THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND ROLE IDENTITY AMONG CLIENT SERVICE EMPLOYEES By

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND ROLE IDENTITY AMONG CLIENT SERVICE EMPLOYEES By
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND ROLE IDENTITY AMONG
CLIENT SERVICE EMPLOYEES
By
CARLY STEYN
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree
PhD ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR
in the
FACULTY OF ECONOMIC AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES
at the
UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA
SUPERVISOR: DR J.J. DE KLERK
July 2010
© University of Pretoria
Declaration
I declare that the PhD script, which I hereby submit for the degree PhD
Organisational Behaviour at the University of Pretoria, is my own work and has not
previously been submitted by me for a degree at another university.
Signature:
Date:
i
Acknowledgements
I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to the following people and institutions for their
contribution to the research:

My study leader, Dr J.J. de Klerk, for his guidance and encouragement throughout
the study. Thank you for always inspiring me to be creative and for graciously
challenging me to do better. I have learnt so much.

All the service organisations and respondents who participated in the study. Your
stories have inspired my commitment to this area of research.

Jaqui Somerville and Sollie Millard from the University of Pretoria‟s Statistics
Department for assistance with the statistical analysis.

My wonderful parents for encouraging me to explore my potential and for always
finding a way of making me recognise the opportunities that lie hidden in life‟s little
frustrations.

Lieuwe, for sharing both the joys and the frustrations of this process with me and
for making this venture seem a lot less lonely.
ii
Financial assistance
Financial assistance provided by the University of Pretoria in respect of the costs of
the study is hereby acknowledged.
Opinions or conclusions that have been
expressed in this study are those of the writer and must not be seen to represent the
views, opinions or conclusions of the University of Pretoria.
iii
Abstract
Burnout, characterised by feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and
reduced personal accomplishment can prove detrimental to both the individual
employee and the organisation. These negative effects can significantly affect the
service culture of client service organisations, since research has shown that burnout
amongst front-line service employees can result in these employees displaying
negative feelings and behaviour towards their clients and co-workers (Yagil, 2006:
259).
Research into antecedents of burnout has primarily focused on organisational and
job variables, such as role conflict, role ambiguity, work overload and lack of social
support.
The present study departed from this tradition by focusing on the
relationship between role identities (subjective perceptions) and burnout amongst
100 client service employees in three client service organisations in South Africa.
The research was informed by previous studies that suggest that client service
employees who feel subordinate to the client and powerless in their interactions with
the client may display higher levels of burnout than those who feel in control of the
service relationship (Buunk, Peiro, Rodriguez & Bravo, 2007; Vanheule &
Verhaeghe, 2004).
By applying a sequential mixed-methods approach consisting of a quantitative and a
qualitative phase, the research explored the differences in role identities of client
service employees who measure higher on burnout with the role identities of client
service employees who measure lower on burnout.
In the quantitative phase, a
survey questionnaire incorporating the Maslach Burnout Inventory – Human Services
Survey (Maslach & Jackson, 1996) and a modified version of the Burke-Tully roleidentity measurement (Burke & Tully, 1977) was used. The quantitative phase was
followed by a qualitative phase consisting of semi-structured interviews with eight
higher burnout and nine lower burnout employees.
The quantitative data were analysed by means of Maximum Likelihood Factor
Analysis (MLFA) with Direct Quartimin rotation, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and
Pearson and Spearman correlation analysis.
The analysis of qualitative data
iv
proceeded through a process of open, axial and selective coding as suggested by
Miles and Huberman (1994).
Both the quantitative and qualitative data are
interpreted within the conceptual framework developed, and a number of findings are
presented.
Analysis of the quantitative data shows that the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI)
items load on two, instead of the three factors as conceptualised by Maslach and
Jackson (1986).
One of the two factors corresponds to the reduced personal
accomplishment subscale. The other factor comprises items from both the emotional
exhaustion and depersonalisation subscales. The two subscales derived from the
factor analysis were then correlated with client service employees‟ descriptions of self
in role, counter-role and self in relation to the client descriptions on the bipolar
adjective scales.
This analysis revealed a number of significant correlations −
suggesting a difference in the role identities of client service employees who measure
higher on burnout when compared with client service employees who measure lower
on burnout. For instance, higher levels of burnout are associated with feeling weak,
powerless, unhelpful, inconsiderate, not respected and unimportant. The more rigid,
impatient and inconsiderate the client is perceived to be, the higher the levels of
experienced burnout.
The qualitative data reveal that the role identities of higher burnout employees differ
from the role identities of lower burnout employees. While higher burnout employees
regard themselves as subordinate to and powerless against the client, lower burnout
respondents define themselves as superior to and more knowledgeable than the
client. Lower burnout employees are able to exert a level of control and power over
the client, while higher burnout employees feel controlled by the client.
The
qualitative research also illustrates how role identities inform behaviour which may
contribute to the development of burnout.
The role identities of lower burnout
employees also enable self-verification, while the role identities of higher burnout
client service employees inhibit self-verification.
The study introduces the concept of role identity as an important variable to consider
in the development of burnout and links the development of client service role
identities to organisational client discourse. In so doing, the study has provided
v
organisational theorists and practitioners with a further point of intervention with
which to reduce burnout in client service settings. The study has also developed a
conceptual framework, derived from the literature and supported by both qualitative
and quantitative findings, that shows how role identity can contribute to role-related
attitudes and behaviours that could lead to or inhibit the development of burnout.
The study is therefore not merely descriptive in nature, but provides a tentative
explanatory framework linking burnout and role identity and exploring the
mechanisms by virtue of which this relationship exists. The dissertation concludes
with recommendations as to how organisational client discourse may be framed so
as to facilitate the creation of role identities which empower the employee in relation
to the client. By facilitating the development of empowered client service employees,
organisations could greatly reduce levels of experienced burnout.
As a result,
organisational performance will improve, since lower levels of burnout are associated
with reduced absenteeism, increased job satisfaction and commitment to the
organisation and improved relationships with clients.
vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: THE RESEARCH PROBLEM AND CONTEXT
1
1.1
INTRODUCTION
1
1.2
RESEARCH PROBLEM AND CONTEXT OF THE STUDY
1
1.3
DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS
1.3.1. Burnout
6
7
1.3.2. Role identity
8
1.3.3. Organisational client discourse
8
1.3.4 Client service employees
9
1.3.6 Self-verification
10
1.3.7 Emotional labour
10
1.4
OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
10
1.5
STRUCTURE OF THE DISSERTATION
11
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
13
2.1
STRESS AND BURNOUT IN CLIENT SERVICE ENVIRONMENTS
13
2.2
BURNOUT
15
2.2.1 The historical development of the burnout concept
15
2.2.2 Definitions of burnout
18
2.2.3 The Maslach definition of burnout
24
2.2.4 The burnout dimensions
24
2.2.5 Burnout as a process
26
2.2.5.1 The temporal sequence proposed by Maslach and colleagues
26
2.2.5.2 The Golembiewski and Munzenrider eight-phase model
26
2.2.6 The measurement of burnout
29
2.2.6.1The Maslach Burnout Inventory
29
2.2.6.2 The Burnout Measure (BM)
33
2.2.6.3 The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI)
34
2.2.7 Antecedents to burnout
35
2.2.7.1 Work/job and organisational characteristics
39
2.2.7.2 Interpersonal relationships as antecedents to burnout
46
vii
2.2.7.3 Personality or dispositional factors as burnout antecedents
48
2.2.7.4 Person–organisation fit and burnout
49
2.2.7.5 Burnout and job engagement
50
2.2.7.6 The existential perspective and the development of burnout
52
2.2.7.7 Burnout and the pursuit of recognition and identity
53
2.2.7.8 The role of expectations in the development of burnout
56
2.2.7.9 Emotional labour and burnout
57
2.2.7.10 Burnout and biographic and demographic variables
59
2.2.8 The consequences of burnout
2.2.8.2 The consequences of burnout in customer service environments
2.3
ROLE IDENTITY
60
63
65
2.3.1 Symbolic interactionism and the concept of role identity
66
2.3.2 Role identity defined
68
2.3.3 Burke‟s cybernetic model of identity control
72
2.3.4 Role identity, stress and behaviour
76
2.3.5 Origin of the identity standard
84
2.3.6 Role identity formation in organisations
87
2.3.7 Organisational discourse and role identity
90
2.3.8 Conclusion
96
CHAPTER 3: THE RESEARCH ARGUMENT
96
3.1
RESEARCH PROBLEM
98
3.2
THE RESEARCH ARGUMENT
99
3.3
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
104
3.4
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
105
3.5
CONCLUSION
107
CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
109
4.1
INTRODUCTION
109
4.2
THE SAMPLE
109
4.3
THE QUANTITATIVE PHASE METHODOLOGY
114
viii
4.3.1 The quantitative sample description
115
4.3.2 Measuring instruments
136
4.3.2.2 The measurement of role identity (the Burke-Tully technique)
141
4.3.2.3 Questionnaire structure
145
4.3.2.4 Questionnaire pilot
146
4.3.2.5 Questionnaire administration
147
4.3.3 Data analysis procedures
4.3.4
4.4
Factor structure of the MBI−HSS
THE QUALITATIVE PHASE
151
153
160
4.4.1 Qualitative sample selection and description
162
4.4.2 The qualitative interview method
167
4.4.2.1 The interview schedule
168
4.4.2.2 Interview administration
171
4.4.3 Qualitative data analysis and interpretation
172
4.4.3.1 Open coding
176
4.4.3.2 Axial coding
178
4.4.3.3 Selective coding
178
4.4.3.4 Credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability of the
qualitative data
179
CHAPTER 5: QUANTITATIVE RESULTS
178
5.1
BURNOUT LEVELS
181
5.2
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND DEMOGRAPHIC AND
BIOGRAPHIC VARIABLES MEASURED ON DISCRETE SCALES
182
5.2.1 The relationship between reduced personal accomplishment and discrete
demographic and biographic variables
183
5.2.2 The relationship between emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation and
biographic and demographic variables measured on discrete scales
185
5.2.3 The relationship between burnout total and biographic and demographic
variables measured on discrete scales
5.3
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND SELECTED
DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES MEASURED AT THE RATIO LEVEL
187
189
ix
5.4
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND RESPONDENT
PERCEPTIONS OF THE CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
191
5.5
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND THE IMPORTANCE OF
LIFE AREAS
193
5.6
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND PERCEIVED
SATISFACTION WITH STAKEHOLDER RELATIONSHIPS
194
5.7
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND EMPLOYEE ATTITUDES
TOWARDS THE ORGANISATION
196
5.8
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND THE PERCEIVED
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SELF AND THE CLIENT
197
5.9
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND PERCEPTIONS OF THE
COUNTER-ROLE
199
5.10
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND DESCRIPTIONS OF THE
SELF (SELF IN ROLE)
201
5.11
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
204
CHAPTER 6: QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSIS
201
6.1
INTRODUCTION
208
6.2
THE CODING PROCESS
208
6.3
DATA PRESENTATION
211
6.3.1 Perception of the client (counter-role)
6.3.1.1 Perceptions of the client among higher burnout respondents
212
213
6.3.1.1.1 Controlling, abusive and domineering clients
214
6.3.1.1.2 Clients have unrealistic expectations
216
6.3.1.2 Perception of the client amongst lower burnout respondents
216
6.3.1.2.1 Clients are justifiably demanding
217
6.3.1.2.2Clients are perceived in a positive light
218
6.3.2 The client service role identity
221
6.3.2.1 The client service role identity among higher burnout respondents 221
6.3.2.2 The client service role identity among lower burnout respondents 225
6.3.3 Role-related expectations
6.3.3.1 Role-related expectations among higher burnout respondents
6.3.3.1.1 Client comes first no matter what
229
230
231
x
6.3.3.1.2 Management demands and expects excellent client service
234
6.3.3.1.3 Expectations of the client service role
236
6.3.3.2 Role-related expectations among lower burnout respondents
6.3.3.2.1 Expect to provide the best client service possible
238
239
6.3.3.2.2 Expect appreciation, co-operation and respect from the client 240
6.3.3.2.3 Expect to partner with the client
6.3.4 Role-related behaviours
6.3.4.1 Role-related behaviour among higher burnout respondents
242
243
244
6.3.4.1.1 Engage in emotional labour
245
6.3.4.1.2 Address client feeling
247
6.3.4.1.3 Empathise and identify with client
248
6.3.4.1.4 Establish relationships with the client
250
6.3.4.1.5 Take sole responsibility for the client‟s problems
251
6.3.4.2 Role-related behaviours among lower burnout respondents
253
6.3.4.2.1 Engage in emotional labour
253
6.3.4.2.2 Task and solution orientated
254
6.3.4.2.3 Do not take personal responsibility for the client
256
6.3.4.2.4 Able to manage the client
259
6.3.5 The emotional consequences of the role identity
261
6.3.5.1 Emotional consequences of the role identity among higher burnout
respondents
261
6.3.5.2 Emotional consequences of the role identity among lower burnout
respondents
6.3.6 Evidence of self-verification
263
264
6.3.6.1 Evidence of failed self-verification among higher burnout respondents
265
6.3.6.1.1 Feel powerless in helping the client
266
6.3.6.1.2 Feel guilt when unable to help the client
268
6.3.6.2 Evidence of self-verification among lower burnout respondents
6.4
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
269
271
xi
CHAPTER 7: DISCUSSION
272
7.1
INTRODUCTION
272
7.2
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
273
7.2.1 Research Question 1: To what extent are client service employees‟ burnout
levels related to their biographic and demographic characteristics?
273
7.2.2 Research Question 2: To what extent are client service employees‟ burnout
levels associated with their orientation towards life, work and organisation?
277
7.2.3 Research Question 3: In what ways do the role identities of higher burnout
employees differ from the role identities of lower burnout employees?
280
7.2.3.1 Descriptions of the client
280
7.2.3.2 Descriptions of the self in role
282
7.2.3.3 Descriptions of the self in relation to the client
283
7.2.3.4 Role-related expectations
283
7.2.4 Research Question 4: To what extent do the role-related behaviours and
subjective perceptions of higher burnout employees differ from the role-related
behaviours and subjective perceptions of lower burnout employees?
285
7.2.5 Research Question 5: Are lower burnout respondents able to self-verify
more easily than higher burnout respondents?
291
7.2.6 Research Question 6: Do higher burnout employees experience, interpret
and internalise the organisational client discourse differently when compared with
lower burnout client service employees?
7.3
INTEGRATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
7.4
CONTRIBUTION OF THE RESEARCH
7.4.1 Academic contributions
7.4.2 Contributions for client service organisations
293
296
301
301
303
7.5
LIMITATIONS OF THE PRESENT RESEARCH
306
7.6
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
308
7.7
IN CONCLUSION
310
REFERENCES
312
APPENDIX A: LETTER OF REQUEST
342
xii
APPENDIX B: LETTER OF INTRODUCTION, QUESTIANNAIRE AND CONSENT
FORM
347
APPENDIX C: MBI–HSS CHANGED ITEMS
360
APPENDIX D: ADJECTIVE INTERVIEW INVITATIO LETTER
362
APPENDIX E: ADJECTIVE INTERVIEW INFORMED CONSENT
364
APPENDIX F: ADJECTIVE PAIR INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
368
APPENDIX G: SURVEY NOTIFICATION LETTER
371
APPENDIX H: FIRST REMINDER
372
APPENDIX I: SECOND REMINDER
373
APPENDIX J: FINAL REMINDER
374
APPENDIX K: INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
375
APPENDIX L: INTERVIEW INVITATIO LETTER
379
APPENDIX M: INTERVIEW INFORMED CONSENT
380
xiii
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Postulated relationship between role identity and burnout ......................... 5
Figure 2: The Maslach and Golembiewski models of burnout compared ............... 28
Figure 3: The structural model of burnout .............................................................. 42
Figure 4: The job demands–resources model ......................................................... 44
Figure 5: Schaufeli and Bakker‟s (2001) well-being at work model ........................ 51
Figure 6: Individual and organisational consequences of burnout .......................... 61
Figure 7: Burke‟s cybernetic identity control model ................................................. 73
Figure 8: Neale and Griffin‟s (2006) role components............................................. 88
Figure 9: Identity regulation, identity work and self-identity ................................... 92
Figure 10: Conceptual framework linking role identity and burnout ...................... 101
Figure 11: Age distribution of respondents (N=98) ............................................... 117
Figure 12: Educational level of respondents (N=100) .......................................... 119
Figure 13: Population group distribution of the sample (N=98) ............................. 120
Figure 14: Years worked for current organisation ................................................. 122
Figure 15: Years worked in client service ............................................................. 124
Figure 16: Hours worked per week (N=100) ......................................................... 126
Figure 17: Hours officially required to work per week (N=100) ............................. 128
Figure 18: The ladder of analytical abstraction .................................................... 176
Figure 19: Role identity among higher burnout employees ................................... 297
Figure 20: Role identity among lower burnout employees .................................... 300
xiv
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: State definitions of burnout ....................................................................... 20
Table 2: Process definitions of burnout ................................................................... 22
Table 3: Burnout antecedents: categories and variables ........................................ 37
Table 4: Organisations approached to participate in the study ............................. 111
Table 5: Questionnaire response rates ................................................................. 114
Table 6: Age distribution of respondents (N=100) ................................................. 116
Table 7: Gender distribution of respondents (N=100) ........................................... 118
Table 8: Marital status of respondents (N=100) .................................................... 118
Table 9: Educational level of respondents (N=100) .............................................. 119
Table 10: Population group distribution of the sample (N=100) ............................ 120
Table 11: Years employed at current organisation (N=100).................................. 121
Table 12: Years worked in client service (N=100)................................................. 123
Table 13: Hours worked per week ........................................................................ 125
Table 14: Hours officially required to work per week (N=100) ............................... 127
Table 15: Importance of life aspects (Mean and standard deviation) .................... 129
Table 16: Importance of family (N=100) ................................................................ 129
Table 17: Importance of friends (N=100) .............................................................. 130
Table 18: Importance of religion (N=100) ............................................................. 130
Table 19: Importance of work (N=100) ................................................................. 131
Table 20: Importance of service to others (N=100) ............................................... 131
Table 21: Relationships with important stakeholders (Mean and standard deviations)
....................................................................................................................... 132
Table 22: Relationships with co-workers (N=100)................................................. 132
Table 23: Relationships with supervisors (N=100) ................................................ 133
Table 24: Relationships with subordinates (N=100) .............................................. 133
Table 25: Relationships with clients (N=100) ........................................................ 133
Table 26: Willingness to work hard to make the organisation successful (N=100) 134
Table 27: I tell friends this is a great organisation to work for (N=100) ................. 134
Table 28: I feel little loyalty to this organisation (N=100) ....................................... 135
Table 29: I am proud to tell others I work for this organisation (N=100) ................ 135
Table 30: Deciding to work for this organisation was a mistake (N=100) .............. 136
Table 31: Categories of MBI Scores ..................................................................... 140
xv
Table 32: Cumulative proportion of variance on three factors ............................... 154
Table 33: Rotated factor loadings (three factors) .................................................. 155
Table 34: Factor correlations for rotated factors (three factors) ............................ 156
Table 35: Cumulative proportion of variance (two factors) .................................... 156
Table 36: Rotated factor loadings (two factors) .................................................... 157
Table 37: Factor correlations for rotated factors (two factors) ............................... 158
Table 38: Cumulative proportion of variance (two factors, omitting item VR63) .... 158
Table 39: Rotated factor loadings (two factors, omitting VR63) ............................ 159
Table 40: Factor correlations for rotated factors (three factors, omitting VR63) .... 160
Table 41: Respondents ranked from highest to lowest burnout scores ................. 163
Table 42: Description of interview respondents (N=17) ........................................ 167
Table 43: Questions used to illuminate themes in qualitative data ....................... 177
Table 44: Range of experienced burnout .............................................................. 181
Table 45: Mean scores on burnout (N=100) ......................................................... 182
Table 46: Relationships between reduced personal accomplishment and discrete
biographic and demographic variables (ANOVA) .......................................... 183
Table 47: Scheffe‟s test – Reduced personal accomplishment and company ...... 184
Table 48: Scheffe‟s test – Reduced personal accomplishment and educational level
....................................................................................................................... 185
Table 49: Relationships between discrete biographic/demographic variables and
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation (ANOVA) ........................................ 186
Table 50: Scheffe‟s test – Emotional Exhaustion/Depersonalisation and company187
Table 51: Relationships between biographic/demographic variables and burnout total
(ANOVA) ........................................................................................................ 188
Table 52: Scheffe‟s test – Burnout Total and company......................................... 189
Table 53: Relationships between selected demographic variables and burnout
(N=94)............................................................................................................ 190
Table 54: Relationships between perceptions of the client relationships and burnout
....................................................................................................................... 192
Table 55: Relationships between importance of life areas and burnout ................ 193
Table 56: Relationships between satisfaction with stakeholders and burnout total195
Table 57: Relationships between employee attitudes towards the organisation and
burnout total ................................................................................................... 196
xvi
Table 58: Relationship between perceived difference between the client and the self
and burnout.................................................................................................... 198
Table 59: Relationship between perception of the client and burnout ................... 200
Table 60: Relationship between self in role and burnout ...................................... 202
Table 61: Axial codes occurring within the higher burnout hermeneutic unit ........ 209
Table 62: Axial codes occurring within the lower burnout hermeneutic unit .......... 210
Table 63: Perception of the counter-role (client) ................................................... 212
Table 64: Quotation count report – Perception of the client (counter-role) amongst
higher burnout respondents ........................................................................... 213
Table 65: Quotation count report − Perceptions of client (counter-role) amongst lower
burnout respondents ...................................................................................... 217
Table 66: The client service role identity ............................................................... 221
Table 67: Quotation count report – Client service role identity among higher burnout
respondents ................................................................................................... 221
Table 68: Quotation count report – Client service role identity among lower burnout
respondents ................................................................................................... 225
Table 69: Role-related expectations ..................................................................... 229
Table 70: Quotation count report – Role-related expectations among higher burnout
respondents ................................................................................................... 230
Table 71: Quotation count report – Role-related expectations among lower burnout
respondents ................................................................................................... 239
Table 72: Role-related behaviours ........................................................................ 244
Table 73: Quotation count report – Role-related behaviour among higher burnout
respondents ................................................................................................... 245
Table 74: Quotation count report – Role-related behaviours among lower burnout
respondents ................................................................................................... 253
Table 75: The emotional consequences of the role identity .................................. 261
Table 76: Quotation count report − Emotional consequences of the role identity
among higher burnout respondents ............................................................... 262
Table 77: Quotation count report − Emotional consequences of the role identity
among lower burnout respondents ................................................................ 263
Table 78: Evidence of self-verification .................................................................. 265
Table 79: Quotation count report – Evidence of failed self-verification among higher
burnout respondents ...................................................................................... 265
xvii
Table 80: Quotation count report − Evidence of self-verification amongst lower
burnout respondents ...................................................................................... 269
xviii
CHAPTER 1
THE RESEARCH PROBLEM AND CONTEXT
1.1
INTRODUCTION
The primary objective of the present research is to confirm the existence of a
relationship between role identity and burnout and to explore the nature of this
relationship among client service employees. The research also examines the
mechanisms by virtue of which such a relationship exists. In addition, the research
investigates the role of organisational client discourse in the development of
employee role identities and provides recommendations as to how organisations can
frame client discourse in order to facilitate the construction of empowering client
service role identities.
The research therefore has both theoretical value and
practical significance.
In the sections that follow, the research problem and context will be sketched,
providing a rationale for the study. Key concepts will be defined, the purpose of the
research will be explored and the structure of the dissertation presented.
1.2
RESEARCH PROBLEM AND CONTEXT OF THE STUDY
Burnout, characterised by feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and
reduced personal accomplishment can prove detrimental to both the individual
employee and the organisation. On the individual level, prolonged periods of burnout
have been linked to anxiety (Richardsen, Burke & Leiter, 1992), depression (Glass &
McKnight, 1996) and diminished levels of self-esteem (Rosse, Boss, Johnson &
Crown, 1991). At the organisational level, burnout has been linked to job withdrawal
behaviours such as turnover intention, absenteeism, reduced organisational
commitment and a decrease in job performance (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001:
406). The negative effects of employee burnout can be particularly devastating in
client service organisations, since burnout has been shown to significantly reduce the
quality of interpersonal work-related relationships (Singh, Goolsby & Rhoads, 1994).
Employees suffering from feelings of emotional exhaustion that characterise burnout
1
are prone to treat clients, co-workers and supervisors with cynicism and negativity,
resulting in challenging interpersonal and client relations (Yagil, 2006: 259).
Previous research on burnout in client service settings has shown how client service
employees are particularly susceptible to the kinds of stressors that contribute to
burnout (Griffith, 2001; Low, Cravens, Grant & Moncrief, 2001; Tsai & Huange,
2002). By virtue of their professions, client service employees are exposed to a
considerable amount of role conflict due to the fact that they have to satisfy customer
demands while simultaneously complying with organisational requirements and
management expectations (Chung & Schneider, 2002; Rod & Ashill, 2009; Singh,
2000; Varca, 2009).
Since the client service employees’ company is largely
dependent on the client for business, clients are often able to exert considerable
influence over client serving employees through both formal and informal evaluations
(Gettman & Gelfand, 2007). Client serving employees are often subject to abuse,
harassment and aggressive behaviours from clients (Gettman & Gelfand, 2007).
This results largely from what has been referred to as an imbalance of interpersonal
power between the employee and the client (Fine, Shepherd & Josephs, 1999: 27;
Grandey, Dickter & Sin, 2004; Gettman & Gelfand, 2007). Furthermore, Cordes and
Dougherty (1993: 644) maintain that client service employees can find themselves in
compromising and emotionally exhausting positions when they believe that the
demands of their clients cannot be met by the organisation.
Client service
employees are often also required to engage in emotional labour, which has also
been linked to the development of burnout (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Brotheridge
& Grandey, 2002; Brotheridge & Lee, 2003).
In an effort to curb the development of burnout among employees, burnout research
has predominantly focused on the antecedents to the burnout syndrome. Situational
variables, such as job and organisational characteristics, are possibly the most
frequently cited antecedents of burnout. Job characteristics include stressors such
as quantitative job demands (too much work for the available time), qualitative job
demands such as role conflict and role ambiguity, and an absence of job resources
such as social support, information and control that can be used to buffer the effects
of job demands (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner & Schaufeli, 2001; Low et al., 2001
Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996; Singh et al., 1994). Other research has focused on
2
personality and dispositional factors as predictors of burnout and include a focus on
variables such as conscientiousness (Witt, Andrews & Carlson, 2004), communal
orientation (Truchot & Deregard, 2001) and sense of coherence (Rothmann, Jackson
& Kruger, 2003). The nature of interpersonal relationships has also been the focus of
research into the antecedents of burnout, and it has been shown that perceived
reciprocity (Truchot & Deregard, 2001) and perceived inequity in interpersonal
relationships (Bakker, Schaufeli, Sixma, Bosveld & Van Dierendonck, 2000) are
associated with the development of burnout.
The role of subjective perceptions in the development of burnout has also been well
documented. Such research has largely been conducted from an existential
perspective (Pines, 2002) where the development of burnout has been linked to
higher order needs such as meaning and self-actualisation. Work and performancerelated expectations have also been linked to the development of burnout, most
notably through the work of Stevens and O’Neil (1983) and Cherniss (1993).
Recent research into the antecedents of burnout has increasingly focused on
subjective identity perceptions as possible correlates of burnout (e.g., Buunk, Peiro,
Rodriguez & Bravo, 2007; Edwards & Dirette, 2010; Kang, Twigg & Hertzman, 2010,
Kremer-Hayon, Faraj & Wubbels, 2002; Schaible, 2006; Vanheule & Verhaeghe,
2004, 2005; Vanheule, Lievrouw & Verhaeghe, 2003). The majority of these studies
have concentrated on the role that professional or occupational identification plays in
the development of burnout (e.g., Edwards & Dirette, 2010; Kremer-Hayon et al.,
2002; Schaible, 2006), while others have focused on social identity factors as
antecedents to burnout (e.g., Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Kang et al., 2010).
Research by Vanheule et al. (2003) and Vanheule and Verhaeghe (2004, 2005)
show how subjective identity perceptions of the relationship between client and client
service employee potentially contribute to burnout. Their findings indicate that lower
burnout individuals are able to create a psychological distance between themselves
and the client, while higher burnout respondents experience a sense of
powerlessness and defeat when dealing with the client. By employing a social rank
perspective, Buunk et al. (2007) examined the relationship between status-related
variables and burnout. Their investigation shows that status-related variables (such
as subjective status, loss of status and a sense of defeat) explain more variance in
3
burnout scores than the job and organisational variables that have traditionally been
linked to burnout.
