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Job satisfaction checkup: unravelling the status quo

In my last column I explored the importance of adopting the right attitude towards work through the topic of epigenetics. The truth is that a great deal of our time is spent at work and that has repercussions on our health.

March 16, 2018  By Isabelle Sauve

Law enforcement duties often encourage officers to work beyond the typical 40-hour week with overtime, paid duties, court, etc. Consequently, it is important for law enforcement officers to be fulfilled, appropriately challenged and engaged by their work. Over the course of time, many experience a gradual decline in job satisfaction and motivation.

A study conducted by Gallup, a global “performance and management” company, found that merely 13 per cent of employees across 142 countries surveyed were engaged at work. Police officers are not exempt from this statistic. In fact, they tend to identify so strongly with their career that it often forms part of their identity. This makes them increasingly sensitive — and more susceptible — to being negatively impacted by work issues.

Therefore, it is crucial to remain satisfied and engaged. Policing is a career where members have an opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of the people they serve. Unfortunately, it is often the case that a number of issues, such as poor morale, internal politics, stress, etc., lead to an erosion of job satisfaction and motivation. Many describe this feeling as being bored or “stuck.”

Autonomy, skill variety, task identity, task significance and task feedback are essential components of employee motivation, according to Hackman and Oldham’s Job Characteristics Model, a theory developed in 1976 and refined again in 1980. Being engaged at work is a product of: the degree to which the job requires the use of different skills and abilities, affects the lives of others, is linked to a larger project, offers freedom and independence to carry out the job, and provides clear feedback.

In terms of intrinsic means of maintaining job motivation and satisfaction there are a number of things one can do. Reflecting on what one really loves and enjoys can bring some of the spark back. Though the act of reflection, things that had been taken for granted may resurface. The simple process of practicing gratitude helps maintain positivity. Try starting the day by identifying one thing to be thankful for.

In some cases, taking frequent breaks or an impromptu vacation can reset the interest in one’s work. Making a career change can keep the brain active by being mentally and socially stimulating. While it is not always feasible to change employment or to relocate, seeking new opportunities or a new role within an organization can also offer a healthy level of challenge and engagement.

There are a number of other ways to unravel status quo, such as learning something new in or outside one’s organization. For instance, learning a new language to improve communication with a community you serve.

Another option is to discover alternate ways to perform the same job. Technology is perpetually changing the landscape in law enforcement. Staying up to date with those drastic changes improves work performance while making it interesting. Teaming up with someone to perform a task or take on a new project promotes a high level of engagement and intellectual challenge.

Entering into a mentorship role by teaching or coaching others can also be a reminder of the excitement and energy that once existed. It can allow a reconnection with individual strengths while promoting a connection with a new generation of officers. A diverse workforce promotes a culturally rich and interesting environment. Linking up with a mentor who exhibits true leadership — or a certain skill one aspires to develop — opens doors to new opportunities. Officers who are supported feel empowered and are more likely to set and work towards career goals.

Taking action and responsibility for fulfillment and happiness can reverse a negative outlook on work. Job satisfaction is an important contributor to wellness and has an impact on every aspect of one’s life. Happiness at work spills onto other aspects of life and so it must be nurtured.

Isabelle Sauve is a 10-year OPP veteran currently with the Emergency Response Team (ERT) at the Almaguin Highlands Detachment in Burks Falls, about 300 km north of Toronto. She can be contacted at:

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