Employee involvement & flexible role orientation: a moderated mediated model.

AuthorShukla, Amit


Due to its dynamism, modern work organizations expect their employees to contribute more intensively and in a wider span of activities (Mohrman & Cohen, 1995) and abandon the restrictive notion of job myopia (Davis & Wacker, 1987). The idea of 'concerted efforts by all' has been variously promoted by scholars and finds support by practitioners as well (Stayer, 1990). Today, organizations are willing to allow their educated and technologically oriented workforce to involve (Connell, 1998) by means of different participatory work practices (Wright & Boswell, 2002). Among others, High Involvement Work Processes or HIWP (Lawler, 1996) is one of the conceptualizations suggested in the extant literature for these practices. HIWP is expected to promote a sense of control and empowerment and result in many favorable workplace outcomes (Butts et al., 2009), including 'generous' outlook towards one's role in the organization (Parker et al., 1997; Parker, 2007). Present work is focused on the relationship between HIWPs (particularly participative decision making or PDM and job autonomy) in the Indian context. This is the main objective of this study.

Implementation of involvement practices constitutes only the necessary condition for purported organizational benefits (Bowen & Lawler, 1992). The favorable outcomes are manifested when these practices trigger a psychological process leading to a sense of participation (Butts et al., 2009; Pierce et al., 1991). Thus, as our second objective, we tested the influence of a couple of variables in shaping the aforementioned relationships. Specifically, the roles of psychological ownership and role breadth self-efficacy (RBSE) were tested in a moderated mediation model. Results provided some key insights for academics and practitioners.

Literature Review

The idea of employee participation has gained widespread recognition and attracted attention during the last two decades. Modern management theorists argue against the traditional Tayloristic vision of employees where they are seen as mere passive cost centers and call for a humanistic vision that breeds empowerment and allows for active participation from employees (Aktouf, 1992). Though different conceptualizations related to employee participation have been offered, like HIWP (Lawler, 1992), employee empowerment (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990), psychological empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995), perceived control (Spector, 1986), yet employee participation and sharing of responsibilities remained the common theme. These concepts describe the way in which power and authority are shared in an organization between those with and without formal authority. All these concepts are linked to tangible and intangible outcomes at different levels. For example, HIWP has sanguine impact on organizational level variables like turnover, productivity and financial performance as well as on individual level variables such as better skill utilization and higher morale (Vandenberg et al., 1999). The present study focuses on two forms of HIWP: participative decision making (PDM) and job autonomy at workplace (Lawler, 1992). PDM (Bowen & Lawler, 1992) and job autonomy (Liu et al., 2011) are also suggested as determinants of employee empowerment.

PDM is defined as the "process of involving employees in decisions typically made by managers and usually involves the cascade of control and decision-making responsibility from managers to employees" (Russ, 2011). This way, PDM is a collaborative decision making process and has many positive workplace outcomes, such as job satisfaction (Kim, 2002), and performance (Wagner, 1994). Cotton et al. (1988) asserted that informal participation and employee ownership (forms of participation) were more effective in improving productivity and job satisfaction whereas short term participation was not effective at all. Glew et al. (1995) posited that PDM also results in favorable employee behavior (as productivity, turnover, and absenteeism) by affecting their attitude (e.g. commitment, job satisfaction).

Apart from PDM, management scholars also advocated alteration in job dimensions to create sense of control (Spector, 1986). Emergence of job characteristic model by Hackman and Oldham (1976) was one of the successful outcomes in this direction. As described by these scholars, job autonomy is "the degree to which the job provides substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out" (Hackman & Oldham, 1980:162). Job autonomy is considered to be the most important characteristic of job design (Breaugh & Becker, 1987), especially for knowledge workers (Janz et al., 1997) as in our case. The freedom to choose elements of job is associated with perceived sense of control (Rudmin & Berry, 1987; Pierce et al., 2001). Autonomy also cultivates sense of self-determination that intrinsically motivates employee and encourages self-initiation (Gagne, 2003). Job autonomy is also related to employees' organizational commitment (Bono & Judge, 2003) and 'experienced responsibility' (Parker et al., 2001) that may be related to greater 'concern' for the organization.

The concept of psychological ownership belongs to the stable of positive OB (Avey et al., 2009) and is defined as "a state of mind in which individuals feel as though the target of ownership (material or immaterial in nature) or a piece of it is theirs" (Pierce et al., 2001). Literature suggests that psychological ownership is one of the three main employee-organizational linkages (Sparrow & Cooper, 2003). It is a malleable entity and can be developed through three routes (Pierce et al., 2001) namely, (i) by controlling the target (ii) by knowing the target well, and (iii) by investing into the target i.e. by directing one's physical, cognitive and psychic energies.

Flexible role orientation (FRO) is described as the mindset of employees wherein they feel ownership of output and take initiatives in solving a broad range of problems (Parker et al., 1997; Parker, 2000). The concept is linked to employee's engagement in broad open-ended and interdependent roles which are not restricted by "that's not my job" attitude. While highlighting its importance, Parker (2000) suggests that in today's era, performance of a fixed set of prescribed roles is insufficient to gain competitive advantage and flexible role orientation becomes a key requisite. Parker et al. (1997) suggested that the competitiveness can best be achieved by increased responsiveness to the customer demands (strategic orientation). But the strategic orientation towards the organization is hardly more than an endorsed set of beliefs and employee...

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