Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Employee Reactions to Temporary Jobs

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Employee Reactions to Temporary Jobs

Article excerpt

The growth of the temporary workforce, both in absolute and relative terms, has been remarkable. Today, the number of temporary employees in the U.S. is 1.5 million, having tripled in size over the last decade. Temporary employment is now a $20 billion a year business in this country, and the number of temporary help services in the U.S. has increased 1,000% over the past ten years (Ansberry, 1993; Morrow, 1993; Tilly, 1991; Report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, 1993; Feldman, 1995).

Not surprisingly, the growth of the temporary workforce has received considerable attention from the business community. From the organization's point of view, the use of temporary workers may be administratively simpler than in-house selection and recruiting, more effective in realigning the size of the workforce to cyclical changes in demand than successive rounds of hiring and firing, and less expensive in terms of wages and benefit costs than a large, permanent workforce (Simonetti et al., 1988; Carey and Hazelbaker, 1986). However, while temporary work has been studied extensively from an organizational perspective, there has been much less research on temporary work from the individual perspective. Anecdotal reports of temporary employees' experiences on their jobs are abundant, but systematic empirical research on employee reactions to temporary work is sorely lacking. Thus, the first task of this paper is to examine the temporary work experience from the perspective of the individual employee.

As Feldman (1995) has noted, there is wide variance among the types of contingent work arrangements in this country. He argues that to fully understand the impact of temporary jobs on workers, the differences among types of temporary work arrangements need to be investigated carefully. For example, temporary work arrangements vary along several important dimensions - whether temporary workers are "regular" temporary workers in rotating temporary assignments or so-called "temp-to-perms" (temporary employees working on positions they hope will be converted to permanent positions), whether workers are temporary employees voluntarily or out of necessity, and whether temporary workers hold positions consistent with their prior education and experience (i.e., satisfactorily employed) or are "underemployed" in jobs requiring less education and experience than they possess. Thus, the second task of this paper is to examine the differences among temporary workers in different types of temporary work arrangements and the differential reactions these work arrangements evoke from temporary employees.

In his 1990 theoretical review on contingent workers, Feldman also suggests that some of the observed differences in reactions to contingent work across demographic groups may be due to the fact that different demographic groups gravitate systematically toward different types of contingent work arrangements, which themselves may vary substantially in terms of rewards and favorable working conditions. For example, married women with school-aged children may be more likely to gravitate to "regular" temporary jobs and be more satisfied with the flexible working hours and secondary incomes these jobs provide, while laid-off workers in "temp-to-perm" jobs may be much more frustrated about their inability to convert temporary jobs into full-time employment. Thus, a third goal of the paper is to more fully explore the direct and indirect roles that demographic differences play in understanding individual reactions to temporary work.


It should be noted here that very little empirical work has been done on temporary workers to date. Thus, while we posit formal hypotheses, this research is also largely exploratory and draws heavily on theoretical and empirical finding in other parts of the contingent employment literature (e.g., Feldman, 1990: Feldman and Doerpinghaus, 1992a,b). The first set of hypotheses presented below focuses on the impact of temporary work arrangements on employee reactions to their jobs (Hypotheses 1 through 3), while the second set of hypotheses focuses on the impact of demographic variables on temporary employees' reactions to their jobs (Hypotheses 4 through 8). …

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