When you think of job stresses of police officers, it’s easy to imagine the extremes, but that is not the full story.
In her work studying criminal justice workplaces and occupational stress research, Dr Amanda Biggs says the stresses that a lot of police and correctional officers face are similar to other occupations.
“People like police officers, correctional officers, people who have high-stress jobs, there’s always parts of their jobs that are very stressful and very unique, and it’s important to take those things into account,” said Dr Biggs.
“The things that really matter to them feeling valued by their organisation, and things that are common to many organisations is something I think every organisation struggles to deal with.”
Amanda says organisations and employees must ensure you feel like you are valued as an individual and not just your contributions.
“A work-life balance is imperative as is the ability to recover from work and detach yourself from it.
“It’s not just about being exposed to traumatic incidences, dealing with the public, dealing with emotionally disturbing situations, it’s also determined by how the organisation operates,” said Dr Biggs.
According to Dr Biggs, dealing with stress is only half of the picture of a healthy job: mental health and the things that predict it are different for everybody – there is no one size fits all solution. One of the things organisations must be able to do is to keep channels open with their employees.
“Having an ability as a manager or employer to have awareness of that, so people skills, being able to listen to people, being able to improvise with people, being a good communicator, there’s some things that leaders can become better equipped at to find out what contributes to the wellbeing of their employees,” said Dr Biggs.
Management’s preparedness to give employees more recognition in the form of positive feedback for a job well done and communicating the organisation’s mission and values also helps employees feel like they are part of it all.
On the employee level, Dr Biggs recommends doing the best that you can to understand what is important to you, taking time when you’re away from work to the best that you can, engaging in recovery from work, trying to be assertive when things pile up too much and to talk about it with your supervisor.
“Stress is only half of the picture because a healthy job is not one that doesn’t have an absence of stress or harm, it’s one that gives you a sense of purpose, a sense of wellbeing, said Dr Biggs.
For further reading on Dr Biggs’ research with emergency services personnel:
- Brough, P., Brown, J., & Biggs, A. (2016). Improving Criminal Justice Workplaces: Translating theory and research into evidence-based practice.
- Biggs, A., Brough, P., & Barbour, J. (2014). Exposure to extraorganizational stressors: Impact on mental health and organizational perceptions for police officers. International Journal of Stress Management, 21(3), 255–282.
- Biggs, A. (2010). This is the culture you are working in – you are supposed to be tough! A case-study of harassment and bullying in corrections. In V. M., Michael Kyrios and Nicholas Voudouris (Ed.), .
- Brough, P., & Biggs, A. (2010). Occupational stress in police and prison staff. In J. B. and E. Campbell (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of forensic psychology (pp. 707–717). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.