Disecting Employee Engagement – Antecedents, Organizational Behaviour & Social Exchange Theory

Various implications exist as a result of organizational behavioural aspects, Kahn (1990) and Maslach et al’s (2001) looked at the antecedents within their models that are necessary for engagement. The core of the model depicts two forms of employee engagement: job and organization engagement.[i] Combined these viewpoints with the Social Exchange theory (SET) create a model of antecedents and consequences for employee engagement.

Figure 3, depicts nine hypotheses that endeavour to explain employee job and organizational engagement; key findings include implications on overall employee engagement and organizational profitability. It finds that employee engagement can be understood in terms of SET and that a relationship between job and organization engagement exists but they are distinct constructs. The following research then holds true: Job characteristics refer to the meaningfulness and sense of return an individual has within the self-in-role performances. Kahn (1992) argues that this meaningfulness can be achieved through challenging work, variety of work, the use of different skills and personal discretion while making important contributions to the business. Therefore, jobs that are high on core job characteristics (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback) will provide the incentive for an employee to bring more of themselves into the work and therefore be more engaged. SET would indicate that employees who are provided enriched jobs feel obliged to respond with higher levels of engagement. People are generally apt at finding meaning in what they do. Employees want to believe they are spending their time valuably. It becomes the organizations responsibility to support meaningful work and make it clear why a particular task is important to them. If possible organizations can take another step in trying to adjust roles so that the job fits the person. This will minimize the time that employees spend struggling in a task for which they have no aptitude, while turning their strengths into talents allowing them to bring forward their ‘best self’.

Perceived organizational and supervisor support involves a sense of being able to show oneself within the organization without negative consequences. This also increases one’s voice within the organization. Supportive and trusting relationships within an organization will allow the company to provide safe work environments and provide further opportunities for employees to try new things without the fear of consequences. Perceived organizational supervisor support, ties in closely with available on the job resources and support from colleagues. If an employee has the belief that the organization and his/her co-workers care about their well-being, the employee in return will care about the welfare of the organization striving to meet its goals and objectives. Schaufeli and Bakker (2004)[ii] found that a lack of social support has been tied to burnout negatively affecting employee engagement. In a similar way the lack of supervisor support negatively affects employee engagement. Under these conditions the statement “Employees leave people they work for and with rather than the organizations themselves” rings resoundingly true. First line supervisors are therefore especially important for building engagement and are the roots of employee disengagement. (Bates, 2004, Frank et al, 2004).[iii]Consequently, management should analyze what resources and benefits are most needed by employees so that they yield a higher level of employee engagement within the organization.


[i] Saks A, (2006) Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement. Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol. 21 No.7, 2006

[ii] Schaufeli, W.B and Bakker, A.B (2004) Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: a multi-sample study. Journal of Organizational Behavior Vol. 25. Pp.293-315

[iii] Bates, S. (2004) Getting engaged , HR Magazine Vol. 49. No. 2 pp.44-51

Frank F.D, Finnegan R.P and Taylor C.R (2004) The race for talent: retaining and engaging workers in the 21st century. Human Resources Planning, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 12-25

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