The present study expands this focus on the role of subjective identity perceptions in
the development of burnout, by exploring the relationship between role identity and
burnout amongst client service employees. While identity processes associated with
occupational, professional and social identity have been linked to the development of
burnout, no research exploring the relationship between role identity as
conceptualised here and burnout could be found. Furthermore, most research on
subjective identity perceptions and burnout has focused on the way in which
identification with a specific occupational, professional or social identity contributes to
the development of burnout.
The present study departs from this focus on
identification processes by exploring how specific role identities in the client service
environment can contribute to the development of burnout.
According to Hogg, Terry and White (1995: 25) role identities are the self-descriptions
that individuals use to interpret situations and subsequently construct role-related
behavioural expectations. By employing a complex identity feedback loop where
role-related outcomes are compared with role-related expectations, individuals
construct role identities.
Through this process, employees define the kinds of
relationships that they are expected to maintain with others within the work context
(Czander, 1993: 1169).
These role identities subsequently inform role-related
behaviours and subjective perceptions about interpersonal relationships at work.
In view of the fact that the relationship between burnout and role identity may be
mediated by the kinds of role-related behaviour the individual engages in and the
subjective perceptions that the individual holds, the research also explores these
mechanisms. As indicated in Figure 1, the present research argues that burnout
results from role-related behaviours and subjective perceptions which are informed
by the kinds of role identities that client service employees adopt. The research
further maintains that the process of role identity verification, where the individual
endeavours to match his role-related behaviour with the role-related expectations
contained in the role identity, also carries implications for the development of burnout.
Individuals who are unable to match their role-related expectations with the outcomes
4
of the situation, experience failed self-verification, resulting in feelings of defeat,
diminished self-esteem, and possibly burnout.
The present research explores whether the postulated relationships presented in
Figure 1 exist, and what kinds of client service role identities may predispose the
client service employee to burnout.
Role identity
Role-related
behaviours
Burnout
Role identity
verification
process
Subjective
perceptions
Figure 1: Postulated relationship between role identity and burnout
The causal paths indicated in the model are deduced from the theory pertaining to
role identity and burnout which will be discussed in greater detail in the literature
review (Chapter 2).
It should be noted, however, that the present research is
explorative and descriptive and is therefore not concerned with empirically testing the
direction or strength of paths between variables presented in the model. Instead, the
research explores the possibility of relationships among the concepts as deduced
from the theory and indicated in Figure 1. The research argument and theoretical
framework linking role identity and burnout will be explored in greater detail in
Chapter 3.
The behavioural expectations underpinning the construction of employee role
identities are communicated to the employee through the client discourse of the
5
organisation. Through the process of identity construction, employees draw on this
discourse and construct role identities that inform subsequent behaviours and
subjective perceptions.
This discourse is generally articulated by organisational
management and communicated through formal organisational texts such as
recruitment literature, appraisal documentation and marketing documents as well as
more informal mechanisms including organisational rituals and conversations.
Through this discourse, the employees’ understanding of the client and how to
behave towards them is shaped (Anderson-Gough, Grey & Robson, 2000: 1162).
The manner in which the organisation defines the client carries both implicit and
explicit expectations as to how the employee should relate to the client and the kind
of role that the employee should assume in relation to the client (Anderson–Gough et
al., 2000). Depending on the nature of the client discourse communicated by the
organisation, and the extent to which the employee identifies with this discourse, the
role identity constructed by the employee may imply subordination of his/her needs
and the consequent elevation of the needs and demands of the client.
In such
scenarios, the employee could suffer emotional exhaustion due to constant striving to
fulfil the (often) unreasonable demands of powerful clients.
While it is noted that client service organisations are by their very nature necessarily
driven by a strong client orientation and, to some extent, require that the client is
placed in a position of power relative to the employee; employees should be
protected from extreme demands and unreasonable pressures resulting from such
client discourse. The present research therefore also explores the manner in which
client service employees perceive, internalise and interpret the organisational client
discourse in the construction of their role identities. In so doing, the research makes
a practical contribution through recommendations aimed at the cultivation of
organisational client discourse that supports the empowerment of client service
employees.
1.3
DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS
In the paragraphs that follow, the key concepts employed during the current research
will be defined. While the research is primarily focused on burnout, role identity and
6
organisational client discourse, a number of additional concepts pertinent to the
research argument will also be defined. These include “client service employee”,
“client”, “self-verification” and “emotional labour”.
1.3.1. Burnout
For the purpose of this study, burnout has been conceptualised as comprising three
components, namely emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and feelings of
reduced personal accomplishment. This definition conforms to the original definition
of burnout developed by Maslach (1982) and corresponds to the three components
as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory – Human Services Survey (MBIHSS). Emotional exhaustion manifests as both physical and psychological stress and
is characterised by a loss of energy and feeling worn-out (Maslach, Schaufeli &
Leiter, 2001). Depersonalisation refers to the interpersonal aspect of burnout and is
characterised by attempts to distance oneself psychologically from service recipients.
It is accompanied by a detached, emotionally callous attitude towards service
recipients (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993; Maslach et al., 2001). Reduced personal
accomplishment comprises an aspect of self-evaluation and is characterised by
negative evaluations of the self and feelings associated with failure (Maslach et al.,
2001).
It should be noted that the MBI-HSS was developed for use in contexts were
respondents provide a service, care or treatment to a recipient (Maslach, 1982).
Later, the Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey (MBI-GS) was developed for
use in situations where respondents do not necessarily interact with clients. As a
result, the three components of burnout were more broadly conceptualised in relation
to the job as emotional exhaustion, cynicism and reduced professional efficacy.
While the client service employees who form part of the present study do not
necessarily deal with the physical or psychological problems of their clients, they do
interact closely with their clients on a daily basis.
It was therefore purposefully
decided to use the MBI-HSS instead of the MBI-S to measure burnout in the present
study.
7
1.3.2. Role identity
The concept of identity has been frequently applied in both the social and
behavioural sciences (Ng & Feldman, 2007: 116). As a result, numerous theoretical
traditions have explored the concept, resulting in as many conceptualisations of the
term (Burke, 2003: 1).
Social identity theory, for instance, assumes that one’s
identity is linked to the social category to which one belongs, while personal identity
theory focuses on the individual’s sense of self as constituting the core of his/her role
identity (Burke, 2003).
Role identities act as a frame of reference that individuals use to interpret a variety of
social situations, thereby influencing role-related behaviour by informing behavioural
expectations (Burke & Tully, 1977: 84; Thoits, 1991: 103). According to Hogg et al.,
(1995: 257), role identities are “self conceptions, self-referent cognitions, or self
definitions that people apply to themselves as a consequence of the structural role
positions they occupy, and through a process of labelling or self-definition as a
member of a particular social category”. In other words, role identities can be defined
as the meanings that individuals attach to themselves within particular situations.
These meanings encompass a set of expectations that prescribe appropriate
behaviour within a specific role-related situation.
This implies that in the client
service arena, the role identities of client service employees may largely be informed
by the client discourse of the organisation.
1.3.3. Organisational client discourse
According to Grant, Keenoy and Oswick (1998: 1) organisational discourse
comprises the “languages and symbolic media we employ to describe, present,
interpret and theorise what we take to be the facticity of organisational life”.
Traditionally, discourse was described only as spoken dialogue, and excluded
reference to written texts. Contemporary theory on discourse, however, includes
both written and spoken texts, cultural artefacts and modes of thinking such as
ideologies and philosophies (Cooren, 2004: 373; Van Dijk, 1997: 2).
As a
combination of spoken words, written texts and artefacts, discourse arranges social
8
reality into concepts, objects and subjects, thereby shaping the social practices in
which we engage (Phillips & Hardy, 1997).
Discourse drives subjectivity, enables us to make sense of ourselves and the
organisations in which we operate and frames the way we understand and engage
with the realities around us (Alvesson & Karreman, 2000: 1130).
Furthermore,
discourse drives the articulation of norms and informs the attitudes that we assume in
particular contexts (Grant et al., 2001: 8). According to Heracleous and Marshak
(2004: 1291) the discursive construction of identity takes place through social
interaction.
In the organisational context it occurs when managers “author” their
experiences in the process of interacting with others. In so doing, a shared sense of
identity is created in the organisation, framing appropriate ways to talk and act.
It should be noted, however that organisations are not mere collectivities of shared
meanings, but that they are constituted through an array of different and often
competing discourses (Van Dijk, 1997).
While organisations generally function
according to a dominant managerially defined discourse, cognisance should be taken
of the fact that a number of competing discourses could function within a single
organisation, and simultaneously impact on the formation of employee identity.
1.3.4 Client service employees
For the purposes of the present study, client service employees are defined as
individuals in service positions who fulfil a boundary-spanning role. For inclusion in
the present study, all respondents were required to engage with the client(s) on a
daily basis. The type of engagement was not specified and could include telephonic,
face-to-face or electronically-facilitated communication.
1.3.5 Clients
Clients are defined as either individuals representing a client company to which a
service is rendered or private individuals to whom a service is rendered. In the
context of the present study, the focus is on the role identity of the client service
9
employee. Measurement and identification of this identity is done in accordance with
the Burke and Tully (1977) definition of role identity, which asserts that role identities
only exist insofar they can be distinguished from a relevant counter-role. In this
instance, the meaning of the client service role identity is only significant in terms of
similarities and differences it shares with the client role. The client is therefore also
referred to as the “counter-role”.
1.3.6 Self-verification
The concept “self-verification” is used in the context of role identity theory and refers
to the process by which an individual evaluates his/her behaviours according to the
role-related expectations contained within the role identity (Burke, 2004b: 5). When
the individual’s perception of the situation matches the expectations contained within
the role identity, self-verification occurs. If, however, there is a mismatch between
the individual’s behaviour and role-related expectations, failed self-verification occurs
(Burke, 2004b: 6).
1.3.7 Emotional labour
Emotional labour refers to the management of emotions to “create a publicly
observable facial and bodily display” (Hochschild, 1983: 7) and occurs frequently in
service roles. Service employees are often required by the organisations for which
they work to regulate the display of emotion within the service context. Emotional
labour is performed through either surface acting or deep acting (Brotheridge & Lee,
2003; Hochschild, 1983). Surface acting involves the display of emotions that are not
actually felt. Deep acting, on the other hand, occurs when the employee actually
attempts to feel or experience the emotion that he/she is required to display
(Brotheridge & Lee, 2003).
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
The objective of the research is to explore the relationship between burnout and role
identity amongst client service employees. It will also describe the mechanisms by
virtue of which this relationship exists and examine the extent to which these role
identities are constructed in response to the dominant organisational client discourse.
10
In order to investigate the relationship between role identity and burnout, a sequential
mixed-methods design is used. First, quantitative research is conducted by means of
a questionnaire measuring burnout and client service role identity.
Burnout is
measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory – Human Services Survey (MBI–
HSS), while role identity is measured using a modified version of the Burke-Tully
(1977) role identity measure. A number of biographic and demographic variables are
included in the questionnaire, along with items measuring orientation towards work,
life, the organisation and important stakeholders. Analysis of the quantitative data
commences with the Maximum Likelihood Factor Analysis (MLFA) of the MBI−HSS
items, followed by Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) and Correlation analyses. The
quantitative phase of the research is followed by semi-structured qualitative
interviews with a purposively selected sample of higher burnout and lower burnout
client service employees.
The qualitative data derived from the interviews is
analysed using Atlas.ti™ qualitative data analysis software and proceeds using Miles
and Huberman’s (1994) model of open, axial and selective coding.
1.5 STRUCTURE OF THE DISSERTATION
In order to examine whether a relationship between role identity and burnout exists
among client service employees, the study commences with a thorough literature
review.
Since the subject matter of the present research encompasses topics
derived from a number of disciplines including organisational behaviour, sociology
and social psychology, careful consideration has been given to the manner in which
previous research on the topic is presented.
The literature review therefore
comprises two primary sections; the first dealing with burnout and the second with
role identity and organisational discourse.
Due to the volume of previous literature covered in Chapter 2, a separate research
argument chapter (Chapter 3) is devoted to a thorough synthesis and analysis of the
literature as it pertains to the present study. In this chapter, the theory presented in
the literature review is integrated through the construction of a conceptual model.
This chapter will also present the research questions pertinent to the study.
11
The methodology chapter (Chapter 4) is presented next and includes a detailed
explanation of the research instrumentation, sampling methodology and analysis
procedures. The results of the factor analysis of the MBI−HSS are also presented
here.
Next, the quantitative data are presented (Chapter 5), followed by the presentation of
the qualitative data (Chapter 6).
The dissertation concludes with a discussion
chapter (Chapter 7) in which the results of the study are interpreted using the
conceptual framework developed in Chapter 3. The significance and limitations of
the present research are also presented, followed by recommendations for future
research.
12
CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 STRESS AND BURNOUT IN CLIENT SERVICE ENVIRONMENTS
A number of studies have examined the potential negative effect of stress-related
variables and burnout in customer or client service environments (Griffiths, 2001; Low
et al., 2001; Tsai & Huang, 2002; Witt et al., 2004).
Through their front line
interaction with clients, customer service representatives are highly susceptible to the
kinds of role stress that contribute to burnout (Yagil, 2006: 259). According to Singh
(2000: 15) client service employees are generally underpaid, overworked and suffer
considerable stress due to the fact that their performance is measured through the
satisfaction of both the client and management.
Furthermore, client service
employees often find themselves in precarious positions professionally, when they
have to reconcile the needs of the organisation with the oftentimes conflicting needs
of the client (Ashill, Rod, Thirkell & Carruthers, 2009; Cordes & Dougherty, 1993;
Varca, 2009). Chung and Schneider (2002: 71) put this succinctly when they state
that “in manufacturing firms, there is only one distinct authority or boss, whereas in
service firms, there is another master to serve – the customer”.
Chung and Schneider (2002: 71) maintain that while the role of the boundaryspanning client service professional is probably one of the most complex from an
organisational behaviour perspective, it has received comparatively little attention in
the management literature:
“One would also naturally expect that there would be considerable attention from
researchers regarding the complexity of the issues service employees face in their
jobs. Unfortunately, to date, there has been both little management attention and
little empirical research on service employees and human resource practices in
service firms” (Chung & Schneider, 2002: 71).
In an attempt to address the gap, Chung and Schneider (2002: 71) examine the
extent to which a discrepancy between management and client expectations of the
13
service role results in role conflict. They found partial support for the hypothesis that
role conflict emerges when there is a discrepancy between what employees think
customers expect of them and what they report management rewards them for doing.
Cordes and Dougherty (1993) regard the client−employee relationship as the most
important variable to consider in the development of burnout, since clients are often
able to exert considerable influence over client serving employees through both
formal and informal evaluations (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993), due to the fact that the
employee’s company is dependent on the client for business (Gettman & Gelfand,
2007). Client service employees can therefore find themselves in compromising and
emotionally exhausting positions when they believe that they are unable to meet the
demands of their clients (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993: 644).
This feeling of
incompetence is strengthened when employees feel that they are not sufficiently
empowered due to organisational policies or when they lack the necessary skills and
aptitude to deal adequately with client requests (Varca, 2009).
As organisations become increasingly customer focused, clients are “treated as if
they were managers” and have become the “moral centre of the enterprising
universe” (Du Gay & Salaman, 1992: 622); exerting considerable control over client
service employees. By positioning the client in such a way, the client discourse of
the service organisation can place considerable pressure on client service employees
to meet the needs of the client at all costs. Research by Anderson-Gough et al.
(2000) demonstrates how the client ethic of a service organisation as communicated
through its client discourse plays a role in shaping the behaviours and beliefs of
employees within the organisation.
The manner in which an organisation
symbolically and abstractly refers to, presents and defines its clients through its client
discourse carries implications for the way in which client service employees perceive
the relationship with their clients. It also carries implications for the manner in which
they define their roles within that relationship. Organisations with a strong service
ethic may define the client in such a way as to suggest to employees that they
subordinate their own needs in order to adequately meet the needs and desires of
the client.
14
As already mentioned, limited research has examined the role subjective identity
perceptions in the development of stress-related syndromes. The current research
addressed this gap in the literature by focusing on burnout amongst employees
within a client service setting. The research departs from the traditional focus on
situational variables as the primary antecedent to burnout, and instead focuses on
the relationship between role identity and burnout. The literature presented in this
chapter therefore consists of two sections.
The first section commences with a
thorough review of the burnout literature, including a discussion of the historical
development of the construct, its conceptualisation and measurement and
antecedents to and consequences of the burnout syndrome. The second half of the
chapter incorporates a thorough explication of the role identity literature, its
measurement and the role of organisation discourse in the formation of employee
role identity.
2.2
BURNOUT
2.2.1 The historical development of the burnout concept
Research into the concept of burnout has not always received the intellectual support
and attention that it has received over the last two decades. The first empirical
publication presenting the Maslach Burnout Inventory (probably the most widely
applied instrument to measure burnout) was rejected by the publication to which it
was submitted on the grounds that it fell within the ambit of “pop psychology”
(Maslach et al., 2001: 308). Despite this initial lack of confidence in the scientific
validity of the construct, the concept of burnout has initiated numerous intellectual
debates regarding its conceptualisation and application.
Appropriately, Cordes,
Dougherty and Blum (1997: 688) note that the research into burnout “has undergone
an iterative metamorphosis, swinging between advances in conceptualisation and
empirical study”.
Prior to its introduction into the scientific literature in 1974, the concept of burnout
enjoyed colloquial use across a number of settings (Maslach & Schaufeli, 1993: 2).
As far as could be established, the first documented use of the word was in 1953,
when Schwartz published the now-famous case of Miss Jones, a psychiatric nurse
15
who suffered from symptoms he referred to as burnout. In 1960, Green (1960),
published A Burnt Out Case, which tells the story of a spiritually anguished architect
who resigns from his job to live in the African jungle. Despite the colloquial use of the
term for almost two decades, the term “burnout” was first introduced into the scientific
literature by Freudenberger (1974), a psychiatrist working for an alternative health
care agency. While working with volunteers at the agency, he noticed how many of
these volunteers experienced gradual emotional exhaustion and applied the term
“burnout” to their symptoms.
At roughly the same time, Christina Maslach, a social psychology researcher who
was studying how physicians and nurses cope with emotional arousal on the job,
observed how a number of these medical practitioners detached or disengaged
psychologically from recipients (Maslach, 1978). Maslach observed that physicians
and nurses often displayed a negative shift in terms of their feelings towards patients
over time, and as a result, appeared to emotionally detach themselves from their
patients. This detachment hampered their ability to perform their work according to
initial expectations they had set for themselves and resulted in feelings of failure and
hopelessness (Maslach & Schaufeli, 1993: 3). Maslach referred to these symptoms
as burnout and only later discovered that the term had been colloquially applied by
poverty lawyers working with people in need. Once Maslach realised that the term
had been applied in the legal profession, she began examining the concept across a
range of occupations within the helping professions. Between 1977 and 1980 she
embarked on a number of pilot studies with colleague Ayala Pines (Maslach & Pines,
1977; Pines & Maslach, 1978; Pines & Maslach, 1980) through which they uncovered
the first two dimensions of the burnout syndrome, namely emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation (Maslach, 1993: 21-25).
Research into burnout during the 1970s was generally conducted by practitioners
from the human service professions including education, social services, medicine,
criminal justice and mental health. The concept was initially applied to a host of
personal and job-related problems and research was generally non-empirical,
descriptive and qualitative (Maslach & Leiter, 1997: 27), focusing almost exclusively
on the relational aspects of people work (Maslach et al., 2001: 400).
16
The 1980s were characterised by a host of empirical studies on burnout restricted
predominantly to the United States. Through a number of subsequent studies
(Maslach & Jackson, 1981; 1984) “reduced feelings of personal accomplishment”
was added as a third component of the burnout syndrome. As a result, burnout was
conceptualised as a multi-dimensional construct comprising three components,
namely emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced feelings of personal
accomplishment (Maslach, 1993: 27). Burnout could therefore no longer be purely
defined as a stress reaction caused by personal relations on the job, but now also
comprised a self-evaluatory component in the form of personal accomplishment.
Maslach and Jackson (1981) went on to develop the Maslach Burnout Inventory
(MBI), while the Tedium Measure (later referred to as the Burnout Measure) was
developed by Pines, Aronson and Kafry (1981).
The development of burnout
measures resulted in a proliferation of empirical studies during the 1980s and 1990s
which primarily focused on the antecedents to and consequences of burnout. Since
the MBI predominated as the burnout measure of choice, a number of studies
examined the validity of the three factor conceptualisation of the construct and the
relationship between these factors (Green, Walkey & Taylor, 1991; Lee & Ashforth,
1996; Leiter, 1990; 1991). In a number of cases, alternative conceptualisations have
been proposed (Golembiewski & Munzenrider, 1981, 1984; 1988; Green et al.,
1991).
In 1996 the MBI was extended for application outside of the human services
profession (Schaufeli, Leiter, Maslach & Jackson, 1996) and resulted in the
development of the MBI General Survey (MBI−GS).
As a result, more recent
research into burnout has been characterised by the extension of the concept to
professions outside of the human services and the subsequent validation of the
MBI−GS (Demerouti et al., 2001; Leiter & Schaufeli, 1996; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004;
Schutte, Toppinen, Kalimo & Schaufeli, 2000).
Maslach and Leiter (1997: 7) cite the changing nature of the workplace as one of the
primary contributing factors to the prevalence of burnout, which, according to them, is
reaching “epidemic proportions”.
As the workplace becomes economically and
psychologically more hostile and demanding, the negative psychological and
behavioural effects of burnout will assume a central position on the research
17
agendas of psychologists and organisational behaviourists alike (Schaufeli, Leiter &
Maslach, 2009). As mentioned in the opening chapter of this dissertation, research
into the burnout syndrome is no longer restricted to human service professionals who
are intensely involved with client’s psychological, social or physical problems.
Recent research suggests that the conditions that perpetuate the development of
burnout are evident across a range of industries and occupations and result in a
number of detrimental consequences for both the individual and the organisation
(Schaufeli et al., 2009).
The development of the burnout concept has therefore enjoyed a rich and interesting
history despite its early colloquial application. Commenting on the development of
the phenomenon in one of her more recent publications, Maslach (2003: 189) had
the following to say:
“Thus the trajectory of burnout research began with a real social problem rather than
with derivations from scholarly theory.
In other words, it followed a grass-roots,
bottom up path rather than a top-down one” (Maslach, 2003: 189).
The more recent scientific developments pertaining to burnout are discussed in more
detail in the relevant sections that follow.
2.2.2 Definitions of burnout
Research into burnout has been predominated by the conceptualisation proposed by
Maslach and Jackson (1986), which defines burnout as comprising three
components: emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and feelings of reduced
personal accomplishment.
Compared to other variables in the organisational
behaviour literature, burnout has not been subject to many debates surrounding
definition, resulting in the pervasiveness of the Maslach definition. The following
section will provide an integrated summary of some of the few alternatives to the
Maslach and Jackson (1986) definition proposed above.
18
Definitions of burnout can be categorised as “state” and “process” definitions
(Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 31).
While state definitions focus on the overt
characteristics of the burnout syndrome, process definitions are more concerned with
the affective and behavioural consequences associated with burnout in the longer
term.
2.2.2.1 State definitions of burnout
As mentioned previously, the most pervasive state definition of burnout is the one
developed by Maslach and Jackson (1986: 1).
Their definition conceptualises
burnout as a syndrome comprising the three distinct, yet related, components of
emotional
exhaustion,
depersonalisation
and
reduced
feelings
of
personal
accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion refers to the depletion of both physical and
emotional resources and associated feelings of dread and fatigue. Depersonalisation
refers to a detached and cynical attitude towards work, clients and co-workers and is
characterised by withdrawal behaviours, the use of negative or derogatory language
towards people at work and intellectualisation of the work situation.
Diminished
personal accomplishment is characterised by lowered self-esteem and feelings of
losing ground (Maslach & Jackson, 1986).
A number of state definitions of burnout are presented in Table 1. The far right hand
column of the table includes a short summary of some of the main components of
each of the definitions presented.
19
Table 1: State definitions of burnout
Author
Definition
Component
Freudenberger &
“… state of fatigue or frustration brought
1
Richelson (1980: 13)
about by devotion to a cause, a way of life, or
Tied to unmet
expectations
relationship that failed to produce the
2
Exhaustion/frustration
expected reward.”
3
Not necessarily workrelated
Perlman & Hartman
Burnout is a response to extreme emotional
(1982)
stress characterised by emotional and
physical exhaustion, declining productivity
1
Emotional and
physical exhaustion
2
Depersonalisation
1
Tied to unmet
and over-depersonalisation.
Brill (1984: 15)
“Burnout is an expectationally mediated, jobrelated, dysphoric and dysfunctional state in
expectations
an individual without major psychopathology
2
Work-related
who has 1) functioned for a time at adequate
3
Occurs in otherwise
performance and effective levels in the same
job situations and who 2) will not recover to
“normal” individuals
4
previous levels without outside help or
Leads to reduced
levels of performance
environmental rearrangement.”
Maslach & Jackson
“Burnout is a syndrome of emotional
1
Exhaustion
(1986: 1)
exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced
2
Depersonalisation
personal accomplishment that can occur
3
Reduced l
among individuals that do people work of
some kind.”
accomplishment
4
Multi-dimensional
5
Interpersonal
6
Work-related
1
Physical, emotional
Pines & Aronson
“A state of physical, emotional and mental
(1988)
exhaustion, caused by emotionally
and mental
demanding situations.”
exhaustion
2
Not necessarily workrelated
20
As can be deducted from Table 1, most burnout researchers are in agreement that
the construct does include an aspect of exhaustion. The definitions do, however,
diverge in terms of the kinds of exhaustion that manifest as a result of burnout. Pines
and Aronson (1988) include both physical exhaustion (fatigue, weakness, low
energy) and mental exhaustion (negative attitude towards self, others, work and life)
alongside emotional exhaustion (feelings of helplessness and hopelessness).
Perlman and Hartman (1982) refer only to physical and emotional exhaustion in their
literature. Freudenberger and Richelson (1980: 13) and Pines and Aronson (1988)
define the concept as uni-dimensional, while Maslach and Jackson’s (1986: 1)
definition is multi-dimensional, incorporating aspects of exhaustion, depersonalisation
and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment.
A further point of divergence surrounding the state definitions of burnout is whether
the phenomenon is work-related or whether it can occur across a range of situations
outside of work. Maslach and Jackson (1986) originally conceptualised the burnout
syndrome as originating from interpersonal contexts where employees engage with
clients, patients or recipients on a daily basis, but this definition was eventually
extended to include other occupations (Maslach et al., 1996). Freudenberger and
Richelson (1980) and Pines and Aronson (1988) however, never restricted burnout to
employees doing people work and instead maintained that burnout could occur in
any context that involved long-term exposure to emotionally demanding situations.
A number of researchers have examined the role of expectations in the development
of burnout. Freudenberger and Richelson (1980) link burnout to the failed attainment
of expected rewards. Brill (1984: 16) maintains that burnout is “expectationally
mediated”, suggesting that expectations are pivotal in the development of burnout.
While the role of expectations is not central to the definition proposed by Maslach
and Jackson (1986), a number of studies (discussed in subsequent sections) have
examined the role of expectations in the development of burnout (Cherniss, 1980;
1983; Stevens & O’Neil, 1983).
21
2.2.2.2
Process definitions of burnout
Process definitions of burnout apply less focus to the overt characteristics of the
burnout phenomenon, and instead focus on the long-term consequences for
attitudes, values and behaviours. As can be deducted from the process definitions of
burnout presented in Table 2, they differ from the state definitions in that they
concentrate largely on the behavioural and affective implications of burnout, while the
state definitions tend to focus on the causes of burnout.
Table 2: Process definitions of burnout
Author
Definition
Components
Cherniss (1980: 5)
“Burnout refers to a process in which the
1
professional’s attitudes and behaviour
change in negative ways in response to
Results
in
negative
attitudes and behaviours
2
Caused by job demands
1
Results
job strain.”
Edelwich & Brodsky
“…progressive loss of idealism, energy
(1980)
and purpose experienced by people in the
in
negative
attitudes towards work
helping professions as a result of the
2
Caused by work conditions
conditions of their work.”
3
Develops over long term
Maslach & Leiter
“Burnout represents an erosion of values,
1
Develops over long term
(1997: 17)
dignity, spirit and will – an erosion of the
2
Affects values, dignity and
spirit
human soul. It is a malady that spreads
gradually and continuously over time,
putting people in a downward spiral from
3
Difficult for the individual to
recover
which it is hard to recover.”
Common to the process definitions above is the fact that burnout is largely workrelated, and results in negative attitudes. Cherniss (1980: 15) describes burnout as
consisting of three stages, commencing with an imbalance between demands placed
on an individual and resources to cope with these demands. This then results in
emotional tension and fatigue, ultimately changing attitudes and behaviours.
