“Adverse Impacts of Organizational Stress on Officer Health and Wellness: Causes, Correlates, and Mitigation” funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) under the NIJ’s Research Evaluation in Safety, Health, and Wellness in the Criminal Justice System, will examine how organizational stressors are related to negative outcomes for officers and their agencies, and what are mitigating or facilitating factors at the individual and organizational levels. This research study will seek to enhance officer health and wellness while promoting organizational effectiveness.
The dangers and critical exposures associated with police work have long been presumed to be the most stressful aspects of a police officers’ job, despite them being lower in frequency than more routine stressors. However, while traumatic events associated with the work itself can lead to post-traumatic stress or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a considerable body of research has also demonstrated that officers’ perceptions of organizational stressors and/or “daily hassles” far outweigh operational stressors on the job, including trauma-related incidents.
The research literature differentiates between organizational stressors and operational ones (like encountering traumatic events or engaging in dangerous activities).
Commonly cited organizational stressors include:
- administrative burdens (dealing with bureaucracy, lack of control over work environment or resources, overburdening, and unfair practices);
- interpersonal issues (ineffective communication, interpersonal conflict, organizational politics, leadership and supervision, and racial, gender, or other biases and/or microaggressions); and
- work hours/fluctuating schedules.
Negative outcomes to be examined include:
- Health problems
- Job dissatisfaction
- Strained personal and marital relationships
- Poor work performance
- Psychological distress
- Reduced sleep and poor sleep quality (especially among male police officers)
- Traumatic stress outcomes
- Additional outcomes noted specifically for corrections officers include: counter-productive behaviors and lack of safety in correctional settings.
NPF will also examine how individual characteristics (protective factors like resilience, personality, etc.) and organizational practices may mitigate the harmful effects of organizational stress. Our study will generate knowledge that could lead to improvements in coping skills and positive health habits, which in turn could foster resilience and shield officers from those adverse effects. In addition, the ability of supervisors, managers, and leaders to properly support staff individually and collectively may reduce the harmful effects of organizational stressors.
The goals of this project are to better understand the impact of organizational stressors on officer health, wellness, and work performance to inform law enforcement leaders and officers about these effects as well as identify steps to alleviate the negative consequences of organizational stress. NPF will utilize a comprehensive model describing the patterns of relationships between organizational stress and adverse outcomes that will be tested relying on reliable and valid multi-method data (including work schedules) derived from the participating agencies, the officers, and physiological biomeasure data collection tools. A key aspect of the study is that it will include both police and corrections officers in a sample of approximately 360 officers.