Workplace stress and burnout are serious psychological issues affecting between 19% and 30% of the general working population employees (Finney, Stergiopoulos, Hensel, Bonato & Dewa, 2013). Job stress and burnout are high in some jobs. For example, it is estimated that 37% of correctional officers (COs) working in a correctional facility (CF) such as a jail or a prison experience job stress and burnout (Finney et al., 2013). The paper examines the factors leading to high-stress levels among COs, what the CF might have done to reduce stress levels, the leadership behaviors and organizational policies and how an industrial-organizational psychologist might assess the need and facilitate change within a CF to alleviate stress among the COs.
Factors Contributing to High-Stress Levels in a CF
A CF houses a population against their will because it aims to contribute towards public safety through actively assisting and encouraging wrongdoers to be law-abiders, while creating an environment for secure, safe human restraint. Being a CO, one acts as a front-line employee charged with the responsibility of keeping the CF secure and safe and helping to rehabilitate the offenders. To ensure Cos create a secure and safe environment, the administration creates strict policies with little chances of independent decision making. Consequently, the resulting organizational structure and a climate characterized by strictness and bureaucracies become major stress contributing factors. According to Brunetto, Teo, Farr-Wharton, Shacklock & Shriberg (2017), an organizational structure and climate characterized by unclear policies and goals, lack of support for the employees, lack of organizational justice and lack of autonomy in decision-making, leads to high-stress levels among employees. This was typical of the CF where the authorities were least supportive and only took pride in the accomplishments of the COs.
What the CF Might have Done to Help Reduce Stress Levels among Cos
The first step in reducing stress levels among the COs would be identifying the underlying factors which were related to organizational structure and climate. In treating such factors, an organization ought to have focused on organizational interventions for stress management. According to O'Brien & Beehr (2016), organizational interventions for stress management help in the prevention of stress through several intervention types that address a wide range of issues which ultimately remove numerous stressors. The intervention types include structures such as work schedules and staffing levels and psychological like control over work, social support and participation.
Leadership and Organizational Policies
CF is charged with ensuring safe and secure facilities and enhancing the rehabilitation of the inmates. As a result, the dominant policies are pervasive bureaucracies and strict hierarchies. The leadership is authoritative to ensure strict adherence to the bureaucratic policies.
How an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Might Assess the Need and Facilitate Change within a CF
Industrial-organizational psychologists are experts who study organizational behaviors through the application of principles, facts, and methods to individuals and groups (Landy & Conte, 2016). In assessing the need for and facilitating change in a CF, an industrial-organizational psychologist can examine the autonomy of decision making and the policies. Since such psychologists are behavior experts who recognize the importance of autonomy in decision making for employee productivity, they will easily identify the need for change in participative decision making as they will observe frustrated employees who have been subjected to decisions from above without their input. Similarly, by examining the bureaucratic and strict policies, the psychologist will realize that the modern workplace needs relaxed environment created by flexible policies that encourage employee participation and significant levels of autonomy. He or she would then advise the administrators to relax the organization policies through research-based findings that would be recommended.
An organizational structure and climate characterized by least employee support and low autonomy in decision making as well as low organizational justice lead to burnout and stress among the employees. Such institutions need organizational level interventions to address the stressors to reduce burnout and stress. Industrial-organizational psychologists can assess the need for change in the organization with high burnout and stress levels by looking at levels of employee autonomy and the nature of the policies to match with the modern needs of a changing workplace.
Brunetto, Y., Teo, S. T., Farr-Wharton, R., Shacklock, K., & Shriberg, A. (2017). Individual and organizational support: does it affect red tape, stress and work outcomes of police officers in the USA?. Personnel Review, 46(4).
Finney, C., Stergiopoulos, E., Hensel, J., Bonato, S., & Dewa, C. S. (2013). Organizational stressors associated with job stress and burnout in correctional officers: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 82.
Landy, F. J., & Conte, J. M. (2016). Work in the 21st Century, Binder Ready Version: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. John Wiley & Sons.
O'Brien, K. E., & Beehr, T. A. (2016). Managing employees' occupational stress. Stress and quality of working life: Interpersonal and occupation-based stress, 181-198.
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