Maslach and Leiter (1997: 17) offer a vivid process definition of the phenomenon, as
having a devastating impact on individual will, values and dignity. Similarly, Edelwich
22
and Brodsky (1980) refer to burnout as affecting individual purpose, ideals and
energy.
As depicted in Table 2, process definitions place less focus on the
exhaustion component of the burnout syndrome, and instead prioritise the fact that
burnout affects attitudes, values and individual will over the longer term.
In an attempt to reconcile the state and process definitions of burnout, Schaufeli and
Enzmann (1998: 36) describe burnout as:
“A persistent, negative, work-related state of mind in ‘normal’ individuals that is
primarily characterised by exhaustion, which is accompanied by distress, a sense of
reduced effectiveness, decreased motivation and the development of dysfunctional
attitudes and behaviours at work. This psychological condition develops gradually
but may remain unnoticed for a long time by the individual involved” (Shaufeli &
Enzmann, 1998: 36).
Although varied in both depth and scope, the majority of burnout definitions do
describe the phenomenon as job-related, occurring amongst individuals that would
otherwise be classified as “normal”.
Burnout develops over time in response to
conditions that place undue demands on the individual. These demands ultimately
result in a number of adverse attitudinal and behavioural outcomes that carry direct
consequences for performance at work.
Maslach and Schaufeli (1993: 15) list five elements common to a number of burnout
definitions. These include:
ƒ
Burnout is predominantly characterised by “dysphoric symptoms” such as fatigue,
depression, anxiety and mental and physical exhaustion.
ƒ
While physical symptoms are evident, the focus is on mental and behavioural
symptoms.
ƒ
The symptoms and the causes of burnout are work-related.
ƒ
The symptoms of burnout manifest in otherwise healthy individuals that do not
display elements of psychopathology.
ƒ
Burnout results in lowered levels of work performance, due primarily to negative
attitudes and behaviours.
23
As mentioned in the opening chapter of this dissertation, the definition of burnout
developed by Maslach and colleagues (Maslach & Jackson, 1986; Maslach &
Schaufeli, 1993) will be used in the context of the study. Since the focus of the
current study is on burnout amongst client service employees, the burnout construct
is
treated
as
a
work-related
variable
that
has
both
behavioural
and
emotional/psychological symptoms.
2.2.3 The Maslach definition of burnout
Maslach and Jackson (1986) initially defined burnout as a psychological syndrome
that develops in response to interpersonal job stressors.
It was further
conceptualised as including an individual stress dimension, an interpersonal
dimension and a self-evaluation dimension (Maslach et al., 1996; Maslach et al.,
2001).
Emotional exhaustion refers to the individual stress component of the
syndrome and occurs amongst individuals that are “over-extended” and depleted of
both emotional and physical resources.
Depersonalisation corresponds to the
interpersonal component, and refers to the negative, detached feeling one develops
towards others at work.
Personal accomplishment includes the self-evaluation
dimension and is characterised by feelings of incompetence and a lack of
achievement (Maslach et al., 2001: 399). As originally proposed by Maslach and
Jackson (1986), the burnout syndrome is precipitated by feelings of emotional
exhaustion characterised by reduced physical and emotional energy. In order to
conserve resources, the individual adopts a callous, detached attitude towards work,
which impacts on his/her self-evaluation.
Schaufeli (2003: 2) has elaborated on this definition slightly by stating that emotional
exhaustion signifies the energetic dimension of burnout, while depersonalisation and
personal accomplishment denote the attitudinal and evaluative dimensions of the
phenomenon respectively.
2.2.4 The burnout dimensions
A number of scholars have argued against the three-dimension conceptualisation,
and have instead proposed conceptualisations comprising two (Green et al., 1991;
24
Holland, Michael & Kim, 1994; Shirom, 1989) and even five dimensions (Densten,
2001). Green et al., (1991) and Holland et al. (1994) have proposed a two-factor
conceptualisation comprising emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. This twofactor conceptualisation was originally proposed by Shirom (1989) who maintained
that reduced feelings of personal accomplishment may, in fact, be an outcome of
burnout, rather than a distinct component of the syndrome. Little additional support
has been found for this two-dimensional conceptualisation, although a number of
scholars do concur that emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation constitute the
core dimensions of the burnout construct, with personal accomplishment is regarded
as the weakest dimension (Demerouti et al., 2001: 500).
Numerous structural
analyses of the MBI have found support for the central, although not exclusive role of
emotional exhaustion (Lee & Ashforth, 1990; 1993a; Leiter, 1993). These analyses
conclude that emotional exhaustion appears to be the dimension that is most
affected by the organisational environment and mediates the relationship between
the environment and depersonalisation (Maslach, et al., 1996: 34).
Lee and Ashforth (1990: 713) tested the dimensions of burnout as measured by the
MBI using confirmatory factor analysis on a sample of supervisors and managers in
the human service professions. They found support for the three factors even though
emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation displayed strong correlations. In 1996,
Lee and Ashforth (1996: 128) embarked on a “meta-analytic” study of the three
dimensions. Their research again found support for the three dimensions, although
personal accomplishment developed largely independently from the other two
dimensions.
Densten (2001) proposes a five-factor structure where emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation are split into two factors each.
According to Densten (2001),
emotional exhaustion comprises both psychological strain and somatic strain
aspects, while personal accomplishment relates to both self views and the perception
of external views from others. He originally also proposed that depersonalisation
also comprise two independent factors relating to job depersonalisation and personal
depersonalisation, although a test of the conceptual and psychometric properties of
the MBI disconfirmed this hypothesis (Densten, 2001: 835).
25
2.2.5 Burnout as a process
2.2.5.1 The temporal sequence proposed by Maslach and colleagues
Maslach and Jackson (1986) originally proposed that the three dimensions discussed
above are related through a temporal developmental process commencing with
emotional
exhaustion
and
culminating
in
a
reduced
sense
of
personal
accomplishment. According to them, individuals suffering from emotional exhaustion
attempt to cope with excessive job demands by trying to conserve resources. In so
doing, the individual may withdraw both physically and psychologically from work,
resulting in a cynical and detached attitude towards work, the client and/or coworkers. This withdrawal ultimately results in a discrepancy between the individual’s
current attitude towards work and his/her original expectations of performance,
resulting in a sense of decreased personal accomplishment.
This temporal sequence of burnout dimensions (Maslach & Jackson, 1986) has been
challenged by a number of scholars. While Leiter (Leiter & Maslach, 1988) originally
concurred with Maslach and Jackson (1986) that emotional exhaustion develops first
in response to a range of environmental conditions, followed by depersonalisation
and then feelings of reduced personal accomplishment, he subsequently deviated
from this position (Leiter, 1990, 1991).
Instead he suggests that while
depersonalisation follows from emotional exhaustion, feelings of reduced personal
accomplishment develop separately in response to the work environment. Later,
Leiter (1993) maintained that feelings of reduced personal accomplishment may
occur as a consequence of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation or as a
result
of
a
shortage
of
relevant
resources.
Emotional
exhaustion
and
depersonalisation, on the other hand, occur as a result of work overload and/or social
conflict.
2.2.5.2 The Golembiewski and Munzenrider eight-phase model
Maslach and colleagues (Maslach et al., 2001; Maslach & Jackson, 1986) are not the
only researchers that have proposed a temporal sequence for the burnout
dimensions. A number of scholars maintain that while the burnout dimensions may
26
develop in sequence, the order of this sequence differs from that proposed by
Maslach and Jackson (1986). Golembiewski and Munzenrider (1981, 1984, 1988)
suggest that depersonalisation occurs first, followed by feelings of reduced personal
accomplishment and then emotional exhaustion. According to Golembiewski and
Munzenrider (1981, 1984), a certain degree of detachment from work and recipients,
which results in the development of depersonalisation, is necessary in some
occupations such as the medical professions.
Continued depersonalisation,
however, begins to interfere with performance, thereby affecting perceptions of
personal accomplishment.
The chronic perpetuation of the conditions described
above could eventually result in the development of emotional exhaustion. Using this
sequential model, Golembiewski and Munzenrider (1988) generated an eight-phase
model. Each phase in the eight-phase model is characterised by a combination of
either
high
or
low
emotional
exhaustion,
depersonalisation
or
personal
accomplishment.
The validity of the eight-phase model has, however, been questioned – most notably
through the work of Cordes and Dougherty (1993) and Cordes et al. (1997).
According to Cordes and Dougherty (1993: 621), while Golembiewski and
Munzenreider (1988) made use of the MBI in development of the eight-phase model,
items included in the measure were modified to refer to co-workers as opposed to
service recipients. Two of the original MBI items were dropped and an additional
three items were added.
The measure also deviated from the frequency scale
included in the original MBI and instead adopted a Likert scale ranging from 1 = very
much unlike me to 7 = very much like me. While the resultant measure produced
three clusters, resulting in a total of eight phases corresponding to high or low scores
on each of the three dimensions, the research cannot refute the three cluster
conceptualisation proposed by Maslach, since the instrument used to derive the eight
phases differed from the MBI.
As illustrated in Figure 2, Cordes et al. (1997) tested the Maslach three-factor model
and a set of predictor variables against the Golembiewski model and set of
predictors.
The research found support for the Maslach three-factor model but
proposed that each of the three components is differentially related to a set of
predictor variables.
27
MASLACH
Unmet
expectations
0.47*
0.001
Quantitative
role overload
Emotional
Exhaustion
Depersonalisation
0.73*
0.16*
Interpersonal
relations
Personal
Accomplishment
-0.23*
0.33*
Non-contingent
Punishment
0.14
Contingent
rewards
GOLEMBIEWSKI
Quantitative
role overload
Unmet expectations
-0.02
0.22*
Depersonalisation
0.41*
0.43*
-0.27*
Personal
Accomplishment
Emotional
Exhaustion
0.36*
0.15
Non-contingent
punishment
Contingent Rewards
Interpersonal
relations
Figure 2: The Maslach and Golembiewski models of burnout compared
(Cordes et al., 1997)
As shown in Figure 2, while significant paths were displayed between emotional
exhaustion
and
personal
accomplishment,
reduced
feelings
of
personal
accomplishment were also contingent upon the non-receipt of rewards and unmet
expectations.
Furthermore, while the development of depersonalisation was
contingent upon feelings of emotional exhaustion, non-contingent punishment also
affected the development of depersonalisation. For instance, when individuals find
themselves in situations that they find uncontrollable or random, they may
depersonalise
their
relationships
with
clients,
co-workers,
supervisors
and
subordinates. Emotional exhaustion was found to be contingent upon quantitative
role overload and interpersonal interactions. The study is noteworthy because, with
the exception of the study by Lee and Ashforth (1993a) it is the only piece of
research found that tests the two competing models on the same set of respondents.
28
In response to the generally inconclusive research regarding the temporal sequence
of the burnout components, Lewin & Sager (2007) maintain that sequencing of the
three components may be dependent on aspects related to the specific occupational
context of respondents.
They subsequently proposed and tested a different
progression of the burnout components among salespeople. Their results indicate
that reduced personal accomplishment occurs first, followed by emotional exhaustion
and finally, depersonalisation (Lewin & Sager, 2007).
While the present study will not empirically test or attempt to validate any of the
proposed temporal sequences of burnout, it is important in the context of the current
study to acknowledge that the burnout components may occur in a temporal
sequence. Since the MBI measures each of the three components using a separate
scale for each, individuals scoring high on one of the burnout components and
possibly low on another, may still be progressing through the sequence that
comprises the burnout experience.
2.2.6 The measurement of burnout
2.2.6.1 The Maslach Burnout Inventory
Although a detailed discussion of the MBI takes place in the next chapter on
methodology, a brief discussion on the measurement of burnout is entertained here.
It is intended that a brief analysis of the MBI and alternative measures of burnout is
followed by a rationale for the use of the MBI in the present study as opposed to
other measures.
As outlined in the opening sections of this chapter, the 1980s marked the beginning
of a plethora of empirical work on the subject and the subsequent development of the
Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach & Jackson, 1986) − probably the most widely
used instrument in the measurement of burnout.
The original MBI, developed in 1986, was primarily utilised within the human service
professions. In 1996, the instrument was revised to include three separate surveys.
The MBI – Human Services Survey (MBI−HSS) is applicable to employees working
29
across the human service professions, where interaction with recipients is the
primary work focus.
The MBI – Educators Survey (MBI−ES) is relevant to the
educational arena through the replacement of the word “recipients” with “students”
(Schaufeli, 2003: 2), while the MBI – General Survey (MBI−GS) can be applied to
any job situation (Schaufeli, 2003: 4).
In accordance with the Maslach and Jackson (1986) definition of burnout which
states that burnout occurs amongst individuals that do people work of some kind, the
original MBI (subsequently referred to as the MBI Human Services Survey or
MBI−HSS) was developed for application in situations where the employee provides
a service, care or treatment to a recipient.
These occupations are generally
accompanied by the development of strong emotional feelings towards the client or
service recipient.
The MBI−HSS was subsequently adapted for use amongst
educators (Maslach, Jackson & Schwab, 1996) and became known as the MBI –
Educators Survey (MBI−ES). The MBI−ES does not differ significantly from the
MBI−HSS, only in that only the word “recipients” is replaced with the word “students”.
Although traditionally almost exclusively applied to assess burnout in the human
service or helping professions, the concept of burnout has been successfully applied
across a range of industries and occupational groupings. The concept has been
investigated amongst teachers (Buunk et al., 2007); hospitality workers (Kuruuzum,
Anafarta & Irmak, 2008); HR managers and professionals (Cordes et al., 1997;
Rothmann, 2004), local government employees (Rothman et al., 2003); pharmacists
(Storm & Rothman, 2003), psychiatric nurses (Heyns, Venter, Esterhuyse, Bam &
Odendaal, 2003; Levert, Lucas & Ortlepp, 2000;), higher education employees
(Jackson, Rothmann & Van de Vijver, 2006; Rothmann & Essenko, 2007; Rothmann
& Barkhuizen, 2008; Pretorius, 1992; 1994; Pienaar & Van Wyk, 2006), salespeople
(Low et al., 2001) and customer service representatives (Campbell & Rothmann,
2005).
A number of researchers have made use of the original MBI, albeit in a modified
format when assessing burnout amongst employees who fall outside of the human
service professions.
instance,
substituted
Golembiewski, Boudreau, Munzenrider and Lou (1996) for
the
word
“recipient”
with
“co-worker”
within
the
30
depersonalisation and personal accomplishment scales. Lee and Ashforth (1993b)
substituted the word “recipients” with “subordinates” when they studied burnout
amongst a sample of managers. In a study of burnout and role stressors amongst
marketing boundary-spanners, Singh et al. (1994) substituted “recipients” with
“customers”, “co-workers”, “boss” and “top management”. According to Demerouti et
al. (2003: 13) the substitution of recipients with alternative subjects is questionable,
since alternative terms are qualitatively different from recipients, and may render the
depersonalisation and personal accomplishment scales unstable. Similarly, Maslach
et al. (1996: 19) maintain that use of the MBI−HSS outside of the human service
professions results in the collapse of the depersonalisation and emotional exhaustion
scales into one factor.
The MBI−GS was therefore adapted for application among occupational groups that
do not have direct personal contact with service recipients or that only maintain
casual contact with people at work (Schaufeli, Leiter, Maslach & Jackson, 1996).
According to Demerouti et al. (2001: 500) since emotional exhaustion is largely the
product of excessive job demands, then all jobs, and not only those in the human
service professions, could be susceptible to burnout. While depersonalisation may
manifest itself in terms of alienation from recipients in the human services
professions, other professions may experience disengagement from the job or work
role. As a result, the MBI−GS defines burnout as a “crisis in one’s relationship with
work, not necessarily as a crisis in one’s relationship with people at work” (Schaufeli
et al., 1996: 20). While the MBI−GS has three subscales comprising 16 items that
parallel those of the MBI−HSS, the subscales of the MBI−GS do not emphasise the
service relationship and do not make reference to people as the source of one’s
feelings towards work. The items of the exhaustion subscale are generic, without an
emphasis on emotions towards service recipients.
Exhaustion is measured as
fatigue without service recipients as the source of that fatigue.
The cynicism
subscale replaces the depersonalisation scale of the MBI−HSS and reflects a
distanced attitude towards work as opposed to personal relationships at work. The
professional efficacy subscale replaces the personal accomplishment items and
encompasses both social and non-social aspects of accomplishments at work
(Maslach et al., 1996: 21; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004: 294).
31
Although the client service employees that form the unit of analysis for the present
study cannot be described as traditional human service professionals as intended by
Maslach and Jackson (1986), the MBI−HSS will be used to measure burnout
amongst this group of employees.
Slight adjustments were made to the
questionnaire in order to align it to the client service setting. These adjustments and
implications thereof are discussed in greater detail in the methodology chapter.
Although the MBI is probably the most widely-applied measurement of burnout, a
number of alternative measures exist. In a thorough review of burnout measurement,
Schaufeli, Enzmann and Girault (1993: 200) examine the contribution of a number of
these instruments.
Emener, Luck and Gohs (1982) developed the Emener-Luck
Burnout Scale, which consists of 30 items applicable to the human service
professions. The instrument yielded four factors that were significantly related to a
burnout self rating namely work-related feelings, work-environment provisions,
dissonance between self-perceptions and other’s perception of self and job
alternatives. In 1983 Ford, Murphy and Edwards (1983) developed the Perceptual
Job Burnout Inventory. The instrument was developed for use outside of the human
service professions and included items relating to emotional exhaustion and
cynicism, feelings of decreased efficiency and excessive demands on energy and
resources. In 1984, Farber (1984) developed a 65 item instrument called the Teacher
Attitude Scale (TAS) for application in educational settings. The scale included the
25 items of the original MBI along with an additional 40 items of relevance to the
teaching profession. The study yielded three factors including emotional exhaustion,
commitment to the teaching profession and gratification in working with students.
Also in 1984, Meier (1984) developed the Meier Burnout Assessment (MBA), a 23
item true-false test. In a sample of 320 male and female faculty members, the MBA
displayed a moderate correlation with the MBI (r = 0.61). In 1986, the Burnout Index
was developed by Shirom and Oliver (1986) and panel tested amongst a sample of
404 Israeli teachers. The authors conceptualised burnout as comprising three types
of exhaustion, namely physical, emotional and cognitive exhaustion.
The most
recently developed burnout instrument, the Shirom-Melamed Burnout Measure
(Shirom, 2003) measures burnout as comprising both physical and mental
exhaustion.
32
The above-mentioned instruments have, however, not yielded the amount of
academic support enjoyed by the MBI.
Two alternative measures, namely the
Burnout Measure (BM) (Pines & Aronson, 1988) and the Oldenburg Burnout
Inventory (OLBI) (Demerouti, 1999) have been extensively used as a substitute for
the MBI and will be discussed in the sections that follow.
2.2.6.2 The Burnout Measure (BM)
Arguably the second most widely applied burnout questionnaire, the Burnout
Measure (BM) was developed by Pines and Aronson (1988). The developers of the
BM conceptualise burnout as comprising three kinds of exhaustion: emotional,
cognitive and physical exhaustion. The authors initially made a distinction between
burnout and tedium. Burnout was largely characterised by emotional pressure and
tedium characterised by mental, emotional and physical pressure, but they eventually
abandoned this distinction and included the measurement of tedium in the BM. The
BM is a one-dimensional measure of burnout and includes 21 items measured on a
7-point rating scale ranging from “never” to “always”. The instrument can be applied
to occupations outside of the human service professions and displays internal
consistency coefficients exceeding 0.9 and test-retest coefficients that vary between
0.89 and 0.66 across one and four-month intervals respectively.
The construct
validity of the BM is strong and scores have been related to a number of behavioural
variables including work strain, turnover and work satisfaction. The BM has been
used across a diverse range of occupations and been translated into French,
German, Dutch, Japanese, Hungarian, Mexican, Polish and Israeli (Pines, 2002: 127128).
According to Enzmann, Schaufeli, Janssen and Rozeman (1998: 331), while the
strength of the BM lies in its applicability across a range of occupational settings, it is
difficult to discriminate some of the BM items from similar constructs like depression
and fatigue. Furthermore, few studies have assessed the psychodynamic properties
of the BM. Using a Dutch sample of human service professionals and white collar
workers, Enzmann et al. (1998: 331) report that the “BM captures only a particular
33
aspect of burnout and is rather a measure of general well-being” (Enzmann et al.,
1998: 331).
2.2.6.3 The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI)
The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI) was developed in Germany for application
across any job context in response to a number of criticisms levelled against the MBI
(Demerouti, 1999).
depersonalisation
One such criticism is that the emotional exhaustion and
scales
are
all
negatively
phrased,
while
the
personal
accomplishment items are all positively phrased. According to the developers of the
OLBI, this can result in artificial factor loadings and response sets.
The OLBI
includes only two factors, namely exhaustion and disengagement from work, and
each of these factors includes both positively and negatively phrased items.
Exhaustion is operationalised as including physical, affective and cognitive
exhaustion, hence rendering it more applicable to occupations that engage in
physical work compared to the MBI. Disengagement refers to the act of distancing
oneself from work and “experiencing negative attitudes towards work object, work
content and one’s work in general”. (Demerouti et al., 2001: 501). The exhaustion
subscale consists of seven items that refer to “general feelings of emptiness,
overtaking from work, a strong need for rest, and a state of physical exhaustion”
(Demerouti et al., 2001: 503). The disengagement subscale includes eight items that
refer to the distancing of the individual from the object and content of one’s work and
the development of negative attitudes towards work in general (Demerouti et al.,
2001: 503).
The OLBI has been validated across a sample of 293 German employees from
various occupational categories, where factor analysis confirmed its two-factor
structure.
Furthermore, the factorial and convergent validity of the Oldenburg
Burnout Inventory has been tested alongside that of the MBI−GS amongst Greek
employees from different occupational groupings (Demerouti, Bakker, Vardakou &
Kantas, 2003: 12). Both the convergent and discriminant validity of the MBI and the
OLBI were confirmed. According to Schaufeli (2003: 4), the OLBI is currently the
only viable alternative to the MBI in general work settings. While these alternative
34
measures of burnout provide further insight into how burnout can be conceptualised
and measured, they are not considered as viable measurement instruments for the
present study. The Burnout Measure (BM) is limiting in that it only measures the
exhaustion component of burnout albeit in three forms, while the Oldenburg Burnout
Inventory does not include aspects pertaining to the service employee – client
relationship.
2.2.7 Antecedents to burnout
While much burnout research in the 1980s was concerned with the validation of the
MBI and the development of alternative burnout measures, the 1990s were
characterised by a plethora of research into the antecedents of burnout.
Researchers have subsequently addressed this issue from a multitude of
perspectives and disciplines resulting in often contrasting viewpoints.
Recent
research into the antecedents of the burnout syndrome has concluded that predictor
variables are differentially related to each of the three burnout components
(Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner & Schaufeli, 2001; Lee & Ashforth, 1996).
Nonetheless, research into the antecedents of the burnout syndrome is pervasive
and varied. While a fair number of scholars have examined the role of demographic
variables in the development of burnout (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 75), little
empirical support for the importance of these variables in the development of burnout
exists.
Research has instead focused on the role of a range of situational and
dispositional factors in the development of burnout.
Maslach and Leiter (1997) make a distinction between two primary categories of
variables that could impact the development of burnout – situational predictors and
individual antecedents. Since Maslach and Leiter (1997: 9-15) define burnout as a
product of the social environment in which the individual finds him/herself, they place
primary emphasis on the situational antecedents to burnout. According to Maslach
and Leiter (2005), the situational factors that could affect the nature of fit between the
job and the individual performing the job include:
35
ƒ
Work overload – when individuals have too much work to do with too little
resources to perform the work according to organisational or own expectations
ƒ
Lack of control over work
ƒ
Insufficient reward resulting in devaluation of the self
ƒ
Breakdown of community or fragmenting personal relationships
ƒ
Absence of fairness resulting in a devaluation of self-worth
ƒ
Conflicting values – when the nature of a job clashes with personal values and
principles
The
determinants
of
burnout
can
be
classified
according
to
personality
characteristics; work-related attitudes; work and organisational characteristics and
biographical factors (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 75). Cordes and Dougherty (1993:
629) suggest the classification of burnout antecedents into job and role
characteristics, of which the employee client relationship, role overload, role
ambiguity and role conflict form components. Organisational characteristics include
the job context and contingency of rewards and punishments.
Table 3 provides a summary of each of these antecedents and related research as
derived from this literature review. For ease of presentation, the antecedents to
burnout are categorised into seven antecedent categories. The variables related to
each category are listed in the second column of the table. Each of these antecedent
categories is discussed in detail in the sections that follow the table.
36
Table 3: Burnout antecedents: categories and variables
Antecedent Category Antecedent variables
Work/job
Excessive job demands
characteristics
ƒ
Quantitative job demands
o
Quantitative role overload (Cordes & Dougherty,1993; Lee &
Ashforth, 1993, 1996)
ƒ
Qualitative job demands (Maslach et al., 2001)
o
Role ambiguity (Low et al., 2001; Singh et al., 1994)
o
Role conflict (Low et al., 2001; Singh et al., 1994)
Lack of job resources (Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996)
Organisational
ƒ
characteristics
ƒ
Autonomy
ƒ
Job control (Fernet, Guay & Senecal, 2004)
Unclear institutional goals, lack of leadership and supervisor support,
social isolation and inadequate orientation (Cherniss, 1980)
ƒ
Co-worker relationships (Leiter & Maslach, 1988)
ƒ
Contact with supervisor (Leiter & Maslach, 1988)
ƒ
Contingency and non-contingency of rewards and punishments
(Cordes, Dougherty & Blum, 1997)
ƒ
High performance work practices (Kroon, van der Voorde & van
Veldhoven, 2009)
ƒ
Perceived lack of reciprocity from organisation (Schaufeli, Van
Dierendonck & Van Gorp, 1996)
ƒ
Opportunities for advancement (Rothmann & Joubert, 2007)
ƒ
Team structure, culture and types of leadership (Schultz, Greenley &
Brown, 1995)
ƒ
Lack of organisational job resources
(Maslach, Jackson & Leiter,
1996)
o
Autonomy (Xanthopoulou et al., 2007)
o
Social support (Albar-Marin & Garcia-Ramirez, 2005; Van der
Doef & Maes, 1999)
o
Supportive management, reward mechanisms, training and
technology (Rod & Ashill, 2009)
o
Participation in decision-making (Xanthopoulou et al. 2007)
o
Feedback and information (Xanthopoulou et al. 2007)
37
Antecedent Category Antecedent variables
Nature of the client
ƒ
service role
Nature of the employee−client relationship (Cordes & Dougherty,
1993)
ƒ
Scope of client contacts (Cherniss, 1980)
ƒ
Role of client and expectations of service providers (Cordes &
Dougherty, 1993)
ƒ
Nature of client interactions/client caseload (Cordes & Dougherty,
1993)
Attitudes toward the
ƒ
Perceived lack of reciprocity (Truchot & Deregard, 2001)
ƒ
Perceived customer negative behaviours (Yagil, Luria & Gal, 2008)
ƒ
Job engagement (Rothmann & Joubert, 2004; Schaufeli & Bakker,
job and organisation
2004; Schaufeli et al., 2001)
ƒ
Person−organisation fit (Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Siegall & McDonald,
2003)
ƒ
Job insecurity (Rothmann & Joubert, 1997)
Personality and
ƒ
Conscientiousness (Witt et al., 2004)
dispositional factors
ƒ
Communal orientation (Truchot & Deregard, 2001)
ƒ
Emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness, coping
strategies, sense of coherence (Storm & Rothmann, 2003)
Factors related to
ƒ
Big five personality traits (Swider & Zimmerman, 2009)
ƒ
Customer orientation (Babakus, Yavas & Ashill, 2009)
ƒ
Personal achievement and organisational expectations (Cordes &
identity, esteem and
meaning
Dougherty, 1993; Hyvonen et al., 2009)
ƒ
Significant change in work-related expectations (Stevens & O’Neil, 1983)
ƒ
Disillusionment (Pines & Maslach, 1978)
ƒ
Failed sense of significance and meaning (Pines, 2002; Pines, 1993)
ƒ
Failed expectations (Freudenberger & Richelson, 1980)
ƒ
Self-efficacy (Cherniss, 1992)
ƒ
Search for recognition and identity (Vanheule & Verhaeghe, 2004, 2005)
ƒ
Vulnerability in terms of role definition and enactment and the creation of
a positive sense of self (Hallsten, 1993)
ƒ
Loss of status and a sense of defeat (Buunk et al., 2007)
ƒ
Emotional labour (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Brotheridge & Grandey,
2002; Brotheridge & Lee, 2003; Montgomery, Panagopolou, De Wildt &
Meenks, 2006; Zapf et al., 2001)
ƒ
38
Antecedent Category Antecedent variables
Biographic/
ƒ
demographic
variables
Age
(Schwab
&
Iwanicki,
1982;
Stevens
&
O’Neil,
1983;
Vredenburgh, Carlozzi & Stein, 1999)
ƒ
Work experience (Cherniss, 1980)
ƒ
Gender (Maslach & Jackson, 1981; Vredenburgh et al., 1999)
ƒ
Marital status (Maslach & Jackson, 1985)
ƒ
Educational levels (Pines & Maslach, 1978)
Table 3 was constructed following an extensive review of the literature related to
burnout antecedents. As depicted in the table, the antecedents to burnout can be
divided into seven main categories: work/job characteristics; organisational
characteristics; the nature of work-related relationships; attitudes towards the job and
organisation; personality and dispositional factors; factors relating to identity, esteem
and meaning and biographic and demographic variables. The distinction between
work/job and organisational characteristics is not always clear, since a number of
organisational characteristics that have implications for the development of burnout
are also evident at the job level within the organisation. For instance, organisational
culture and institutional goals carry implications for the extent to which the individual
has access to job resources. A lack of job resources is therefore evident at both the
work/job characteristic level and the organisational characteristic level as depicted in
Table 3. Factors related to identity have also been placed in a category along with
factors related to esteem and meaning. As will be shown in the role identity literature
review that appears later in this chapter, identity construction is connected to esteem
needs and meaning.
