Academic journal article South Asian Journal of Management

Social Exchange, Organizational Support and Employee Performance in Sri Lanka's Garment Industry

Academic journal article South Asian Journal of Management

Social Exchange, Organizational Support and Employee Performance in Sri Lanka's Garment Industry

Article excerpt

This study examines the potential for a job enrichment initiative introduced in one Sri Lankan garment factory to create a social exchange relationship between production line employees and the organization. This initiative devolved increased decision-making responsibility to production line employees over the pace and organization of production as well as the determination of leave and coordination of tasks among line employees. In response to this increased level of organizational support, employees reciprocated by reducing absenteeism levels and product reject rates and by increasing work output and efficiency levels. The study was conducted over 19 months across three production lines. The study draws on the responses of 110 participants that included line managers, supervisors and 87 line employees. The results imply that where employees believe that the firm provides valuable organizational supports in the form of training and job enrichment opportunities, this can result in the emergence of social exchange relationships and give rise to substantial improvements in work performance. These results support earlier research highlighting the significance of social exchange at work to our understanding of the employment relationship and employee performance.

INTRODUCTION

There has been increasing research into the relationship between employees' Perceptions of Organizational Support (POS) and exchange relationships between employees and employers (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Shore and Barksdale, 1998; and Shore et al., 2006). Changes in employees' perceptions of their exchange relationships at work can have a significant impact on their willingness to perform in-role tasks effectively, or to demonstrate organizational citizenship behaviors (Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002). Shore et al. (2006) maintain that to understand the evolution of exchange relationships between employers and employees, a longitudinal research design is required to explore how specific actions and decisions taken by organizations influence employees' perceptions of the exchange relationship. This study aims to provide a longitudinal study of a job enrichment initiative across three production lines in one of the Sri Lankan garment factory. It explores the impact of this form of organizational support on exchange relationships from the perspectives of the organization and production line employees by examining performance records, interview data, and questionnaire data from employees.

Social exchange (Blau, 1964) has been used to explain why individuals express loyalty and commitment to an organization and engage in behaviors that are neither formally rewarded nor contractually enforceable (Eisenberger et al., 1986). The norm of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960) represents a central concept underpinning social exchange theory. This implies that where employees and employers engage in voluntary actions that are of mutual benefit this creates expectations that the other party will reciprocate (Coyle-Shapiro and Kessler, 2002). Employees come to form general perceptions about the intentions and attitudes of the organization toward them from the policies and procedures enacted by individuals and agents of the organization, attributing human-like attributes to their employer on the basis of the treatment they receive (Levinson, 1962). For example, where employees perceive that they are being treated fairly by supervisors, social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity suggest that they are likely to reciprocate by improving their work performance (Konovsky and Pugh, 1994). On the other hand, where the organization fails to deliver on its obligations, employees are likely to reduce their sense of obligation to the firm (Aselage and Eisenberger, 2003). Social exchange relationships at work have been found to exist in countries as diverse as the US, China and Singapore, reinforcing that social exchange represents a universal phenomenon (Shore and Coyle-Shapiro, 2003) (Figure 1). …

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