Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: How Management Style Affects Job Satisfaction and, in Turn, Employee Turnover

By Dennis, Gary L. | Corrections Today, June 1998 | Go to article overview

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: How Management Style Affects Job Satisfaction and, in Turn, Employee Turnover


Dennis, Gary L., Corrections Today


During 1996, 23,745 correctional officers quit their jobs at 52 adult correctional agencies - reflecting a national annual turnover rate of 12.9 percent. While there are many reasons why employees separate from their agencies, a primary cause is dissatisfaction with some aspect of the job. The specific factors influencing job satisfaction, as well as the correlation between the management traits of prison administrators and the level of job satisfaction and staff turnover, were examined during a recent research effort conducted by the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC).

Questionnaires were distributed to the entire population of 2,426 full-time, permanent employees based in the 11 prisons operated by the Kentucky DOC. A total of 1,330 questionnaires were completed, reflecting an overall return rate of 55 percent.

The results of the survey reiterated a long-held tenet of management theory: that those employees who feel more empowered are more satisfied with their jobs, and thus, are more inclined to stay with the organization. From those results, researchers can make recommendations on how to better empower employees and increase overall job satisfaction.

The Research

A primary focus of the research was to identify factors which influence job satisfaction in the prison environment. A scale consisting of 10 questions designed to measure staff perceptions of their ability to participate in and contribute to the efficiency of the organization's operation was designated as "empowerment." A scale consisting of three questions designed to measure staff perceptions about their level of satisfaction with the institution and their commitment to it was designated as "job satisfaction."

Previous researchers have examined the relationship between satisfaction and several key variables, including gender, race, education, stress and the ability to exert control over the work environment (empowerment). While the literature does not reveal existing research on the impact of age, tenure, salary, shift worked or supervisory status on job satisfaction levels in a prison environment, we hypothesized that these factors also might have a significant impact on satisfaction. For example, do increases in salary also increase levels of job satisfaction? A supervisor, with more control over the work environment, should be more empowered and satisfied than a line worker. Employees who work the day shift and have more social contact with colleagues should be more satisfied. Older employees with longer tenures should be more satisfied or they would not have stayed with the organization. These assumptions became the pieces of a model to identify the factors which influence job satisfaction in a correctional environment.

The Results

Most of the correlations follow logical patterns of predictable relationships. Age is positively correlated with tenure, salary, supervisory status and education. Education is highly positively correlated with salary, age, supervisory status and shift worked.

The strongest positive correlation was between the variable of empowerment and job satisfaction. Job satisfaction also was positively correlated with age, tenure, salary and supervisory status. It was negatively correlated with stress and shift work, indicating that the less stress a person was under, the more satisfied the person was; people who worked the day shift also were more satisfied than their night-shift counterparts. There was a slight, but still significant, positive correlation between job satisfaction and education, indicating that people with more education were slightly more satisfied.

The strongest negative correlation was between stress and empowerment, indicating that the less stress an employee experiences, the more empowered they feel. The only significant correlation of race with another variable was a negative relationship with the variable of empowerment, indicating that nonwhites feel slightly less empowered than whites. …

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