In the sections that follow, each of these antecedents will be discussed, with specific
reference to the manner in which they result in burnout. Later in the chapter, it will be
shown how aspects relating to role identity can result in a number of the antecedents
discussed in Table 3.
2.2.7.1 Work/job and organisational characteristics
From an analysis of the literature pertaining to work/job and organisational
characteristics and their relationship to burnout, it became apparent that these
cannot always be regarded as conceptually distinct. As already mentioned, variables
39
that exist at the organisational level have an impact on variables that exist at the job
level. Conversely, variables that exist at the job level have an impact of variables that
exist at the organisational level. Autonomy and involvement in decision-making, for
instance, can be regarded as both characteristics of the organisation and
characteristics of the job. While every attempt will be made to keep the two levels
conceptually distinct, a number of scholars have simultaneously incorporated both
organisational and work-related variables into models of burnout antecedents.
Cherniss (1980) for instance, theoretically identified eight organisational and work
stressors that could result in burnout. These stressors include workload; lack of
stimulation; scope of client contacts; unclear institutional goals; lack of autonomy;
lack of leadership and supervisory support; social isolation and inadequate
orientation. These role stressors have traditionally been studied in terms of the direct
effects that they exert on outcome variables such as job satisfaction, job
performance, organisational commitment and turnover intentions.
But in a study
examining the effect of role stressors on burnout amongst marketing client service
employees, burnout was shown to mediate the negative effects of role stressors on
other job outcomes (Singh et al., 1994: 559). As a result, burnout can be described
as “a more potent predictor of various job outcomes than one or more role stressors”
(Singh et al., 1994: 559) and that burnout occur as a result of the cumulative effect of
a number of role stressors.
Research into the impact of work/job characteristics on the development of burnout
has almost exclusively focused on the relationship between job demands and job
resources (Fernet et al., 2004).
According to the structural model proposed by
Maslach et al. (1996: 36), burnout develops in response to excessive job demands
and a lack of available resources to cope with these demands. Job demands can be
described as those “physical, social and organisational aspects of the job that require
prolonged physical and mental effort and will result in physiological and psychological
costs” (Demerouti et al., 2001: 501). They include aspects related to role overload,
role ambiguity and role conflict (Low et al., 2001). Job resources, on the other hand,
can be described as the “physical, psychological, social and organisational aspects of
the job that may assist an individual in achieving work goals, reduce job demands
and stimulate personal growth and development (Demerouti et al., 2001: 501). They
40
include job control and autonomy (Fernet et al., 2004); feedback and participation in
decision making (Xanthopoulou et al., 2007), social support (Albar-Marin & Garcia
Ramirez, 2005; Gmelch & Gatesman, 1997; Van der Doef & Maes, 1999), supportive
management, reward mechanisms, training and appropriate technology (Rod &
Ashill, 2009).
Maslach et al. (2001: 407) make a distinction between qualitative and quantitative job
demand variables. Quantitative job demands occur when there is too much work for
the available time resulting in role overload, while qualitative job demands include
aspects related to role conflict and role ambiguity (Maslach, et al., 2001: 407). Singh
et al. (1994: 559) refer to these qualitative demands as role stressors and make a
distinction between two kinds of role stressors. Role conflict occurs when there is a
high degree of incompatibility between the various expectations associated with a
single role, while role ambiguity occurs when insufficient information to support
adequate performance in a role exists. A further distinction can be made between
qualitative and quantitative role overload (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993: 631).
Qualitative role overload occurs when an individual lacks the talent and skills
necessary to perform the job adequately, while quantitative role overload refers to
aspects relating to caseload.
The Maslach et al. (1996) structural model that proposes the link between burnout
and job demands and resources is depicted in Figure 3.
41
Work overload
Lack of
resources
Burnout
dimensions
Control coping
Social support
Job demands
Personal conflict
Exhaustion
Depersonalisation
Autonomy
Diminished
personal
accomplishment
Decision
involvement
Costs
Decreased organisational commitment
Turnover and absenteeism
Physical illness
Figure 3: The structural model of burnout
(Maslach et al., 1996: 36)
This theoretical model, does, however, not comment on how each of the antecedents
(job demands and lack of available resources) leads to each of the burnout
dimensions. Based on earlier discussions of the temporal sequence in which the
three burnout dimensions occur sequentially, it can be deduced that excessive job
demands and a lack of resources to deal with these demands can result in
exhaustion, which ultimately leads to depersonalisation. It is unclear from the model
whether feelings of reduced personal accomplishment result from depersonalisation
or whether they develop independently due to a lack of resources to cope with
excessive job demands.
A number of scholars have, however, empirically examined how demands and a lack
of resources are differentially related to each of the three burnout dimensions (Lee &
Ashforth, 1993a; 1996; Leiter, 1993). Using the Conservation of Resources (COR)
model proposed by Hobfoll (1989), Lee and Ashforth (1993a; 1996) examined the
extent to which the various demand and resource variables and attitudinal and
42
behavioural correlates are related to each of the three burnout dimensions.
According to the COR model, individuals constantly strive to maintain valued
resources while at work in order to offset the negative effect of excessive demands.
These resources can take the form of objects, work conditions, personal
characteristics and energies. When these resources are threatened or lost, or when
individuals invest in resources that do not yield the anticipated return, stress may
result. When individuals experience a loss of resources, they may engage in coping
behaviours to reduce the effect of this loss.
According to the COR model, job
demands should therefore be strongly related to emotional exhaustion, while job
resources should be strongly related to depersonalisation. In their 1993 study, Lee
and Ashforth (1993a) concluded that most demand correlates were associated with
exhaustion and depersonalisation, and only weakly associated with personal
accomplishment.
Leiter (1993), on the other hand, concluded that demands are
more strongly related to emotional exhaustion, while resources are more strongly
associated with both depersonalisation and personal accomplishment. A subsequent
study by Lee and Ashforth (1996: 130) however, found that both demand and
resource variables are more strongly related to emotional exhaustion than to
depersonalisation and personal accomplishment.
According to Cordes et al. (1997: 688), demand stressors, such as qualitative and
quantitative work overload, role ambiguity, role conflict and role overload will be
associated with exhaustion. Qualitative demands made on the employee through
interpersonal relationships may also result in emotional exhaustion.
Variables
associated with a random, uncontrollable environment are associated with the
development of depersonalisation. Variables that create the perception that one is
not appreciated or incompetent in one’s work, such as a lack of contingent rewards,
will result in feelings of reduced personal accomplishment. In a study of managers
and HR professionals Cordes et al. (1997: 689) found significant paths between role
overload
and
emotional
exhaustion,
non-contingent
punishment
and
depersonalisation and contingent rewards and personal accomplishment.
These conflicting findings initiated a host of studies into the differential relationship
between demand and resource variables and the three burnout dimensions. The Job
Demands–Resources (JD–R) Model, originally proposed by Demerouti et al. (2001:
43
501) postulated that job demands are associated with the development of
exhaustion, while an absence of job resources such as performance feedback,
participation in decision-making, job control and social support are associated with
depersonalisation. The JD–R model is presented as Figure 4 and is premised upon
two dual processes that play a role in the development of job strain and motivation
(Bakker & Demerouti, 2004).
Mental
Emotional
Job
demands
+
Strain
Physical
-
etc
Organisational
outcomes
Support
Autonomy
+
Job
resources
Feedback
Motivation
+
etc
Figure 4: The job demands–resources model
(Bakker & Demerouti, 2007: 313)
Job demands (mental, emotional or physical) exhaust the employee’s physical and
emotional resources resulting in excessive strain, exhaustion and health problems.
Job resources (support, autonomy and feedback), on the other hand, play a
motivational role that result in job engagement and improved performance levels.
These job resources play both an intrinsic and extrinsic motivational role, in that they
enhance individual growth and development and facilitate the achievement of work
goals (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007: 313). As illustrated by the diagonal arrows in
Figure 4, while job demands and job resources can independently result in strain and
motivation, they also interact. Job resources can buffer the effect of job demands,
while job demands can significantly reduce the positive effect of job resources on
motivation (Demerouti et al., 2001).
44
According to Bakker and Demerouti (2007: 313) the link between emotional
exhaustion and job demands can be explained using Hockey’s (1993) control model
for demand management.
According to Hockey (1993 as cited in Bakker &
Demerouti, 2007: 313), when individuals are under sustained environmental stress,
they employ a “performance–protection strategy” by increasing subjective effort or
mobilising “sympathetic activation” at both an autonomic and endocrine level. The
greater the subjective effort (or sympathetic activation), the larger the physiological
costs are for the individual and the greater the possibility of emotional exhaustion. In
a study across three occupational groups using the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory,
Demerouti et al. (2001: 508) established that job demands are primarily related to
exhaustion, while job resources are primarily related to disengagement from work.
Based on the principles contained within the Job Demands–Resources model,
Demerouti et al. (2001) assert that the three components of the burnout syndrome
are differentially related to various job demands and resources. According to the
researchers, job demands are associated with the development of exhaustion, while
an absence of job resources, such as performance feedback, participation in
decision-making, job control and social support are associated with cynicism or
disengagement. In a study of 310 managers at a platinum mine in South Africa,
emotional exhaustion was predicted by workload, job insecurity and a lack of
resources, while cynicism was predicted by a lack of organisational support and
advancement opportunities (Rothmann & Joubert, 2007).
A study of home care employees (Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Dollard, Demerouti,
Schaufeli, Taris & Schreurs, 2007) set out to examine which job resources are best at
buffering specific demands that are known to produce burnout amongst home care
professionals. Four job demands (emotional demands, patient harassment, workload
and physical demands) were studied alongside four job resources, namely autonomy,
social
support,
performance
feedback
and
opportunities
for
professional
development. The research concluded that job resources were stronger buffers of
the relationship between emotional demands and patient harassment and burnout,
than the relationship between physical demands and workload and burnout.
Organisational characteristics such as the nature of the organisation and its policies
have received considerably less attention in the burnout literature when compared
45
with job-related variables. They are, however, important to consider, since they have
an impact on the nature of job related variables. Factors related to team structure,
culture and types of leadership (Schultz et al., 1995: 335) have been linked to the
development of burnout insofar they contribute to a lack of autonomy, social support
and participation.
Team cultures, for instance, encourage participation among
organisational members by creating a climate of social support and acceptance. As
already discussed, social support and participation are important job resources that
have the potential to inhibit the development of burnout. Transformational types of
leadership also facilitate participation and autonomy in the workplace, thereby also
buffering the development of burnout (Schultz et al., 1995).
The relationship between job demands/resources and burnout are important for the
present study. As shown in the second section of this literature review, the role
identity of the client service employee could potentially have considerable influence
on both work-related perceptions and work-related behaviour of the employee. If the
client service employee defines his identity as subordinate and subservient to that of
the client, he may engage in behaviours that increase work overload. In such cases
he may also exercise little autonomy, or feel that he has little control over the
resources that are (or are not) at his disposal.
The relationship between job
demands/resources and role identity are explored in further detail in Chapter 3.
2.2.7.2 Interpersonal relationships as antecedents to burnout
The quality of interpersonal relationships has also been linked to the development of
burnout (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). The kinds of interpersonal relationships that
have been examined in relation to burnout include the relationship between the client
and the employee (Bakker et al., 2000; Yagil et al., 2008), the employee and his coworkers (Leiter & Maslach, 1988) and the employee and his supervisor (Rod & Ashill,
2009).
Cordes and Dougherty (1993: 629) are of the opinion that the client–employee
relationship remains the most important variable in the study of burnout.
Most
research examining the role of the client-employee relationship in the development of
46
burnout has been conducted in the helping professions (Bakker et al., 2000) where
employees experience a high degree of emotional strain when dealing with their
clients. In such contexts, research has shown that the nature of the client and the
expectations of the service provider surrounding the role of the client can play an
important part in the development of burnout (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Although
limited, more recent research has focused on the relationship between burnout and
the client-employee relationship outside of the so-called helping professions.
In
these contexts, the perceived quality of the social interaction between client and
employee (Yagil et al., 2008) and perceptions of client behaviour (Grandey et al.,
2004) have shown to correlate with burnout.
The client-employee relationship is, however, not the only interpersonal work-related
relationship that has the potential to contribute to burnout. Leiter and Maslach (1988:
304) have shown that pleasant co-worker contact is positively related to personal
accomplishment, while pleasant supervisor contact is negatively related to
depersonalisation. Conversely, unpleasant supervisor contact is positively related to
emotional exhaustion.
Similarly, Rod and Ashill (2009) show that perceived
management support also has the potential to buffer burnout.
Burnout has also been examined in the context of social exchange and equity theory,
whereby a perceived lack of reciprocity in an individual’s interactions with his/her
recipients initiates the development of the burnout syndrome (Truchot & Deregard,
2001). According to equity theory, individuals evaluate their relationships with others
in terms of investments and outcomes. Relationships will be judged as equitable if
investments ploughed into the relationship are perceived as equal to the outcomes or
benefits of the relationship (Bakker et al., 2000: 425).
This social psychological
perspective perceives burnout as emanating from a social context, the outcomes of
which are based on how individuals perceive and interpret the behaviours of others
(Buunk & Schaufeli, 1993: 53). Through a five-year longitudinal study of general
practitioners, Bakker et al. (2000) concluded that a lack of perceived reciprocity on
the part of the general practitioner mediated the relationship between patient
demands and emotional exhaustion.
47
Schaufeli, Van Dierendonck and Van Gorp (1996) extended this model of reciprocity
to include not only perceptions of reciprocity at the interpersonal level, but also
perceptions of reciprocity at the organisational level. This idea of reciprocity at the
organisational level is derived from the notion of the psychological contract between
individual and organisation.
This contract implies that the individual has certain
expectations of the organisation in return for certain investments on the part of the
individual employee. Schaufeli et al. (1996) propose a model whereby burnout is
related to social exchange at the interpersonal level (i.e. between the human service
professional and his/her recipient) and the organisational level (i.e. between the
employee and the organisation).
They tested this model on two independent
samples of student nurses and found that a lack of reciprocity at both levels is
positively related to burnout.
Perceptions of inequity result in a depletion of
emotional resources, which result in a decrease in investments resulting in
depersonalisation and cynicism. They also conclude that a lack of reciprocity at the
organisational level results in low levels of organisational commitment.
As shown in subsequent sections of this chapter, the role identity that the client
service employee assumes in relation to that of the client can exert considerable
influence on his behaviour, attitudes and perceptions towards work. Based on the
studies discussed in the preceding section, it could be argued that client service
employees who perceive their relationships with their clients as inequitable may
experience higher levels of burnout than those who do not. If, for instance, a client
service employee perceives the client as powerful and domineering in relation to his
(the client service employee’s) role identity; he could perceive the relationship as
inequitable.
2.2.7.3 Personality or dispositional factors as burnout antecedents
A number of individual personality (or dispositional) factors have been linked to the
development of burnout (Swider & Zimmerman, 2010). Nurses and social workers
scoring high on communal orientation have been shown to display lower levels of
burnout resulting from perceived inequity than those scoring low on communal
orientation
(Truchot
&
Deregard,
2001).
In
the
client
service
context,
48
conscientiousness has been shown to mediate the relationship between call volume
and emotional exhaustion amongst call centre customer service professionals (Witt et
al., 2004), while customer orientation has been shown to moderate the job-demandperformance relationship (Babakus et al., 2009) Job resourcefulness, described as a
situational personality trait, has been shown to buffer burnout in the call centre
environment, while simultaneously enhancing service performance (Rod & Ashill,
2009).
In the South African context, the role of personality traits and coping strategies in the
development of burnout has been examined across a range of occupational
groupings. Rothmann and Jackson (2003) show how a weak sense of coherence,
combined with stress caused by excessive job demands and a lack of resources are
associated with all three dimensions of burnout in a sample of 270 local government
employees in South Africa.
Using the MBI–GS, Rothman (2004) assessed the
relationships between burnout, a sense of coherence, self-efficacy, locus of control
and coping strategies amongst a sample of 64 senior managers in a manufacturing
organisation in South Africa.
The results of the study showed how exhaustion,
cynicism and low levels of professional efficacy were associated with low scores on
psychological strengths. Later, Storm and Rothmann (2005) showed how emotional
stability;
extraversion;
openness
to
experience;
agreeableness
and
conscientiousness were associated with lower levels of emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation and higher levels of personal accomplishment among pharmacists.
The same study also displayed a positive path between constructive coping
strategies and personal accomplishment.
2.2.7.4 Person–organisation fit and burnout
Person–organisation fit (Siegall & McDonald, 2004) and value congruence (Leiter,
Jackson & Shaughnessy, 2009) have also been linked to the development of
burnout.
This proposition maintains that the greater the mismatch between a
person’s values and the organisation’s culture, the more burnout the person will
experience (Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Siegall & McDonald, 2004).
To test this
proposition, Siegall and McDonald (2004) administered a survey among 524 faculty
49
staff and found that person–organisation value congruence was negatively
associated with burnout and that burnout formed a partial or complete mediation for
three (job satisfaction, withdrawal from teaching and less engagement in professional
development) of the ten dependent variables (Siegall & McDonald, 2004: 298).
2.2.7.5 Burnout and job engagement
Burnout has also been measured in relation to what some refer to as its positive antitheses, job engagement (Rothmann & Joubert, 2007; Rothman, 2003; Schaufeli &
Bakker, 2004). According to Maslach et al. (2001), the interest into the positive
antipode of the burnout syndrome can largely be ascribed to the emerging interest in
positive psychology. The relationship between job engagement and burnout was
initially introduced to burnout researchers by Maslach and Leiter (1997: 34), who
defined engagement as the portrayal of “energy, involvement and efficacy”, during
work activities. According to Maslach and Leiter (1997: 34) energy, involvement and
efficacy are the direct opposites of the three burnout dimensions. Also burnout can
be conceptualised as the erosion of engagement, whereby energy turns into
exhaustion, involvement becomes cynicism and feelings of accomplishment turn into
feelings of ineffectiveness. Accordingly then, engagement could be measured by the
MBI, and would reflect low scores on emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation,
and high scores on personal accomplishment.
A number of authors have however challenged this view, arguing that burnout and
engagement cannot be conceptualised as two opposite poles of the same continuum
(Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004; Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma & Bakker, 2002).
Instead, Schaufeli et al. (2001: 74) define job engagement as a “positive, fulfilling,
work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigour, dedication and absorption”.
Vigour is characterised by high levels of energy, persistence and a willingness to
invest effort into one’s work despite challenges. Dedication is characterised by pride
in one’s work and deriving pride from the significance of one’s work, while absorption
is present when one is engrossed in one’s work (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004: 295). In
a study of undergraduate students and employees from private companies, Schaufeli
et al. (2002: 75) concluded that burnout and engagement scales are negatively
50
correlated. According to research conducted by Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) burnout
is negatively related to engagement, and engagement is predicted by the availability
of job resources.
Schaufeli and Bakker (2001 as cited in Rothmann, 2003: 17) developed a well-being
at work model that includes burnout and engagement as two of four possible states
of well-being at work. The model, which is presented in Figure 5, comprises four
quadrants and is split by two axes.
Energetic
ENGAGEMENT
WORKAHOLISM
Pleasurable
Unpleasurable
NINE TO FIVE
BURNOUT
Exhausted
Figure 5: Schaufeli and Bakker’s (2001) well-being at work model
(Schaufeli & Bakker, 2001 as cited in Rothmann, 2003)
The vertical axis represents the application of energy, while the horizontal axis
represents pleasurable or unpleasurable attitudes towards work. The significance of
this model lies in the fact that employees who are emotionally exhausted, may not
necessarily suffer from burnout if they find pleasure in working hard. If, however,
they find work unpleasurable, but still approach it energetically, they could be
regarded as workaholics. The model also suggests that burnout and engagement
are not mere antipodes on an energy continuum, but that they are independent and
negatively correlated states.
51
The importance of the literature on engagement for the present study is that it
provides an alternative in terms of conceptualising the characteristics of low burnout
individuals.
Since the objective of the qualitative study will be to explore the
relationship between client service role identity and burnout, it will be important to
name and identify behaviour that is characteristic of low burnout as well as behaviour
that is characteristic of high burnout. Individuals that reflect low burnout scores on
the MBI should then also reflect the characteristics of engagement in the qualitative
phase of the research.
More recent research into antecedents of the burnout phenomenon has focused on
the role of subjective perceptions of work, the environment and the client in the
development of burnout.
This research appears to have developed from the
existential perspective, which describes burnout as developing as a result of thwarted
attempts at establishing personal meaning through work. Expectations have also
been linked to the development of burnout, as has the maintenance of a positive,
esteem-enhancing role identity. The role of subjective identity perceptions in the
development of burnout will be discussed in the paragraphs that follow.
2.2.7.6 The existential perspective and the development of burnout
The existential perspective of burnout is premised on the notion that “the root cause
of burnout lies in peoples’ need to believe that their life is meaningful, that the things
they do, and consequently they themselves, are important and significant” (Pines,
2002: 123). Accordingly, the development of burnout can be linked to higher order
needs such as self-actualisation (Pines, 2002) and failure to accomplish our goals
and expectations through work (Hyvonen et al., 2009). This existential perspective
corresponds closely to Freudenberger and Richelson’s (1980) original definition of
burnout, which states that burnout is a “state of fatigue or frustration brought about by
devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected
reward” (Freudenberger & Richelson, 1980: 13).
The existential perspective on
burnout therefore sees the development of burnout in the context of a motivational
framework, where burnout is conceptualised as the end of a process that
commenced with high motivation and involvement but ended with low unexpected
52
returns. If employees are unable to meet their goals and expectations within a
supportive working environment then burnout can ensue (Pines, 1993: 38). In a study
attempting to demonstrate the relevance of the psychodynamic existential
perspective, Pines (2002) demonstrates that a negative correlation exists between
sense of significance derived from work and levels of burnout amongst a group of
Israeli teachers and four comparison samples of American teachers. It is, however,
critical to note that within the existential perspective; objective failure does not
necessarily contribute to the development of burnout. Instead, it is the subjective
perception that although one has tried to make a difference, one’s work has not had
a significant impact that results in the development of burnout.
In keeping with the general sentiment expressed by the existential perspective,
Cherniss (1993: 135) examined the role of professional self-efficacy in the
development of burnout. Drawing on Hall’s (1976) psychological success model,
Cherniss maintains that when people do not feel successful, they may chose to
psychologically withdraw from work, resulting in what is synonymous with the
depersonalisation or cynicism dimension of the burnout syndrome.
Accordingly,
Cherniss (1993) argues that people with a stronger sense of self-efficacy, are less
likely to experience burnout. Feelings of self-efficacy can be maintained through
autonomy at work; appropriate challenge; feedback of results and support from
supervisors and co-workers.
As shown in later sections of this chapter, the maintenance of an esteem-enhancing
role identity requires that the individual continually engage in identity processes that
result in self-verification. Failure to self-verify a role identity may result in subjective
feelings of failure, and, in accordance with the view expressed by the existentialists,
result in burnout.
2.2.7.7 Burnout and the pursuit of recognition and identity
Research into the relationship between burnout and identity is diverse, predominantly
as a result of the numerous definitions and conceptualisations associated with the
identity concept. The majority of research into identity and burnout has focused on
53
the extent to which identification with a social identity (Kang et al., 2010) or
professional or occupational identity (Edwards & Dirette, 2010; Kremet-Hayon et al.,
2002; Schaible, 2006) contributes to the development of burnout. Of more relevance
to the present study, is research that examines how subjective identity perceptions
and processes could potentially contribute to burnout.
By employing a Lacanian perspective (which focuses on the unconscious role of
language as subjective perceptions), Vanheule, Lievrouw and Verhaeghe (2003) and
Vanheule and Verhaeghe (2004; 2005) investigate how an imaginary or symbolic
attitude towards work and client outcomes can assist in the differentiation of people
who are suffering from burnout and those who are not. The researchers interviewed
15 high and 15 low burnout special educators and concluded that “burnt out
professionals can be differentiated from those that are not burnt out by the specific
way they strive for recognition and identity” (Vanheule et al., 2003: 499).
High
burnout individuals displayed a strong sense of personal obligation towards their
clients and often manifested feelings of powerlessness in their interaction with their
clients. These individuals tended to identify closely with the problems of their clients
and often felt threatened in their dealings with them. Low burnout individuals, on the
other hand, managed to maintain a subjective distance from their clients, held flexible
expectations in relation to recipient outcomes and attributed failure to the client and
context rather than their own inadequacies as educators.
Instead of expressing
feelings of powerlessness, they would resign themselves to the impossibility of
difficult situations.
In a longitudinal study of Spanish teachers, Buunk et al. (2007) examined the
development of burnout from an evolutionary social rank perspective. The research
was premised on the assumption that burnout could be related to being placed in an
“unwanted” and “subordinate” position, resulting in a number of social stresses such
as powerlessness, shame, loss of status and feelings of inferiority, that are
characterised by similar symptoms to burnout. The study concluded that statusrelated variables such as a perceived loss of status and a sense of defeat explain
considerably more variance in burnout scores than the demand stressors that have
traditionally been linked to the development of burnout (Buunk et al., 2007: 481).
54
The conclusions drawn by Vanheule et al. (2003) and Buunk et al. (2007) are of
particular relevance to the present study. These authors support the notion that
identity perceptions and processes have the potential to contribute to the
development of burnout. When one considers role identity, which can be described
as the subjective meanings people attach to playing a specific role, it becomes
evident that this too could impact on the development of burnout. In accordance with
this view and the research on identity perceptions discussed above, it is suggested
that client service employees who define themselves as powerless and subordinate
to the client may experience higher levels of burnout than those who define
themselves as equal to the client.
The findings of Vanhuele et al. (2003) resonate with the observation made by
Hallsten (1993: 99) that “burning out is assumed to appear when the enactment of an
active, self-definitional role is threatened or disrupted with no alternative role at
hand”. According to Hallsten (1993: 99) burnout occurs when individuals undergo a
sense of vulnerability in terms of role definition and enactment and when there are
few options available to create a positive sense of self.
This vulnerability is
experienced when:
ƒ
there is a degree of instability present in the individual’s self-image,
ƒ
when the individual is dependent on a specific self-defined role and there is a lack
of subsidiary or potential roles for self definition, and
ƒ
when there is an absence of social support outside of the work domain.
According to Hallsten (1993: 101) individuals strive to create a positive sense of self
through role enactment. Accordingly, “these strivings constitute a part of an active,
self-definitional role enactment under threat; that is, they have the function of creating
or maintaining an acceptable personal identity and meaning in life” (Hallsten, 1993:
101). When an individual is made vulnerable due to his or her inability to maintain a
positive sense of self through role enactment, he/she may experience a sense of lost
control or powerlessness, low self-esteem, cynicism and withdrawal. These feelings
result in success depression (burnout), non commitment (a detached, passive
attitude) and finally, general depression. While Hallsten’s (1993) assertions above do
55
resonate with the sentiments expressed by the existential tradition, he presents an ad
hoc theory that has not been empirically tested.
According to Burke’s identity control theory (1991, 1997), which will be discussed at
length later in this chapter, individuals experience negative emotional arousal when
they are unable to self-verify an existing role identity. It is therefore suggested that
failure to verify the client service employee role identity will result in negative
emotional arousal, which could eventually develop into burnout. The present study
therefore hopes to build on Hallsten’s (1993) theory discussed above, by validating
his assertions through empirically generated data.
Research into the role of subjective identity perceptions in the development of
burnout should be interpreted with caution due to the constraints of causality to which
much burnout research is subject (Maslach & Schaufeli, 1993). Since high burnout is
often correlated with poor job and organisational conditions, researchers have
generally concluded that these conditions result in burnout. According to Maslach
and Schaufeli (1993: 8), however, this could mean that people who suffer burnout
may experience the job context in a particularly negative light.
