General tendencies and state determinants of job performance
General tendencies concern individual dispositions, overall psychological well-being, or global experiences referring to longer time periods. In contrast, states reflect how an individual feels about him/herself and the environment at certain points in time. Hence, general tendencies are rather stable, whereas states change across time and may fluctuate even on a daily level.
Studies concerning general tendencies may only explain how employees differ from one another on how they generally perform. Such between-person approaches have shown that productivity may be determined (among others) by employees' happiness or overall well-being, particularly when well-being is operationalized as overall positive affect (for a review on the happy-productive worker thesis, Cropanzano & Wright, 2001). Consistently, work engagement (i.e. a positive affective/motivational reaction towards the job that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption), when measured as a general well-being indicator, has been found to be positively related to individual job performance (for a review see, Bakker, 2009).
The added value of designs that investigate states next to general tendencies is that they enable researchers to understand psychological variables at the time and level these are manifested (Ilies, Schwind, & Heller, 2007). Furthermore, states, when measured over short time periods, can explain within-person differences (i.e. why a person's performance may differ from one moment to another). Such designs (by modelling dynamic processes) capture the influence of transitory situational and personal factors, in contrast to cross-sectional or long-term longitudinal designs, which can only capture the effects of (relatively) stable characteristics (Ilies et al., 2007). For example, Beal et al. (2005) described a model linking immediate affective experiences to within-person performance episodes. Similarly, Sonnentag (2003) found that employees' day-levels of work engagement predicted their day-levels of proactive behaviour, after controlling for general levels of engagement and work characteristics.
George (1991) proposes that general levels may have an impact on the state levels, but state levels are the ones that initiate the psychological processes leading to performance. Thus, states and general tendencies are complementary. We will examine the role of daily (i.e. situational and personal) correlates of daily job performance episodes, after controlling for general individual tendencies.
Performance episodes are explained by employees' affective states that are subject to the constantly changing work environment (Beal et al., 2005). In other words, work characteristics induce certain events at work, which determine employees' psychological states, which, in-turn, shape work behaviours. Similarly, the motivational process of the job demands–resources (JD-R) model (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) suggests that job resources are the main initiators of employees' work engagement and consequently of enhanced performance. Job resources refer to physical, social, or organizational aspects of the job that are functional in achieving work-related goals, reduce demands and the associated costs, and stimulate personal growth and development (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). As intrinsic motivators, job resources fulfil basic human needs (i.e. need for belonging) and foster individuals' development (Deci & Ryan, 1985). As extrinsic motivators, they encourage employees' to exert effort towards a task (Gagné & Deci, 2005). In both cases, employees may become more engaged in their jobs, because they derive fulfilment from it (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004), and in-turn they perform better (Bakker, 2009).
Job resources constitute a general category of job characteristics, which may incorporate various specific resources. Importantly, evidence for the process initiated by job resources has been found irrespectively of the specific resources involved (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). Occupation-specific work psychological models – including the JD-R model – emphasize the need to focus on job characteristics that are relevant for the employees under study, in order to capture the particularity of the respective work setting. Therefore, in the present study, we examined three specific job resources – autonomy, supervisory coaching, and team climate – which were identified (during interviews preceding the study) as the most crucial for fast-food restaurant employees that are of concern in the present study.
In order to describe the psychological mechanisms underlying the relationship between job resources and positive psychological and organizational outcomes, researchers have accentuated the role of personal resources (i.e. self-beliefs of resiliency). We focus on three specific personal resources, namely self-efficacy (i.e. people's beliefs about their capabilities to control events that affect their lives; Bandura, 1989), organizational-based self-esteem (OBSE, i.e. employees' beliefs that they can satisfy their needs by participating in roles within the organization; Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, & Dunham, 1989), and optimism (i.e. the tendency to believe that one will generally experience good outcomes in life; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994). These factors have been recognized as crucial for individuals' psychological well-being in general, and for work-related well-being in particular (Hobfoll, 2002; Luthans & Youssef, 2007). Unlike positive personality traits that are fixed, these personal resources are by definition malleable (Luthans & Youssef, 2007), and thus are considered appropriate for the present study.
