Work-related well-being of engineers in South Africa
Malan, Marna Magdalena
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With the introduction of positive psychology the aim with organisational psychology shifted to finding the 'happy/productive' worker and focusing more on work wellness. Working as an engineer has generally been considered challenging, but tough demands on today's engineers can cause exhaustion, which is due to a combination of personal stressors, job and organisational stressors. However, recently the world of work has started to change drastically - which also holds true for the engineering profession. One of the focus areas of redress is the work-related well-being of engineers, and specifically burnout, stress and work engagement. This research focused on the total spectrum of wellness - from unwell-being (e.g. burnout and stress) to well-being (e.g. work engagement). The moderating effects of organisational commitment and dispositional optimism were investigated in order to establish a causal model for burnout and engagement. The objectives of this research were to standardise the MBI and the UWES for engineers, to determine the occupational stressors of engineers and to develop and test a causal models of work-related well-being of engineers. The research findings are set out as four separate articles, each consisting of a brief literature overview and an empirical study. A cross-sectional research design with a survey as technique of data collection was used to achieve the objectives of this research. The study population consisted of 369 engineers. A biographical questionnaire, the Maslach Burnout Inventory - General Survey WI-GS), the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES), the Job Characteristics Scale (JCS), the Organisational Stress Screening Tool (ASSET), the Health subscales of the ASSET, the Organisational Commitment subscale of the ASSET, and the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R) were used. Descriptive statistics, correlations, analysis of variance, factor analyses, multiple regression analysis and structural equation modelling were used to analyse the data. A three-factor model of burnout, comprising exhaustion, cynicism and professional efficacy was confirmed. The internal consistencies of the scales were acceptable. The results obtained from comparing burnout levels of various demographic groups showed that practically significant differences existed between burnout of engineers with different levels of job satisfaction, age, years of experience and self-rated performance. Compared to normative data, participants reported lower levels of physical ill-health and psychological outcomes of stress. The most important stressors identified were work-life balance, work demands and work overload. The results do not support previous findings that commitment has a protective effect against the negative consequences of workplace stress. The buffer hypothesis of organisational commitment is not supported by the data. Structural equation modelling confirmed a model of work engagement, consisting of Vigour, Dedication and Absorption. These three factors had acceptable internal consistencies. The results showed that the self-rated performance and job satisfaction of engineers varied depending on their levels of work engagement. No demographic differences regarding engagement levels could be found between the different age groups, engineering environments, job levels and years of experience. A good fit was found for a model in which exhaustion mediated the relationship between job demands and ill-health, and work engagement (vigour and dedication) mediated the relationship between job resources and organisational commitment. The results suggested that the effect of a lack of job resources on exhaustion and the effect of job resources on work engagement depends on the level of dispositional optimism. Recommendations for future research were made.