Exploring work related factors that enhance or erode employee resilience

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD

Abstract

Local authorities in the UK can be characterised by budget cuts, structural change and uncertainty for many employees. This has come as a response to the 2008 economic collapse and as a result of changes in UK government policy that have prompted unprecedented funding cuts to local government organisations. In light of economic pressures, significant organisational changes have been documented, particularly where this is characterised by cost savings in all areas, restructuring, redeployment, cuts to services and downsizing. An essential element for organisational vitality in times of change is having a resilient workforce. Working under these new work conditions has resulted in employees having higher levels of job autonomy, performing team working by projects, being managed by objectives, and often facing intensification of work. Therefore the impact of these changes on employee resilience needs to be examined. To date the research around the concept of resilience in the work context can be seen as partial. In particular, measures of resilience are more focused on capturing resilience as an individual characteristic, rather than something that can be enabled by the organisation. This thesis aimed to explore and develop a measure that considered the influence of work related factors on employee resilience.
A case study of a Local authority in the United Kingdom (UK) was used as the target population due to the amount external and internal perturbations government were facing. A mixed methods approach was adopted; initial exploratory work used qualitative and quantitative methods to capture employee perspectives on work related factors that facilitate employee resilience. The exploratory work inspired three further investigations. Firstly, the development of an initial organisational climate measure of situational influences on employee resilience that was found to have adequate measurement properties and revealed that employee resilience is significantly associated with work identity, supportive management, team cohesion and quality of communication. Secondly, a study of paired comparisons to derive a ranking for the relative salience employees assign to factors identified as impacting employee resilience highlighted the primacy of team support and collaboration, meaningful work and supportive management. Finally, study five presented an opportunity to examine change and how they relate to employee resilience in real time. Specifically, the implications for the introduction of more flexible work practices (flexible timing and place of work) to employee resilience were explored. Increased levels of autonomy over when and where to work were seen as an enabling factor for employee resilience.
Comparatively, breakdown of social and professional network, blurring of work life boundaries, and loss of health management were indentified as eroding factors for employee resilience.
Although future research is required, the present study shows preliminary support for developing a psychometric tool that measures work related influences on employee resilience. The scope of such a measure resides in enabling employers to benchmark their performance, highlight agendas for change and monitor intervention impact. Additionally, understanding variables that have the potential to challenge and erode employee resilience is important from the perspective of maintaining employee well-being and, by implication, the resilience of the organisation in maintaining its capacity to provide high quality services
Date of Award26 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrew Weyman (Supervisor) & David Wainwright (Supervisor)

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