Relationships between effort-reward imbalance and work engagement in police officers: taking a salutogenic perspective

  • Christine WolterEmail author
  • Andreas Santa Maria
  • Stephanie Georg
  • Tino Lesener
  • Burkhard Gusy
  • Dieter Kleiber
  • Babette Renneberg
Original Article



Work engagement is an indicator of work-related well-being. Taking a salutogenic perspective, this study aims to examine work engagement within the effort-reward imbalance (ERI) model. To foster our understanding of work engagement, we analyzed relationships of the ERI model subscales effort, esteem reward, status reward and security reward as well as overcommitment with global work engagement and its subscales (vigor, dedication, absorption).

Subjects and methods

Eight hundred eleven police officers participated in a cross-sectional health-monitoring survey in a German police department. Regression analyses were conducted.


The ERI ratio was negatively related to measures of work engagement (β = −0.30 to −0.25). Whereas esteem (β = 0.23 to 0.19) and security reward (β = 0.20 to 0.16) positively predicted global work engagement as well as vigor, dedication and absorption, overcommitment showed a negative association with vigor (β = −0.14). The regression models explained up to 23% of the variance in work engagement or its subscales.


An imbalance between effort and reward is associated with reduced work engagement in the sample of police officers. While effort is not accountable for reduced work engagement, esteem and security rewards are capable of promoting work engagement. Workplace interventions at the level of the supervisors and the department as well as public image campaigns may promote rewards in police work to foster work engagement.


Effort-reward imbalance Work engagement Occupational well-being Police officers Job characteristics Health promotion 



This research was funded by the Berlin Police, Germany. The funding source supported the collection of the data by addressing potential participants. The Berlin Police had no further involvement with regard to study design, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing process or submission of the article.


This study was funded by the Berlin Police, Germany. The funding source supported the collection of the data by addressing potential participants. The Berlin Police had no further involvement with regard to study design, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing process or submission of the article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no financial or non-financial conflict of interest. All authors approved the manuscript and this submission. The manuscript describes original work and is not under consideration by any other journal

Ethical approval

The research project was approved by the local ethics committee of the research institution as well as relevant committees of the Berlin Police (staff council, gender equality officer, severely handicapped employee representative) and is in accordance with APA ethical standards. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All participants were informed that participation in the health monitoring survey was voluntary and anonymous, that all data were kept externally at the research institution and that all data were edited, analyzed and anonymized and thus no inferences about single participants could be drawn from the data. Participants could discontinue the questionnaire before completion at any point of time.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Division of Prevention and Psychosocial Health ResearchFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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