The behaviour of police officers in conflict situations: How burnout and reduced dominance contribute to better outcomes

Martin C. Euwema, Nicolien Kop, Arnold B. Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Dominance plays an important part in police-civilian interactions. However, burnout is associated with a reduction in dominance, and this might, paradoxically, lead to more effective outcomes in conflict situations. There is a lack of knowledge about the effects of burnout in professional practice, and this multi-method study was conducted to better understand these dynamics. It is unique in that it combined self-reported burnout with observed behaviour in interactions with civilians. In this study, the relationships between the imbalance between demands and rewards, occupational burnout and police officers' behaviour in conflict situations (in terms of dominance and effectiveness) were examined. A questionnaire was used to assess job demands, rewards and burnout among 358 Dutch police officers. In addition, police officers' interactions with civilians were observed over 122 days. The results of structural equation modelling analyses showed that the imbalance between job demands and rewards was predictive of burnout (emotional exhaustion and depersonalization). Burnout, in its turn, predicted a decrease in dominant behaviour in conflict situations and, consequently, more effective conflict outcomes. These findings show that reduced dominance associated with burnout could in fact have positive consequences for professional behaviour in conflict situations. The benefits of reduced dominance in these situations should be taken into account in the training of professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-38
Number of pages16
JournalWork and Stress
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Burnout
  • Conflict behaviour
  • Dominance
  • Policing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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