According to Hobfoll's (2002) theory, people do not only try to protect their resources, but also to accumulate them. Since resources do not exist in isolation, developmental processes create ‘resources caravans’ in a way that, for example, individuals working in a resourceful work environment (i.e. have autonomy over their tasks, or receive high-quality coaching) are likely to increase their beliefs in their capabilities (self-efficacy), to feel valued (OBSE), and to be optimistic that they will meet their goals. Consequently, employees develop a positive self-regard and in-turn experience goal self-concordance (Luthans & Youssef, 2007). Employees with goal self-concordance are intrinsically motivated to pursue their goals that may lead to higher levels of work engagement and performance. Indeed, personal resources were found to explain the transition from various job resources to work engagement (Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2007). Consistently, Llorens, Schaufeli, Bakker, and Salanova (2007) have shown that task resources had lagged effects on engagement through efficacy beliefs. Finally, Luthans, Avey, Avolio, Norman, and Combs (2006) revealed that training techniques that aim at providing resources to employees (e.g. quality feedback) increase employees' psychological capital (i.e. self-efficacy, optimism), which, in-turn, may have a positive financial impact and high return on investment.
Personal resources seem to link job resources with engagement and in-turn performance. However, although work-related personal resources are states that may be influenced by constantly changing work environments, there have been no studies so far on such within-person fluctuations. Daily fluctuations in job resources do occur in fast-food restaurants, the context of this study. Fast-food restaurant employees serve different types and amounts of customers, and work with different colleagues and supervisors everyday. Thus, an employee may have different levels of autonomy, receive different types of coaching, and experience a different working atmosphere from one day to another. Beal et al. (2005) suggested that fluctuant environmental factors may determine employees' transient (affective) states (i.e. work engagement) and in-turn determine performance. Employees' beliefs about their capabilities to perform the task at hand (i.e. personal resources) are also crucial in explaining performance. Personal resources may be consumed or replenished through the dynamic process that leads to performance (Hobfoll, 2002), and thus their levels may fluctuate from day-to-day (even as a function of the available job resources). Empirical support for the processes from job resources to performance through personal resources and engagement at the within-person level would propose that the same psychological mechanisms apply even under changing conditions. Thus, the present study may further validate the hypothesized relationships.
An additional novel feature of the present study is that it examines an objective performance outcome. We used data on the financial returns of each daily shift in which the study was carried out (i.e. an indication of business-unit performance). The hypothesis that employees' perceptions of their resources and engagement predict a group outcome has been supported previously. Studies revealed that group performance is mainly determined by the level of commitment that each group member shows to the task, particularly in small groups as in our study (Mullen & Copper, 1994). Group members exert effort towards performance for the intrinsic pleasure of completing a task that they tend to enjoy, and thus, they regulate their behaviour towards that end. Therefore, individual psychological processes do determine group performance. Indeed, Ilies, Wagner, and Morgeson (2007) have shown that team members affect each other's positive moods to the degree that their moods converge (see also Totterdell, 2000), but also that the positive mood of individual team members is positively related with team performance.
Based on our theoretical analysis, we formulate the following hypotheses. First, we hypothesize that day-level personal resources mediate the relationship between day-level job resources and day-level work engagement, after controlling for general levels of personal resources and work engagement (Hypothesis 1). Next, we predict that day-level job resources have a positive effect on day-level financial returns through the mediation of day-level personal resources and day-level work engagement (Hypothesis 2). Further, we also assess lagged effects of previous days' job resources on next days' personal resources, work engagement, and financial returns. The beneficial knowledge that results from one day's job resources may have lasting effects because it may be used the following days too. As a result, previous days' job resources may influence employees' personal resources the next days, and consequently affect their work engagement and performance. Based on this reasoning, we predict that previous days' job resources have positive, lagged effects on next days' work engagement, through the mediation of next days' personal resources (Hypothesis 3), and on next days' financial returns through the mediation of next days' personal resources and work engagement (Hypothesis 4). The study design and hypotheses are graphically presented in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The study design. Straight lines represent Hypotheses 1 and 2; dotted lines represent Hypotheses 3 and 4. Note. OBSE, Organizational-based self-esteem.
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