Modeling the Effects of Organizational Setting and Individual Coping Style on Employees Subjective Health, Job Satisfaction and Commitment

By Mikkelsen, Aslaug; Ogaard, Torvald et al. | Public Administration Quarterly, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Modeling the Effects of Organizational Setting and Individual Coping Style on Employees Subjective Health, Job Satisfaction and Commitment


Mikkelsen, Aslaug, Ogaard, Torvald, Lovrich, Nicholas, Public Administration Quarterly


ABSTRACT

In this study, the viability of a model characterizing the interrelationship among job demands, organizational learning climate, and coping style as independent variables and job stress as an intermediate variable and subjective health complaints, job satisfaction and commitment as dependent variables is tested. It is hypothesized that the overall pattern of interrelationships among the variables in this model would be the same in two quite distinct public sector organizational settings. The results observed indicate that a positive learning climate reduces job stress and also has a direct and positive impact on job satisfaction and commitment. A depressing coping style heightens job stress, increases health complaints, and reduces job satisfaction. The model fit was significant both in the combined sample and for each of the two dissimilar public sector settings considered separately.

INTRODUCTION

Strong demands for accountability to elected officials on the part of public sector managers are a common feature of public administration in contemporary democratic governments everywhere. The pressure is quite strong to "reengineer," "reinvent," and make more "customer-oriented" the services being provided to citizens and other clients. Rapid developments in technology and information systems add further to the urgency to "change with the times" and take advantage of new workplace and marketplace developments. In such a world, established skills and habitual ways of doing things often become obsolete in a short time. A key to organizational success under such circumstances is the capacity and willingness to learn--i.e., the capability to acquire new knowledge and skills, adjust, and exploit what is being learned on a continuous basis (Garvin, 1993).

The last decade has witnessed great emphasis on both making public organizations more responsive to clients' demands and, at the same time, increasing the proportion of their resources obtained through market-oriented transactions. By privatizing some public services and/or exposing public service agencies to greater competition, public organizations have become very much exposed to the same types of pressures for change and effective learning as market-- sensitive business firms.1

The dynamic environment surrounding contemporary publicsector agencies, confronting the uncertainties of greater competition than they have known in the past, is apt to be at least temporarily threatening and disruptive to the employees of theses public service organizations. Some changes that will need to be made can produce a loss of the social-psychological anchors upon which people have long depended thereby creating for at least some employees a sense of floundering in a world that can no longer seem predictable (or even familiar).

In this article, the focus of analysis is on the individual learner working in public-sector organizations, the micro-level human "building blocks" found in those organizations. Of course, organizational learning is dependent in major part upon individual unlearning and learning (Argyris and Schon, 1996). Learning may be described as a process in which people discover a problem, invent a solution to the problem, produce the solution, and evaluate the outcome, leading to the discovery of new related problems (Argyris, 1982). Unlearning means subtracting something from an organization's existing store of knowledge before starting a new learning process (Argyris and Schon, 1996).

Without the motivated and concerted efforts of organizational members continuously being updated and adjusting to new demands, organizations will be unable to achieve and sustain a high level of performance through changing circumstances. One can presume that the more rapid and extensive the change involved, the more likely it is to be a source of stress on employees. It should be noted that lack of change can be stressful as well, as when one is bored or when opportunities for desired learning are not available. …

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