Examining law enforcement officer job satisfaction and burnout through the lens of empowerment theory

Bruce A Biggs, Purdue University


This exploratory cross-sectional study examined the organizational factors that influence law enforcement officers’ perception of job stress and perception of job satisfaction. The extant literature is replete with the finding that organizational factors (job context) rather than the aspects of providing police service (job content) cause law enforcement officers the largest amount of stress and job dissatisfaction. However, the literature also shows that the exact organizational factors that wield these deleterious effects are enigmatic. This situation is further confounded by the lack of a guiding and encompassing theoretical construct through which the myriad of organizational influences and consequences may be identified and measured. It was postulated that empowerment theory might provide this theoretical lens as it has been successfully employed as such in similar private sector research. This construct was operationalized a priori as consisting of seven sub-constructs, with the initial research questions and hypotheses framed accordingly. Subsequently, a unidimensional construct of department support, conceptually based on organizational support theory, emerged as the dominant construct through which the research questions were pursued. An AMOS structural equation model analysis of the relationship between the one-factor construct of department support, officer job satisfaction and burnout (emotional exhaustion) revealed a good fitting model where χ 2 (103, N = 487) = 227.15, p < .001, CFI = .963, RMSEA = .050, 90% CI [ .015 - .059]. All parameters (regression pathways) and variance values were statistically significant at p < .001. Department support had a significant positive effect on job satisfaction and accounted for 35% of the variance (R2 = .35, β = .59, p < .001), and, a significant negative effect on burnout, accounting for a variance of 14% (R2 = .14, β = -.38, p < .001). The findings of this study suggest that organizational support theory may be an excellent lens through which to examine the antecedents and consequences of the law enforcement organizational environment. However, these results are extremely tentative as more research in this area is needed to confirm the findings here, and, to clearly define the constructs of organizational support and empowerment as they exist and function in law enforcement organizations.




Naimi, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Management|Organization Theory|Organizational behavior

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