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Study on the effects of employee turnover

Employee turnover is an important organizational issue which has received great attention throughout the last 50 years. Many authors have investigated antecedents of voluntary employee turnover (Holtom, Mitchell, Lee, & Eberly, 2008; Lee, Sabliynski, Burton, & Holtom, 2004). Employees leave their job/organization for many reasons and organizations perceive this phenomenon as a difficult problem requiring effective management at the right time. Turnover has a significant impact on organizational performance (Shaw, Duffy, Johnson, & Lockhart, 2005). Individual and organizational costs related to leaving work are often really high, leading organizations to take into consideration employee retention. The acquisition, development and retention of talented employee form the basis for developing competitive advantage in many industries and countries (Pfeffer, 1994, 2005). Organizations place great emphasis on retention because of the strategic value of intellectual capital and the costs of replacing valued employees (Branch, 1998; Holtom, Mitchell, Lee, & Inderrieden, 2005; Lee & Maurer, 1997). As Mobley suggests (1982), when an employee decides to leave, many effects can arise that impact both on organization and on single employee or on the whole society. These effects can be positive or negative (Mobley, 1982; Hom & Griffeth, 1995) and a deeper knowledge of turnover process can allow organizations and employees to develop strategies to influence these effects (Dalton, Krackhardt & Porter, 1981; Dalton, Todor & Krackhardt, 1982).

Turnover researchers have identified a vast number of antecedent variables that are scattered throughout the turnover and work attitude literatures (Griffeth, Hom & Gaertner, 2000; Hom, Caranikas-Walker, Prussia & Griffeth, 1992; Tett&Meyer, 1993). Traditional researches on turnover focus on job attitudes as the primary cause of leaving and have been based on March and Simon’s (1958) model that dissatisfaction will ultimately cause employee turnover ( Hulin, Roznowski, & Hachiya, 1985; Mobley, 1977). These models provided much of the theoretical underpinning for the psychological research on voluntary turnover and have consistently made affect, expressed in the form of job satisfaction and organizational commitment a centerpiece of turnover theory (Steel, 2002). Other models have added variables, such as the individual’s expectations about the job, ease of movement, expected benefits from quitting, organizational structure, job search, and availability of alternatives, in an attempt to explain additional variance (Mobley, 1977; Porter & Steers, 1973; Price, 1977; Steers & Mowday, 1981). Generally, new proposed models are often an extension or refinement of those models considered as the core of the turnover process (Gerhart, 1990; Lee & Mitchell, 1994; Sheridan & Abelson, 1983). Despite the wide acceptance of these core models, recognition that other factors besides work attitudes and job alternatives may be important for understanding turnover has stimulated some to expand turnover research in new directions (Maertz & Campion, 1998; Mitchell & Lee, 2001). Turnover/attachment models have neglected or underestimated some important antecedents (Maertz & Campion, 1998; Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski & Erez, 2001), like relationships with coworkers and leaders, normative expectations of family and friends, and psychological contract (Becker, 1992; Prestholdt, Lane & Matthews, 1987; Robinson, Kraatz & Rousseau, 1994; Salancik, 1977; Wayne, Shore & Liden, 1997). There are both substantive and methodological reasons why without this integration, models risk empirical estimation problems caused by omitting relevant causal variables (James, 1982).

A number of researchers have attempted to break away from the attitude models and recently, there has been increasing interest expressed in the interface between job-related activities and off-the-job life in the turnover models (O'Driscoll, Brough, & Kalliath, 2010).

The original turnover models of Price & Mueller (1981), Steers and Mowday (1981), and Mobley (1982) mention “non-work” influences and they include family attachments or conflicts between work and family roles. These researches have advanced the turnover literature by demonstrating that turnover intention depends on more than just job attitudes, but is also influenced by the off-the-job domain, including family, community and private life in general (Anderson, Coffey, & Byerly, 2002; Boyar, Maertz, & Pearson, 2005; Boyar, Maertz, Pearson, & Keough, 2003). Various social domains where a person operates and their relative boundaries tend to become more undefined and less segmented. This can make it difficult the individual separatist management of threats-opportunities related to job, family and other domains relevant to the individual.