2.2.7.8 The role of expectations in the development of burnout
The inability to meet expectations has also been linked to the development of
burnout. Cordes and Dougherty (1993: 636) make a distinction between personal
achievement and organisational expectations.
Personal expectations include
expectations that employees hold about the profession into which they have entered,
the organisation where they work and their own levels of personal efficacy within
these two arenas.
Achievement expectations include the expectations that
employees hold with regards to the achievement outcomes while at work. Lastly,
organisational expectations refer to those expectations that individuals hold towards
the nature of the organisational and professional system.
Stevens and O’Neill (1983) tested the assertion that burnout is related to a significant
change in work-related expectations. They found that staff in the development
56
disabilities field, who experienced a large negative expectation change, also
displayed the highest levels of burnout. Age and educational level have been shown
to correlate with burnout, due largely to the differential impact that each of these
demographic variables have on expectations. Younger employees may experience
higher levels of burnout than older employees due to the fact that they are more likely
to suffer disillusionment with work (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Employees with
higher educational levels may experience more burnout than their less-educated
counterparts due to the fact that they foster greater expectations with regard to the
work context and associated work outcomes (Pines & Maslach, 1978).
As will be shown in the section on role identity later in this chapter, role identities
incorporate the set of behavioural expectations to which the incumbent of the
particular role must adhere. Failure to attain these expectations leads to failure in
self-verification, resulting in negative emotional arousal and possible burnout.
2.2.7.9 Emotional labour and burnout
The relationship between emotional labour and burnout has also received
considerable attention in the literature (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Montgomery,
Panagololou, De Wildt & Meenks, 2006; Zapf et al., 2001). Hochschild (1983: 7)
defines emotional labour as “the management of feelings to create a publicly
observable facial and bodily display”. It is believed that it contributes to the
development of burnout through the creation of emotive dissonance between the
authentic, inner feelings of the individual employee and the fake expression of
emotions required by the work (Copp, 1998). The exercise of emotional labour is
particularly prevalent in the service sector. According to Ashforth and Humphrey
(1993: 90) service providers, who are situated at the customer interface, are
expected to express and experience a range of feelings. These expressions are
differentiated according to range; intensity; duration and object of emotion,
depending on the kind of service setting or occupational group concerned.
The
range, intensity, duration and object of emotion are generally determined by
organisational display rules. These rules, in the service setting, are orientated
57
towards the display of emotions that communicate a sense of well-being, helpfulness
and customer satisfaction.
Emotional labour is performed through the utilisation of surface acting or deep acting
(Hochschild, 1983). Surface acting refers to the display of emotions that are not
actually felt. This involves careful manipulation of facial expression, tone of voice
and gestures. Deep acting occurs when the employee actually attempts to feel or
experience the emotion that he/she is required to display (Brotheridge & Lee, 2003).
While emotional labour serves a number of important organisational functions (Mann,
1997: 11), it has been described as a “double-edged sword” that can carry a number
of negative implications. According to Ashforth and Humphrey (1993: 1005), if the
emotional labour confirms an identity-relevant experience i.e. it is “consistent with a
central, salient and valued social and/or personal identity, it will lead to psychological
well-being” (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993: 1005). If however, the practice of emotional
labour is inconsistent with personal or professional identity, it could lead to “emotive
dissonance” and a loss of the individual’s authentic self.
A number of empirical studies have examined the impact of emotional labour on the
development of burnout. Zapf et al. (2001) show how the emotional work associated
with engaging with clients is a significant predictor of all three burnout subscales. A
cross-sectional study of 174 Dutch governmental workers suggests that the need to
hide negative emotions and engage in surface acting is related to burnout
(Montgomery et al., 2006).
Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) make a distinction between deep acting and surface
acting, and maintain that the two forms of emotion management processes are
differentially related to each of the burnout dimensions.
According to the
researchers, surface acting requires the mobilisation of more emotional resources
than deep acting does, and requires that the employee depersonalise the client and
treat them as objects. This may eventually result in guilt on the part of the client
service employee. Deep acting, where the employee tries to control internal thoughts
and feelings so that they are in accordance with the display rules of the organisation,
results in feelings of personal accomplishment. Through their research, Brotheridge
and Grandey (2002) confirm that deep acting relates negatively to depersonalisation
58
and positively to personal accomplishment, while surface acting relates positively to
emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation.
Brotheridge and Lee (2003: 58) apply a conservation of resources model to the
relationship between emotional labour and burnout. They propose that the effect of
emotional labour on burnout is also influenced by the outcome of the service
encounter.
Through the use of emotional labour during service interactions,
employees seek to acquire favourable reciprocal relationships and experience a
sense of “authenticity of self”.
If, through emotional labour, they are unable to
establish good relationships with clients and maintain an authentic sense of self,
emotional exhaustion is likely to occur. This finding is consistent with earlier findings
by Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) that maintain that the enactment of emotional
labour that is not consistent with an individual’s role identity can lead to the
development of emotional dissonance. This dissonance occurs as a result of the fact
that through the enactment of behaviours that are inconsistent with the individual’s
role identity, the individual is unable to verify this role identity.
2.2.7.10
Burnout and biographic and demographic variables
Limited evidence supporting the role of biographic and demographic variables in the
development of burnout has been found.
Age has been found to correlate with
burnout, suggesting that younger employees are more prone to the development of
burnout than older employees (Maslach et al, 1996; Schwab & Iwanicki, 1982;
Stevens & O’Neil, 1983; Vredenburgh, 1999).
A limited number of studies have
found an association between gender and burnout. Women generally tend to score
higher on emotional exhaustion, while men score higher on depersonalisation
(Maslach & Jackson, 1981; Vredenburgh, 1999). Unmarried individuals have shown
to report higher levels of burnout when compared with their married counterparts
(Maslach & Jackson, 1985), and people with higher educational levels have also
displayed higher levels of burnout when compared with those with less education
(Pines & Maslach, 1978). In the South African context, Jordaan et al. (2007) confirm
a significant relationship between age, emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation
amongst a group of counselling psychologists. In the same study, male counselling
59
psychologists display higher levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation
than females do. While non-married respondents display higher levels of emotional
exhaustion and depersonalisation than their married colleagues do.
2.2.8 The consequences of burnout
2.2.8.1 General consequences of burnout
The consequences of burnout have received less attention in the literature when
compared to burnout antecedents. According to Maslach and Leiter (1997: 62)
burnout is generally ignored in organisational settings due largely to the fact that it is
described in personal terms.
As a result, organisational practitioners look for
personal solutions to the problem, which, according to the range of antecedents
discussed above, is largely an organisational or job context problem. While burnout
carries a number of implications at the individual level, these individual implications
can have a direct effect on the manner in which the burnt-out individual engages on
the job, and hence, can affect the organisational bottom line.
The first clinical symptoms of burnout were documented by Freudenberger and
Richelson (1980) and included, amongst others, exhaustion; impatience; cynicism;
paranoia and disorientation. Burnout leads to depression; poor physical health and
turnover; unproductive work behaviours; problematic interpersonal relationships and
reduced job satisfaction (Kahill, 1998). Furthermore, Noworol, Zarczynskli, Fafrowicz
and Marek (1993: 163) maintain that burnout results in a loss of creativity and
innovation and that burnt-out individuals are self-doubting, vulnerable to authority and
conformist. Kuruuzum et al. (2008: 189) cite diminished job performance; turnover
intention; absenteeism; marital and familial conflict; reduced levels of self-esteem;
problems concentrating; social isolation; substance abuse and physical and
psychological disorder as some of the primary consequences of the burnout
syndrome.
A total of 132 symptoms have been associated with burnout at the individual level
(Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 19). As depicted in Figure 6, these symptoms can be
affective; cognitive; physical; behavioural and motivational.
60
Individual consequences of burnout
ƒ
Affective (anxiety, tension, depression)
ƒ
Cognitive (sense of failure, guilt, cynicism,
helplessness)
ƒ
Physical (headaches, fatigue, muscle aches)
ƒ
Behavioural (drug and alcohol abuse,
compulsive complaining)
ƒ
Motivational (boredom, loss of idealism, low
morale)
Individual attitudes
towards work
ƒ Decreased job
satisfaction
ƒ Reduced
organisational
commitment
Individual withdrawal
behaviours
ƒ Absenteeism
ƒ Turnover intention
ƒ Lowered
performance
Interpersonal
consequences
ƒ Relationships
with clients, coworkers and
family
Organisational consequences of
burnout
ƒ Turnover
ƒ Decreased performance
Figure 6: Individual and organisational consequences of burnout
Affective symptoms include anxiety, tension, decreased job satisfaction and
depression.
Cognitive symptoms include a sense of failure, helplessness, and
difficulty making decisions, cynicism and feelings of guilt. Physical symptoms include
headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and nausea. Compulsive complaining increase,
use of alcohol and drugs and hyperactivity manifest as behavioural symptoms and
boredom, loss of idealism and low moral are characteristic of symptoms related to
motivation (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 19-31). As shown in Figure 6, burnout has
61
been linked to the development of negative work-related attitudes and behaviours,
including decreased levels of job satisfaction, reduced organisational commitment
and withdrawal behaviours. Cordes and Dougherty (1993: 638) add interpersonal
consequences in terms of clients, co-workers and friends to this list. At the
organisational level, these attitudes and behaviours can result in high levels of
absenteeism, turnover and reduced levels of performance.
As illustrated in Figure 6, the individual consequences of burnout have a direct effect
on the organisation.
Burnt-out individuals experience negative attitudes towards
work that could result in withdrawal behaviours. These withdrawal behaviours, which
include absenteeism and turnover intentions, carry a number of negative implications
for the organisational bottom line (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 19). The negative
attitudes of burnt-out individuals also carry a number of negative implications for
personal relationships at work. Burnt-out individuals may adopt negative attitudes
towards their co-workers, subordinates, clients and supervisors, which could
adversely affect organisational culture, teamwork and service levels (Cordes &
Dougherty, 1993: 638).
The relationship between job satisfaction and burnout has been extensively
examined in the literature (Bhana & Haffejee, 1996; Dolan, 1987; Tsigilis, Koustelios
& Togia, 2004) and moderate to high correlations have been revealed. Tsigilis et al.
(2004: 671) exposed a strong negative relationship between job satisfaction and
burnout, with the three dimensions of burnout displaying varying levels of correlation
with job satisfaction. Job satisfaction displayed moderate negative correlations with
emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, and weak positive correlations with
personal accomplishment (Tsigilis et al., 2004: 672). A longitudinal study amongst
362 school-based teachers revealed that all three burnout components displayed
significant and independent correlations with job satisfaction (Burke & Greenglass,
1995).
Since antecedent variables are differentially related to each of the burnout
dimensions, as discussed earlier, it only makes sense to expect that the
psychological and behavioural consequences of burnout are differentially related to
each of the three dimensions.
According to Leiter (1993) outcome variables
62
associated with withdrawal tendencies such as turnover intention and decreased job
involvement are related to emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Outcome
variables related to positive self-efficacy, such as control, coping and favourable
attitudes to work are more strongly related to personal accomplishment. Similarly,
Lee
and
Ashorth
(1996:
130)
maintain
that
emotional
exhaustion
and
depersonalisation are more strongly related to turnover intention and organisational
commitment and weakly associated with control coping. Personal accomplishment
was, however, strongly related to control coping.
As mentioned in the preceding section on burnout antecedents, much burnout
research is subject to causal limitations. Research into the consequences of burnout
is no exception, since most such studies have been cross-sectional. As a result, it is
difficult to conclude as to whether outcome variables are indeed the result of burnout.
Cherniss (1992) conducted one of the few longitudinal studies on the long-term
consequences of burnout by exploring the relationship between levels of burnout
experienced during the career year of 25 human service professionals and
subsequent career adaptation during the next decade (12 years later).
Career
adaptation was measured through the use of variables including career stability, work
satisfaction, attitudes towards recipients and flexibility. The results of the study were
surprising and showed how individuals that were more burnt out at the start of their
careers, were less likely to change careers and adopted a more flexible approach to
work. As a result, Cherniss (1992: 11) concludes that burnout experienced early on
during one’s career does not result to any significant long-term consequences.
2.2.8.2 The consequences of burnout in customer service environments
Burnout amongst client service employees can have a detrimental impact on the
organisation, since burnout has been shown to induce a decrease in concern for
clients; resulting in compromised levels of service performance (Singh et al., 1994).
In a study conducted amongst customer service dyads (including the customer
service representative and the customer) from a number of public service
organisations, it was found that a negative relationship exists between levels of
burnout in customer service environments and customer satisfaction (Yagil, 2006).
63
This negative relationship was found to be stronger when client service
representatives displayed a high level of empowerment (Yagil, 2006: 258). In a study
of call centre customer service representatives, Singh et al. (1994) revealed that
burnout acted as a partial mediator between role stressors and a number of
psychological and behavioural job outcomes. This indicated the importance of
research into burnout amongst “boundary-spanning” employees. In 2001, Low et al.
(2001: 588) replicated the study by Singh et al. (1994) by examining the antecedents
and outcomes of burnout in a sales environment. Low et al. (2001: 589) deviate
slightly from the antecedents proposed by Singh et al. (1994) by adding intrinsic
motivation as an antecedent of burnout. Their research, which was based on a
sample of 148 field salespeople in Australia, showed that intrinsic motivation, role
conflict and role ambiguity are all significant antecedents to burnout. Job satisfaction
and salesperson performance are direct outcomes of burnout, as well as mediating
the influence of burnout on organisational commitment and intention to leave.
Due to the often precarious positions that client service employees find themselves in
by having to satisfy the often competing demands of clients and management, Singh
(2000: 15) makes a distinction between burnout tendencies experienced in relation to
company management and burnout tendencies experienced in relation to the client.
While Singh et al. (1994) make this distinction between burnout tendencies, they
aggregate these scores to a total burnout measure. Singh (2000) argues that these
tendencies are differentially related to both antecedent and outcome variables, and
should therefore be kept separate in an analysis of burnout tendencies amongst
client service employees. As such, Singh (2000) measured burnout tendencies that
develop in response to the client and burnout tendencies that develop in response to
company management and found that burnout mediates the relationship between
role stress and quality and role stress and commitment. He also found that burnout
in response to the client has a negative effect on quality, while burnout in response to
management has a positive effect on quality.
Both burnout towards client and
management have a significantly negative impact in commitment (Singh, 2000: 31).
The negative consequences of burnout, particularly in the client service setting,
points to the importance of gaining a better understanding of the burnout construct
within this setting. It is postulated that a number of the burnout antecedents
discussed in this section on burnout are inextricably linked to the concept of role
64
identity. It is further argued that the nature of the client service employee’s role
identity can result in behaviours and emotions that result in burnout. It will therefore
be shown in the sections that follow how the content of role identities could lead to
emotional
exhaustion,
accomplishment.
depersonalisation
and
reduced
feelings
of
personal
Client service employees who define their role identities as
powerless and subordinate in relation to the client may experience a loss of
autonomy or a sense of diminished personal control within the workplace. As was
already shown in this chapter, reduced feelings of autonomy and control have been
researched as antecedents to the burnout syndrome. The role identity of a client
service employee will also carry implications for the way in which he or she defines
his/her relationship with the client. Relationships that are perceived as inequitable or
unfair could result in the development of burnout amongst these employees.
More recent developments in burnout research have shown how a sense of selfesteem and status can buffer against burnout. Using Burke’s (1991, 1997) identity
control model, we will show in the next sections of this chapter how failure to selfverify an existing role identity can result in negative emotions associated with
burnout. In so doing, we will draw from the work by Hallsten (1993), Buunk et al.
(2007) and Vanheule et al. (2003).
The next section of this literature review will elaborate on the definition of role
identity, its antecedents and its role in shaping behaviour.
2.3
ROLE IDENTITY
As mentioned in the preceding literature review on burnout, most studies into the
antecedents to burnout have focused on situational variables such as organisational
and work context. The present study will depart from this tradition by focusing on the
relationship between role identity and burnout.
It is proposed that client service
employees adopt role identities that are at least in part based on the client discourse
of the organisation.
The internalisation of these role identities could carry
implications for the behaviour and work-related perceptions of client service
employees that could result in the development of burnout.
65
In the next section of this literature review, the concept of role identity will be
explored.
Special attention will be given to the manner in which role identities
influence behaviour and work-related perceptions.
This will be followed by a
discussion of organisational discourse and the implications that this discourse holds
for the formation of client service role identities.
2.3.1 Symbolic interactionism and the concept of role identity
The concept of identity has been frequently applied in both the social and
behavioural sciences. As a result, numerous theoretical traditions have explored the
concept, resulting in as many conceptualisations of the term (Burke, 2003: 1). Social
identity theory, for instance, assumes that one’s identity is linked to the social
category to which one belongs. Personal identity theory, on the other hand, focuses
on the individual’s sense of self as constituting the core of his/her identity (Hogg,
Terry & White, 1995). The present study, however, will use the concept of role
identity as intended by the structural symbolic interactionists. For ease of purpose,
the concept “role identity” will be used interchangeably with concept “identity”, unless
specifically stipulated.
The concept of role identity as defined by the current study is derived from the
structural symbolic interactionist approach to self and identity as proposed by Stryker
(1980). Symbolic interactionism is a micro sociological perspective that focuses on
the formation of the self and the manner in which interpersonal interactions shape the
individual’s sense of self (Cerulo, 1997: 386). The sociological approach to self and
society assumes a reciprocal relationship between the self and society. The self
influences society through the behaviour of individuals which ultimately shape the
groups and institutions that constitute society (Hoelter, 1993). Conversely, society
influences the self through shared meanings and language that enable a person to
engage in social interactions. The traditional approach to symbolic interactionism,
also known as the situational approach, views society as unstructured, unstable and
in a constant state of flux. Society is continually shaped and reshaped through the
interpretations and meanings that individuals apply to various situations.
In
opposition to this view, Stryker (1980) proposes the structural approach to symbolic
66
interactionism which assumes society to have a stable and durable nature due to the
“patterned regularities that characterise most human action” (Stryker, 1980: 65). The
structural symbolic interactionist perspective therefore assumes that individuals act in
ways to verify their conceptions of who they are, resulting in a durable social
structure created through patterns of individual and inter-individual behaviour at a
number of levels of analysis. The example by Stets and Burke (2003: 129) in the
paragraph below illustrates this reciprocal relationship between self and society
perfectly.
“A scientist, for example, may act in ways that make it clear to herself, as well as to
others, that she is careful, analytical, logical and experimentally inclined. She may
engage in a variety of actions and interactions to convey these images. These are
individual patterns of behaviours that help us to understand the individual scientist.
These same patterns of behaviour may be part of a larger social structure. We may
find, for example, that scientists who are careful, analytical, logically inclined and who
do these things well are elected to high positions in their scientific organisations”
(Stets & Burke, 2003: 129).
Stets and Burke (2003: 129) go on to state that the movement of such persons into
“positions of prominence” is facilitated by their activities as scientists, which are
focused at maintaining boundaries between themselves and non-scientists.
The
maintenance of these boundaries also ensures that resources keep flowing to the
groups and organisations to which these scientists belong.
The example of the scientist just cited illustrates the symbolic interactionist’s view
that a reciprocal relationship exists between the self and society, whereby individual
actions exist within the patterns of action and interaction that constitute society.
Social structure therefore arises from the actions of individuals who in turn receive
feedback from the structures they and others have created.
Social structure is
therefore constituted through the actions of individuals and these individuals in turn
receive feedback from the social structure and adjust or re-negotiate their behaviours
accordingly.
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2.3.2 Role identity defined
Identity theory, within which the concept of role identity assumes a central position,
has emerged from this structural variant of symbolic interactionism and is based on a
number of underlying principles consistent with the symbolic interactionist
perspective. It has been described as a “micro sociological theory” that seeks to
explain individual role-related behaviour in terms of the reciprocal relationships
between self and society (Hogg et al.,1995: 255).
According to identity theory,
individual behaviour is dependent upon the meanings situated in the named or
classified world. These meanings carry with them a set of behavioural expectations
that are largely derived through social interaction (Hogg et al., 1995: 255).
Using the symbolic interactionist framework, Stets and Burke (2003: 134) explain
that:
“…the core of an identity is the categorization of the self as an occupant of a role and
incorporating into the self the meanings and expectations associated with the role in
its performance.
Sociological social psychologists see persons as always acting
within the context of social structure, in that they and others are labelled such that
each recognises the other as an occupant of positions or roles in society” (Stets &
Burke, 2003: 134).
As described above, the meanings that individuals attach to themselves within
particular situations are referred to as role identities, and encompass a set of
expectations that prescribe behaviour that is considered appropriate within a specific
role-related situation. By assigning meanings and identities to others and things, we
enable ourselves to act appropriately towards those persons or within those
situations, since the assigned identities incorporate a set of behavioural expectations
attached to the person occupying the role (McCall & Simmons, 1978: 64).
McCall and Simmons (1978: 65) define role identity as “the character and the role
that an individual devises for himself as an occupant of a particular social position”.
This concept of role identity incorporates a “conventional” as well as an
“idiosyncratic” dimension. The conventional dimension denotes the role which relates
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to the expectations tied to the social position, while the idiosyncratic dimension refers
to the identity or unique interpretations that individuals bring to their roles. It is an
“imaginative view” in terms of how people like to think of themselves as “being” and
“acting” in the world. This imaginative view of the self serves as the primary source
of plans for future actions since it contains expectations of behaving. It allows us to
appraise our or another’s behaviours and gives meaning to our interpretations of
situations and the people we encounter (McCall & Simmons, 1978: 69).
Hogg et al. (1995: 256) describe these role identities as “self-conceptions, selfreferent cognitions or self definitions that people apply to themselves as a
consequence of the structural role positions they occupy and through a process of
labelling or self-definition as a member of a particular category”. Grube and Piliavin
(2000: 118) define role identities as “those components of the self that correspond to
the social roles we play”. The identities we assign to ourselves and others define the
range of behaviours that we engage in.
The symbolic interactionist approach to behaviour does, however, not view the
concept of role as a static prescription of role-related behaviour.
Instead, by
incorporating the concept of “identity” with that of “role”, the symbolic interactionists
maintain that the subjective meaning the individual associates with a role position
informs adaptive behaviour.
To illustrate this point, Lynch (2007: 381) makes a
useful distinction between the functionalist approach to roles and the interactionist
approach to roles. The functionalist approach views roles as the set of expectations
that society places on an individual and therefore views roles as deterministic
prescriptions for behaviour. These expectations include all the rights, responsibilities,
privileges, duties and obligations associated with the occupation of a social position
in relation to others occupying other positions, and serve to foster regularised
patterns of behaviour. The interactionist perspective, on the other hand, views role
performances as less static than the functionalist approach does. The interactionist
perspective maintains that the unique meaning the individual associates with the
occupation of the role renders role performance adaptive and person-specific. For
instance, two individuals enacting the same societal role may attach very different
meanings to the role, and therefore display different role-related behaviours.
69
In the client service context, for instance, an organisation will most likely have a set of
expectations according to which the client service employees working for that
organisation should enact the role. These expectations will be communicated to the
employees through managerial discourse, organisational policies, job descriptions
and other forms of organised sanction and reward (Grube & Piliavin, 2000). While
each individual client service employee will internalise these expectations to a certain
degree (Alvesson & Willmott, 2004), the role of each client service employee will be
infused with a person-specific meaning (Holmer-Nadesan, 1996) when enacted by
each individual client service professional. As a result, the role identities of each
client service employee should differ slightly, depending on the degree of
internalisation and identification with the organisational discourse.
To summarise, role identities can be described as an organised collection of
behavioural expectations. They are idealised notions of how we ought to behave in
situations (Neale & Griffin, 2006: 23) and can be distinguished from general identities
in that they represent the “sets of expectations and demands that define the parts
that people play in social interaction” (Wood & Roberts, 2006: 781).
General
identities, on the other hand, are not context specific and account for commonalities
in the identities assumed across a variety of contexts or situations.
Role identities are highly relational in that the meanings attached to the self are
learned by the individual through interaction with others. According to Burke (1980:
19) “others respond as if the person has an identity appropriate to that particular role
performance”. These responses provide clues to the appropriate role performance,
and, by implication, to an appropriate identity for one who performs in appropriate
ways. When individuals engage in identity-related behaviour, they take on the role of
the generalised other, thereby giving the role meaning in relation to others.
Accordingly then, the identity assumed by a particular individual in a specific position
is always related to an alternative, counter-identity i.e. identities are enacted as they
relate to counter-identities. In the client service setting, for instance, the client service
employee forms an identity in relation to that of the client.
The relational aspect of role identities is well illustrated by Parker (1997: 12) when he
states that individuals construct identities by creating a “pattern of fractures” that
70
separates the activities of one group from the activities of another.
This
differentiation is based on the individual’s ability to make a distinction between
similarities and differences amongst other individuals and groups. This idea that
identities are relevant insofar as they are tied to counter-identities echoes Hegel’s
description of the master-slave dialectic.
According to Hegel, the identity of an
individual (master) is revealed through a process of “reciprocal recognition” whereby
the identity of the master is only confirmed in recognition of the identity of the slave.
Hegel maintains that the slave only gains an identity in the face of the master and
that the master only gains identity in the face of the slave (McDonald, Rogers &
MacDonald, 2008: 585).
Applied to the present study, the meanings that are
therefore contained within the client service identity can therefore be partly exposed
through an understanding of the meanings they (as client service employees) attach
to the counter-role or role of the client. As Bleakley (2006: 419) states: “comparison
and contradiction” of one’s role identity with that of the relevant other is a useful tool
in the construction of identity relevant meanings.
Since role identities are tied to the positions one occupies in the social structure and
since one individual can occupy a number of positions, an individual can assume
multiple identities. The self is therefore comprised of a number of identities each of
which is tied to certain positions within the social structure. A number of researchers
have passed comment on the structure of these identities within the self and most
postulate that these identities are organised hierarchically (McCall & Simmons, 1966;
1978; Stryker, 1980).
McCall and Simmons (1978: 84) maintain that an individual’s identities are arranged
hierarchically with the most prominent or influential identities situated towards the top
of the hierarchy. The prominence of the role identity is determined by its need for
support; the perceived degree of opportunity for the profitable enactment of the role;
the intrinsic gratification the individual derives from portraying the role identity and the
extrinsic gratification that the role affords the individual.
Stryker (1980), on the other hand, asserts that role identities are organised in a
salience hierarchy, not a prominence hierarchy as postulated by McCall and
Simmons (1978). According to Stryker (1980), a salient role identity is one that is
71
frequently activated across situations. Salience is therefore determined by how one
behaves and not by that which one values (Stets & Burke, 2002: 135).
The salience of an identity is determined by the commitment an individual has
towards an identity (Stryker & Serpe, 1994). Quantitative commitment to an identity
is determined by the number of people one is tied to through an identity. While
qualitative commitment is determined by the depth of ties one has towards others
based on a particular identity.
2.3.3 Burke’s cybernetic model of identity control
Structural symbolic interactionism has developed into “two somewhat different but
closely related dimensions” (Stryker & Burke, 2000: 285). While Stryker (1980) and
colleagues (Stryker & Serpe, 1982; 1994) have largely focused on how societal
structures affect the self and how the meanings attached to the self affect social
behaviour, Burke (1991) and colleagues (Burke & Cast, 1997; Burke & Reitzes, 1981;
1991; Burke & Stets, 1999; Cast & Burke, 2002) have focused on the internal
dynamics associated with self-processes and how these affect behaviours. In so
doing, Burke has developed a micro-sociological model that explains social
behaviour in terms of role identity processes.
According to Burke (1991a; 1991b; 1997), the relationship between meaning, identity
and behaviour can be explained as a cybernetic model, or a perceptual control
system. Since identity can be described as the set of meanings applied to the self in
a social role, this set of meanings acts as a standard against which perceptions of the
environment are compared. As indicated by Figure 7, when a specific role identity is
activated, a feedback loop is established through which the individual compares the
meaning standards contained within the role identity with the results of his/her actions
or behaviours (output).
Contained within the role identity of a client service
employee, for instance, are a number of meaning standards against which the
individual will judge his/her role-related behaviour. When the client service role is
activated, the client service employee will attempt to act in accordance with the
standards contained in the identity standard, since these identity standards serve as
72
guides for behaviour. Once the individual has engaged in meaningful role-related
behaviour, she will compare the results/outcomes of her actions with the expectations
contained in the identity standard.
If the individual experiences incongruence between the expectations for role-related
behaviour contained in the identity standard, and their appraisal of the situation
(input), they will modify their subsequent behaviour (output) in an attempt to control
the perceptual input to match the identity standard (Stets & Burke, 2003: 132).
