Job Stress and Performance: A Study of Police Officers in Central Taiwan

Article excerpt

Job stress is universally recognized as a social problem (Mizuno, Yamada, Ishii, & Tanaka, 2006), but there is much greater job stress for police officers than for employees in other industries (Mitani, Fujita, Nakata, & Shirakawa, 2006). Police duties are specialized, numerous, complicated, and sometimes highly risky. Between 1934 and 1960 police suicide rates were half that of the general population. But from 1980 to the present day, suicide rates in some departments have almost doubled (www.heavybadge.com/efstress.htm). In recent years, the Executive Yuan of Taiwan has proposed a series of security-enhancing policies, such as zero growth of crimes, all citizens become involved in security improvement, antiscam measures, and a crime-deterring program. Implementation of these policies relies on the input of police officers. To fulfill the promises made by executives and meet the expectations of citizens, police officers have not only to accomplish more tasks but also to deal with more job and performance stress.

Each individual is exposed to a range of stressors both at work and in his or her personal life which ultimately affects performance (Feddock, Hoellein, Wilson, Caudill, & Griffith, 2007). Pressure at work can be positive leading to increased productivity. However, when this pressure becomes excessive it has a negative impact. If individuals perceive themselves as being unable to cope and not to possess the necessary skills to combat their stress, stress is acknowledged to be one of the main causes of absence from work. For police officers in Taiwan, with the security-enhancing programs being launched one after another, it had caused more job stress. A number of Taiwanese studies on the job stress of police officers in this country have been conducted in recent years. For instance, Chen (1993) examined the job stress of police officers, Wu (1995) discussed the stress and stress management of police officers, Huang (2000) also investigated the pressure on police officers, and Weng (2002a, 2002b) focused on the job stress and drinking behavior of police officers in Taiwan. In the current study the main focus was on the direct relationship between job stress and job performance of police officers in Taiwan.

Stress and Job Stress

Stress, when imposed on the human body and mind, is a very complicated process. Human behavioral responses rely on perceptions and the neural system in the brain, so it is very difficult to predict individual response to stress. Stress-induced responses can be constructive or destructive. The sources of stress can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on how one perceives the stress (Mitani et al., 2006).

According to French (1975), job stress is produced when one cannot properly coordinate available resources and job demands with personal abilities. Job stress can be anything in the job environment that poses a threat to an individual. It may be a demand that exceeds the capacity of this individual or a deficiency that he/she cannot satisfy. Job stress is an individual's subjective perception of the environment. It is a state of psychological and mental deviation caused when an important goal or an expected outcome cannot be achieved (Weng, 2002b). Job stress can lead to various diseases, both mental and physical (e.g., heart disease, stroke, headaches, backaches, acne, depression, sleeping problems, sexual difficulties) and behavioral problems (e.g., drinking, smoking, violence, hostility, and so on).

Chen (1993) found, in a study conducted in the Dallas Police Department, that job stress has both short-term and long-term effects on police officers. It undermines the physical and mental health of police officers and also affects their personality, health, family life, job performance, and even the welfare of citizens. In the worst cases, job stress may lead to disease or suicide. Sources of stress on police officers can include administrative jobs, job conflict, boredom with the job, lack of resources, low salary and position, job locations, excessive responsibility, lack of judicial support, adverse image, value conflict, race issues, danger, and unclear definition of responsibilities. …