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The impacts of leadership behaviours on the mental well-being of public safety communicators

Nadine Anik Leduc (Atlantic Canada Public Safety Research and Innovation Lab, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada) (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada)
Stephen Czarnuch (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada) (Discipline of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada)
Rosemary Ricciardelli (Atlantic Canada Public Safety Research and Innovation Lab, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada) (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 31 October 2023

50

Abstract

Purpose

Public safety (communicators; e.g. 9-1-1, police, fire and ambulance call-takers and dispatchers), like many other public safety personnel (e.g. police, paramedics), (re)suffer operational stress injuries (OSIs) that are too often hidden and at a prevalence higher than the general population. Unfortunately, there are very little data for OSI rates in Canadian communicators. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the only pan-Canadian study focusing on organizational culture, and its potential influence on OSIs, within the communicator context.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a 179-item online survey of Canadian communicators comprising 17 validated screenings for occupational stress injuries and symptoms and four open-ended questions relating to their agency's organizational culture. The authors thematically analysed participants' open-ended responses and their screening scores.

Findings

A semi-grounded thematic approach revealed that managers and supervisors were significant contributors to negative perceptions (n = 165) of organizational culture, potentially resulting in or worsening existing OSIs. Specifically, leadership was viewed as ineffective, inconsistent, unsupportive, abusive and toxic, with limited understanding of communicator roles. Communicators described feeling devalued, particularly when leaders fail to recognize communicator OSIs, which can perpetuate stigma. Conversely, positive leaders (n = 24) were described as supportive, communicative and encouraging.

Originality/value

The findings suggest that while leadership behaviours are a key factor in employee well-being, it varies considerably across agencies, impacting treatment-seeking behaviours. The authors’ new understandings of leaders' roles in OSIs may help reduce the frequency and severity of communicator OSIs, helping ensure that emergency services are delivered to Canadians.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was partially funded by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Canada and MITACS (File #20210168).

Citation

Leduc, N.A., Czarnuch, S. and Ricciardelli, R. (2023), "The impacts of leadership behaviours on the mental well-being of public safety communicators", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-04-2023-0012

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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