Job Change and Job Insecurity in the Police Service: Applying the Cognitive-Motivational-Relational Theory of Emotion
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This thesis tested an appraisal, coping and adaptation model of job insecurity and organisational change with a sample of police officers. The model integrated key aspects of Lazarus' (1991a, 1999) cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion (personal coping resources, appraisal questions, emotion, coping and adaptation outcomes) with the ten job characteristics (opportunity for control, opportunity for skill use, externally generated goals, variety, environmental clarity, availability of money, physical security, opportunity for interpersonal contact, valued social position and supportive supervision) from Warr's (1987, 1999) vitamin model. The ten job characteristics were viewed as valued aspects of the environment that may potentially be lost or threatened during organisational crisis or change. The service within which the police officers worked underwent a large scale organisational restructuring from late 2001 to July 2002. Three research studies were conducted for this thesis. The first study developed a psychometrically sound, 40-item job characteristics scale, based on the ten dimensions of Warr's vitamin model. This scale assessed participants' worries about changes to aspects in their work environment. The development of this scale met a need within the job insecurity literature for a theoretically-derived measure of valued job features, and enabled the investigation of the appraisal, coping and adaptation model. This measure was included in the questionnaire for the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that formed the second and third major research projects of this thesis. The main aim of the second study was to test a proposed model of appraisal, emotion, coping and adaptation following the experience of organisational change. The model proposed that person variables and personal coping resources (e.g., personal control and coping self-efficacy) would have indirect associations with the adaptational outcomes of Psychological Distress, Life Satisfaction and Job Withdrawal Behaviour. The personal coping resources were proposed to have indirect relationships with coping strategies through job characteristics, appraisal and emotion as well as direct associations with levels of distress, Life Satisfaction and Job Withdrawal Behaviour. The ten job characteristics were expected to have a direct relationship with Psychological Distress, and indirect associations with the three adaptational outcomes through appraisal, emotion and coping. Primary and secondary appraisal was proposed to precede and directly influence emotion. In turn, emotions were expected to directly relate to the coping strategies that were used, with coping strategies mediating the association between emotion and the three adaptational outcomes. An additional focus of this study was to determine whether there were mean differences for males and females on the variables examined. The second study was conducted in November 2002, three months after the restructuring. Two thousand two hundred and eighteen police officers were invited to participate in the study, with a total sample of 303 police officers responding. The antecedent variables (personal resources, job characteristics, perception of global job insecurity, appraisal components, feelings, coping strategies) and the indicators of employee adjustment (Psychological Distress, Life Satisfaction and Job Withdrawal Behaviour) were collected via a self-report questionnaire. Collateral data were also obtained from a friend, spouse/partner or work colleague of the police officer for the dependent variables of Psychological Distress and Life Satisfaction. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were applied to investigate the aims of this study. Some support for a partial mediating model was obtained, mainly with the work specific adaptational outcomes of Psychological Distress and Job Withdrawal Behaviour. The antecedent variables in the model explained a substantial amount of variance for each of the adaptation outcomes. Notably, the antecedents of the model to uniquely account for variance in Life Satisfaction, a non-work contextual outcome, were person variables and personal coping resources. The third research study used a two-wave longitudinal panel design. The principle aim of this study was to test the proposed model of appraisal, coping and adaptation, longitudinally. Specifically, the aim was to examine whether initial levels, and changes in levels over time in aspects of the proposed model predicted later levels, and changes across time in the adaptational outcomes of Psychological Distress, Life Satisfaction and Job Withdrawal Behaviour. The study was conducted in April and May, four to five months after the T1 data had been collected, and seven months after the restructuring. A total of 158 police officers responded from the 303 that participated in Study 2. Difference scores were calculated to examine change across time within hierarchical multiple regression analyses. Three longitudinal regression models (Basic, Change-in-Outcome and Change/Change) were examined to test for robust effects. The model explained considerably more variance in Psychological Distress across all three longitudinal models tested, compared to Life Satisfaction and Job Withdrawal Behaviour. Generally the work related antecedents (T1) had no or minimal association with change in Life Satisfaction. However, change in physical safety was associated with change in Life Satisfaction across the two points in time. Some robust associations were found for emotion coping strategies with Psychological Distress; personal control with Life Satisfaction; and negative feelings with Job Withdrawal Behaviour. The findings from the three studies are discussed with reference to Lazarus' (1991a, 1999) cognitive-motivational-relational theory and Warr's (1987, 1999) vitamin model. The findings from the cross-sectional and longitudinal research studies support partial mediating relationships among the antecedents with the adaptational outcomes. There is debate within the job insecurity literature as to whether potential loss of job features should be included in the definition and operationalisation of this construct. Based on the results of the research, it is recommended that the definition and operationalisation of job insecurity include potential loss of job features and potential loss of the job. The model tested accounted for more variance in the work specific outcomes of Psychological Distress and Job Withdrawal Behaviour than Life Satisfaction. Thus, the organisational restructuring appeared to have a greater association with work-specific outcomes rather than non-work outcomes. Some limitations of the research are noted. For example, the small sample size limited the ability to use latent variable model testing procedures. Second, the conclusions from the research studies are applicable to a police service organisation and thus may be limited in their application to employees in other organisations. Third, the model focused quite heavily on the individual within the organisation, examining personal resources and characteristics. Nonetheless, this research has contributed to the literature in several ways by: (a) developing a theoretically founded measure of valued job characteristics, (b) demonstrating the importance of evaluating changes to these features of the work environment and the potential loss of the job during organisational instability, and (c) testing an appraisal, coping and adaptation model that shows much promise for use within organisations undergoing crisis or change. This newly developed and tested model appears especially useful in understanding the impact of organisation changes on work related outcomes.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Psychology
Item Access Status
cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion