The role of psychological capital in protecting the psychological well-being of individuals working in call centres

Van Wyk, Nico (2016-03)

Thesis (MCom)--Stellenbosch University, 2016


Call centres play an important role in the growth of the South African economy. While the use of call centres offer companies numerous benefits, indications are that its success comes at the cost of individual psychological well-being (PWB). This is concerning as call centres are a prominent place of work for many South Africans. PWB is not only important for people, but it also forms a critical component of organisational sustainability and competitiveness. People with good PWB are better workers (more engaged and committed) and the absence of ill-health also saves companies a lot of money. A major redesign of the call centre job characteristics has been declared almost impossible. Therefore, gaining insight into how the individual and the work environment interacts to account for variance in individual PWB might provide fruitful research that can aid the development of human resource interventions to protect the PWB of individuals in call centres. The current study raises the question as to why variance in PWB exists among call centre workers. The research objective of this study is to develop and empirically test an explanatory model that accounts for variance in call operator PWB. Drawing on the Positive Organisational Behaviour (POB) paradigm and Conservation of Resources (COR) theory, the present study explored the role of resources in how people overcome stressful situations and experience PWB. The call centre environment and its PWB-threatening work conditions were also explored. The study proposed a comprehensive Psychological Well-being at Work (PWBW) in Call Centres structural model which attempts to explain the nomological network of latent variables responsible for variance in call operator PWBW. Due to the small sample size, the study was not able to test the moderating effects of Psychological Capital (PsyCap) on the different stressors and the model had to be adapted. The composite questionnaire was administered to a convenience sample ( =201) of call operators working across different industries for different companies. An ex post facto correlation design and structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to test the substantive research hypotheses. The comprehensive PWBW in Call Centres structural model obtained a reasonable fit. Support was not found for all the hypothesised theoretical relationships. The main findings include that PsyCap can be expected to retard the development of Exhaustion and Disengagement (two dimensions of burnout) via its ability to diminish the potency of the Workload, Lack of autonomy and Lack of co-worker support stressors, thereby reducing the threat that burnout poses to call operator PWBW. According to the study’s results, call centres can, through the development of PsyCap, empower their call operators with the resources required to protect their PWBW and to better cope with the major call centre stressors included in this study. Call centres should embrace the importance of adopting a strengths based approach to managing human resources and focus on developing the PsyCap of their call operators in order to preserve good PWBW and to unlock sustainability and competitive advantage.

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