Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

During Furloughs, Who Is More Attached to a Public University? Staff? Faculty?. Managers

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

During Furloughs, Who Is More Attached to a Public University? Staff? Faculty?. Managers

Article excerpt

Organizational attachment has important implications for individuals and organizations and is a correlate of employee motivation, job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, as well as lower turnover rates (Kehoe & Wright, 2013; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Essentially, the relational ties an employee has with his or her organization shape that individual's willingness to contribute to and remain with the organization. Given the costs associated with hiring managerial personnel and faculty (Harvey, Shaw, McPhail, & Erickson, 2013; Teodorescu, 2012), retaining managerial and professional workers is likely to be considerably more cost-effective than continuous rehiring. Hence, it is critical to examine whether interventions that impose austerity measures on existing organizations (academic institutions in this case) as remedial responses to economic decline influence employee perceptions of organizational membership and attachment.

Our descriptive analysis aims to determine whether respondents' structural position, and by extension, the differing nature of their work responsibilities in the university (i.e., faculty, support staff, or managerial) affect the tenets of employees' organizational attachment in the backdrop of mandatory furloughs. To frame our analysis, we use the organizational membership conceptualization of Masterson and Stamper (2003). These researchers introduced the concept of perceived organizational membership (POM) to integrate the various relational and transactional ties of employees to organizations. To the best of the authors' knowledge, no study has invoked the POM framework to analyze attachment to the academy, and no study has examined the POM framework in the context of furloughs.

Membership in an organization affords both protections and rights on the part of the organization, as well as obligations on the part of the employee. According to Graham (1991), the social exchange aspect of POM involves protection of members' rights by the organization (civil, social, and political), and in exchange for these rights, employees have responsibilities to their respective organizations (e.g., loyalty, participation, and obedience). To the extent these implicit psychological contract terms are enacted and meet the expectations of both parties, Graham suggests that POM will be strong.

With regard to civil rights, employees believe their organizations will guarantee fair treatment and due process in the deliberation and implementation of organizational policies. Political rights are described as the employee's ability to participate in decision making. Social rights include the provision of adequate wages, training opportunities, and social acknowledgment. If these rights are guaranteed, employees reciprocate by being compliant (i.e., exhibiting high levels of conscientiousness, using resources and performing their job functions responsibly, and obeying organizational rules; Colquitt, Conlon, Wesson, Porter, & Ng, 2001; Ladebo, Awotunde, & AbdulSalaam-Saghir, 2008), and loyal (defending the organization against threats; Cho & Sai, 2012). Moreover, they participate in the growth of the organization by engaging, voluntarily, in activities that promote the mission of the organization (Cohen-Charash & Spector, 2001). We might anticipate that these reciprocal processes function well during normal economic times, but that in periods of fiscal austerity, these bonds may be stretched or severed.


In July of 2009, the governor of California signed the state budget, attempting to solve a US$24 billion deficit. As illustrative of the fiscal impact to public higher education, the California State University (CSU) System budget was reduced by US$584 million (Rosenhall, 2009). For the CSU system, the financial strategies proposed to address the budget shortfall hinged on tuition increases and the imposition of employee furloughs or mandatory layoffs; disputes over the alternatives culminated in a vote by the CSU faculty and staff. …

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