A Comparative Study of Probation Officer Work Orientation in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island
Lavandier, Francis Thomas
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Probation Literature has emphasized the existence of two distinct work orientations, which have been commonly referred to as Social Worker and Legalistic. This study attempts to discover, as well as define, some of the variables which might contribute to the development of one or the other of these work orientations in probation officers. The research process began with a literature review which revealed a lack of consensus about the meaning and origins of these work orientations. The influence of administrative Structure, specific to the work setting, on Probation Officer Work Orientation and Acts had not been analyzed. A questionnaire was designed to elicit information pertaining to worker orientation as well as a variety of individual background variables. The Study was comparative in nature. The target population included all probation officers working within the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services in the Province of Saskatchewan (excluding those operating within the jurisdiction of the Department of Northern Saskatchewan) and also all probation officers working within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice in Prince Edward Island. Initial pre-testing of the questionnaire took place, thereby permitting the researcher to exclude those questions which were of limited consequence, in terms of their respective validity, clarity, simplicity and/or relevance to the issues involved. Follow-up procedures, including visits to two separate probation offices, written correspondence and telephone conversations, were initiated by the researcher, such that, a relatively higher response rate could be ensured. The final questionnaire contained both structured and open-ended questions, thereby providing the researcher with both quantitative and qualitative data. Statistical Methods, including comparison of means and standard deviations, zero-order correlations, coefficients of determination, and multiple regression analysis, were used to look at the interactive effects of structural settings and individual background variables on worker orientation. It was hypothesized that the differential administrative Structure in probation services , between Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, would be related to a different worker orientation, with a variety of individual background variables playing a role as independent, intervening variables. The data supported the hypothesized relationship between Structure and Probation Officer Work Orientation. Saskatchewan probation officers were found to have more of a Social Worker Orientation, while probation officers in Prince Edward Island were more Legalistic. The Number of Years Employed was the only independent variable which supported the hypothesized relationship between individual background variables and Probation Officer Work Orientation. To a lesser degree than hypothesized, Structure was able to explain some variance in the acts of the probation officers. Probation Officer Work Orientation itself was related to certain job activities, such as the Percentage of Time Spent Counseling. Now that this provincial difference in Probation Officer Work Orientation has been demonstrated, further research should endeavor to determine if the effectiveness and/or efficiency of probation services themselves are influenced by the existing administrative Structure. This study adds to the existing literature, and may be useful to academics, administrators, and field staff in increasing their understanding of the relationships between structural differences and variables related to attitudes and performance at work.