Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Richard Walsh

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


In this qualitative study, I explore with Northern Ontario children’s mental health administrators and clinicians their concerns about employee retention, given the high costs of turnover in human (providers and consumers) and financial terms. I use an ecological framework, borrowed by community psychology from the biological sciences, whereby retention is considered to be not only a work-related phenomenon but also influenced by a variety of non-work factors. In the belief that employee retention is best understood from a holistic, multi-level perspective, I review literature from a variety of related areas. I consider the characteristics of rural life, practice and practitioners; the antecedents and effects of burnout among human service workers; the constituent elements Quality of Life and Quality of Work Life; relevant job satisfaction and dissatisfaction research; the impact of management and leadership styles, including the role of gender; and research pertaining to turnover and retention in human service organizations and in rural areas. To better comprehend the unique qualities of life and work experiences that may impact on personal turnover and retention decisions in Northern Ontario, I used open-ended questions to interview 14 administrators and 41 clinicians. As well, 16 clinicians participated in the mail survey portion of the research. The data were analyzed on the basis of comparison groups defined by the gender of the participant, the size of the community in which the participant worked, the participant’s place of origin, and the gender of the participant’s executive director. The results indicated that, while high turnover was an immediate concern to some but not all agencies, retention was perceived to be of long-term interest to most agencies, given problems with recruitment and with maintaining competitive salaries. Workers identified factors contributing to their life satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and to their job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. While clinicians generally seemed more satisfied than not with life outside of work, they expressed more dissatisfaction with their jobs, except those working for female directors. These clinicians cited an empowerment philosophy within their organizations as contributing to their high level of job satisfaction. Gender-related concerns were also raised by a number of participants. Suggestions for change from participants focused on increased learning opportunities and job supports, a reduction in job stresses and gender-related concerns, and improved recruitment practices, communications, personnel policies, and salaries, encompassed within an empowering work environment. Changes were also offered at the individual, community, and government levels. I conclude by also recommending organization development as a useful tool in assessing each agency’s overall effectiveness with personnel and with service consumers. Future research would do well to more thoroughly explore, within a rural organizational context, the burnout phenomenon and the relationship of gender, management style and job satisfaction.

Convocation Year


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