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Emotional Intelligence important for police officers


Steve Spinks
3 July 2013
The Emotional Intelligence (EI) of a police officer may be just as important for a modern day officer as it is to be physically fit and knowledgeable about the law, according to research from Southern Cross University.

Professor Yvonne Brunetto, of the Southern Cross Business School, was the principal researcher in a study titled ‘Emotional Intelligence, job satisfaction, wellbeing and engagement: explaining organisational commitment and turnover intentions in policing’ which was published in the Human Resource Management Journal. Stephen Teo, Kate Shacklock and Rod Farr-Wharton also contributed to the study.

The study examined the effect of emotional intelligence upon the job satisfaction, wellbeing and engagement of police officers in explaining their organisational commitment and turnover intentions. The study was completed by using a survey of responses by 193 police officers in Australia.

EI is the interrelated skills of self-awareness, managing emotions, motivating oneself, empathy and handling relationships.

“Our findings suggest that overall, EI predicted police officers’ perceptions of wellbeing and job satisfaction, which influenced engagement and effective commitment, and subsequently, negatively affected turnover intentions,” Professor Brunetto said.

“We also found that as police officers’ EI increased, so did their reported wellbeing. As their wellbeing increased so did the officers’ job satisfaction, engagement and organisational commitment leading to lower levels of turnover intentions.

“Further, the study found that engagement by the officers was predicted by wellbeing and job satisfaction and that in turn it predicts officers’ commitment and turnover intentions. Also, we found that police officers’ job satisfaction predicts their engagement at work and their affective commitment.

“Finally, we found that police officers’ affective commitment mediates the negative relationship between their engagement at work and their turnover intentions.”

Professor Brunetto believes addressing EI through human resources management could be a potential dollar and morale saver for police forces.

“This is crucial in contemporary policing because the retention of valued, experienced and highly trained officers affects policing outcomes,” she said.

“Policy implications include that policing HRM practices should consider the EI ability of police officers for both selection and development purposes. In an effort to increase retention, therefore, the consequences for wellbeing and job satisfaction and, consequently, employee engagement and organisational commitment must be considered.

“In addition to resource effective policing, senior management should consider the implications of selecting police officers that demonstrate high EI because they are likely to perform certain policing tasks better. Additionally, management may need to consider training options for police officers so they can understand how their behaviour affects those they are expected to protect and serve, and to provide officers with more knowledge about how to use language that may defuse explosive interactions with difficult perpetrators.

“From our findings, it is argued that in well-acknowledged emotional labour work, such as policing, teaching and nursing, HR practices could thereby be better targeted to achieve more cost-effective HRM outcomes.

“The research also showed two possible causes of police job dissatisfaction and disengagement, one, inadequate supervisory resourcing and support and, two, unrealistic performance targets.”

Photo: Professor Yvonne Brunetto.