Flexible Reactions

David Hunter, Staff Writer

Have you ever questioned why you did something? How would you rate your motivation? How stressed out are you? The strain of everyday life may impact you more, or even less, than you think.

Dr. Andrew Gladfelter of the Sociology Department and the Criminology/Criminal Justice Department and graduate student William Haggis presented preliminary research findings based on surveying probation officers about their jobs.

Probation officers are criminal justice personnel. Typically, people think of police officers, lawyers and prison guards when discussing these types of vocations. Among criminal justice personnel, probation officers have the highest percentage of burnout among personal (Well et. al). There is an increase in administrative duties and less emphasis on treatment/counseling.

Role overload, role conflict and role ambiguity: These terms were discussed in relation to stress. Role overload is when someone has too much responsibility stacked onto his plate. Role conflict is when someone is presented with a situation where he has to juggle two different roles that do not match with each other. Role ambiguity is when someone is uncertain about his exact purpose in a system.

These three things point to problems in organizational systems. It is not people; it is the job.

The Jobs Resource-Demand model is used to predict burnout (Schaufeli & Bakker 2004). This model works with a conflict: job demands versus job resources. Excessive job demands over job resources creates burnout, which creates problems such as health issues.

On the other hand, having job resources greater than job demands create work engagement. Therefore, it is important for an organizational system to have more job resources than job demands. Dr. Gladfelter noted that the model lacks the capacity to incorporate the individual as a variable into the system.

Dr. Gladfelter incorporated two more variables into his model: resilience and maladaptive coping.

These unique additions include the individual as an important piece in the model. Maladaptive coping was defined as a behavioral trait while resilience was defined as an “attitudinal” trait. As the individual is feeling the effects of the model, she is a necessary component of it.

The tentative, preliminary findings indicated that resilience affects basically everything in the model. The researchers were initially only expecting stress and maladaptive coping to be affected by the effects of resilience. Resilience is also related to job resources. However, he stressed that the findings were based on perceptions; there is no objective way to measure these variables.

Relating this to college, the individual reactions of students are important to their success or failure. People who are resilient are able to deal and respond to stress. The general characteristics of these types of people are that they are adaptable, flexible, and roll with the punches.

The question of whether resilience can be altered was brought up. This has far reaching implications for how people feel stress.

Adaptive and flexible people are more likely to succeed. Coping with stress in an adaptive manner, through venues such as pro-social activities and hobbies, will mitigate the negative effects of stresses in life.