Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Integrating the Unfolding Model and Job Embeddedness Model to Better Understand Voluntary Turnover *

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Integrating the Unfolding Model and Job Embeddedness Model to Better Understand Voluntary Turnover *

Article excerpt

Though varying in intensity with the ups and downs of economic cycles, voluntary turnover persists as an important concern for managers. One academic study reported that the total cost of employee withdrawal to organizations (including turnover, absence, lateness, and withholding of effort, as well as new hire recruiting, selecting and training costs) is 17% of pre-tax annual income (Sagie et al., 2002). Another study calculated the aggregate impact of turnover on American business to be as high as $11 billion annually (Abbasi and Hollman, 2000). Cascio (1991) has shown that the costs of turnover for technical, professional and managerial employees are especially high. Accenture, one of the world's largest management and IT consulting firms, estimated that when an experienced consultant leaves an organization, he or she takes away a value of over $1 million (Oz, 2002). In short, managers and researchers continue to be rightfully concerned about voluntary employee turnover.

In reviews of the research on voluntary turnover (Maertz and Campion, 1998; Hom and Griffeth, 1995), scholars have agreed that one of the most promising new theories for understanding and describing turnover is the unfolding model (Lee and Mitchell, 1994). Two empirical studies providing support for its propositions have been published (Lee et al., 1996, 1999). One of the major contributions of the unfolding model is the notion of shocks. As defined by Lee and Mitchell, "A shock is a particular, jarring event that initiates the psychological analyses involved in quitting a job" (1999: 51). In a new study, Holtom et al. (2005) report that in more than 60 percent of voluntary turnover cases they examined across multiple industries, the immediate antecedent to leaving was a shock rather than accumulated job dissatisfaction (Holtom et al., 2005).

Another recent theory that adds richness to the study of voluntary turnover is the job embeddedness model. Mitchell, Lee and colleagues call it a theory of staying (Mitchell, Holtom and Lee, 9001; Lee et al., 2004). Job embeddedness posits that the greater a person's connections to an organization and community, the more likely it is that he or she will remain in their organization.

Mitchell and Lee (2001) call for integration of the unfolding model with the job embeddedness model. The purpose of this study is to do exactly that. More specifically, we aim to combine critical elements of the unfolding model with the job embeddedness model to expand understanding of the voluntary turnover process. First, we review the core elements of both the unfolding model and the job embeddedness model. Second, we develop logic linking the theories. Third, we report empirical results from a large national study of stayers and leavers across hundreds of employers. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the findings.

Unfolding Model

The work by Lee, Mitchell and colleagues (Lee and Mitchell, 1994; Lee et al., 1996, 1999) has demonstrated that many people leave their jobs not just because of negative affect (e.g., job satisfaction, job involvement, organizational commitment), but because of a variety of precipitating events. These events are known as shocks. Further, while individuals experience unique circumstances when they leave organizations, Lee and colleagues (1996, 1999) have found most people follow one of four psychological and behavioral paths when quitting. Three of the four paths are initiated by shocks. The following review will highlight the key components (shocks, scripts, job search, image violations, job dissatisfaction) used to categorize leavers into one of the four paths. Table 1 provides a comparison of the attributes for each of the paths. As can be seen in Table 1, decisions to leave can appear to be somewhat impulsive in nature as in Path 2 where an individual experiences a shock and quickly decides to leave without planning for the future. …

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