Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Effects of Organization-Based Self-Esteem on Workplace Outcomes: An Examination of Emergency Medical Technicians

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Effects of Organization-Based Self-Esteem on Workplace Outcomes: An Examination of Emergency Medical Technicians

Article excerpt

It has been persuasively argued that due to the high degree of situational strength characterizing most organizational contexts, personality exerts relatively little influence in the workplace. But one personality attribute that predictably and consistently enhances understanding of organizational behavior is 'self-esteem'. Researchers have distinguished among several types of esteem, including global self-esteem (an individual's overall evaluation of worth), role-based self-esteem (worth derived from incumbency in a particular position), and task-based self-esteem (worth based on self-efficacy). Within the last five years, an additional form, "organization-based self-esteem" (OBSE), has appeared in the literature. OBSE reflects the degree to which employees self-perceive themselves as important, meaningful, effectual, and worthwhile within the organizational setting.

The antecedents of OBSE are, to some extent, controllable at the organization level. For example, OBSE is diminished by structural factors such as a mechanistic form, interpersonal factors such as lack of managerial consideration, and design factors such as the creation of positions that induce role conflict and ambiguity.(2) Other indicators, such as environmental instability and lack of an articulated strategy and mission, are also known to depress OBSE. Hence, when individuals are employed in similar positions within the same organization, one might predict that reported OBSE levels would be comparable. This is not necessarily so, however, as there are variations in OBSE among individual incumbents that may be reflective of their perceptions of self-worth in general.

It has been suggested by esteem researchers that perceived worth in one setting encourages perceived worth in others. Supporting this assertion, organization-based self-esteem has been empirically linked to global, task, and role-based self-esteem.(3) Hence, OBSE may be determined, in part, by the degree to which an individual is confident that s/he can adequately perform on the job and fulfill career expectations. If such is the case, one should expect to see a particularly broad range of OBSE levels among individuals employed in demanding, challenging positions.

The healthcare field offers many examples of such jobs. Consider, for example, emergency medical technicians - the occupation in which the present study's respondents were employed. Emergency medical technicians occupy positions that are physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging.(4) And while it has been found that those employed in challenging jobs tend to report higher OBSE,(5) demands which induce stress and strain will ultimately diminish esteem.(6)

Technicians working in the $5 billion/year industry of emergency medical services and transport operate in a highly stressful environment. Decisions that often have life-or-death implications must be made under severe time constraints with incomplete information.(7) And like other caregivers employed in the health services field, emergency medical technicians are not insulated from cost-containment pressures. To capitalize on economies-of-scale, many services are consolidating. In other cases, uncertain access to financing sources is raising anxiety about job Security.(8) The interaction of such situational ambiguities serves to create an environment in which employees are likely to exhibit varied OBSE tendencies. It is in this context, then, that hypotheses are developed.

Hypotheses Development

The developers of OBSE posited that their construct will be most strongly related to other variables that similarly possess an organization-level focus (e.g., organizational commitment). However, there is substantive theoretical evidence to suggest that OBSE might be related to career-level outcomes though, to date, there has been no attempt to investigate relationships between OBSE and career variables (see note(9) for clarification). Romzek convincingly asserts that it is difficult to separate perceptions of a job or an organization from perceptions of a career, particularly since: (a) individuals pursue their career goals within the context of organizations; (b) organizational policies can either thwart or augment career progression, ultimately influencing vocational satisfaction; and (c) organizational success is typically rewarded with career advancement. …

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