Trust in management key to avoiding correctional staff burnout

Aug 17, 2012

Correctional facility employees who trust supervisors and management are less likely to experience job burnout, a Wayne State University researcher has found.

"Trust builds commitment and involvement in the job," said Eric Lambert, Ph.D., professor and chair of in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, "but lack of trust leads to burnout and stresses people out."

A correctional facility employee himself before becoming an academic, Lambert developed his study of staff members at a private Midwestern juvenile detention facility after learning that only two other researchers have tried to address the effects of trust in such a setting. Titled "Examining the Relationship Between Supervisor and Management Trust and Job Burnout Among Correctional Staff," the results were published recently in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Lambert's team defined burnout as consisting of , depersonalization and feelings of being ineffective at work. They surveyed 200 respondents, who ranged in age from 19 to 68 years old and had been on the job from one to 53 months, to find out if trust in supervisors and in higher management had any effect on each of those characteristics.

Researchers indeed found that higher trust levels almost across the board resulted in lower reported burnout characteristics in employees. The only exception was the effect of trust in management, which seemed to have no bearing on how employees perceived their effectiveness on the job. Lambert said that might be because higher level managers are too far removed from day-to-day operations to have much interaction with employees.

Employees who trusted their supervisors, however, saw themselves as more effective at work. But the in trust and perceived work effectiveness doesn't mean management should be ignored in the workplace, as it still is associated with dimensions of burnout, Lambert said.

"This suggests the need to increase both forms of trust in the correctional workplace, and not to ignore one or both," he said.

While trust is important in any work setting, Lambert said it's especially so in corrections because of the high level of personal contact.

"Prisons need human beings to operate," he said. "You cannot use machines; it's not like an assembly line. Everything you deal with involves interaction with inmates, co-workers and supervisors."

Lambert said his study opens the door for trust research at other types of correctional facilities, but believes the findings will translate and affirm the role of trust levels as a key factor in . The next step — which can be taken without costing a lot of money or resources — is for correctional facilities to develop ways to build trust.

Responsibility for that process, he said, lies with supervisors and higher level administrators, who can accomplish it by holding themselves to high ethical standards and being genuinely considerate and concerned for employees' welfare. Listening and allowing staff input into their jobs and organization is another way to build positive relationships.

Trust also can be built by focusing on organizational justice, which researchers say comprises two aspects, distributive justice and procedural justice. The first refers to perceptions of fair and just organizational outcomes, such as pay, promotions, evaluations, assignments, workload, rewards and punishments. The second refers to perceptions that processes and procedures used to reach those outcomes are fair, just and transparent.

If that sounds similar to other situations, Lambert said, it's because the principles are the same.

"Trust is a basic human need," he said. "It's part of the foundation of any good relationship, whether it's work, romantic or social."

Explore further: Digital native fallacy: Teachers still know better when it comes to using technology

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sick or just sick of work?

Dec 03, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the winter weather making it hard to get out of bed in the morning, some employees may contemplate calling in sick to work, even if they feel just a bit under the weather. But a Purdue University ethics ...

Trust, clarity and openness in the workplace

Mar 02, 2011

In times of uncertainty employers should engage more openly with their staff and drop the jargon to improve communication and allow feedback, according to a paper in this month's International Journal of Productivity and Qu ...

Hospitality turns hostile with envious employees

Sep 28, 2010

Guest relationships can become collateral damage when hotel employees envy the relationships co-workers have with their bosses, according to an international team of researchers.

Recommended for you

Gypsies and travellers on the English Green Belt

Oct 17, 2014

The battle between Gypsies, Travellers and the settled community over how land can be used has moved to the Green Belt, observes Peter Kabachnik of the City University of New York.

Cadavers beat computers for learning anatomy

Oct 16, 2014

Despite the growing popularity of using computer simulation to help teach college anatomy, students learn much better through the traditional use of human cadavers, according to new research that has implications ...

User comments : 0