The seasons of a police officer's life : an analysis of the influence of career stage on the job satisfaction and work commitment of Queensland police officers

Bragg, Daniel Joseph (2003) The seasons of a police officer's life : an analysis of the influence of career stage on the job satisfaction and work commitment of Queensland police officers. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Recent decades have witnessed a wealth of research into the concept of career stages and the relationship between these stages and the needs, attitudes and behaviours of individuals in the workforce. This high level of research interest has been fuelled by the belief that the human factor is the most critical factor in the success of organisations today and if organisations are to remain competitive in a rapidly changing environment they need to better understand the development needs, work-related attitudes and career concerns of their employees. Whilst a diverse range of career stage models have been put forward over the past fifty years, the models proposed by Super, Crites, Hummel, Moser, Overstreet and Warnath (1957) (psychological fit) and Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson and McKee (1978) (age) have received considerable research attention and are generally considered to be the most useful in explaining the needs, attitudes and behaviours of individuals over the course of their career.

Research into career stages has been conducted using a wide range of occupational groups. Only a limited number of researchers, however, have sought to test the utility of career stage concepts using a police sample. Despite their popularity and strong theoretical and empirical grounding, there is no known research that has tested the utility of Super et al. (1957) and Levinson et al.’s (1978) models of career stage using a police sample. The purpose of this study therefore was to contribute to the literature on career stage theory by testing the utility of these models of career stage in explaining the job satisfaction and work commitment of Queensland police officers. The study also explored the influence of other background variables that may also impact on job satisfaction and work commitment.

The sample consisted of 246 police officers from the Metropolitan South Region of the Queensland Police Service. A cross sectional design was used to gather the data for the study. The Adult Career Concerns Inventory (ACCI) was used to group respondents into a career stage according to Super et al.’s conceptualisation of career stage. Respondents were also grouped into age-based career stages according to Levinson et al.’s conceptualisation of career stage.

The study used established survey instruments to collect data on five facets of job satisfaction, these being satisfaction with pay, promotion, supervision, co-workers and work and five facets of work commitment, these being organisational commitment, job involvement, Protestant work ethic, career commitment and union commitment. Data was also collected on the background variables of organisational and occupational tenure, rank, gender, education level and type, type of duty performed, marital status, completion of the Queensland Police Service’s Management Development Program and membership of an Equal Employment Opportunity target group. A series of MANOVAs were used to explore the relationship between the career stage and other background variables and the various facets of job satisfaction and work commitment. Multiple regression analyses were used to determine if the results were being confounded by relationships with other independent variables.

The current study failed to find any evidence to support the utility of Levinson et al.’s model in explaining job satisfaction and work commitment for Queensland Police officers. Whilst some significant differences in job satisfaction and work commitment between Levinson et al.’s age groupings were identified, none of the findings were consistent with the assumptions of their model. In fact, there was some evidence of differences in job-related attitudes across age groupings that directly contradict the assumptions of the Levinson et al. model. The current study also found no support for the utility of Super et al.’s model in explaining the job satisfaction of police officers. Some limited support, however, was found for the utility of Super et al.’s model in predicting work commitment, most notably with respect to organisational commitment, job involvement and career commitment. Differences in mean organisational commitment, job involvement and career commitment scores generally supported the propositions of Super et al., however, only the results for the exploration and disengagement stages reached statistical significance.

Statistically significant relationships were found for the background variables of organisational tenure, rank, gender and type of duty. Statistically significant relationships were found for several facets of job satisfaction and work commitment. Work-related attitudes were generally found to peak in the first two years of a police officer’s tenure and then decline as tenure increased. The reason for this decline is complex and not completely clear, but may be at least partially explained by: the structural characteristics of police services; the distinct lack of support and confidence in officers; the influence of the police sub-culture; and the existence of a phenomenon known as police ‘bullshit’.

Commissioned officers were found to be significantly more satisfied with promotions and constables were found to have significantly higher levels of organisational commitment than senior constables and sergeants and significantly higher levels of career commitment than sergeants. Other statistically significant relationships found in the current study include female officers reporting significantly higher levels of satisfaction with promotions than male officers and general duties officers reporting significantly higher levels of satisfaction with promotions than officers performing specialist duties and significantly higher levels of loyalty to the union than plain-clothes officers.

The study concluded by highlighting the pioneering nature of the current study. It was suggested that considerably more research is necessary in order to clarify and refine the conceptualisation and measurement of police career stages and the relationship between these stages and work-related attitudes. It was recommended that future research should verify and extend the results of the current study, particularly with respect to the influence of tenure as a career stage variable and the nature and role of disengagement in any conceptualisation of career stage for police.

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ID Code: 16628
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Whitta, John
Keywords: Queensland police officers, career structure, job satisfaction
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:07
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 13:54

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