Identity
Standard
Comparator
B
Reflected
appraisals
Actions/meaningful
behaviour
A
OUTPUT
INPUT
Perceived self
meanings
Social situation
Figure 7: Burke’s cybernetic identity control model
(Burke, 1991a)
As a result, when a specific identity is activated, a feedback loop is established. As
illustrated in Figure 7, this feedback loop consists of four components, namely:
ƒ
The identity standard (or self meanings) attached to the role (the meaning
content of a role)
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ƒ
The perceptual input of self-relevant meanings derived from the situation (the
individual’s self-perceptions of the identity enactment derived from the social
environment) (B)
ƒ
Comparator − a process that compares the perceptual input with the standard
ƒ
An output to the environment in the form of meaningful behaviour that is the result
of the comparison of the input with the relevant identity standard (A).
In developing the cybernetic model of role identity control, Burke (1991a, 1991b) was
focused on explaining the implications that role identities hold for behaviour.
According to Burke (1991a), individual behaviour can be predicted through the
understanding of the meanings that an individual attaches to a particular role identity.
According to the cybernetic model described in Figure 7, individuals act in
accordance with the identity meanings contained within the identity standard. The
individual compares the perceptual input derived from his/her behaviour in the
situations with the identity standard.
If the individual experiences incongruence
between the perceived self meanings and the identity standard, he/she will modify
his/her subsequent behaviour (output) in an attempt to control the perceptual input to
match the standard. The control system therefore functions to modify the behaviour
of the individual (output) to the situation in an attempt to enhance the match between
the perceptions of the situation and the identity standard (Burke, 1997: 139).
Individual role-related behaviour therefore occurs in response to the individual’s
constant goal to match the meaning contained within the identity standard with the
situational inputs present in the situation. If the self meanings (standard) do not
match the situational meanings as perceived by the individual, behaviour is modified
to counteract the situational meanings and restore perceptions to match the
standard. As a result, role-related behaviours are a means by which one strives to
keep the self-relevant meanings in line with the meanings emerging from the situation
at hand.
In keeping with the general principles underpinning symbolic interactionism, Burke’s
(1997) identity control model incorporates two underlying processes – that of
reflexivity and that of self-verification.
74
Reflexivity can be described as the process by which the individual is able to
evaluate the fit between the identity standard and the input from the social situation
or interaction (Collier, 2001: 218). According to identity theory, the individual’s ability
to engage in a process of self-reflection by taking on the role of the other forms the
cornerstone of understanding individual role-related behaviour. Through the process
of self-reflection, individuals are able to form interpretations of how they think others
see them. These interpretations become the set of meanings which ultimately make
up the individual self-concept.
The self-concept therefore emerges out of the
reflected appraisal process (referred to in sociological theory as “the looking glass
self”), whereby our interpretations of how others see us influence the way in which
we see ourselves (Stets & Burke, 2003: 131). An identity is therefore formed through
the processes of identification, whereby the self takes itself as an object and
categorises, classifies and names itself in relation to other social categories or
classifiers. This categorisation is based on the self as an occupant of a role and the
incorporation into the self, all the meanings and expectations associated with
performances in a role (Stets & Burke, 2000: 224).
Self-verification, on the other hand, can be described as the process by which the
identity standard serves as a reference that people use to evaluate their behaviours
in any given situation (Burke, 2004b).
When the individual’s perceptions of the
situation match the meanings contained within the identity standard, identity is
verified and people continue to act as they have been.
If, however, there is a
mismatch between the identity standard and the perceived situational meanings
resultant from role-related behaviour, the person will act to counteract this imbalance
(Burke, 2004b: 5). The behavioural goals that people therefore seek to attain are in
fact the meanings and expectations that are held in the identity standard. According
to Burke (2004b: 6):
“These meanings constitute the state of affairs that we strive to obtain and maintain
as role occupants and group members. We know that we have accomplished the
goals when we make our perceptions match the standards in whatever manner we
can” (Burke, 2004b: 6).
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Based on the literature discussed above, it could be concluded that all client service
employees will have certain self-expectations in terms of how they believe they
should enact the client service role. When engaging in role-related behaviour, client
service employees will appraise their behaviour, based on how they perceive others’
reactions to their behaviour and the actual outcomes of the behaviour. Through
appraisal, they will compare their role-related behaviour with the standard contained
within the client service role identity. If their perceptions of their behaviours are in
accordance with the expectations contained within the standard, they will experience
self-verification. If, however, they perceive their behaviour as incongruent with the
behavioural expectations contained within the identity standard, they will experience
a sense of failed self-verification, and attempt to adjust their behaviour so that it
meets the expectations contained in the identity standard.
2.3.4 Role identity, stress and behaviour
A primary contribution of the identity control theory is that it establishes a clear link
between role identity and behaviour in a number of ways. According to the identity
control model, behaviour occurs as a result of the expectations contained within the
identity standard, in that people attempt to behave in a manner congruent with the
expectations contained in the identity standard (Steward, Hutt, Walker & Kumar,
2009).
When individuals appraise their behaviour as incongruent with these
expectations, they experience negative emotions as a result of failed self-verification.
A failure in self-verification results in the individual modifying his role-related
behaviour so as to facilitate congruence between perceptions of the situation and
role-related expectations.
Burke’s (1991a; 1991b) identity control model therefore essentially proposes that
identities influence performance and that these performances are evaluated by the
self for the kind of identity that they imply. Accordingly then, the link between identity
and performance is a two-way process, where the self reinforces behaviour and this
behaviour then reinforces the self.
Burke and Reitzes (1981: 84) state that the link between identity and role
performance lies in the fact that they have common underlying frames of reference.
76
The frame of reference that an individual uses to enact an identity in a situation is the
same frame of reference that the individual uses to assess his/her role performance.
This common frame of reference refers to the meaning attached to both the identity
and the role performance or behaviour. Burke and Reitzes (1981: 84) tested this
hypothesis by empirically examining the level of congruence between the meaning of
an identity and the perceived meaning of associated behaviour. Using the BurkeTully technique, the researchers gathered data from 640 college students and
assessed the impact of the student identities on two performance variables of
educational plans and participation in social activities. The study found support for
the hypothesised link between role identity and performance (behaviour) through
establishing common meanings between the two. Similarly, in a study on predictors
of volunteer behaviour, Finkelstein, Penner and Brannick (2005: 403) found that role
identity and the associated expectations were the strongest predictors of time spent
volunteering and length of service.
Burke’s (1991a; 1991b) model further postulates that the relationship between role
identity and behaviour is shaped through the process of self-verification.
The
process of self-verification carries a number of behavioural and affective implications
for the individual.
When the meanings attached to self in situation (input) are
congruent with the meanings contained in the identity standard and self-verification
occurs, the individual experiences positive emotional arousal accompanied by
feelings of high self-esteem and personal mastery (Cast & Burke, 2002). When a
discrepancy between the perceived self in situation and the standard becomes
apparent, an individual experiences negative emotional arousal, generally in the form
of depression, distress, anger and hostility. Negative emotions therefore arise when
one is unable to meet the behavioural expectations contained in the identity
standard, while positive emotion arises when one does (Stets & Burke, 2003: 139).
Burke’s (1991a; 1991b) model therefore indicates that people seek to achieve
“semantic congruence” between the meanings contained in the identity and the
interpretations of behaviour that flow from a particular identity (Large & Marcussen,
2000: 51). According to Stets and Burke (2003: 140) a discrepancy in the identity
verification process results in the individual either adjusting his/her standard and
expectations or adjusting his/her role-related behaviour accordingly. When the input
77
meanings in a given situation are not congruent with the identity standard, stress
occurs, resulting in a change in the output behaviour. For instance, people who
perceived themselves as submissive acted even more submissively if they received
feedback that they were perceived as dominant.
A number of researchers have examined the nature of identity process interruption
and the types of stress that ensue (Burke & Reitzes, 1991; Large & Marcussen,
2000, 2003; Marcussen, Ritter & Safron, 2004). Burke and Reitzes (1991) maintain
that the more committed a person is to an identity; the harder the person will work to
maintain congruence between the identity standard and the environmental input (selfappraisal of the identity enactment).
Burke and Reitzes (1991) propose that
commitment to an identity can be based on cognitive and/or socio-emotional factors.
The cognitive basis for commitment to an identity refers to the individual’s perceived
cost or benefit of maintaining the identity. The socio-emotional basis of commitment
refers to the emotional ties that are formed with others while enacting an identity. In
the context of the current study, it is likely that the cognitive basis for commitment to
the client service role is strong due to the fact that the enactment of the role as
determined and maintained through the employment relationship.
The interruption of an identity leads to higher levels of stress when there are
repeated or severe interruptions to the identity; when the interrupted identity is highly
salient; when the individual is highly committed to the identity and when the source of
the perceived identity input is highly significant to the individual (Burke, 1991a: 84).
Furthermore, the identity process loop can be broken when the individual perceives
her behaviours to have little or no effect on the situation, leading to feelings of low
self-efficacy, alienation and the loss of a sense of self (Burke, 1991a). The identity
loop can also be interrupted when an individual is unable to perceive the meanings
associated with a specific situation, or when there is interference from a person’s
other identities resulting in role conflict. Tightly controlled identity systems where
appraisals of the input are required to match the identity standard closely are also
more susceptible to interruption and resultant stress.
According to Thoits (1991: 105) the “more salient the role identity, the more meaning,
purpose and behavioural guidance the individual should derive from its enactment,
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and thus the more that identity should influence psychological well-being”. Events
that disrupt a person’s most salient role identities (identity relevant events) will
therefore be psychologically more damaging than events that threaten less-valued
role identities. Thoits (1995: 73) is therefore of the opinion that the more salient an
identity, the more important it is as a source of meaning. As a result, identity relevant
events that damage highly salient identities should induce more psychological stress
than events that damage less salient identities.
Conversely, identity enhancing
events should have greater positive effects when they occur in relation to salient
identities. In a stratified two-wave panel sample of 532 married and divorced urban
individuals, Thoits (1995) found that the influence of events on changes in
psychological distress were, however, not dependant on the salience of the role
identity.
A number of researchers, have found support for Thoits’ (1995) proposition that the
more salient an identity, the greater the resultant stress when self-verification fails.
According to Marcussen et al. (2004: 289), research suggests that stress occurring in
roles that are most salient to an individual’s sense of self is more likely to have a
negative impact on the psychological well-being of the individual.
In a study
examining the role of identity in the stress process among a group of 174
undergraduates at a Midwestern university, Marcussen et al. (2004: 305) found that
performance based inefficacy related to a role resulted in decreased feelings of selfesteem and personal mastery. The research also concluded that higher levels of
commitment to an identity and identity salience increased the effects of stress on
psychological well-being. In the case of client service employees, where the role
identity associated with client service is largely formed as a result of the contractual
obligations contained within the employment relationships, verification of the role
becomes even more important. Failure to verify in these situations could therefore
result in greater levels of stress, since the individuals identity standard is based, in
part, on expectations derived from the employment relationship.
Burke (1991a) was initially of the opinion that any interruption in the identity
verification process would result in some form of distress – the amount or degree of
which would be a function of the degree of organisation of the identity and the
severity of the interruption.
Later theorists, however, argue that an identity
79
discrepancy does not necessarily result in negative emotion (Large & Marcussen,
2000; Stets, 2005).
If, for instance, an individual is rewarded during such a
discrepancy, the standard can be adjusted to confirm the reward, thereby removing
the discrepancy.
In a study examining the role of emotions in identity theory, Stets (2005: 40) set out
to test whether a lack of identity verification produced negative emotion despite the
direction of the incongruence between the identity standard and the input. He also
attempted to determine whether a recurrent lack of verification results in more intense
emotions and whether a lack of verification from familiar others affects the individual
more strongly that would a lack of verification from unfamiliar others. To test his
hypotheses, Stets (2005: 40) made use of an experiment that simulated a work
situation in which worker identity was involved. Workers were requested to perform
simple tasks and received feedback from a manager following task performance.
The feedback was poised at inducing verification, lack of verification in a positive
direction (where individuals were provided with feedback more positive than they
would have expected), or lack of verification in a negative direction (where individuals
were provided with feedback that was more negative than they would have
expected). The results of the study contradict Burke’s (1991a) original argument that
non-verification (in either direction) results in negative emotion, by showing how nonverification in a positive direction results in positive emotion. The study also shows
how persistence in non-verification results in a decrease in the strength of negative
emotions associated with the role. Whether or not the feedback received was from a
familiar or unfamiliar other played little role in the strength of emotional reactions.
Marcussen and Large (2003: 49) offer an extension of Burke’s identity theory (1991a)
in order to explain the degree of stress experienced by individuals when they
experience a discrepancy in the identity verification process. They explain that the
form of distress experienced by an individual during enactment of a role identity is a
function of the meaning that the role holds for the individual.
The authors use
Higgins’s (1987 as cited in Marcussen & Large, 2003) self-discrepancy theory to
extend Burke’s (1997) link between identity processes and stress. According to the
self discrepancy theory, the self consists of three domains, namely an actual self, an
ideal self and an ought self. The actual self can be described as those attributes that
80
the individual (or others) believes he possesses.
The ideal self refers to those
attributes that the individual or others with whom the individual comes into contact
wishes or hopes that the individual possesses. Finally, the ought self refers to those
attributes that the individual or others believe that the individual should possess.
A further distinction can be made between the two positions through which the self is
evaluated − own and other. Own refers to evaluations made by the individual of
his/her behaviours and attributes, whereas other refers to the evaluations made of
the individual by others with whom the individual comes into contact. The three self
domains (actual, ideal and ought) can then be cross-tabulated with the two self
perspectives resulting in six possible self-state representations: actual own, actual
other, ideal own, ideal other, ought own and ought other. The representations of who
we are (actual self) and who we believe others think we are (actual other) constitute
the self concept and are similar to Burke’s (1991a) system input (appraisals of rolerelated behaviour).
The remaining self-state representations are self-motivating
standards akin to Burke’s (1991a) identity standard. Individuals compare these self
concepts (actual) to their self guides (ideal and ought) and attempt to gain a state of
congruence between the two. The type of emotional reaction to a discrepancy is
dependent on which self guide is incongruent with the actual self. A discrepancy
between the actual self and the ideal self produces depression, while a discrepancy
between the actual self and the ought self produces anxiety (Marcussen & Large,
2003: 15).
Marcussen and Large’s (2003) extension of Burke’s model (1991a) is useful to the
present study since it differentiates between the self guides included in the identity
standard.
Role identities of client service employees may, to a large extent, be
shaped by the client discourse of the organisation. This client discourse or client
ethic will be communicated to the employee through job descriptions, processes of
performance appraisal and the client service culture of the organisation.
This
discourse will contain the expectations that the organisation has of employees when
engaging in a client service role. As a result, the role identities of client service
employees may contain strong ought dimensions. Failure to self-verify under these
circumstances would therefore result in high levels of anxiety amongst client-service
employees.
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Stets and Tsushima (2001: 283) conducted an interesting study by drawing a
distinction between role-based identities and group-based identities and the kinds of
negative emotion resulting from a discrepancy in the verification process of each.
They studied the worker identity as the role-based identity.
Since role-based
identities emphasise performance, the enactment of a role, especially within the
workplace, is evaluated in terms of competence. According to Stets and Tsushima
(2001: 286) role identities in organisational settings are often differentiated in terms of
power and status.
Individuals with low status are less likely than high status
individuals to experience self-verification due to the fact that they have fewer
resources at their disposal to confirm their self views.
By virtue of their service roles, client service employees are often constrained in
terms of behavioural options and resources. They are often required to meet the
needs and expectations of the client within parameters prescribed by the institution.
When clients make excessive, sometimes unreasonable, demands these employees
may feel particularly restricted and powerless in terms of being able to meet the
expectations of both client and organisation.
In situations such as these, client
service employees may find it difficult to self-verify and suffer associated negative
emotion.
Stets and Tsushima (2001: 284) also maintain that when negative emotion results
from failed self-verification, individuals adopt various coping responses to counteract
these negative emotions. Individuals may either adjust their behaviour or change the
meaning of the identity standard through cognitive strategies. According to Stets and
Tsushima (2001: 293) role identities associated with non-intimate groups (such as
the worker identity) are more likely to emphasise doing a particular task than being a
particular person. As a result, role-based identities are more likely to be associated
with behavioural coping responses as opposed to cognitive coping responses. Client
service employees are therefore more likely to adjust their behaviour in an attempt to
confirm role-related expectations. As will be discussed in the next chapter, this could
result in burnout through role overload.
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The concepts of role identity and self-verification have also appeared in research on
emotional labour.
Ashforth and Humphrey (1993: 88) propose that if emotional
labour is consistent with a central, salient and valued social or personal identity, it will
have a positive influence on psychological well-being. If the display of emotional
labour is inconsistent with a salient identity, it will result in emotional dissonance and
a loss of sense of self. Identification with a role may therefore enhance the impact of
job stressors and performance failures. The greater the level of identification with a
role, the greater the internalisation of role obligations and the greater the perceived
sense of failure if these obligations are not met.
The relevance of the identity control model to the current study on burnout lies in the
fact that the model establishes a clear link between role identity and forms and types
of behaviour. Through the process of self-verification individuals act in such a way as
to establish congruence between the identity standard and the self-referent meanings
that are derived from the situation.
When considering the impact of role identity on
behaviour it is therefore important to consider both the content of the identity
(meanings and behavioural expectations attached to the identity as contained within
the identity standard) and the process through which the self is verified.
While
behaviour is to a large extent determined by the content of the identity standard, it is
also largely a product of the process of self-verification. An important contribution of
the identity control model is therefore that role identity should be considered not as a
set of traits belonging to an individual, but rather as a process. Individual behaviour
is therefore not solely a function of the content of a specific standard, but rather the
result of the comparison of the input meaning with the identity standard (Burke,
1991a: 839).
A further contribution of the identity control theory to the current study is the clear link
that the model establishes between failed self-verification and negative emotion. It is
proposed that failure to verify the client service role identity through identity
processes associated with client service work will result in negative emotion, stress
and possibly burnout.
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2.3.5 Origin of the identity standard
Since its development, Burke’s (1991a) identity control model has been subject to a
number of criticisms.
One such criticism is that the model does not adequately
address the origin of the identity standard. In essence, Burke’s original model is
silent in terms of the processes by which individuals recognise and internalise an
identity standard and where the expectations contained within the identity standard
come from. More recent research into the identity control model has tried to address
this shortcoming (Burke & Stets, 1999) through the distinction between principle level
identity standards and program level identity standards.
Principle level identity
standards include abstract goals states such as beliefs, values and ideals and
operate at a higher level of control than program level standards. Program level
standards, on the other hand, are concrete standards that are attached to specific
situations. According to Burke and Stets (1999), these principle level standards
operate in identity control systems that operate at a higher level, but essentially feed
into the programme level identity standard that operate at the situational level. This
distinction does, however, not provide insight into the origin of principle level
standards.
Early sociological thought from an interactionist perspective seems to suggest that
role identity standards are in a sense pre-determined by the social structure upon
which they are based.
According to symbolic interactionism, roles tied to social
positions are social constructions insofar as occupancy of a certain role carries with it
the expectations of how one ought to behave in that specific role. According to
McCall and Simmons (1978: 72) identity construction is an interpersonal act i.e. we
claim identities in relation to others and therefore need to legitimise these identities in
front of these same others. Significant others confirm or support the role identity we
have constructed for ourselves, and in a sense, provide a degree of “role support”.
Similarly, Burke and Tully (1977: 883) maintain that role identities are learned in that
we constantly shape our identities in relation to similarities and differences of relevant
counter-roles. For instance, the meaning of the “wife” role is only significant when
understood in terms of the similarities and differences it shares with the “husband”
role. Given that roles, and the standards they encompass, are based on the position
which one occupies in a specific social situation and since these positions are part of
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the social structure, the expectations and standards for behaviour contained within
the associated role are pre-determined through mutual understandings between the
self and relevant others.
This view is consistent with the view expressed by Stryker (1980), which states that
identity standards arise from societal expectations that are held for persons
occupying certain positions in that structure.
An identity standard is therefore
acquired through socialisation into the expectations that exist for persons occupying
certain positions. These arguments however, seem over-deterministic and are, in
essence, counter to the structural symbolic interactionist perspective. According to
the structural symbolic interactionist perspective, a reciprocal relationship exists
between the self and society, whereby social structures inform the behaviour of the
self, but that the self also shapes and informs the social structure through enactment.
In an attempt to overcome the determinism implicit in role identity theory, the concept
of “role as resource” was developed by Baker and Faulkner (1991). According to
them roles are used as resources in the establishment and maintenance of social
structure.
According to the interactionist perspective, roles limit, prescribe and
constrain action, while the “role as resource” view, sees roles as making action
possible.
The role as resource view does not deny the fact that roles structure
behaviour, but states that behaviour is limited and constrained through the denial of
access to other roles. A further contribution of the “role as resource” view is that it
takes into account that roles can evolve and are not completely static (McDonald et
al., 2008: 294).
Callero (1994: 232) extends this role as resource view and describes roles as cultural
objects used to accomplish interactive goals in society. Roles as cultural objects
must be shared and can be described as “cognitive categories” available in a
“generalized manner” to the community as a whole. Callero (1994: 233) goes on to
state that roles are more than just sets of expectations, but that they also contain
cultural beliefs, emotions and interpretations.
Using the conceptualisation of “role as resource”, Collier (2001) developed a
differentiated model of identity construction that explains how the behaviour of
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individuals occupying the same role can display differing patterns of behaviour. While
Collier acknowledges that most conceptualisations of role identity include multiple
dimensions of meaning, he argues that models of identity construction do not
incorporate the notion that identity can comprise multiple meaning dimensions. By
adding ideas from the “role as resource” perspective to Burke’s identity control
model, Collier (2001) developed a differentiated model of role identity acquisition
which shows how when individuals find themselves in situations in which they can
use an identity in new or different ways, they are able to make adjustments to role
standards. According to Collier (2001) these adjustments are made by changing the
relative weights of the different dimensions of meaning underpinning the role identity.
In some situations, certain dimensions of a particular role identity may come to the
fore, while in other situations alternative meaning dimensions may come to the fore.
The differentiated model also shows how role usage affects identity acquisition.
According to the model, different reference groups may have different conceptions of
the meaning dimensions underpinning a role. An actor can therefore adjust role
referent meanings according to the group with whom he/she interacts.
Different
groups of people may therefore enact a role differently due to the fact that they may
emphasise different role identity meaning dimensions.
Collier’s (2001) model
therefore extends Burke’s model by showing how “variation in role usage affects
identity formation”. According to Collier (2001) role identities are grounded in social
contexts that differ in terms of the referent groups with which one interacts.
Enactment of a role identity within one social context may bring certain meaning
dimensions to the fore, while enactment of the same role in another social context,
may bring an alternative set of meaning dimensions to the fore.
For organisational members, the acquisition and activation of roles, is, however,
somewhat constrained. As employees, we are attached to the organisation through
formal and psychological contracts and our actions as organisational members may
be constrained by the roles that we are required to fill as members of these
organisations. As mentioned previously, Burke (1991a) attests to the fact that some
standards exist by way of instruction. For instance, we are told as organisational
members to do our jobs. The role standards attached to the client service employee
identity will therefore, to a large extent, be defined by the institution or organisation
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for which the individual works. The organisation will define these role standards in
such a way as to facilitate the use of the role as resource to attain valued
organisational outcomes.
By stating that the work-related standards contained within the role identities of
organisational members are to a large extend pre-determined, it does not mean that
all client service workers will, for instance, internalise the exact same role standard
and as such, behave in exactly the same way. Role enactment is an individual
activity, as is the formation of a unique role identity. While the expectations for role
enactment contained within the identity standard may to a large extent be determined
by the social structure (in this case the organisation), the identity assumed in relation
to the role will be based on the manner in which the individual employee internalises
these expectations. As such, individuals within the same employing organisation,
occupying the same role, may have very different interpretations of the meanings
attached to the role. Since the meanings attached to the role (as contained within
the identity standard) have implications for behaviour, it is logical that individuals
occupying the same position in the organisation may display differing behaviours due
to the fact that they have internalised the role differently and attach different
meanings to its occupancy.
2.3.6 Role identity formation in organisations
Before embarking on a discussion of the implications that the client service role
identity carries for the development of burnout, previous research that examines how
individuals construct identities for themselves through the internalisation of societal or
organisational expectations will be explored.
In a study on the impact of role identity on volunteer performance, Grube and Piliavin
(2000: 1109) maintain that the enactment of a role identity is initially initiated through
an individual’s perceptions of the expectations of significant others.
Perceived
expectations of significant others lead to the development of a role identity. And this
role identity then leads to the development of intentions to continue with the
enactment of a specific role identity. As a result, Grube and Piliavin (2000) conclude
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that the best single predictor of role identity is the perceived expectations of others.
While the initial expectations of significant others are key to the formation of role
identities, Grube and Piliavin (2000: 1109) also maintain that the organisational
context within which an individual enacts a specific role identity is critical to the
maintenance of that identity. According to them, when an individual perceives his/her
role as being important to the success of a valued organisation, self-esteem
increases and in turn, commitment to the role identity is increased. If the individual
harbours positive feelings towards the organisation, any role identity which enhances
the individual’s connection to the organisation will therefore be reinforced through the
organisational context.
This view is consistent with that proposed by Neale and Griffin (2006: 24) who state
that a person’s role can be understood as “an organised collection of behavioural
expectations”. According to Neale and Griffin (2006: 23) the sets of behavioural
expectations that underpin the work-related role are derived from three role
components namely system requirements, the self-concept and the role schema.
These three components are schematically presented in Figure 8.
System
requirements
Role
schema
Selfconcept
Figure 8: Neale and Griffin’s (2006) role components
(Neale & Griffin, 2006)
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Work-related behaviours are demanded by the organisation through system
requirements which can be described as the perceptions the employee has of the
employing organisation and the demands that the organisational system makes on
them through the enforcement of sanctions and the provision of rewards. Included in
these system requirements are the job demands of the task prescribed through
formal job descriptions, manuals, organisational rules and organisational norms.
Role schemas can be defined as the “cognitive structures that define the
expectations generically attached to a role” (Neale & Griffin, 2006: 28). These include
the stereotypical behavioural expectations that are associated with a specific role.
Role schemas are formed through experience with the organisation or similar
organisations, job training, observation of other role holders and socialisation.
Lastly, the self-concept, defined as “a cognitive schema that filters, stores and
organises information about the self”, includes self-descriptive attitudes and traits
which combine to form the ideal self. The self-concept is not static, and can change
to incorporate aspects of expected behaviour. Each component is therefore a source
of behavioural expectations and could therefore influence the enactment of rolerelated behaviour.
Similarities can be drawn between the views of Neale and Griffin (2006) and Burke’s
proposition that role identities are, to a large extent, culturally defined. According to
Burke (2004a: 6), identities are tied to the positions we occupy in the social structure.
These positions are in turn defined through culture since culture makes available the
categories that name the various role positions that constitute social structure. In the
organisational setting, these categories and shared meanings are communicated to
the employee through the dominant discourse of the organisation.
In order to
function effectively in organisations and avoid sanctions, individuals internalise these
discourses to varying degrees and construct identities based on the organisational
expectations implied by this discourse. According to Blenkinsopp and Stalker (2004)
organisational meanings and the identities invoked by these meanings are socially
constructed through discourse.
Since individuals construct and manage their
identities as self-narratives, these narratives are likely to be congruent with the
available discourses. Similarly, Jones, Latham and Betta (2008: 333) maintain that
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discourses provide individuals with the meanings and concepts by which they are
able to “construct an understanding of themselves, their identity, their beliefs, their
own meanings of issues that are going on around them, and to satisfy their need for
making sense of their own experiences”.
2.3.7 Organisational discourse and role identity
As discussed in the previous sections, role identity is constructed through the
individual’s interpretation of the expectations of relevant others. In the organisational
setting, these expectations are communicated to the individual through organisational
discourse.
Employees then interpret and internalise these discourses to varying
degrees, and construct relevant role identities.
According to Grant, Keenoy and Oswick (1998: 1) organisational discourse
comprises the “languages and symbolic media we employ to describe, present,
interpret and theorise what we take to be the facticity of organisational life”.
Traditionally, discourse was described only as spoken dialogue, and excluded
reference to written texts. Contemporary theory on discourse, however, includes
written and spoken texts, cultural artefacts and modes of thinking such as ideologies
and philosophies (Cooren, 2004: 373; Van Dijk, 1997: 2). As a combination of both
spoken words, written texts and artefacts, discourse arranges social reality into
concepts, objects and subjects, thereby shaping the social practices in which we
engage (Phillips & Hardy, 1997). At the level of the organisation, discourse can be
described as a universally applied set of vocabularies or meanings attached to a
phenomenon.
In the client service setting, for instance, identity relevant organisational discourse
would comprise any company texts (both written and verbal) which contain rolerelated expectations of the client service employee.
