Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

An Empirical Examination of the Impact of Performance Attributions and Job Satisfaction on Turnover Intentions

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

An Empirical Examination of the Impact of Performance Attributions and Job Satisfaction on Turnover Intentions

Article excerpt


"Voluntary turnover" has been one of the most salient topics in management research for at least the last half century (March & Simon, 1958, Hom & Kinicki, 2001). Every year, companies spend significant sums of money replacing employees who voluntarily separate from their organizations. The costs associated with voluntary employee turnover include disruptions of work, loss of knowledge, skills, and organizational memory (Griffeth & Hom, 2001). A key goal for many organizations is to effectively manage voluntary turnover of employees that is caused by dissatisfaction with their jobs or employers. Extant research recognizes that attitudes and intentions explain around 5% and 15% of the turnover variance respectively (Griffeth, Hom, & Gaertner, 2000, Hom & Griffeth, 1995). Since one of the key determinants of turnover is the intention to turnover, a key question becomes "what causes an employee to decide that they want to leave?" The study that follows proposes that a key factor in this process is the style of attributions used by employees to explain their performance successes and failures. To be sure, we test a model which postulates that employees quit their jobs based on attributions they make regarding their performance.


Attribution theory has its roots in Heider's (1958) description of the "naive psychologist" who attempts to find causal explanations for events and human behaviors. Several models have been developed from this idea, which attempt to explain the process by which these attributions are made both in the case of self attribution (e.g. Weiner, 1974; Abramson, Seligman & Teasdale, 1978) and social attributions or attributions made regarding the behaviors and outcomes of others (e.g. Kelley, 1973, Thomson and Martinko, 2004).

Weiner (1974), in his development of the achievement motivation model of attributions, classified causal attributions across two dimensions; the locus of causality, and the stability of the cause. The first, locus of causality, originally proposed by Rotter (1966), is the degree to which the attributed cause is internal to the person, or part of the external environment. Internal attributions might include factors such as low intelligence, or lack of attention. External attributions could include weather conditions, or task difficulty. A second dimension, stability, refers to the degree to which the cause remains constant over time. The example of low intelligence would be stable, where the example of lack of attentiveness, would be unstable. Weiner (1979) and Zuckerman and Feldman (1984) added the dimension of controllability to the achievement motivation model. This dimension focused on whether the cause of an event or behavior is controllable or uncontrollable.

McAuley, Duncan and Russell (1992) expanded the concept of controllability by proposing dual dimensions of personal and external control. For personal control, the attributor indicates that he or she either can or cannot personally control the outcome of the event. The external control dimension measures the degree to which the attributor sees the situation as being controllable by anyone else, such as a supervisor or co-worker. As Vielva and Iraurgi, (2002) point out, a response indicating external control, is different than a response indicating uncontrollability. This paper proposes that type of attribution made by an employee across these dimensions is likely to impact an employee's satisfaction with their job, as well as the likelihood that they will decide that they want to leave their position.


Job satisfaction is the most studied variable in organizations. Job satisfaction has been defined as a pleasurable emotional state the results from the appraisal of one's job (Locke, 1976). In other words, job satisfaction describes an affective reaction to one's job as well as attitudes toward the job. …

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