Sociotechnical systems theory has suggested that it is the conditions of social and technical systems that determine the healthiness of organizational and individual outcomes (Cox & colleagues, 1993, 1996, 2000; Trist & colleagues, 1951, 1963). However, scholars in this area have not explored the transactional psychological stress processes that are posited as precursors to these (un)healthy outcomes. Using the amalgamation of sociotechnical systems and transactional psychological stress theories, this dissertation's purpose was to investigate how organizational social systems and technical systems influence direct care workers' transactional psychological stress processes (i.e., cognitive appraisals and coping styles) after being victimized (i.e., direct, indirect, and sexual harassment victimizations) by patients, residents, and/or these clients' families. Understanding how organizational and workgroup contexts aid in molding an individual's appraisals and subsequent behavior is critical to an organization and its people - especially after workplace victimizations occur. Knowledge of the beneficial and negative aspects of the systems' influence on these processes can assist organizations in determining to maintain current programs and policies or to revamp, redesign, and/or create new systems and structures. The social systems under examination were: workgroup leader-member exchange (LMX) climate level and strength, workgroup conflict, and workgroup knowledge sharing climates. The technical systems under examination were: organizational complexity, centralization (i.e., hierarchy of authority and participation in decision making) and formalization climates (note: complexity was later removed as a key climate variable when it was deemed inappropriate for organizational aggregation).
Utilizing multilevel methods with 509 participants in 97 workgroups in 43 long term care facilities (total response was 575 participants in 49 facilities), main and moderating contextual effects on victims' cognitive appraisals and coping styles were assessed. Main effects were found between social systems and victims' appraisals and coping styles; while technical systems were only found to have direct relationships with cognitive appraisals. Further, significant three-way cross-level effects among direct victimization, workgroup LMX climate level, and workgroup LMX climate strength were found predicting threat, centrality, challenge, and resource availability cognitive appraisals. At high levels of direct victimization, high LMX climate level, high LMX climate strength workgroups' appraisals appeared better off than other workgroup categories. This suggests that leadership may act as a resource in the workplace to buffer victimization situations - especially when relationships between leadership and the workgroup are positive and consistent. Evidence from this study also suggested that the presence of rules in the workplace may have a stabilizing effect on cognitions. No change in centrality appraisals was found across levels of victims' direct victimization reports, and no change in resource appraisals was found across levels of victims' sexual harassment encounters; while low formalization climates were shown to exacerbate these appraisals. Finally, a balance may be needed with the amount of participation in decision making allocated to organizational members. For example, results revealed that a high participation in decision making climate ameliorated avoidance and denial coping mechanisms when direct victimization was at high levels; however, the same climate exacerbated advocacy seeking when direct victimization was at high levels.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2009. Major: Human Resources and Industrial Relations. Advisor: Theresa M. Glomb. 1 computer fie (PDF); xv, 232 pages, appendix pages 184-232. Ill.
Booth, Jonathan Edward.
The effects of social and technical systems on workplace victims' cognitive appraisals and coping styles: a multi-organizational, multilevel study..
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