Advancing employee engagement theory : a re-examination of the psychological conditions and antecedents of engagement

Hannon, Dilys M (2015) Advancing employee engagement theory : a re-examination of the psychological conditions and antecedents of engagement. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The engagement of employees has been a 'hot topic' among business and organizational behaviour researchers, consultants and human resource practitioners in recent years. Engagement is a motivational concept. In this study employee engagement (or job engagement) has been defined as an employee's full investment of oneself in one's work activities. The study nevertheless accepts that the field of engagement has been plagued with numerous terms, definitions, measures and theories. Although engagement research originated in the early 1990s, there is today a lack of consensus and consistency about important conceptual issues, such as definition and dimensionality. The current scholarly work sought to bring some clarity to the field by firstly recognising two broad streams for which the conceptualizing, theorising and operationalizing of engagement have differed markedly. The self-investment and anti-burnout engagement streams were named. Next, a domain for research focus was selected. The self-investment engagement stream, which offers the most unique, objective and encompassing meaning and theory of engagement, was identified. This stream recognises Kahn's 1990 work as the foundation of engagement study. The conceptualization of engagement as the full-investment of oneself, physically, cognitively and emotionally in one's work has been derived from this early contribution. The theory of engagement found within the self-investment stream, proposes that several antecedents influence three psychological conditions, which in turn predict engagement. in the current study, task-relevant job resources, socially relevant job resources and job demand characteristic were incorporated in the theoretical framework for evaluation. The job characteristic antecedents are task significance, skill variety, autonomy, feedback, internal interaction, work overload, friendship opportunity and managerial support. The psychological conditions of engagement are known as psychological meaningfulness, availability and safety. The study's results have supported the hypotheses that task significance and internal interaction are direct predictors of meaningfulness; autonomy, feedback, internal interaction and work overload are predictors of psychological availability; while, friendship opportunity and managerial support are significantly associated with psychological safety. The three psychological conditions were positively associated with engagement. It was found that psychological meaningfulness mediated the associations between the other two conditions and engagement. Then, skill variety showed a direct positive association with engagement, rather than an indirect association via one of the psychological conditions.

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