Job descriptions, training
manuals, performance agreements, marketing brochures and company newsletters
would all contain assumptions (often implicit) about what it means to be a client
service employee in that specific organisation. As a result, organisational discourse in
client service settings will be largely focused on communicating the client ethic of the
company to employees.
This client ethic refers to the norms and values the
90
organisation and its employees prescribe to when interacting with the client. The
client discourse therefore refers to the manner in which the organisation abstractly
and symbolically refers to and defines the client and the relationships with the client
(Anderson-Gough et al., 2000: 1151). Client service employees then interpret these
assumptions as expectations for appropriate behaviour. These expectations become
the identity standard to which all role-related behaviour on the part of the employee
should conform.
Discourse does therefore not only refer to the expression of organisational life, but
also represents the construction of organisational life (Van Dijk, 1997). Research into
organisational discourse is largely conducted through a social constructivist lens,
which maintains that social or organisational reality is enacted through discourse.
Alvesson and Karreman (2000: 1130) contend that discourse drives subjectivity,
enables us to make sense of ourselves and the organisations in which we operate
and frames the way we understand and engage with the realities around us.
Discourse drives the articulation of norms and informs the attitudes that we assume
in particular contexts (Grant et al., 2001: 8). Similarly, Hardy (2004: 416) asserts that
discourse constructs reality by shaping the way issues are talked about and how
individuals conduct themselves in relation to particular issues.
According to Alvesson and Willmott (2004: 436) organisations regulate and shape
the identities of their employees by using various forms of control. In so doing,
employees are “positioned” within “managerially inspired discourses” about work and
organisation (Alvesson & Willmott, 2004: 437). By getting individuals to identify with
the dominant discourse of the organisation, management is able to control individual
and group behaviour in ways that would probably not be possible with traditionally
recognised methods of control. According to Furlough (1995) those in power have
more constitutive power in terms of determining the subject positions of others.
Implicit in these discourses is a set of expectations that management has of
employees.
Employees internalise these expectations into their role identities to
varying degrees, resulting in role-related behaviour and attitudes that are consistent
with this discourse. To this end, Alvesson and Willmott (2004: 440) describe the
employee as an “identity worker” who converts managerial discourses into “narratives
of self-identity”.
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Figure 9 provides an illustration of the theorised relationship between identity
regulation on the part of the organisation, identity work on the part of the individual
and the resultant self-identity.
Identity regulation
Discursive practices that
shape identity formation,
definition and
transformation
Identity work
Prompts
Informs
Responsive or resistant
Accomplished through
Interpretative activity
involved in reproducing
and transforming self
identity
Induces
Self-identity
Re-works
Figure 9: Identity regulation, identity work and self-identity
(Alvesson & Willmott, 2004: 445)
According to the model presented in Figure 9, self-identity is formed through identity
work, where the individual adopts organisational practices and discourses that are
targeted at the employee. Employees are, however, not “passive receptacles” of
these organisational discourses, but instead critically interpret and internalise these
discourses. Identity work then ultimately results in the formation of individual selfidentity which comprises narratives of the self. This self-identity then reciprocally
informs the nature of identity work and the extent to which the individual is responsive
or resistant to identity regulation (Alvesson & Willmott, 2004: 446).
While the model above refers to the creation and regulation of self-identity, which
Giddens (1991: 53) defines as the “self as reflexively understood by the person”, the
model can easily be applied to role identity theory by incorporating Burke’s theory of
identity construction.
According to role identity theory, individuals construct role
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identities for themselves based on the perceived expectations of others.
In the
organisation, these expectations are communicated to the employee through various
forms of organisational discourse.
The individual employee will interpret and
internalise this discourse to varying degrees and adopt a role identity which contains
behavioural expectations related to a specific role.
Numerous studies have examined the constituting role that discourse can play in
organisational life. Discourse has been shown to play a role in organisational power
relations (Mumby, 1998; Phillips & Hardy, 1997), collective bargaining and
negotiation (Hamilton, 1997), the construction and enactment of organisational
strategy (Hardy, Palmer & Phillips, 2000), organisational learning (Oswick, Keenoy,
Mangham & Grant, 2000), client service ethic (Anderson-Gough et al., 2000) and
organisational socialisation (Coupland, 2001). Several studies of particular interest to
the current research have focused on the discursive construction of identities in
organisational
settings
(Benwell
&
Stokoe,
2006;
Holmer-Nadesan,
1996;
Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2003). In a paper that examines how the discourses of
patriarchy and class articulate the role identities of women in an organisation,
Holmer-Nadesan (1996) argues that dominant organisational discourses that are
embodied within organisational policies, manuals, job descriptions, values and rituals
position individuals as subjects within particular contexts. Through various degrees of
identification with these discourses, employees assume roles in relation to that of
their clients. According to Holmer-Nadesan (1996) employees construct roles for
themselves based on differential levels of identification with the dominant
organisational discourse.
While Holmer-Nadesan (1996) acknowledges that
managerial discourses occupy a privileged position in defining what comprises
appropriate organisational action, she argues that individuals have the ability to draw
on alternative discourses. The degree to which individuals are susceptible to these
alternative discourses is determined by the degree to which they identify with the
dominant organisational discourse.
Anderson-Gough et al. (2000: 1151) examined how the concepts of client and client
service are constructed through the client ethic discourse of two professional service
firms and how the internalisation of the discourse affects role-related behaviour of
organisational employees. Through qualitative analysis they show how the discourse
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privileges the client and how it influences the professional identity of employees
within the two organisations.
The study draws on an analysis of the firm’s
recruitment literature, appraisal documentation and qualitative interviews with
approximately 70 trainee accountants and shows how trainee accountants learn to
regulate their identities within the dominant client discourse of the organisation.
In a qualitative study examining how a group of men involved in the Promise Keepers
Movement construct, maintain and organise their identities, Armato and Marsiglio
(2002: 44) show how identity should be viewed as an ongoing process and not as a
given or pre-determined status. According to the authors, “individuals continuously
strive to maintain their identities, but never completely attain them in any stable
sense because the world around them changes too rapidly to allow stability” (Armato
& Marsiglio, 2002: 44).
Similarly, Tracy, Myers and Scott (2006: 284) maintain that while identity in
organisations may be discursively constructed, it is by no means fixed or static.
Instead, Tracy et al. (2006: 284) show how human service workers continually renegotiate and redefine their identities through complex processes of sense-making in
ambiguous and disturbing situations. According to the authors (2006: 303) human
service workers use humour to make sense of themselves and re-affirm positive
identities in the face of chaotic and threatening situations.
These findings are consistent with Alvesson and Willmott’s (2004) model discussed
earlier.
According to these authors, identity work on the part of the employee does
not merely imply the passive adoption of expectations contained in the organisational
discourse.
Each employee in the organisation will interpret the dominant
organisational discourse differently, thereby rejecting and accepting certain
components of this discourse and incorporating differing aspects of it into the identity
standard.
By implication, two client service employees working for the same
organisation, exposed to the same client ethic, may display slightly differing role
identities.
While managerially defined discourses are generally dominant in the
organisational setting, they do not exclusively determine behaviour and role-related
identities. Every employee comes into an organisation with a pre-existing identity
94
hierarchy, and will therefore be receptive to different aspects of the organisational
discourse.
According to Ashforth and Kreiner (1999: 413), people generally attempt to define
themselves in a positive light. In a study of individuals engaging in dirty work (work
with a physical, social or moral taint), Ashforth and Kreiner (1999) show how these
employees construct esteem-enhancing identities through the creation of a strong
work culture.
While this research was conducted through the social identity
theoretical perspective, it illustrates how individuals generally attempt to construct
esteem enhancing identities. This proposition corresponds to what has been referred
to as the self-enhancement motive.
Since individuals have a need to evaluate
themselves positively, identities which allow the individual to make positive selfevaluations will foster greater commitment to the role and therefore greater salience
of the role (Hoelter, 1993: 141).
Research also suggests that identification with a work role carries implications for the
consequences of emotional labour.
Employees that identify cognitively with the
organisation are less likely to feel the alienation from self or dissonance caused by
emotional labour (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993). Since the dissonance experienced
as a result of emotional labour has been described as a clash between the fake self
and the real self, processes of identity could play a role in the development of
negative consequences following emotional labour.
For instance, Ashforth and
Humphrey (1993: 106) argue that the more central a specific role is to one’s identity,
the “stronger the association between one’s emotional well-being and perceived
successes, failures and demands”. If employees identify strongly with a role and
then perceive that role performance as failing, they may experience a range of
negative emotions. Identification with a role carries a number of potential risks. One
such risk entails burnout (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993).
In a study of female correctional service officers, Tracy (2005: 264) examines how
“discourses of power and organisational processes enable and constrain certain
constructions of identity and how these issues, in turn, impact the difficulty of emotion
work”.
Tracy’s data suggest that employees who identify strongly with the
correctional setting were more prone to experience frustration in their search for
95
power and meaning within the organisational setting. If emotional labour confirms the
organisational or role identity to which the employee subscribes, then the enactment
of emotional labour is easier. Furthermore, if employees perceive the enactment of
emotional labour as part of a “strategic exchange”, they are more likely to find it easy.
However, identification with the role does not always ease emotion work. In cases
where the successful enactment of a role with which one identifies strongly is
thwarted, it could result in stress and cognitive dissonance.
2.3.8 Conclusion
The aim of the present research is to explore the relationship between discursively
constructed role identity and burnout among client service employees. It is argued
that through the process of identity construction, client service employees will, to
varying degrees, internalise the client discourse of the organisation, and assume
roles in accordance with this discourse.
It is further suggested that employees
working in organisations with a strong service ethic may derive role identities from
this discourse that place them in a subservient and subordinate position to that of the
client. This position of subordination and subservience may place undue demands
on the employee, resulting in emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced
feelings of personal accomplishment.
It is therefore not the aim of the present study to analyse organisational discourse as
an independent variable.
Instead, the research focuses on how client service
employees interpret and internalise the client discourse of the organisation and
construct role identities for themselves based on this discourse. Discourse in the
context of the current study is therefore used in its broader sense as a “set of
representations and ways of structuring reality that put strong imprints on cognition
and attitudes” (Alvesson & Karreman, 2000: 1129). Ideas and meanings as derived
from organisational discourse are the focus of the study, not the actual organisational
texts. Alvesson and Karreman (2000) refer to this as meso-level discourse analysis,
which focuses on the study of social reality as discursively constructed.
Micro-level
discourse analysis, on the other hand, refers to the analysis of social texts and
language.
96
In the next chapter, the research argument is developed by drawing on the theories
presented in this literature review. A conceptual framework is presented, which links
the development of burnout with the enactment of role identities in client service
settings.
97
CHAPTER 3
THE RESEARCH ARGUMENT
3.1
RESEARCH PROBLEM
Research into the antecedents of burnout has largely focused on the role of
situational variables (such as work and organisational context) in the development of
burnout. While this research has made an undeniably significant contribution to our
understanding of the burnout phenomenon, recent research suggests that subjective
identity perceptions also play a considerable role in the development of burnout
(Buunk et al., 2007; Vanheule & Verhaeghe, 2004; 2005). The present research
therefore extends this focus on the role of subjective identity perceptions in the
development of burnout by exploring the relationship between role identity and
burnout among client service employees.
It is argued that employees draw on the dominant client discourse of the organisation
and construct discursively informed role identities for themselves. In client service
organisations, the client ethic is likely to contain expectations that the employee
behave in a subordinate and subservient manner towards the client. Role identities
based on this kind of discourse are likely to translate role-related behaviours and
attitudes which could contribute to the development of. It is noted that client service
organisations by their very nature are necessarily driven by strong client ethics, and
that the norms and values enshrined within these ethics may, to some extent, require
that the client is placed in a position of power relative to the employee. If, however,
this discourse results in the formation of role identities that contribute to burnout, a
number of negative organisational outcomes could result.
Because role identities are discursively constructed in response to dominant
organisational client discourses, an understanding of the manner in which they could
potentially contribute to the development of burnout is essential.
Such an
understanding will enable managers and organisational development practitioners to
frame client discourse in such a way as to enable the creation of empowered role
identities. As a result, organisational practitioners and managers will be provided
98
with a further point of intervention with which to reduce the potentially negative
effects of burnout in client service environments.
In this chapter, the research argument is developed by establishing conceptual links
between the concepts of role identity and burnout. A series of research questions
are developed and the objectives of the research are presented.
3.2
THE RESEARCH ARGUMENT
As discussed in the opening chapter of this dissertation, the notion of client service is
assuming an ever-more pervasive influence over the manner in which work and
organisations are structured. According to Sturdy (2001: 3) “customer service is
colonising more and more activities and ideas” and is evident in the manner in which
we structure and define work. Clients are playing an increasingly active role in the
supervision of employees and are therefore able to exert considerable influence over
organisations and their employees. Rosenthal, Peccei and Hill (2001: 18) maintain
that the concept of “customer sovereignty” has become the dominant socio-economic
discourse and go on to show how representations of client service have evolved in
the academic literature of recent years. They make a distinction between various
accounts of client influence, ranging from post-modern accounts of the sovereign
customer to the control perspective where the client is seen as an “accomplice” to
management power.
Using Burke’s (1991a; 1991b; 1997) identity control model as a framework, it is
argued that the manner in which client service employees define their role identities
carries important implications for role-related attitudes and behaviours.
These
behaviours and attitudes can, in turn, either facilitate or inhibit the development of
burnout. If, for instance, these role-related behaviours contribute to role conflict, role
ambiguity or role overload, burnout could result.
Similarly, if these role-related
attitudes result in feelings associated with a loss of control or autonomy, inequity and
a sense of failure and defeat, the client service employee may develop burnout.
Figure 10 presents the conceptual framework upon which the research argument is
based and is discussed in detail in the paragraphs that follow. It should be noted,
99
however, that while the literature reviewed in the previous chapter suggests causal
linkages between the variables depicted in the conceptual framework, the objective
of the present research is not to test for directions of causality between the variables.
Instead, the research aims to explore the potential for relationships between burnout
and role identity.
100
Client service employee’s perception,
interpretation and internalisation of
organisational client discourse
Role identity
B
A
Meaning content
A1
A2
Identity process/selfverification failure
Role-related behaviour
resulting in:
ƒ Role overload
ƒ Role conflict
ƒ Role ambiguity
ƒ Emotional labour
Affective states/
subjective perceptions
of work:
ƒ Inequity
ƒ Loss of autonomy
ƒ Loss of control
ƒ Sense of defeat
ƒ Loss of status
ƒ Powerlessness
Affective states:
ƒ Diminished sense of
self
ƒ Inability to find
meaning
ƒ Frustration and fatigue
ƒ Subjective failure
ƒ Reduced self efficacy
Role related behaviours
resulting in:
ƒ Role overload
Related to burnout
through the research
of:
Related to burnout
through the research
of:
Related to burnout
through the research of:
Cordes & Dougherty
(1997), Maslach et al.
(2001) and Singh et al.
(1994) on job demands,
role overload, conflict
and ambiguity
Maslach, Jackson &
Leiter (2001) on lack of
resources
Zapf et al. (2001) and
Montgomery et al.
(2006) on emotional
labour
Buunk et al. (2007) and
Vanheule & Verhaeghe
(2004; 2005) on sense
of defeat and failure
Truchot & Deregard
(2001) on inequity
Pines (2002);
Freudenberger &
Richelson (1980);
Cherniss (1993) on the
maintenance of a positive
sense of self
Vanheule et al., (2003);
Hallsten (1993) on the
importance of maintaining
self definitional role
Cordes & Dougherty
(1993) on the maintenance
of achievement
expectations
Figure 10: Conceptual framework linking role identity and burnout
101
According to the conceptual framework, role identity can contribute to the
development of burnout in a number of ways. Client service employees construct
role identities for themselves by drawing on the client discourse of the organisation
(Alvesson & Willmott, 2004). These role identities comprise a meaning content (A)
that encapsulate a set of role-related expectations that carries both behavioural (A1)
and affective (A2) implications for the client service employee (McCall & Simmons,
1978). Since the expectations contained in the identity standard prescribe the range
of appropriate behaviours available to the individual in question (Steward et al.,
2009), employees working in organisations with a strong client service ethic may
derive role identities from the organisational discourse that place them in a
subordinate and subservient position to that of the client. It is suggested that this
position of subordination and subservience may predispose the client service
employee to adopt behavioural patterns that could result in role overload, role
ambiguity and/or role conflict – ultimately leading to burnout (Low et al., 2001; Singh
et al., 1994).
The meaning content of the identity standard could also influence work-related
attitudes and perceptions (A2), which, if characterised by feelings of inequity (Truchot
& Deregard, 2001), a loss of autonomy (Fernet et al, 2004; Xanthopoulou et al.,
2007) and a sense of failure and defeat (Buunk et al., 2007; Pines, 2002), could
contribute to the development of burnout.
For instance, employees with role
identities that place them in a subordinate or subservient position in relation to the
client may experience feelings associated with a loss of control or autonomy. As
discussed in the preceding sections on burnout, such a loss of control or autonomy
may result in the development of burnout by engendering a loss of status, a loss of
self worth and failure (Buunk et al., 2007; Fernet et al., 2009).
While burnout could result from the nature of a specific role identity (A), the present
study also argues that processes related to the failed verification of a role identity (B)
could contribute to burnout.
For example, the identity standards of some client
service employees may encompass role-related expectations that are of such a high
service standard that it would be impossible for the client service employee to
adequately meet these expectations.
As shown in the preceding chapter, non-
verification of the self through the identity process can result in feelings of anxiety,
102
distress and failure (Stets & Burke, 2003) – all of which have been linked to the
development of burnout (Buunk et al., 2007; Vanheule & Verhaeghe, 2004; 2005).
Furthermore, when an individual’s perceptions of the situation (input) do not match
the expectations contained in the identity standard, the person will act to counteract
this imbalance (Burke, 1991a; 1991b; 1997; 2004). In the situation just described,
where the expectations contained in the identity standard may be impossible for the
client service employee to meet, it would be plausible to assert that the employee
may adopt behaviours to counter this imbalance by trying even harder to meet the
identity expectations.
This may result in role overload, which could ultimately
contribute to burnout (Lee & Ashforth, 1993; 1996).
In order to explore the relationships depicted in the conceptual model presented
above, the present study will test whether the role identities of high burnout
employees differ from the role identities of low burnout employees.
While the
dominant client discourse of the organisation will shape the meaning content of
individual role identities, Holmer-Nadesan (1996) has shown how employees
internalise these discourses differently, and, in so doing, adopt different identities. It
is my view that since role identities define and constrain behaviour, certain role
identities could predispose the client service employee to adopt behavioural patterns
and work-related perceptions that could induce burnout.
Individuals whose role
identities are difficult to verify within the client service context, or those who identify
strongly with the client service role and then fail to verify these identities, may
develop burnout.
Other identities may foster attitudes of empowerment and
autonomy and may therefore act as buffers to burnout.
It is further suggested that employees working in the client service role will construct
an identity standard based on their interpretation of the dominant client discourse of
the organisation. Client service employees working in organisations with a strong
service ethic may derive role identities from this discourse that place them in a
subservient and subordinate position to that of the client.
This position of
subordination and subservience may place undue demands on the employee,
resulting in emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced feelings of personal
accomplishment. It is however, not the intention of the present study to describe and
analyse the actual client discourse of the organisations included in the study. The
103
present research is rather concerned with the perception and interpretation of this
discourse by client service employees; the manner in which the employee
internalises this discourse and uses it to construct an appropriate role identity; and to
what extent this constructed identity can result in burnout.
Since the discursive
construction of identity is a uniquely individual activity, not all client service
employees working for an organisation with a strong client ethic will develop burnout.
Some employees may interpret this discourse in such a way that they construct role
identities that render them subordinate to the client. Other client service employees
may interpret and internalise this client discourse in such a way that they develop
identities that empower them in relation to the client. It is this difference in terms of
perception, interpretation and internalisation that the present study intends to
investigate.
The objective of the present study is therefore to explore the relationship between
discursively constructed role identity and burnout among client service employees. It
will also describe the mechanisms by virtue of which this relationship exists and
examine the extent to which these role identities are constructed in response to the
dominant organisational client discourse. It is argued that through the process of
identity construction, client service employees will, to varying degrees, internalise the
client discourse of the organisation, and assume role identities in accordance with
this discourse. In accordance with Burke’s (1991a) identity control model discussed
in the previous chapter, these role identities carry implications for both behaviour and
the formation of role-related attitudes. Depending on the nature of these identities,
these role-related behaviours and attitudes could result in burnout.
3.3
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objective of this research is to explore the relationship between role identity and
burnout amongst client service employees and to examine the mechanisms by virtue
of which this relationship exists. In so doing, the research will explore the differences
in the role identities of respondents measuring higher in burnout with the role
identities of respondents measuring lower in burnout. Furthermore, the present
research seeks to describe how client service employees perceive, interpret and
104
internalise the dominant client discourse of the organisation when constructing role
identities for themselves.
The research will also examine whether high burnout
employees differ from low burnout employees in the manner in which they perceive,
interpret and internalise this organizational discourse.
3.4
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
In order to explore the relationships depicted in the conceptual model presented in
Figure 10, the present study will test whether the role identities of higher burnout
employees differ from the role identities of lower burnout employees. In order to
achieve this, a number of testable research questions are posed below.
In order to control for external variance pertaining to the relationship between role
identity and burnout, it is necessary to determine the extent to which the biographic
and demographic characteristics of client service employees are related to their
levels of burnout. To determine this, the following research question is posed:
1. To what extent are client service employees’ burnout levels related to their
biographic and demographic characteristics?
External variance will also be accounted for by determining the extent to which levels
of burnout are related to the client service employees’ orientation towards life, work
and the organisation:
2. To what extent are client service employees’ burnout levels related to their
orientation towards life, work and organisation?
In order to explore the relationship between burnout and role identity, use is made of
the following research question:
3. In what ways do the role identities of higher burnout employees differ from the
role identities of lower burnout employees?
105
Since role identities are, in part, derived from a/ the descriptions of the counter role;
b) descriptions of the self in role and c) the perceived difference between the client
and the client service employee, the client service role identity cannot be understood
in isolation from these descriptions. Therefore, in order to answer the third research
question, a number of sub-research questions are also posed:
3a. Is there a relationship between descriptions of the counter-role (client) and
the development of burnout?
3b. Is there a relationship between descriptions of the self (self in role) and the
development of burnout?
3c. Is there a relationship between the development of burnout and the
difference between descriptions of the self and descriptions of the counter-role
(client)?
The present study is also concerned with exploring the mechanisms by virtue of
which the relationship between role identity and burnout exists. As suggested by the
conceptual model presented in Figure 10, role identities carry important implications
for role-related behaviours and subjective perceptions. If the role identities of higher
burnout employees do differ from the role identities of lower burnout employees, then
the role-related behaviours and subjective perceptions of higher burnout employees
should differ from those of lower burnout employees. To determine whether this is
indeed the case, the following research question is asked:
4. To what extent do the role-related behaviours and subjective perceptions of
higher burnout employees differ from the role-related behaviours and
subjective perceptions of lower burnout employees?
The conceptual model upon which the research argument is based also suggests
that failed self-verification could lead to burnout. By implication then, lower burnout
respondents should experience self-verification more easily that their higher burnout
counterparts. The following research question is therefore also posed:
5. Are lower burnout respondents able to self-verify more easily than higher
burnout respondents?
106
According to research into the discursive construction of identities, role identities are
formed, in part, in response to the expectations contained in the dominant client
discourse of the organisation. The present study therefore also explores how client
service employees use the client discourse of the organisation to construct their role
identities and whether there is a difference in the manner in which high burnout
employees perceive, interpret and internalise these discourses when compared with
low burnout employees. To this end, the following research question is addressed:
6. To what extent do higher burnout employees experience, interpret and
internalise the organisational client discourse differently when compared with
lower burnout employees?
3.5
CONCLUSION
The research findings of this study will broaden our understanding of the role that
subjective identity perceptions can play in the development of burnout. While most
research into the burnout phenomenon has focused on the role of situational
antecedents to burnout, the present research will augment these valuable
contributions by establishing a link between subjective identity perceptions and
organisational characteristics and the role that these variables can play in the
development of burnout. If a relationship is found between the manner in which
client service employees perceive, interpret and internalise the dominant client
discourse of the organisation (an organisational level variable) and burnout, ways
can be devised to manage the subjective identity perceptions and interpretations that
result in burnout. This can be done by possibly altering the organisational discourse
in such a way that it influences employee role identity construction positively rather
than negatively. If high burnout employees perceive and interpret the client ethic of
the organisation differently when compared with low burnout employees, we need to
ask why this difference exists and how these negative interpretations can be
managed to reduce burnout in the organisation.
In order to address the research questions posed on the previous pages, a mixedmethod approach has been adopted by the present study. Quantitative research in
the form of a survey questionnaire is used to examine the nature of the role identities
107
of higher and lower burnout client service employees. Qualitative research interviews
are then used to validate these findings and explore the mechanisms by virtue of
which a relationship between role identities and burnout exists. In the next chapter,
the research methodology that was employed by the present study is developed and
explained.
108
CHAPTER 4
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.1
INTRODUCTION
In order to address the research questions set out in Chapter 3, the study was
conducted amongst client service employees of three South African client service
organisations. The research design incorporated both a qualitative and a quantitative
phase (mixed-methods design). The qualitative and quantitative measures included
in the study were applied sequentially, thereby allowing the researcher to elaborate
on and broaden the findings of one method with another (Creswell, 2003: 16).
The present study commenced with a quantitative phase through which the
relationship between burnout and role identity was examined.
This phase
incorporated the use of a pen and paper based survey questionnaire, measuring role
identity and levels of burnout. The quantitative phase was followed by a qualitative
phase involving a detailed exploration of the subjective identity perceptions and
meanings of the client service role amongst a selected group of client service
employees representing scores on both the higher and lower ends of the burnout
spectrum.
One of the primary methodological challenges facing the present study was the
reconciliation of the two often divergent research philosophies underpinning
qualitative and quantitative research. Use was made of a triangulation model, where
both qualitative and quantitative methods shed light on the same phenomenon from
different perspectives (Kelle & Erzberger, 2004: 172).
4.2
THE SAMPLE
Since the sample used for the qualitative research is a sub-sample of the quantitative
research sample, it is appropriate to consider the sampling methodology prior to
discussing either of the research methodologies in detail.
Response rates and
109
sample descriptions pertaining to both the quantitative and qualitative phases will be
discussed in greater detail under the appropriate headings.
Given that the unit of analysis of the present study is the client service employee,
potential respondents were recruited from three South African client service
organisations. Each of the three selected companies represented different service
sectors.
This was done in order to ensure that a diverse range of employees,
exposed to a diverse range of client discourses, were selected for inclusion in the
study.
A total of nine client service organisations were approached and invited to participate
in the study. Four of the organisations were selected for potential inclusion in the
sample based on the fact that I had established previous work-related contacts with
each of them. A further three organisations were referred to me by my supervisor
and my colleagues, and two organisations were approached without referrals or prior
contact.
As a result, the original sample of nine organisations represented a
convenience sample. The nine organisations represented the Financial Services
sector (N=3); the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Services sector
(N=2); the Advertising and Marketing sector (N=3) and the Petrochemical sector
(N=1).
In each case, I sent each of the companies a letter outlining the objectives of the
research and inviting them to participate (refer to Appendix A). Through the letter, I
introduced myself and my supervisor, outlined the purpose of the research and
potential benefits to participating. The research methodology was explained and
confidentiality of the information gathered was guaranteed. Managing “gatekeeper’s”
fears is an important factor to consider when requesting organisations to act as
research sites.
Managers are often wary of the time and resources involved in
administrating the research process, the disruption to the normal workflow, fear that
they may be shown to be bad or wrong and apprehension that company privacy and
confidentiality will be breached (Devers & Frankel, 2000). The fact that the present
study makes reference to levels of burnout may have had a negative impact on the
willingness of organisations to participate. In view of the fact that the concept of
burnout is negative, management of these organisations may have been fearful that
110
the research would expose high levels of burnout in their organisations.
Furthermore, the fact that the study consisted of two components, of which a
qualitative component would require that a number of individuals would be asked to
devote 45 minutes to an hour participating in a semi-structured interview, may also
have caused a degree of reluctance to participate on the part of invited organisations.
As shown in Table 4, a total of three companies agreed to participate in the research.
While the HR representative from Company 1 was willing to allow the company to
participate, company policy did not allow for the release of employee names to
parties outside of the organisation. The company was therefore regrettably excluded
from the sample.