In the last 40 years the roles people can play have proliferated and society has increasingly moved away from the so-called “myth of separate worlds” (Kanter, 1977). Work-family conflict is an important dimension of the interdependence between life domains which has been recently considered in the research on employee turnover. The different expectations from roles in both work and family life can create conflict, leading to reduced participation, satisfaction and performance in either or both of these domains. WFC has dysfunctional and socially costly effects on individual work life, home life, and general well-being and health.

Hammer, Bauer, and Grandey (2003) suggest that employees with high levels of WFC can resort to job leaving or to absence as strategies to cope with arisen conflict, thus enacting a sort of adjustment mechanism. When WFC is high, leaving organization could reduce such interference and consequent conflict (Frone, 2003), thus allowing the individual to cope with familiar obligations.

The second extra-work issue which has received great attention in the last decade deals with the job embeddedness construct, developed by Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, and Erez (2001). Authors advanced a new approach to turnover that focused on the counter-intuitive notion that individuals might quit the organization for reasons other than job satisfaction. This approach built on the turnover core models and added a new dimension to our understanding of turnover.

The job embeddedness construct is theoretically conceived as a key element between specific intra and extra-work factors and personnel retention: it refers to psychological, individual and professional reasons that lead employee to stay in the organization.

Job embeddedness is a multidimensional construct that describes the various attachments that an individual has with the organization (on-the-job factors) and community (off-the-job factors) (Mitchell & Lee, 2001). According to Mitchell et al. (2001), “Embeddedness suggests that there are numerous strands that connect an employee and his or her family in a social, psychological, and financial web that includes work and non-work friends, groups, the community, and the physical environment in which he or she lives” (p. 1104). The core element of this construct concerns the community dimension. While the on-the-job dimension overlaps with other constructs concerning attachment to organization (i.e., Organizational Commitment and job involvement), the off-the-job dimension focuses on extra-work issues, hitherto neglected in the study of turnover.

Embeddedness in the community where the individual lives comes about through employee “linkages” to it, perceptions of fit with the community, and desires to avoid sacrifice of leaving the community (Mitchell et al., 2001). According to Maertz (2004), “location attachment has not been specifically included in current turnover models and its effects on turnover remain unspecified”. Aspects such as physical and social contexts involving own home and organization have been conceived as important elements in job choice and in turnover intentions (Campion, 1991; Konrad, Ritchie, Lieb, & Corrigall, 2000). In this regard, Maertz (2004) argues that community dimension influences individual choice about decisions concerning job dimension. Employees develop attachment towards a specific social and physical context regardless of their attachment to the organization where they work. In this sense, employees who develop a significant embeddedness in their community will show a reduced turnover intention.

The main purpose of this study is to develop and test a model of the relationship between work and non-work variables in the turnover process, in particular focusing on sullo studio dell’effetto del conflitto lavoro-famiglia e del job embeddedness(off-the-job embeddedness) sul processo di intenzione di turnover. (See figure 1).

Two primary components of the model that are specifically examined are (a) the causal relationship between job satisfaction and organizational commitment and (b) the influence of WFC and JE on turnover intention. Below we review the theoretical basis for our proposed model. Like much research on employee attitudes and behaviors in the workplace, researchers have proposed and tested various models of the process leading to employee turnover without actually establishing the causal order among two key determinants of turnover, satisfaction and commitment (Bluedorn, 1982; Dougherty, Bluedorn, & Keon, 1985; Hom & Griffeth, 1995; Kim, Price, Mueller, & Watson, 1996; Lee, Ashford, Walsh, & Mowday, 1992; Mobley, 1982; Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Mueller, Boyer, Price, & Iverson, 1994; Price & Mueller, 1986a).

Figure 1. Proposed model

Theoretical background

According to Steel (2002), over the years ranging from 1977 to 1981 most qualitatively relevant models were proposed (Mobley, 1977; Mobley, Griffeth, Hand, & Meglino, 1979; Mobley, Horner, & Hollingsworth, 1978; Muchinsky & Morrow, 1980; Price, 1977; Price & Mueller, 1981; Steers & Mowday, 1981) which are still conceived as the “core models” influencing research on turnover process. In this group of models, affective dimension, which is expressed in the forms of job satisfaction and organizational commitment, is the focal point of theory on turnover (Steel, 2002): no other single domain of work has had as much influence on turnover research as attitude theory.

