Using Employee Characteristics to Analyze the Potential Role that Burnout Plays in Staff Turnover at Texas’ Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD)



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Background: Voluntary turnover via burnout is a major factor in the hinderance of many juvenile justice employees, even more so with direct service providers (DSPs). Employees experiencing burnout tend to be absent more frequently and eventually leave. Those who remain experience heavier workloads and in turn become vulnerable to burnout. This creates costly labor shortages for organizations, affects the delivery of services to juvenile clients, and ultimately can impact recidivism of juveniles. Purpose: This study examined data from the statewide Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). The purpose was to help identify TJJD employee vulnerabilities to burnout based on their characteristics. The research questions were: 1) To what extent are employees leaving the workforce voluntarily or involuntarily? 2) To what extent is there a difference in exit rates of TJJD employees based on job type? 3) How do employee factors such as gender, race, annual salary, and time of employment contribute to voluntary and involuntary turnover? When employees experience burnout, the quality-of-their work decreases. Burnt out employees are increasingly exhausted, conserving their energies to remain in defense mode, withdrawn, and not fully engaged with their clients. Consequently, their orientations are more punitive and less rehabilitative. Juveniles need to be provided with a facilitative environment, to become inherently motivated to grow and make positive change. Methods: The sample comprised TJJD employees who left the department during 2011–2021. The research design was quantitative and causal comparative. It explored associations and relationships using descriptive statistics, independent samples t-tests, Pearson's chi-square test of independence, and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Results: Nearly 75% of TJJD employee turnover is voluntary. Job type was a significant factor in the rate of turnover, with DSP custodial employees exiting the department at much higher rates. Black employees accounted for over half of all employee terminations via involuntary turnover. Also, the combination of gender and race was a factor. Black female employees and Hispanic male employees were most at risk for turnover. Finally, as others have found, time of employment is a significant factor for employee turnover; 40% of all employee turnover came within the first year of hire. Conclusion: This research revealed certain employee vulnerabilities; these place them at higher risk of burning out. This informati15on can be helpful to juvenile justice systems that must better guide their efforts to support employees at higher risk of turnover. Targeting these populations with specific training and supportive programs can help assure better retention rates to combat staff shortages, thus improving services to juveniles. If juvenile justice systems do not attend to this, the rates of recidivism will continue to go unchallenged.



Burnout, Turnover, TJJD, Juvenile justice