Do “Shocks” Lead to Positive Workplace Outcomes?

Topic:Performance, Job Attitudes
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (FEB 2010)
ArticleThe buffering effects of job embeddedness on negative shocks
Authors: J.P. Burton, B.C. Holtom, C.J. Sablynski, T.R. Mitchell, and T.W. Lee
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

It’s probably safe to say that negative workplace events are inevitable.  Sooner or later, every employee will experience them.  The problem is that after experiencing such events, many employees engage in or think about engaging in withdrawal behaviors (e.g., turnover, absenteeism, lateness) or lash out via counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs).  But, this is not true for all employees!  In fact, some employees respond to unpleasant events in ways that benefit the organization.  So who are these employees?

In a recent study, Burton et al. (2010) aimed to show that how embedded an employee is within his/her job and organization helps determine how he/she will respond to unpleasant events (or “shocks” as the authors refer to them).  More formally, the authors explored what is called job embeddedness, which refers to the extent to which employees feel attached or linked to their organization and/or its members (i.e., “I fit in well in my organization” and “it would be a great personal sacrifice for me to leave”).

To be clear, “shocks” represent any event that encourages employees to think about leaving the organization and can be either positive (e.g., my significant other got a promotion and I have to move) or negative (e.g., I unfairly got passed over for that promotion). However, Burton et al. focused only on negative shocks.

The authors collected survey data from 623 employees working for a large financial institution.  Their findings suggest that employees who are highly embedded within their organization react quite differently to shocks than those who are not.

Instead of engaging in the typical responses to shocks (e.g., withdrawal behaviors and CWBs), highly embedded employees deal with shocks by maintaining their performance on the job and engaging in more organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs).  That is, job embeddedness serves are a shield against shocks.

These findings clearly demonstrate the importance of enhancing employees’ job embeddedness. Building a strong link between an employee and their organization is partly up to the employee, but can certainly be facilitated by the organization by providing increased employee supports, measuring and monitoring job embeddedness, promoting fair personnel practices, stamping out illegitimate organizational politics, etc.

Burton, J.P., Holtom, B.C., Sablynski, C.J., Mitchell, T.R., & Lee, T.W. (2010). The buffering effects of job embeddedness on negative shocks. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 76(1), 42-51.