Trust in a High Risk Environment: Implications for Correctional Officer Stress

Simon T. Tidd, Vanderbilt University
Brooks C. Holtom, Marquette University
Gabrielle L. Chapman, Vanderbilt Univ./TN Dept. of Correction

Stress is a well-documented problem for correctional staff as well as other law enforcement professionals. Unmanaged stress can negatively effect institutional security and therefore can potentially hinder the mission of a correctional facility. Existing research has identified work peers and the overall functioning or management of an institution as two key sources of stress. This paper examines the impact of "trust in peers" and "trust in management" on reducing correctional officer stress. Taking the perspective of organizational stress research, we hypothesize that Correctional Officers with high levels of trust appraise their environment as less threatening and as a consequence experience less work related stress. Data from a system-wide survey of 1,000 correctional staff from a southern U.S. state found strong support for the beneficial effects of both types of trust. Further analyses suggest that, while always important, the impact of trust decreases with organizational tenure.

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Updated 05/20/2006