Moderators between work context and psychological health in a public service sector
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Work context has many consequences for the psychological outcomes of employees. These outcomes also have consequences for the employer through possible loss of productivity, impaired health of employees which may be associated with absenteeism and turnover intention, among others. The literature also shows that these outcomes are not always the same even under similar working conditions. Theorising in cognitive psychology indicates that the way in which an individual appraises a situation may be more important to psychological outcomes than the actual presence of a stressor. Recently, personal resources have been hypothesised to influence these individual differences. Few if any studies have explored such personal resources as moderators in the relationship between work context and psychological outcomes, especially in the South African public service context. Thus, the general aim of this study was to determine whether personal resources (emotional intelligence, self-efficacy and explanatory styles) are moderators in the relationship between work context Gob demands and job resources) and psychological outcomes (psychological well-being and work engagement) in a sample of government employees. A cross-sectional survey research design was implemented. Data were collected from 459 participants with the following measuring instruments, the Job-Demands Resources (JD-R) Scale, the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), the Affectomemter-2 Short-form (AFM.), the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) , the Emotional Intelligence Scale (ElS), the General Self-efficacy (GSE) scale, and the Explanatory Style (ES) Questionnaire. A demographic questionnaire was developed by the first author to capture diverse information from the participants relating to gender, turnover intention, post level and so forth. Analyses were conducted mainly in 2 steps. Firstly, multiple regression analyses were used to test the main effects of work context variables on psychological outcomes. Secondly, two-step hierarchical regression analyses were used to test whether personal resources (emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, and explanatory styles) moderated the relationship between work context variables and psychological outcomes. Before testing the moderation, all independent variables and moderator variables (dimensions of personal resources) were centred so as to exclude the possibility of any multicollinearity in the regression equation. The results of the study, reported in three articles/manuscripts, showed significant main effects for work context and the personal resources as predictors of psychological outcomes. In the second place, the results also showed that the personal resources used in this study moderate the relationship between work context and psychological outcomes. In the first article, it was concluded that emotional intelligence is of potential value, especially in the public sector that is focussed on optimal service delivery, and where emotional encounters are stock-in-trade. Emotional intelligence is a valuable personal resource to cultivate for establishing, developing, and maintaining positive outcomes in psychological well-being in the workplace. In the second article, it was concluded that as self-efficacy beliefs facilitate actions and behaviour taken by individuals, it is important that feedback and modelling could play an important role especially in service-oriented work contexts that may need self-regulation of emotions. In the third article, it was concluded that as attributional feedback can induce change in how individuals perceive their success or failure in a task, the role of explanatory styles in psychological outcomes could be cultivated through active feedback given to employees on their performance and possibilities of future growth in the organisation. Overall it was concluded that a lack of job resources in the presence of high job demands will undermine psychological outcomes even in the presence of personal resources. Therefore, the consequences for health impairment and negative outcomes cannot be over-emphasised in a situation where job demands outstrip job resources. Employees in the public service require skills such as social and emotional competency, self-efficacy and optimism as these are important tools in dealing with the public. Employees must have initiative, flexibility, motivation to achieve, empathy, self-esteem and confidence, self-control, and group management among fellow employees and the public that is served by them. Although the limitations for this study are related to the fact that it was a cross-sectional research design and data was collected using self-reports, insights were gained about the role of personal resources in the relationship between work context and psychological outcomes. Based on all three articles, it was recommended that cross lagged panel studies may be useful in further clarifying the role of personal resources in longitudinal studies about the relationship between job resources and psychological outcomes and possible upward spirals arising from facilitating these relationships. Aspects of such studies may also include a qualitative assessment of what participants perceive as job resources and personal resources and these help them to achieve their goals.
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