Trusting supervisors and the management could be a major factor in avoiding job burnout among employees working at correctional facilities, a new study revealed.
"Trust builds commitment and involvement in the job but lack of trust leads to burnout and stresses people out," Eric Lambert, a Wayne State University researcher, said.
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.
For the study, Lambert's team defined burnout as consisting of emotional exhaustion, 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 disparity 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," he added.
The study has been published in journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour.