The Effect of Job Involvement on Correctional Staff Eric G. Lambert The driving force of corrections is the staff of correctional facilities. It is important to understand how the work environment shapes the attitudes of correctional staff; yet, the effect of job involvement on correctional employees has received little, if any, attention. Most of the research to date has focused on job stress and job satisfaction among correctional staff. Only recently has there been research on other important work attitudes, such as job involvement. Job involvement may have important effects on salient work outcomes.
Therefore, there is a need to explore how job involvement may influence correctional staff job stress, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, life satisfaction, turnover intentions, family-on-work conflict, and work-on-family conflict. By using data acquired from a survey of staff of a state-run correctional facility in the Midwest, the researcher examined the effects of job involvement on correctional staff job stress, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, life satisfaction, turnover intentions, family-on-work conflict, and work-on-family conflict.
After controlling for gender, age, tenure, position, educational level, race, and supervisory status, the researcher conducted a multivariate analysis, which indicated that job involvement had a statistically significant positive relationship with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and both forms of work-family conflict. Job involvement was observed to have non-significant direct effects on correctional staff job stress, life satisfaction, and turnover intentions.
Work in corrections is often a hard, demanding job that usually holds little prestige in society, but it also can be a rewarding experience. “Few other organizations are charged with the central task of supervising and securing an unwilling and potentially violent population” (Armstrong & Griffin, 2004, p. 577). Armstrong and Griffin further contend that “correctional institutions are unique work environments in both context and purpose” (2004, p. 577).
Further, corrections occupies an important place in the criminal justice system as well as in society (Goodstein & MacKenzie, 1989). Due to the importance of corrections in society and the criminal justice system, a growing body of research involves correctional officers. This research is required to understand how correctional staff influence the organization and, in turn, how the correctional organization affects the workers. Correctional staff are the heart and soul of any correctional organization.
Staff are responsible for myriad tasks and responsibilities that ensure that the organization meets its goals of providing a safe, humane, and secure environment. Correctional organizations succeed (or fail) based on their employees. Archambeault and Archambeault point out that “correctional workers represent the single most important resource available to any correctional agency or institution in attempting to accomplish its mission, goals, and objectives” (1982: xxii). Correctional staff are the driving force of any correctional organization.
The correctional staff literature to date has focused mainly on the effects of work environment on the attitudes and behaviors of correctional staff, particularly on the antecedents of job stress, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. While many studies have focused on antecedents of work factors involving correctional staff, not all possible antecedents have been examined. The concept of job involvement has received very little attention in the correctional literature. This oversight is salient.
Job involvement has been 1 theorized to be the force that helps shape many employee and organizational outcomes. Diefendorff, Brown, Kamin, and Lord argue that job involvement is “a key factor influencing important individual and organizational outcomes” (2002, 93). Furthermore, Brown contends that “increasing job involvement can enhance organizational effectiveness and productivity by engaging employees more completely in their work and making work a more meaningful and fulfilling experience” (1996, 235).
Outside the field of corrections, job involvement is theorized to be an antecedent of job stress, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, life satisfaction, turnover intentions, and work-family conflict (Brown, 1996). Nevertheless, due to a lack of empirical exploration in the correctional literature, there is a question of what, if any, effects job involvement has on correctional staff job stress, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, life satisfaction, turnover intentions, and work-family conflict.
This preliminary study examines an empirical void in the correctional literature: the effects of job involvement on correctional staff. Specifically, it examines the effect of job involvement by means of a multivariate analysis, while controlling for the personal characteristics of gender, age, tenure, position, educational level, race, and supervisory status, on correctional staff job stress, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, life satisfaction, turnover intentions, and work-family conflict.
Literature Review Job involvement is the degree of importance an individual assigns the job in his or her life (i. e. , central life interest) (Dubin, 1956; Elloy, Everett, & Flynn, 1995; Kanungo, 1982a, 1982b; Paullay, Alliger, & StoneRomero, 1994). It is the psychological identification a person has with his or her job (Blau & Boal, 1987; Brown & Leigh, 1996; DeCarufel & Schaan, 1990; Kanungo, 1982a, 1982b; and Lawler & Hall, 1970). An individual with a high degree of job involvement would place the job at the center of his/her life=s interests.
The well-known phrase ‘I live, eat, and breathe my job’ would describe someone whose job involvement is very high. . . . Persons with low job involvement would place something other than their jobs (e. g. , family, hobbies) at the center of their lives” (DeCarufel & Schaan, 1990, 86). The opposite of job involvement is job alienation (Kanungo, 1979, 1982a). Job involvement is a distinct concept that differs from the concept of work ethic (Kanungo, 1982a, 1982b), which refers to the belief that work is important, and people should engage in work to better themselves (DeCarufel & Schaan, 1990).
Job involvement is also a distinct concept from job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Job involvement is the importance of the person’s job/work in his or her life, and job satisfaction is the degree of satisfaction an employee obtains from his or her job (Kanungo, 1982b). “[D]istinctions between emotional state of liking one=s job (job satisfaction) and the cognitive belief state of physiological identification with one’s job (job involvement) have been advanced for some time” (Brooke, Russell, & Price, 1988, 139).
Furthermore, organizational commitment is a bond with the organization, while job involvement is an attachment to the specific job (Kanungo, 1982a). Moreover, by using factor analytic procedures, Brooke et al. demonstrated empirically that job involvement, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment are indeed separate, distinct concepts. Job involvement is a critical factor in shaping worker outcomes (Diefendorff et al. , 2002; Lawler, 1986); for example, Hackman and Lawler (1971) theorize that job involvement is a salient factor in shaping the 2 otivation of individual workers. Yet, little research has been conducted on the effects of job involvement among criminal justice workers. Most of the criminal justice research on job involvement has been limited to the police. A study of police psychologists found no statistically significant correlation between job involvement and job satisfaction (Bergen, Aceto, & Chadziewicz, 1992). A study of Canadian police officers observed that job involvement correlated positively with both job satisfaction and organizational commitment (DeCarufel & Schaan, 1990).
A study of Midwestern police officers observed that job involvement correlated significantly with organizational commitment and turnover intentions (McElroy, Morrow, & Wardlow, 1999). In a study of Southern police officers, Lord (1996) reported a relationship between job involvement and the stressors of role conflict and role ambiguity. A study of Midwestern police officers found that supervisory initiation of structure in the workplace correlated positively with the level of self-reported job involvement (Brief, Aldag, & Wallden, 1976).
Another study of Midwestern police officers reported that job involvement decreased during the eight months after academy training (Hazer & Alvares, 1981). A study of New Zealand police officers found no difference in level of job involvement between male and female respondents (Love & Singer, 1988). Little, if any, published research exists on the effects of job involvement among correctional staff. Job stress is generally defined in the correctional literature as a worker’s feelings of job-related difficulty, tension, anxiety, and distress (Cullen, Link, Wolfe, & Frank, 1985; Grossi, Keil, & Vito, 1996).
The researcher predicted that job involvement has a negative effect on job stress: those who are not involved do not look forward to their jobs; they work in jobs they care little about. Further, employees alienated from the job find it frustrating to attend work, day after day, which ultimately leads to increased job stress. Conversely, people who identify psychologically with their jobs may look forward to work. Locke defines job satisfaction as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one=s job or job experiences” (1976, 1300).
Job satisfaction is an affective response by a worker concerning his or her particular job, and it results from an overall comparison of actual outcomes with outcomes the worker needs, wants, or desires (Cranny, Smith, & Stone, 1992). Job satisfaction is the degree to which an individual likes his or her job (Spector, 1996). The researcher hypothesized that job involvement has a positive relationship with job satisfaction among correctional employees: people who are involved in work find it stimulating, which makes the job more satisfying.
Organizational commitment is loyalty to the organization, identification with the organization and its core values (i. e. , pride in the organization and internalization of the goals of the organization), and a desire for involvement in the organization (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1979). A global concept, organizational commitment is much more than just a bond to the job or a work group. It is a commitment to the whole employing organization (Lambert, Barton, & Hogan, 1999).
The researcher postulated that job involvement has a positive effect on organizational commitment: people who are not involved with their jobs are probably more likely to blame the organization for having a job they care little about, which means less likelihood of commitment to the organization. Conversely, people who are involved should form a greater bond with the organization from which the job originates. Life satisfaction is the cognitive appraisal of the overall degree of satisfaction a person has with his or her life (Donovan & Halpern, 2002; Hart, 1999); it is a person’s overall assessment of the quality of his or her life.
The importance of work in a person’s life might affect a person’s overall satisfaction with life. 3 Therefore, the researcher predicted that job involvement has a positive relationship with correctional staff life satisfaction. Work is an important part of most peoples’ lives and occupies a significant proportion of their waking day. Besides consuming a considerable amount of time, a person’s job often shapes his or her identity (Lambert, Hogan, Paoline, & Baker, 2005). According to Terkel (1974), a job for many people provides “daily meaning as well as daily bread” (p. xi).
