An exploration of the relationships between psychological capital (hope, optimism, self-efficacy, resilience), occupational stress, burnout and employee engagement

Herbert, Marthine (2011-12)

Thesis (MComm)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Occupational stress and Burnout are serious problems in current day organisations. To this end organisations should actively promote positive psychological health and occupational wellbeing in order to harness the full potential of their workforce and increase organisational performance. Studies from the emerging field of Positive Psychology hypothesize that personal resources, like the constructs of Psychological Capital (i.e. Hope, Optimism, Self-Efficacy and Resilience), may contribute to decreased Stress (Avey, Luthans & Jensen, 2009), Burnout (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2001) and increased work Engagement (Avey, Wernsing & Luthans, 2008). Moreover, it has been proven that the Psychological Capital (PsyCap) constructs are state-like and can be developed (Luthans, Avey & Patera, 2008). It may, therefore, be vital for organisations to identify and develop these positive PsyCap factors, which might moderate the effect of Occupational stress on Burnout, as well as curb the initial experiences of Occupational stress and the subsequent development of Burnout in their employees. The presence of PsyCap may also lead to increased Engagement, which is also known to be associated with less Burnout. The aims of this study were to explore the relationships between Burnout, Employee Engagement, Occupational stress and PsyCap in the South African context, as well as to determine whether PsyCap plays a moderating role in the Occupational stress, Burnout relationship. A non-experimental research design (i.e. exploratory survey study) was used to explore the relationships between these four constructs. In this study, Burnout was defined as a condition characterised by fatigue and exhaustion, divided into Personal Burnout (“the degree of physical and psychological fatigue and exhaustion experienced by the person”), Work-related Burnout (“the degree of physical and psychological fatigue and exhaustion that is perceived by the person as related to his/her work”) and Client-related Burnout (“the degree of physical and psychological fatigue and exhaustion that is perceived by the person as related to his/her work with clients”) (Kristensen, Borritz, Villadsen & Christensen, 2005, p. 197). Employee Engagement was defined as “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption” (Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma & Bakker, 2002, p.74). Occupational stress is experienced when an imbalance exists between people’s perceived environmental demands and their perceived ability to cope with these demands (Cooper, Clarke & Rowbottom, 1999). Lastly, PsyCap was described as a second-order construct which included Hope, Optimism, Self-efficacy and Resilience (Luthans, Youssef & Avolio, 2007). A convenience sample of 209 permanent employees and support staff of a medium size construction company within the Western Cape, South Africa, participated in the research. The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI; Kristensen et al., 2005), the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES-9; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003), the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck & Mermelstein, 1983) and the Psychological Capital Questionnaire-Self Rater Version (PCQ-24; Luthans, Avolio & Avey, 2007) were administered. Consistent with previous research, significant negative relationships were evident between all three dimensions of Burnout and Occupational stress. This indicates that higher Occupational stress is associated with an increased propensity to develop Personal-, Work- and Client Burnout. This was expected as it is known that Burnout develops in reaction to prolonged Stress. The correlational results further revealed that higher levels of Hope, Optimism, Self-efficacy and Resilience (and the PsyCap total score) were associated with lower levels of Occupational stress and Burnout. This suggests that increased levels of PsyCap may probably lead to decreased levels of Occupational stress and Burnout. As expected, multiple moderate positive correlations were evident between the PsyCap sub-dimensions, empirically confirming the discriminant and convergent validity of the dimensions in the South African context. This implies that by developing one of the constructs, the others are also likely to increase. As hypothesised, both Occupational Stress and Burnout was found to relate negatively to Employee Engagement. The results further revealed that higher PsyCap was related to higher Engagement levels and that Optimism and Self-efficacy, as PsyCap sub-dimensions, emerged as the two strongest predictors of Employee Engagement. These results suggest that the development of PsyCap may hold multiple benefits (e.g. increasing Engagement, lessening Stress and subsequent Burnout). Lastly, PsyCap did indeed emerge as a moderator in the relationship between Occupational stress and Personal- and Work Burnout respectively. This suggests that although Occupational stress is inevitable in any work environment, PsyCap as a personal coping resource, can buffer the development of Burnout over the long term. Limitations of the study as well as suggestions for future research were discussed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Werk