Authors following this line of research traditionally addressed to attitudes in the workplace, specifically focusing on negative attitudes, which are conceived as the main cause of leaving organizations (i.e., low levels of job satisfaction). The earliest conceptual arguments of this type were grounded in a long tradition of job satisfaction-turnover research (Porter and Steers, 1973), precisely in March and Simon’s (1958) notion of “perceived desirability and ease of leaving one’s job”.

Indeed, the authors argue that the main factor influencing employee motivation to leave organization is satisfaction with current task: perceived desirability to leave organization will be lower when satisfaction is high. These studies found evidence consistent with the possibility that (the lack of) job satisfaction causes turnover (Carsten & Spector, 1987; Hom et al., 1992; Tett & Meyer, 1993). Job satisfaction is perhaps the most widely studied work orientation over the last four decades of organizational research. Researchers have defined and measured satisfaction both as a global construct and as a concept with multiple dimensions or ``facets'' (Price, 1997). In their meta-analytic research Griffeth, Hom, & Gaertner (2000) show that job satisfaction is a significant predictor of turnover, with overall job satisfaction explaining more variance than the job satisfaction facets (i.e., satisfaction with the work itself, satisfaction with coworkers, satisfaction with the supervision, etc.) considered individually. Authors reported that across the many intellectually rigorous models focusing on job satisfaction the ability to predict voluntary turnover remained remarkably weak, with variance explained hovering around 5%.

Though job satisfaction is a key predictor of employee turnover (Mossholder, Settoon, & Henagan, 2005), Griffeth and colleagues (2000) raise the question on the strength of the relationship between satisfaction and turnover, which was modest (estimated rho of -.19).

Previously Judge (1993) argued that relationship between satisfaction and turnover could be mediated by one or more variables. In the past, various authors (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990; Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, 1974; Price & Mueller, 1981; Steers & Mowday, 1981) suggested theoretical and empirical models providing the mediating effect of organizational commitment on the relationship between these variables.

In particular, Mathieu and Zajac (1990, p. 188) argue that ‘the most common use of organizational commitment in causal models has been as a mediator of the influences of personal characteristics and work experiences on employee turnover processes’.

The dominant view in the literature on voluntary turnover assumes that organizational commitment mediates the effect of satisfaction on turnover intention, and that satisfaction causes commitment (Mowday et al., 1982; Mueller et al., 1994; Price & Mueller, 1986a; Wallace, 1995). Researchers taking this position implicitly assume employee orientations toward a specific job necessarily precede orientations toward the entire organization (Mowday et al., 1982; Mueller, Price, & Wynn, 1996). Organizational commitment has received great attention among researchers, because of its significant relationship with turnover (Cohen, 1993). Highly committed employees have a strong desire to stay with their employer (Mowday et al. 1982). Whereas satisfaction denotes positive emotions toward a particular job, organizational commitment is the degree to which an employee feels loyalty to a particular organization (Mueller, Wallace, & Price, 1992; Price, 1997). Organizational commitment is seen as a work-related factor and a stabilizing force that influences certain courses of action, such as keeping own job, even when individual’s desired expectations regarding working conditions are not met (Sheridan & Abelson 1983, DeCotiis & Summers 1987).

Lum et al. (1998) found that organizational commitment directly and negatively influenced employee turnover and that job satisfaction was an antecedent of organizational commitment. In addition, organizational commitment also had the strongest and most direct impact on intention to quit (Lum et al., 1998). According to Meyer and Allen (1991), all three components of commitment influence turnover and are negatively correlated with turnover intention and with volunteer turnover (Allen & Meyer 1996; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Tett & Meyer, 1993). In a recent meta-analysis, Wagner (2007) found that organizational commitment was negatively correlated with turnover and with turnover intention among nurses. Though correlations were significant with all three dimensions of commitment, the strongest relationships were found with affective commitment (Iverson & Buttigieg, 1999; Mathieu & Zajac 1990; Mowday et al.,1982). Stanley, Meyer, Topolnyrsky and Herscovitch (1999) have carried out a meta-analysis in order to examine correlations between commitment (measured with the scale developed by Meyer & Allen, 1993) and turnover, turnover intention, absenteeism, performance and organizational citizenship behavior, showing that all three forms of commitment negatively correlated with turnover intention. However, the strength of the correlation varied; in particular, Affective dimension was the strongest, (-.43), followed by Normative (-.23) and by Continuance (-.18). These results have been further confirmed in a meta-analysis carried out by Griffeth, Hom and Gaertner (2000), who found that single affective commitment dimension is one of the strongest predictors of volunteer turnover.

