Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Comparative Effects of Race/ethnicity and Employee Engagement on Withdrawal Behavior

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Comparative Effects of Race/ethnicity and Employee Engagement on Withdrawal Behavior

Article excerpt

An old saw about productivity goes along the lines of "90% of success is just showing up." Nowhere is this truer than when one considers the role of employee attendance at work. If employees don't "show up," whether on a temporary basis via absenteeism or permanently by way of turnover, then "success" (i.e., productivity) is negatively impacted. The exorbitant costs of this withdrawal behavior have been well-chronicled in the management literature (e.g., "Cost of Lost Productivity," 2000; Johnson, 2000; Steers and Porter, 1991). Thus, it is not surprising that ways to motivate employee attendance and retention have been widely studied in academic research (e.g., Branham, 2006; Markham and McKee, 1995; Renstch and Steel, 1998). Another form of not "showing up" occurs when the employee, though physically present, because of various psychological states (dissatisfaction with the job, supervisor, coworkers, etc.), is "absent" from the job from a mental standpoint (e.g., Zellars et al., 2004). This mental disconnect, in combination with literal absence, constitute a detachment from the organization (i.e., a lack of attachment to the organization).

The benefits of organizational commitment as an employee attachment phenomenon are without serious dispute. From an attitudinal perspective, organizational commitment has been described as

the relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organization, which is characterized by belief in and acceptance of organizational values, willingness to exert effort on behalf of the organization, and a desire to maintain membership in the organization (Mowday et al., 1982: 27).

Research on employees' commitment to their organizations has established a positive relationship between commitment and organizationally-desired outcomes such as job satisfaction (Bateman and Strasser, 1984) and work attendance (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990). Similarly, organizational commitment has been found to have an inverse correlation with both absenteeism and turnover (Cotton and Tuttle, 1986).

Another construct that shares theoretical ground with organizational commitment is employee engagement. Although myriad definitions exist for employee engagement (Finn and Rock, 1997), most contain either implicit or explicit implications that employee engagement involves "the expression of the self through work and other employee-role activities" (Jones and Harter, 2005: 78; see also Kahn, 1990; May et al., 2004; Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004). One similarity between organizational commitment and employee engagement is that both capture some aspect of "employee[s'] perceptions of themselves, their work, and their organization" (Harter et al., 2002: 269). In addition, like organizational commitment, employee engagement is a positive correlate of job satisfaction (Mount et al., 2000) and a negative correlate of turnover (Jones and Harter, 2005; Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004). A key conceptual distinction between the two, though, is that the attitudinal experience of commitment occurs apart from, or as a consequence of the day-to-day, routine work activities employees regularly engage in (Jones and Harter, 2005). Employee engagement, on the other hand, being expressed "through work and other employee-role activities," is a construct more directly tied to the interactive component of an employee's work experience, particularly with managers and co-workers, and in fact more immediately determines whether those work activities will take place (Jones and Harter, 2005). Engagement, like commitment, has an affective component encompassing "people's emotional reactions to conscious and unconscious phenomena," but it also is centered in "the objective properties of jobs, roles, and work context ...--all within the same moments of task performance" (Kahn, 1990: 693). So, while affect-based connection to organizations has been associated with desired workplace behavior (Costigan et al. …

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