Love it or leave it?
Love it or leave it — if only it were that simple.
According to new research from Concordia University, Université de Montréal and HEC Montréal, staying in an organization out of a sense of obligation or a lack of employment alternatives can lead to emotional exhaustion, a chronic state of physical and mental depletion resulting from continuous stress and excessive job demands.
Published in the journal Human Relations, the study found that people who stay in organizations because they feel an obligation towards their employer are more likely to experience burnout. The same applies when employees stay because they perceive a lack of employment alternatives outside the organization.
“Our study examined whether some forms of commitment to an organization could have detrimental effects, such as emotional exhaustion and, eventually, turnover,” says co-author Alexandra Panaccio, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.
“When employees stay with their organization because they feel that they have no other options, they are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion,” explains Panaccio. “This feeling, in turn, may lead them to leave the organization. The implication is that, in order to effectively decrease turnover, employers should try to minimize this 'lack of alternatives' type of commitment among employees by developing their competencies, thus increasing their feeling of mobility and, paradoxically, contributing to them wanting to stay with the organization."
The researchers also found that people with high self-esteem are most affected by a perceived lack of employment alternatives — possibly because that perception is inconsistent with their self-view as important and competent people.
Panaccio and her colleagues, Émilie Lapointe from Université de Montréal and Christian Vandenberghe from HEC Montréal, surveyed 260 workers from various industries, including information technology, health services, engineering and architecture. Participants were 34 years old (on average), 33 per cent of whom held managerial positions, and 50 per cent worked in the public sector.
The research team measured various types of organizational commitment, such as whether employees identified with a company’s goals and values and whether they felt an obligation to stay.
"It may be that, in the absence of an emotional bond with the organization, commitment based on obligation is experienced as a kind of indebtedness — a loss of autonomy that is emotionally draining over time,” says Panaccio.
Partners in research:
This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs program.
• Cited study
• Concordia’s John Molson School of Business
• Université de Montréal
• HEC Montréal