Meyer et al. (2004) proposed that employees with stronger AC experience greater intrinsic motivation, more autonomous forms of external regulation and stronger promotion focus in the pursuit of goals. Therefore, high levels of affective commitment will enhance the salience of the internal drive and the promotion focus, which in turn will positively influence the desire to fulfill the maximum level of accomplishment under the terms of the commitment.These findings suggest that job satisfaction may be a distal influence upon turnover intentions than organizational commitment. Based on this finding from the meta-analysis and the dominant view in the satisfaction – commitment research, the hypothesized model proposes that job satisfaction is an antecedent to organizational commitment which is turnover intention’s antecedent.

In line with these results, in the proposed model, job satisfaction and organizational commitment are depicted as antecedents to turnover intention.

H1: Affective commitment mediates the effect of job satisfaction on turnover intention

Among “core models” mentioned by Steel (2002), various models on turnover (Price & Mueller, 1981; Steers & Mowday, 1981; Mobley, 1982) involve some extra-work variables influencing turnover, such as attachment to family or work-family conflict. Recent research on spillover models explains how family and work life are related (Marshall, Chadwick & Marshall, 1992). Cohen (1995), for example, shows how non-work commitments like family, hobbies and church influence job attitudes and attachment.

Work-family Conflict

Imbalance in work-family interaction can cause stress, which in turn can produce adverse effects on employees attitudes in the workplace and on their well-being ((Bacharach, Bamberger & Conley, 1991; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992; Frone, 2000; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1997; Grzywacz & Bass, 2003; Major, Klein, & Ehrhart, 2002), as well as on organizations in terms of decreased individual performance (Allen, Herst, Bruck, & Sutton, 2000; Kossek & Ozeki, 1998).

Kahn and colleagues (1964) first introduced role conflict construct, defining it as the simultaneous presence of two or more sets of pressures such that satisfaction with one role could hinder satisfaction with the other. In particular, these authors consider the interrole conflict, focusing on difficulties individuals may encounter in integrating different roles (such as mother, wife and parent) and, in extreme cases, when roles are incompatible.

Based on the work of Kahn and colleagues (1964), Greenhaus and Beutell (1985) defined work-family conflict as “a form of interrole conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect” (p.77).

When the time, energy and behavioral demands of a role in one domain (work or family) make it difficult to meet the demands of the other one (work or family), work-family conflicts arise (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). The conflict between work and family may have several outcomes. In their review, Allen et al. (2000) organize the consequences associated with work−family conflict into three main groups: work-related (e.g. job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job performance); non-work related (e.g. life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, leisure satisfaction); and stress-related consequences (e.g. depression, burnout, general psychological strain). When examined with respect to organizational behaviors, WFC has been related to absenteeism (Goff, Mount, & Jamison, 1990), tardiness (Hepburn & Barling, 1996), leaving work early (Boyar, Maertz, & Pearson, 2005), occupational turnover (Greenhaus, Collins, Singh, & Parasuraman, 1997). Grandey and Cropanzano (1999) provides a clear theoretical argument as to why work–family conflict might lead to an intention to turnover: where such role conflict grows too large, one solution is to leave the workplace, which is one of the sources of the role conflict.

When WFC is high, leaving organization could reduce such interference and resulting conflict (Frone, 2003), thus allowing the individual to cope with familiar obligation. Similar results have been provided by Kristenses (1991), who found that the absence due to illness was a coping strategy rather than a simple manifestation of employee health or of real morbidity: this behavior reflects health but also life contingencies, in a broader sense.

The examination of the direct effects of WIF on job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and turnover behavior are necessary.

H2: work-family conflict is positively related to turnover intention

Goode’s (1960) role scarcity theory proposes that people have limited resources, and, as a result, higher levels of resource commitment to one role is seen as necessarily conflicting with commitments to other roles, which lead to lower satisfaction with that role (Lazarus & Folkman 1984). The imbalance between work and family and the resulting conflict affect directly employees’ work-related attitudes, such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Boyar, Maertz, Pearson, & Keough, 2003; Carlson & Kacmar, 2000; Frone et al., 1992; Frone, et al., 1997).

Job satisfaction is the outcome variable that has attracted the most research attention. Although the results have been mixed, the majority of these studies have found that as WFC increases, job satisfaction decreases.

In their meta-analysis of the relationship between WFC and job satisfaction, Kossek and Ozeki (1998) reported a weighted mean correlation of -.23.

Organizational commitment is another work-related variable that has been studied in association with WFC, with equivocal results. Significant results were obtained by Netemeyer et al. (1996) and Good et al. (1988), who found that as WFC increases, organizational commitment decreases. Lyness and Thompson (1997) examined three different types of commitment and found that WFC was negatively related to affective commitment, positively related to continuance commitment, and not related to normative commitment.

H3: WFC is negatively related to job satisfaction

H4: WFC is negatively related to affective commitment

The model proposed in this study assumes that job satisfaction plays a dual role as both an important determinant of organizational commitment, and as an intervening variable between extra-works variables and commitment.

Numerous researchers (Bluedorn, 1982; Iverson, 1992; Mowday et al., 1982; Mueller et al., 1994; Price & Mueller, 1986a; Wallace, 1995; Williams & Hazer, 1986) have empirically demonstrated that satisfaction is a cause of commitment.

Despite considerable variation in methodology and results, empirical research favors a positive influence of satisfaction on commitment, as well as a potential mediating role of satisfaction (Bluedorn, 1982; Iverson, 1992; Mowday et al., 1982; Mueller et al., 1994; Price & Mueller, 1986a; Wallace, 1995a; Williams & Hazer, 1986).

H5: job satisfaction mediates the effects of WFC on affective commitment

Job Embeddedness

Job embeddedness (JE) represents a broad constellation of influences on employee retention.

More recently, Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, and Erez (2001) focused on why people stay rather than on how they leave.

In particular, the authors focused on the reasons why individuals stay in their organization, through the study of the influence of job embeddedness construct.

This construct was posited as composed of contextual and perceptual forces that connect people to the location, people, and issues at work (Yao et al., 2004).

This construct has been operationalized as a composite of two major factors: on-the-job embeddedness and off-the-job embeddedness (Mitchell et al., 2001). Whereas on-the-job embeddedness refers to how enmeshed a person is in the organization where he or she works, off-the-job embeddedness relates to how entrenched a person is in his or her community. Each of these forms of embeddedness is represented by three underlying facets: links (the extent to which people have links to other people or activities), fit (the extent to which their jobs and communities fit other aspects in their “life spaces”), and sacrifice (the ease with which links could be broken).

Starting from the result (Lee et al., 2001) that on-the-job embeddedness shares more variance with job attitudes than off-the-job embeddedness does, than the effect of on-the-job embeddedness on absences and turnover may be reduced to zero when researchers control for satisfaction and commitment.

In this research, we opted to consider community embeddedness dimension, since the theoretical model involved job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

In questa ricerca si è quindi optato per la considerazione della dimensione community embeddedness, poichè nel modello teorico sono state considerate soddisfazione lavorativa e organizational commitment.

Mitchell and colleagues (2001) sustain that people who are embedded in their communities should want to keep their jobs and reported, for example, that having (1) a working spouse, (2) children in a particular school, or (3) involvement in community activities was associated with less turnover.

Extending our reasoning further, off-the-job embeddedness may be more important to the prediction of turnover and absences than on-the-job embeddedness when satisfaction and commitment (which are on-the-job constructs) are controlled.

Community embeddedness may be viewed as a unique contextual factor that independently relates to turnover, beyond other core aspects of traditional models. This notion has received some empirical support (Mitchell et al., 2001) and is similar to Mossholder, Settoon, and Henagan’s (2005) proposition that the absence of social attachments may create a contextual force or tension that pushes employees from the organization.

H6: Community embeddedness is negatively related to turnover intention

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