Work styles and person-environment fit: adjusting to change as a late career worker
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 19:39 by Piers Hollis Bayl-Smith
Utilising the theory of work adjustment (TWA), this thesis develops our understanding of the factors that contribute towards and facilitate a person's correspondence with their work environment. With modern organisations experiencing rapid change, the importance of maintaining person-environment (P-E) fit via adaptive and proactive behaviours has been widely recognised. Resulting from ageing workforces worldwide and in recognition of the unique challenges older workers face in maintaining workplace correspondence, special attention has recently been extended to late career workers. However, research has principally ignored possible antecedent factors of P-E fit, rather viewing fit as a stable construct. This thesis addressed these considerations through the development of work styles, a dynamic component of TWA responsible for the maintenance of P-E fit. Work styles was defined as an employee's typical level of activity and effort enacted across time when completing work tasks. This thesis by publication presents three journal articles, with additional supporting papers by multiple authors in the appendices. The first paper developed a self-report work style scale suitable for longitudinal research. Three studies demonstrated support for Dawis and Lofquists (1984) conceptualisation of a four-factor model distinguishing between an individual's celerity, pace, rhythm and endurance. However, these factors are best understood to be related through a second-order factor describing an employee's typical level of activity and effort across time. The scale demonstrated good evidence for reliability and validity, and strong longitudinal measurement invariance. Utilising two two-wave studies, the second paper examined the impact of age discrimination upon P-E fit in mid- to late- career workers. Results from Study 1 demonstrated that increased perceptions of age discrimination lead to a decrease in demands-abilities (D-A) and needs-supplies (N-S) fit over time. In Study 2, work styles was introduced as a possible moderating variable in the prediction of D-A fit. The findings indicated that when an employee was engaged in a highly active work style, the negative effects of age discrimination upon D-A fit decreased. In consideration of discrimination, this study highlights the difficulty many older worker face in preserving an adequate correspondence with their environment. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of work styles as a factor that contributes towards the maintenance of P-E fit. The third paper examined the impact of proactive behaviours upon D-A fit, introducing work style fit as a possible moderating variable. Work style fit expands upon the development of work styles in the previous two papers by recognising that the environment has a corresponding work style requirement. Results from a two-wave study indicate that proactive behaviours had a positive effect upon D-A fit, but only when work style fit was high. When work style fit was low, proactive behaviours had a detrimental effect upon D-A fit. The theoretical and practical implications, along with limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed in the final chapter. The findings of this thesis provide a valuable contribution for both researchers and practitioners in understanding and measuring the dynamic component of TWA and P-E fit generally. Overall, each paper demonstrates the importance of understanding P-E fit as a dynamic construct, and recognising unique challenges individuals may face in maintaining correspondence with their work environment.