stres en Uitbranding is twee ernstige probleme in die huidige werksomgewing. Organisasies moet dus die positiewe sielkundige gesondheid van hul werknemers bevorder en sodoende die volle potensiaal van hul werknemers probeer verseker, wat die organisasie se algehele prestasie sal verbeter. Studies vanaf die opkomende veld van Positiewe Sielkunde beweer dat persoonlike karaktereienskappe, soos die onderskeie konstrukte van Sielkundige Kapitaal (d.i. Hoop, Optimisme, Selfbekwaamheid en Veerkragtigheid), `n vermindering in stres (Avey et al., 2009) en Uitbranding (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2001) tot gevolg kan hê, asook Werknemerbetrokkenheid kan verhoog (Avey et al., 2008). Verder is daar ook bewys dat die konstrukte van Sielkundige Kapitaal ontwikkel kan word (e.g. Luthans et al., 2008). Dit is dus noodsaaklik vir organisasies om hierdie positiewe sielkundige konstrukte te identifiseer en ontwikkel, wat moontlik die effek van Werk stres op Uitbranding kan modereer, sowel as die oorspronklike ondervindings van Werk stres en die gevolglike ontwikkeling van Uitbranding in werknemers, kan inhibeer. Die teenwoordigheid van Sielkundige Kapitaal kan ook aanleiding gee tot `n verhoging in Werknemerbetrokkenheid, wat ook verwant is aan minder Uitbranding. Die doelwitte van hierdie studie was om die verwantskappe tussen Uitbranding, Werknemerbetrokkenheid, Werk Stres en Sielkundige Kapitaal in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks te ondersoek, asook om te bepaal of Sielkundige Kapitaal ‘n modererende rol speel in die verband tussen Werk Stres en Uitbranding. 'n Nieeksperimentele navorsingsontwerp ('n verkennende studie) is gebruik om die verbande tussen die vier konstrukte te ondersoek. In hierdie studie word Uitbranding beskryf as `n toestand gekenmerk deur vermoeienis en uitputting, en word verdeel in Persoonlike Uitbranding (die graad van fisiese en sielkundige vermoeienis en uitputting wat deur die persoon ervaar word), Werks Uitbranding (die graad van fisiese en sielkundige vermoeienis en uitputting wat deur die persoon ervaar word, verwant aan sy/haar werk) en Kliënte Uitbranding (die graad van fisiese en sielkundige vermoeienis en uitputting wat deur die persoon ervaar word wat verwant is aan sy/haar werk met kliënte) (Kristensen et al., 2005). Werknemerbetrokkenheid is gedefinieer as 'n positiewe, vervullende ingesteldheid wat gekenmerk word deur Vitaliteit, Toegewydheid en Verdieptheid (Schaufeli et al., 2002). Werk stres word beskryf as `n wanbalans tussen `n persoon se persepsie van sy/haar omgewings vereistes en die persepsie van hul eie vermoëns om hierdie vereistes te hanteer (Cooper et al., 1999). Laastens verwys Sielkundige Kapitaal na `n tweede-orde konstruk wat bestaan uit vier afsonderlike subkonstrukte naamlik Hoop, Optimisme, Self-bekwaamheid en Veerkragtigheid. ‘n Geriefsteekproef van 209 permanente werknemers en steundienstepersoneel van 'n medium grootte konstruksie maatskappy in die Wes-Kaap het aan die navorsingsprojek deelgeneem. Die Copenhagen Uitbranding Vraelys (CBI; Kristensen et al., 2005), die Utrecht Werksbetrokkenheid Skaal (UWES-9) (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003), die Waargenome Stresskaal (PSS; Cohen et al., 1983) en die Sielkundige Kapitaal – Self-beoordeling Weergawe (PCQ-24; Luthans, Avolio et al., 2007) was gebruik in hierdie studie. In ooreenstemming met vorige navorsing is beduidende negatiewe verwantskappe tussen die drie dimensies van Uitbranding en Werk stres gevind. Dit dui daarop dat hoër Werk stres geassosieer word met 'n toename in die geneigdheid om Persoonlike-, Werks- en Kliënte Uitbranding te ontwikkel. Hierdie resultate was verwag, aangesien dit bekend is dat Uitbranding die gevolg is van lang termyn Stres. Die resultate het verder onthul dat hoë vlakke van Hoop, Optimisme, Self- Bekwaamheid en Veerkragtigheid (asook die totaaltelling van Sielkundige Kapitaal) geassosieer word met laer vlakke van Werk stres en Uitbranding. Dus, `n toename in werknemers se Sielkundige Kapitaal kan moontlik lei tot `n afname in hul Werk stres en Uitbranding. Verder, en soos wat verwag was, is bevind dat daar verskeie positiewe korrelasies tussen die vier subkonstrukte van Sielkundige Kapitaal bestaan. Dit is ook 'n empiriese aanduiding van die onderskeidings geldigheid van hierdie dimensies binne die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks. Dit beteken dat deur een van hierdie vier konstrukte te ontwikkel, die ander drie konstrukte ook terselfdertyd sal verhoog. erder het SielkundigeKapitaal verband gehou met 'n toename in Werknemerbetrokkenheid, en Optimisme en Self-Bekwaamheid, as sub-dimensies van Sielkundige Kapitaal, was hier die beste voorspellers van Werknemerbetrokkenheid. Hierdie resultate impliseer dat die ontwikkeling van Sielkundige Kapitaal verskeie voordele vir 'n maatskappy kan inhou (bv. verhoogde Werknemer Betrokkenheid, verlaagde Werk stres, asook Uitbranding). Laastens het hierdie studie bewys dat Sielkundige Kapitaal wel 'n modererende rol speel in die verhouding tussen Werk stres en onderskeidelik Persoonlike- en Werks- Uitbranding. Dit veronderstel dat alhoewel Werk stres onafwendbaar is in die huidige werksomgewing, Sielkundige Kapitaal as 'n persoonlike hanteringsmeganisme of hulpbron, die ontwikkeling van Uitbranding kan buffer. Die beperkings van die studie, asook aanbevelings vir toekomstige navorsing word bespreek.

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