as a high school principal. Of the respondents, 11% self-reported being a professional victim. While 9 were extensively, interviewed, 75% (36 out of the 48) volunteered to participate in the qualitative study suggesting a willingness to discuss their crisis.

All nine of the victims interviewed were involved in implementing change suggesting this to be a contributing factor for PVS. All nine reported having relationship issues and reported that politics played a major role in their crisis. All nine stated that their family, friends, and spirituality made the difference in how they coped with the crisis.

Research Data and Supplementary Material