If correctional staff have high job involvement, they should report greater satisfaction with life because they think they have purpose. Correctional workers who have low job involvement should report lower life satisfaction because they have a job they have little interest in doing. Turnover intentions are the cognitive process of thinking, planning, and desiring to leave a job (Mobley, Griffeth, Hand, & Meglino, 1979). Turnover intentions generally occur before actual turnover; moreover, turnover intentions are generally the best predictor of voluntary turnover (Steel & Ovalle, 1984).
According to Fishbein and Ajzen, “The best single predictor of an individual=s behavior will be a measure of his intention to perform that behavior” (1975, p. 369). The author hypothesized that job involvement is inversely linked with turnover intentions among correctional employees; people with high job involvement have little reason to leave the job. Conversely, correctional workers who are alienated from their jobs may, over time, develop a strong desire to leave their jobs. Work-family conflict is “a form of inter-role conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect.
That is, participation in the work (family) role is made more difficult by participation in the family (work) role” (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985, p. 77). Work-family conflict can be divided into two primary dimensions. One dimension occurs when family or social matters cause conflict at work. This type of work-family conflict is called family-on-work conflict. The second dimension of work-family conflict occurs when work matters affect family or social life, and this dimension is called work-on-family conflict (Netermeyer, Boles, & McMurrian, 1996).
Job involvement could be related to family-on-work conflict. Workers with low job involvement might not care when home issues cause distractions at work; however, employees who are highly involved with work may have greater family-onwork conflict. Job involvement could also be linked with work-on-family conflict. Brown argues that “high levels of job involvement could possibly lead to trading off family commitments in favor of job commitments” (1996, p. 239). Individuals too occupied with their jobs may experience problems at home when family members or friends push them to pend less time focused on the job. Thus, the researcher postulated that job involvement has a statistically significant positive correlation with both family-on-work conflict and workon-family conflict among correctional employees. Methods Respondents The researcher administered a questionnaire to the staff at a Midwestern state correctional institution that houses mainly medium to maximum security adult male inmates younger than aged 26 years. Staff were informed the survey was voluntary and their responses would be anonymous.
Of the 400 surveys issued, a total of 272 useable surveys were returned, which is a response rate of 68%. Respondents represented all areas of the correctional facility, such as correctional officers, case managers, medical staff, industry staff, and food service workers. The respondents also represented various administrative levels of the correctional facility, from line staff to supervisors and managers. The respondents appeared to be 4 representative of the staff at the prison. Among the total prison staff, approximately 77% were male, 86% were White, and 53% were correctional officers.
Among the respondents, about 76% were male, 81% were White, and 50% were correctional officers. Variables Control Variables. The personal characteristics of gender, age, tenure, position, educational level, race, and supervisory status were selected as control variables. Gender was measured as a dichotomous variable (0 = female and 1 = male); 76% of the respondents were male. Age was measured in continuous years and had a mean of 42. 55 years, with a standard deviation of 8. 32. Tenure at the correctional facility was measured in continuous years and had a mean of 9. 4 years, with a standard deviation of 6. 82. Position was measured according to whether the respondent worked in custody (coded as 1) or not (coded as 0); 50% were correctional officers. For this study, educational level represented whether a respondent had earned a college degree (1) or not (0); 41% of the respondents had earned some type of college degree (i. e. , associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or professional). Race was measured as a dichotomous variable (0 = Nonwhite and 1 = White); 81% of the respondents marked White. Finally, a variable representing whether the espondent was a supervisor of other workers (1) or not (0) was created; 24% of the respondents indicated they were supervisors. Job Involvement. Job involvement was measured by using the response to three items (“I live, eat, and breathe my job,” “The most important things that happen to me in my life usually occur at work,” and “The major satisfaction in my life comes from work”). The items were adopted from Lawler and Hall (1970). Those surveyed responded to the three items by using a five-point Likert type of scale ranging from strongly disagree to agree, and the responses were summed together to form a job involvement index.
Dependent Variables. Job stress was measured by using five items (e. g. , “During the past 6 months, how often have you experienced a feeling of being emotionally drained at the end of the workday” and “During the past 6 months, how often have you experienced a feeling of worry that the job is hardening you emotionally”) from the Prison Social Climate Survey of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Wright & Saylor, 1992). The response options for the job stress items were rarely occurs, seldom occurs, occurs somewhat, usually occurs, and occurs frequently.
Job satisfaction was measured by using five items (e. g. , “Most days I am enthusiastic about my job” and “I find real enjoyment in my job”) from Brayfield and Rothe (1951). Respondents answered the job satisfaction items by using a five-point Likert type of scale ranging from strongly disagree to agree. Nine items from Mowday et al. (1982) were used to measure organizational commitment (e. g. , “I really care about the fate of this prison,” “I feel little loyalty to this prison” (reverse coded), and “I find that my values and the prison=s values are very similar”).