Table 4: Organisations approached to participate in the study
Organisation
Sector
Outcome of request
Company 1
Financial Services
Excluded from sample
Company 2
Financial Services
Included in sample as Company F
Company 3
Advertising and Marketing
Excluded from sample
Company 4
Advertising and Marketing
Excluded from sample
Company 5
Advertising and Marketing
Included in sample as Company M
Company 6
ICT sector
Excluded from sample
Company 7
ICT sector
Included in sample as Company T
Company 8
Petrochemical
Excluded from sample
Company 9
Financial Services
Excluded from sample
Companies 3, 4, 6 and 9 failed to respond to the invitation and after numerous calls
to various company representatives to ascertain whether they would be willing to
participate, it was decided to exclude them from the study.
A company in the
Petrochemical sector (Company 8) agreed to participate, but after further
investigation it was decided that the sample of potential employees in the company
that met the requirements for inclusion was too small.
111
For ease of presentation and in order to protect the identities of each of the three
companies that participated in the research, they will be referred to as Company M
(marketing research company), Company F (financial services company) and
Company T (information and communication technology consultancy) for the
remainder of the dissertation.
Company M is an international marketing research company with regional offices in
Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. The company has approximately 65 client
service employees that engage with client companies on a day-to-day basis in order
to develop research solutions to suit their needs. All 65 client service employees in
Company M were invited to participate in the research and the sample included
research executives (junior and senior), account executives and business managers.
Business managers are generally responsible for the management of account
managers across a number of accounts. They are required to engage with the client
on a strategic level and initiate new business opportunities.
Account managers
manage a single account and the research executives assigned to it. Research
executives are responsible for planning the research, executing it and preparing
presentations for the client.
Forty seven inbound call centre consultants formed the sample for Company F, a
large insurance company offering commercial, personal, agricultural and corporate
insurance. The company operates through two call centres situated in Cape Town
and Johannesburg and is open 24 hours, seven days a week. Forty seven call agent
consultants are responsible for registering claims, driving the claims process and
dispatching support services to the incident scene.
Each consultant takes
approximately 55 to 60 calls per shift and is required to deal with policy holders in a
professional and empathetic manner to ensure that the client’s needs and
expectations are met. They are also required to possess trauma-handling skills.
Company T provides information and communication technology based business
solutions and services for companies in the mining, petrochemical, communication
and healthcare industries. With regional offices in Gauteng, the Western Cape, the
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Africa and Europe, the company provides technology
infrastructure, business applications, network consulting and integration and
112
information systems outsourcing. The sample of 105 employees from Company T
included customer engineers, network engineers, team leaders and administrators
who provide IT support and services to a large client in the petrochemical industry.
It should be noted that the employee-client interface utilised by each of the three
companies do differ. In the case of Company F, client service employees either
engage with the client telephonically or electronically.
At no stage of the client
interaction do they establish face-to-face contact with the client. Respondents from
Company T and Company M, on the other hand, establish face-to-face, electronic
and telephonic contact with the client. These differing communication mediums may
influence the nature of the client-employee relationship and may therefore account
for a degree of external variance in the burnout scores presented by each of the
three companies. The potential for between group differences relating to company
type will be explored in the results chapter.
A total of 217 respondents were included in the sample population. In the case of
Company M, all 65 client service employees were invited to participate in the
research. Company F made all employees from the call centre available for the
research, resulting in a sample of 47 potential respondents. Company T provided a
list of 105 potential respondents to include in the sample. Both the financial services
company (Company F) and the ICT company (Company T) provided me with the full
contact details of all employees included in the research sample. I was therefore
able to contact each of the respondents personally via e-mail and invite them to
participate in the study. Due to privacy restrictions in Company M, I was not given
the contact details of sample respondents. All e-mail correspondence addressed to
potential respondents from me was therefore forwarded to them by a company
director. The director copied me in on all correspondence to potential respondents,
and I was therefore aware as to when correspondence was sent out and what it
entailed. At no stage of the research was my correspondence altered by the director.
It was merely forwarded via e-mail to prospective participants. It is not clear whether
this would have had an impact on response rates from Company M. While it is
generally agreed that personal communication from the researcher to potential
respondents helps to increase survey response rates, communication from a
company director may indicate to potential respondents that the research is
113
supported by the company. This may have positively affected the response rate at
Company M.
As reflected in Table 5, a total of 217 client service employees were included in the
sample population. Following three e-mail reminders (discussed in greater detail in
the section on questionnaire administration), a total of 100 responses were returned
resulting in a total response rate of 46 percent. According to Babbie (2007) a
response rate of 50 percent is adequate, while a response rate of 60 percent is good
and 70 percent is excellent. The response rates for each of the three companies
included in the sample differed substantially, with company M reflecting a response
rate of 35 percent (23 responses out of a sample of 65); Company T a response rate
of 54 percent (57 responses out of a sample of 105); and Company F with a
response rate of 43 percent (20 responses out of a sample of 47).
Table 5: Questionnaire response rates
Questionnaires
Percentages
Organisation
Sent Out
Returned
Responses
Total sample
Company M
65
23
35.4%
23%
Company T
105
57
54.3%
57%
Company F
47
20
42.6%
20%
TOTAL
217
100
46.1%
100%
Response rates to the qualitative phase of the research will be discussed in detail in
the respective qualitative section that follows.
4.3
THE QUANTITATIVE PHASE METHODOLOGY
The quantitative phase of the research was conducted in order to answer the
following research questions:
1. To what extent are client service employees’ burnout levels related to their
biographic and demographic characteristics?
114
2. To what extent are client service employees’ burnout levels related to their
orientation towards life, work and organisation?
3. In what ways do the role identities of higher burnout employees differ from the
role identities of lower burnout employees?
In order to answer the third research question, a number of sub-questions are also
posed:
3a. Is there a relationship between descriptions of the counter-role (client) and
the development of burnout?
3b. Is there a relationship between descriptions of the self (self in role) and the
development of burnout?
3c. Is there a relationship between the development of burnout and the
difference between descriptions of the self and descriptions of the counter-role
(client)?
4.3.1 The quantitative sample description
The age distribution of respondents is reflected in Table 6 and Figure 11.
115
Table 6: Age distribution of respondents (N=100)
Respondent Age
Frequency
Percentage
20.0
22.0
23.0
24.0
25.0
26.0
27.0
28.0
29.0
30.0
31.0
32.0
33.0
34.0
35.0
36.0
37.0
38.0
39.0
40.0
41.0
42.0
43.0
44.0
45.0
47.0
48.0
50.0
52.0
53.0
54.0
58.0
Missing
1
3
5
6
7
6
7
5
7
8
3
1
5
3
1
3
3
1
2
4
1
1
1
1
2
2
2
1
1
3
1
1
2
1.0
3.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
8.0
3.0
1.0
5.0
3.0
1.0
3.0
3.0
1.0
2.0
4.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
2.0
2.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
3.0
1.0
1.0
2.0
Total
100
100.0
Cumulative
percent
1.0
4.0
9.0
15.0
22.0
28.0
35.0
40.0
47.0
55.0
58.0
59.0
64.0
67.0
68.0
71.0
74.0
75.0
77.0
81.0
82.0
83.0
84.0
85.0
87.0
89.0
91.0
92.0
93.0
96.0
97.0
98.0
100.0
116
Figure 11: Age distribution of respondents (N=98)
The mean age of respondents (N=98) was 32.58 (Standard Deviation (SD) = 8.85),
suggesting that the respondents are relatively young. The youngest respondent was
20-years-old, while the oldest was 58-years-old. The largest cohort of respondents
was aged between 20 and 31 and make up 58 percent of the sample. Twenty six
percent of respondents were between the ages of 31 and 40, while 11 percent were
between the ages of 41 and 50. Only 6 percent of respondents were older than 50
years.
As shown in Table 7 on page 111, the majority of respondents are male (55%). The
data derived from the study represents both gender groupings well.
117
Table 7: Gender distribution of respondents (N=100)
Gender
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Male
55
55.0
55.0
Female
45
45.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Table 8 reflects the marital status of the respondents.
Table 8: Marital status of respondents (N=100)
Marital status
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Married
51
51.0
51.0
Unmarried but cohabiting
15
15.0
66.0
Divorced
8
8.0
74.0
Widowed
1
1.0
75.0
Single
25
25.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Over half of the respondents are married (51%), while 15 percent are unmarried but
cohabiting with a partner. Eight percent are divorced, one respondent is widowed
and 25 percent describe themselves as single.
Table 9 indicates the educational level of client service employees that participated in
the study.
118
Table 9: Educational level of respondents (N=100)
Educational level
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Secondary/high school
3
3.0
3.0
Std 10 or equivalent
26
26.0
29.0
Post-school certificate/diploma
17
17.0
46.0
National/higher diploma
23
23.0
69.0
Bachelors degree or equivalent
9
9.0
78.0
Honours degree or equivalent
16
16.0
94.0
Masters or equivalent
6
6.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
The majority of respondents (71%) have a post-matric qualification, suggesting that
the findings of the present study could be regarded as generalisable to white collar
service workers. Twenty three percent are in possession of a national diploma or
national higher diploma; nine percent have undergraduate degrees; sixteen percent
have honours degrees and six percent have a master’s qualification. As shown in
Table 9 and Figure 12, only three percent has not completed high school.
Percent
Master s or equivalent
6
Honour s degree or equiva lent
16
Bachelors degree or equivalent
9
Nation al diploma
23
Post school certificate
17
Std 10 or equivalent
26
Secondary/high school
3
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
Figure 12: Educational level of respondents (N=100)
As indicated in Table 10 and Figure 13, seventy three percent of the respondents
that participated in the research are white.
119
Table 10: Population group distribution of the sample (N=100)
Population group
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Black
3
3.0
3
White
73
73.0
76
Coloured
18
18.0
94
Indian
3
3.0
97
Asian
1
1.0
98
Missing
2
2.0
100
Total
100
100
100
Only three percent of the sample is black, while 18 percent is coloured. One percent
of respondents classified themselves as Indian.
The sample is therefore not
representative of the South African population from a population group perspective,
since the majority of South Africans are black.
Figure 13: Population group distribution of the sample (N=98)
120
Table 11 and Figure 14 indicate the number of years respondents have been with
their current employers.
Table 11: Years employed at current organisation (N=100)
Years employed
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Less than one year 8
8.0
8.0
1 year
10
10.0
18.0
2 years
13
13.0
31.0
3 years
10
10.0
41.0
4 years
7
7.0
48.0
5 years
9
9.0
57.0
6 years
2
2.0
59.0
7 years
5
5.0
64.0
8 years
8
8.0
72.0
9 years
1
1.0
73.0
10 years
9
9.0
82.0
11 years
2
2.0
84.0
12 years
3
3.0
87.0
13 years
5
5.0
92.0
19 years
2
2.0
94.0
21 years
1
1.0
95.0
23 years
1
1.0
96.0
27 years
2
2.0
98.0
32 years
1
1.0
99.0
35 years
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
More than half of the respondents (57%; N=57) have been with their organisations for
5 years or less. The mean length of service was 6.83 years (SD = 6.82) and the
maximum length of service was 35 years. The relatively short lengths of service can
be explained by the fact that respondents are relatively young i.e. 65 percent
between the ages of 22 and 33.
121
Figure 14: Years worked for current organisation
As indicated in Table 12 and Figure 15, 41 percent (N = 41) of the respondents have
been working in a client service environment for five years or less.
122
Table 12: Years worked in client service (N=100)
Years employed
Frequency Percent
Cumulative percent
Less than one year 4
4.0
4.0
1 year
6
6.0
10.0
2 years
5
5.0
15.0
3 years
7
7.0
22.0
4 years
5
5.0
27.0
5 years
14
14.0
41.0
6 years
4
4.0
45.0
7 years
3
3.0
48.0
8 years
8
8.0
56.0
9 years
3
3.0
59.0
10 years
12
12.0
71.0
11 years
4
4.0
75.0
12 years
4
4.0
79.0
13 years
3
3.0
82.0
15 years
2
2.0
84.0
16 years
2
2.0
86.0
19 years
1
1.0
87.0
20 years
4
4.0
91.0
21 years
2
2.0
93.0
23 years
1
1.0
94.0
25 years
1
1.0
95.0
27 years
1
1.0
96.0
29 years
1
1.0
97.0
35 years
1
1.0
98.0
Missing
2
2.0
100.0
TOTAL
100
100
123
Figure 15: Years worked in client service
The mean number of years worked in a client service environment is 8.84 (SD =
6.88). The maximum number of years worked in client service is 35 years. Again,
the relatively low number of years in a client service environment by the majority of
employees who responded can be explained by the fact that the sample is relatively
young.
As reflected in Table 13 and Figure 16, 40 percent (N=40) of the respondents work
an average of 40 hours per week, with a further 16 percent working between 40 and
45 hours per week. Thirty four percent of the respondents work more than 45 hours
per week, but the mean of 43.52 hours (SD = 9.15) can be explained through
reference to the ten percent of respondents that work less than 40 hours per week.
124
Table 13: Hours worked per week
Hours worked Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
6.45
1
1.0
1.0
8
1
1.0
2.0
9
1
1.0
3.0
30
1
1.0
4.0
32
1
1.0
5.0
37
1
1.0
6.0
37.5
1
1.0
7.0
38
1
1.0
8.0
39
2
2.0
10.0
40
40
40.0
50.0
42
3
3.0
53.0
43
1
1.0
54.0
44
2
2.0
56.0
45
10
10.0
66.0
47
1
1.0
67.0
47.5
2
2.0
69.0
48
6
6.0
75.0
49.5
1
1.0
76.0
50
15
15.0
91.0
55
3
3.0
94.0
60
4
4.0
98.0
65
1
1.0
99.0
70
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
125
Figure 16: Hours worked per week (N=100)
As indicated in Table 14 and Figure 17, sixty nine percent of the respondents are
expected by their companies to work 40 hours per week, while a further nine percent
are required to work between 40 and 45 hours per week. The mean number of hours
required to work per week of 38.8 (SD = 4.80) is below the maximum number of
hours as stipulated by the Basic Condition of Employment Act for full-time
employees. The mean number of hours worked at Company M and Company T are
43.67 (SD = 6.53) and 45.80 (SD = 7.34) respectively. Company F has the lowest
mean score per week at 36.87 (SD = 12.89). This can be explained by the fact that
some respondents from Company F are employed on a reduced working week basis
in the call centre. The three respondents who respectively claimed to work only 6.45,
eight and nine hours per week are from Company F.
126
Table 14: Hours officially required to work per week (N=100)
Hours required
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
8
1
1.0
1.0
9.5
1
1.0
2.0
30
1
1.0
3.0
32
1
1.0
4.0
32.2
1
1.0
5.0
35
1
1.0
6.0
37
5
5.0
11.0
37.5
11
11.0
22.0
40
69
69.0
91.0
41
1
1.0
92.0
42
3
3.0
95.0
42.5
2
2.0
97.0
43
1
1.0
98.0
45
2
2.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
to work
127
Figure 17: Hours officially required to work per week (N=100)
Table 15 reflects the mean for importance rating of family, friends, religion, work and
service to others. Respondents were asked to indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 1
= very important and 5 = not at all important) how important each of the various life
aspects are to them.
128
Table 15: Importance of life aspects (Mean and standard deviation)
Statistics
Family
Friends
Religion
Work
Service to
others
Valid responses
99
99
99
99
99
Missing
1
1
1
1
1
Mean score
1.10
1.86
1.70
1.71
1.80
Std. Dev
.36
.82
1.06
.70
.76
Minimum score
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
Maximum score
3.00
4.00
5.00
4.00
4.00
As indicated in Table 15, the respondents generally tend to regard family as the most
important life aspect (Mean = 1.10; SD = 0.36), followed by religion with a mean of
1.70 (SD = 1.06), then work (Mean = 1.71; SD = 0.70), then service to others (Mean
= 1.80; SD = 0.76) and lastly, friends (Mean = 1.86; SD = 0.82).
Table 16 through to Table 20 reflects the percentage distribution of the sample
responses to each of the life aspects.
Table 16: Importance of family (N=100)
Importance of family
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Very important
91
91.0
91.0
Important
6
6.0
97.0
Neither
2
2.0
99.0
Not very important
0
0.0
99.0
Not at all important
0
0.0
99.0
Missing
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
As reflected in Table 16, 97 percent of respondents regard family as either very
important or important, while only two percent rate the family as neither important nor
unimportant.
129
Table 17: Importance of friends (N=100)
Importance of friends Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative
percent
Very important
36
36.0
36.0
Important
46
46.0
82.0
Neither
12
12.0
94.0
Not very important
5
5.0
99.0
Not at all important
0
0
99.0
Missing
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Eighty two percent of respondents regard friends as either very important or
important, while five percent regards them as not very important.
Table 18: Importance of religion (N=100)
Importance of religion Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative
percent
Very important
59
59.0
59.0
Important
22
22.0
81.0
Neither
12
12.0
93.0
Not very important
1
1.0
94.0
Not at all important
5
5.0
99.0
Missing
1
1.0
100
Total
100
100.0
As indicated in Table 18, 81 percent of the sample regards religion as either very
important or important, suggesting that the majority of the sample is religious.
130
Table 19: Importance of work (N=100)
Importance of work Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Very important
40
40.0
40.0
Important
51
51.0
91.0
Neither
5
5.0
96.0
Not very important
3
3.0
99.0
Not at all important
0
0.0
99.0
Missing
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Only three percent of the respondents do not regard work as important, while almost
92 percent regard it as important or very important (Table 19).
Table 20: Importance of service to others (N=100)
Importance of
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Very important
38
38.0
38.0
Important
45
45.0
83.0
Neither
14
14.0
97.0
Not very important
2
2.0
99.0
Not at all important
0
0
99.0
Missing
1
1.0
100.00
Total
100
100.0
service to others
As reflected in Table 20, service to others is regarded as either important or very
important by 83 percent of the sample.
Respondents were also asked to indicate whether or not they are satisfied with the
relationships they have formed with their co-workers, supervisors, subordinates and
clients.
Responses were recorded on a scale where 1 = not satisfied and 5 =
extremely satisfied. As indicated in Table 21, which reflects the mean scores for the
sample on each rating, relationships with all four groups appear good.
131
Table 21: Relationships with important stakeholders (Mean and standard
deviations)
Statistics
Co-worker
Supervisor
Subordinate
Client
Valid
100
100
100
100
Missing
0
0
0
0
Mean
3.97
3.80
4.53
3.91
Std. Dev
.70
.92
1.15
.79
Minimum
2.00
2.00
3.00
2.00
Maximum
5.00
6.00
6.00
5.00
Table 22 to Table 25 reflects the frequency and percentage distribution of the
sample on each of the relationship with stakeholder scales. Seventy six percent of
the sample is either very satisfied or extremely satisfied with relationships with their
co-workers, while 62 percent are very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the
relationships they formed with their supervisors. Sixty six percent of the sample is
either very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the relationships they have formed
with clients.
Table 22: Relationships with co-workers (N=100)
Level of satisfaction Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Not satisfied at all
0
0.0
0.0
Not satisfied
1
1.0
1.0
Somewhat satisfied
23
23.0
24.0
Very satisfied
54
54.0
78.0
Extremely satisfied
22
22.0
100.0
Not applicable
0
0.0
Total
100
100.0
132
Table 23: Relationships with supervisors (N=100)
Level of satisfaction Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Not satisfied at all
0
0.0
0.0
Not satisfied
8
8.0
8.0
Somewhat satisfied
29
29.0
37.0
Very satisfied
39
39.0
76.0
Extremely satisfied
23
23.0
99.0
Not applicable
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Table 24: Relationships with subordinates (N=100)
Level of satisfaction Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Not satisfied at all
0
0.0
0.0
Not satisfied
0
0.0
0.0
Somewhat satisfied
22
22.0
22.0
Very satisfied
34
34.0
56.0
Extremely satisfied
13
13.0
69.0
Not applicable
31
31.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Table 25: Relationships with clients (N=100)
Level of satisfaction Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Not satisfied at all
0
0.0
0.0
Not satisfied
1
1.0
1.0
Somewhat satisfied
33
33.0
34.0
Very satisfied
40
40.0
74.0
Extremely satisfied
26
26.0
100.0
Not applicable
0
0.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
133
The majority of respondents is proud to be working for their organisations and is
committed to ensuring the continued success of the organisations for which they
work. As reflected in Table 26, 96 percent of the sample agreed or strongly agreed
with the statement that they are willing to work hard to make the organisation
successful.
Table 26: Willingness to work hard to make the organisation successful
(N=100)
Level of agreement
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Strongly agree
58
58.0
58.0
Agree
38
38.0
96.0
Neither
2
2.0
98.0
Disagree
2
2.0
100.0
Strongly disagree
0
0.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Seventy one percent of respondents tell friends that the organisation is a great
organisation to work for, while 11 percent disagree with the statement that they tell
friends that the organisation is a great organisation to work for (Table 27).
Table 27: I tell friends this is a great organisation to work for (N=100)
Level of agreement
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Strongly agree
35
35.0
35.0
Agree
36
36.0
71.0
Neither
18
18.0
89.0
Disagree
10
10.0
99.0
Strongly disagree
1
1.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Seventy two percent of the respondents disagree with the statement that they feel
little loyalty towards the organisation, while 18 percent agree or strongly agree that
they feel little loyalty to the organisation (Table 28).
134
Table 28: I feel little loyalty to this organisation (N=100)
Level of agreement
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Strongly agree
7
7.0
7.0
Agree
11
11.0
18.0
Neither
10
10.0
28.0
Disagree
41
41.0
69.0
Strongly disagree
31
31.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
Eighty three percent of respondents are proud to tell others that they work for the
organisation (Table 29).
Table 29: I am proud to tell others I work for this organisation (N=100)
Level of agreement
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Strongly agree
41
41.0
41.0
Agree
42
42.0
83.0
Neither
15
15.0
98.0
Disagree
2
2.0
100.0
Strongly disagree
0
0.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
And eighty two percent of respondents disagree with the statement that deciding to
work for the organisation was a mistake (Table 30).
135
Table 30: Deciding to work for this organisation was a mistake (N=100)
Level of agreement
Frequency
Percentage
Cumulative percent
Strongly agree
1
1.0
1.0
Agree
1
1.0
2.0
Neither
16
16.0
18.0
Disagree
28
28.0
46.0
Strongly disagree
54
54.0
100.0
Total
100
100.0
4.3.2 Measuring instruments
The primary objective of the quantitative phase was to measure levels of burnout
among client service employees and then to compare the role identities of high
burnout employees with those of low burnout employees.
To this end, a self-administered pen and paper questionnaire was used that was
distributed to all client service employees included in the sample (refer to Appendix B
for an example of the questionnaire). Burnout was measured using the Maslach
Burnout Inventory − Human Services Survey (MBI−HSS), while role identities where
measured using a modified version of the Burke-Tully (1977) measurement. Each of
the two instruments included in the survey questionnaire will be discussed in detail in
the paragraphs that follow.
4.3.2.1 The Maslach Burnout Inventory
The present study made use of the Maslach Burnout Inventory − Human Services
Survey (MBI−HSS) to measure levels of burnout among client service employees. In
accordance with the Maslach and Jackson (1981) definition of burnout, that states
that burnout occurs amongst individuals who do people work of some kind, the
MBI−HSS was developed by Maslach and Jackson (1986) for application in
situations where employees provide a service, care or treatment to a recipient. These
occupations are generally accompanied by the development of strong emotional
136
feelings towards the client or service recipient. While the client service employees
who form the unit of analysis for the present study do not necessarily deal with the
psychological, physical or social problems of their clients, they do interact closely with
their clients in a service context. It was therefore specifically decided not to use the
MBI General Survey (MBI−GS) to measure burnout amongst client service
professionals in the present study, since the unique components of the service
relationship would have been lost.
The
MBI
originally
consisted
of
four
dimensions
(emotional
exhaustion,
depersonalisation, personal accomplishment and involvement) measured through
items that were extracted following factor analysis of 47 items (Maslach & Jackson,
1981). Preliminary factor analysis on a sample of 605 individuals resulted in ten
factors, but through a process of reiteration, these were reduced to a set of four
(Cordes & Dougherty, 1993: 626). Three of these factors displayed values greater
than unity and comprise the subscales of the MBI−HSS which consists of 22 items
(emotional
exhaustion
=
9
items;
depersonalisation =
5 items; personal
accomplishment = 8 items). Each of the 22 items measures burnout through the use
of an eight-point frequency of experience scale ranging from “never” to “every day”.
The original version of the MBI measured burnout through the use of both a
frequency scale and an intensity scale per item, but subsequent instruments have
done away with the intensity scale due to the fact that frequency and intensity
displayed high correlations.
Schaufeli and Enzmann (1998: 50) report that the internal reliability coefficients for all
three subscales of the MBI−HSS are high: emotional exhaustion = 0.90;
depersonalisation = 0.79 and personal accomplishment = 0.71. Standard errors of
measurement are reflected as 3.80, 3.16 and 3.73 for emotional exhaustion,
depersonalisation and personal accomplishment respectively (Maslach et al., 1996:
12). The convergent validity of the instrument is reasonable with emotional
exhaustion and depersonalisation displaying correlations exceeding 0.5 with other
burnout self-report measures.
Correlations between these measures and the
personal accomplishment component are lower at r = 0.3 (Schaufeli & Enzmann,
1998: 52). The test-retest reliability of the instrument tends to be reliable over time,
with the MBI−HSS displaying test-retest coefficients of between 0.6 and 0.82 across
137
short periods of up to a month, but then drop slightly when the periods are longer
(Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 50).
The factorial validity of the instrument has also been tested across a number of
studies. While most of these studies confirm the three factor structure of burnout
(Leiter & Durup, 1994; Leiter & Schaufeli, 1996; Schutte et al., 2000), a couple of
studies have found support for a two-factor structure, with emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation items loading on a single factor, and personal accomplishment
items loading on another (Brookings, Bolton, Brown & McEvoy, 1985; Dignam,
Barrera & West, 1986; Green et al., 1991).
While recent research on burnout in the South African context has used the MBI−GS
(Campbell & Rothmann, 2005; Jackson et al., 2006; Koekemoer & Mostert, 2006;
Montgomery, Mostert & Jackson, 2005; Rothmann & Essenko, 2007; Rothmann et
al., 2003; Rothmann & Joubert, 2007; Weise, Rothmann & Storm, 2003), a number of
others have verified the three-factor structure of the MBI−HSS within the South
African context (Fourie, 2004; Heyns et al., 2003; Jordaan, Spangenberg, Watson &
Fouché, 2007; Van der Colff & Rothmann, 2009; Naudé & Rothmann, 2004). In a
study of burnout amongst nurses caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, Heyns
et al. (2003) established internal consistencies ranging from 0.73 to 0.61 in all three
dimensions.
In a study that aimed to validate the MBI−HSS among emergency
medical technicians, Naudé & Rothmann (2004) performed exploratory factor
analysis which confirmed a three-factor model of burnout with acceptable internal
consistencies. Jordaan et al. (2007) also confirmed the three-factor structure on a
sample of 238 clinical and counselling psychologists with internal consistencies of
0.91, 0.78 and 0.64 for emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and personal
accomplishment respectively. In a study of registered nurses in South Africa, Van
der Colff and Rothmann (2009) confirmed the three-factor structure, with Cronbach
Alphas for emotional exhaustion (0.88), depersonalisation (0.72) and personal
accomplishment (0.71) displaying strong internal consistencies.
Research shows that the emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation are strongly
related (r = 0.52) (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998: 52).
Through a meta-analytic
examination of the correlates of the three dimensions of burnout, Lee and Ashforth
138
(1996: 126) showed that for the frequency response format, emotional exhaustion
was strongly related to depersonalisation (r = 0.64). Personal accomplishment was
moderately
negatively
related
to
emotional
exhaustion
(r
=
-0.33)
and
depersonalisation (r = -0.36).
The discriminant validity of the MBI−HSS does, however, remain problematic
(Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998).
While Maslach et al. (1996: 15) maintain that
sufficient research has been conducted to distinguish between burnout and job
satisfaction, the relationship between burnout and depression remains problematic.
Meier (1984) found moderately strong correlations between depression and burnout.
Maslach et al. (1996: 16) argue that this study should be interpreted with caution due
to the “unorthodox treatment of burnout subscale scores”. While burnout is related to
depression in the sense that individuals who present high levels of neuroticism are
more vulnerable to the development of burnout, a number of studies have concluded
that the two concepts are distinct. According to Demerouti et al. (2001) burnout
syndrome is limited to the occupational context, while depression is characterised by
the fact that its development is context-free.
As reflected in Table 31, the MBI provides burnout scores along a continuum ranging
from high burnout to low burnout. A high degree of burnout is reflected by high
scores on emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation and low scores on personal
accomplishment. Average levels of burnout are reflected by average scores across
all three components, while low burnout is reflected by low scores on emotional
exhaustion and depersonalisation and high scores on personal accomplishment.
Scores are considered high when they are situated in the upper third of the normative
distribution. Average scores are situated in the middle third, while low scores are
situated in the lower third. The normative sample includes teachers, post-secondary
educators, social-service workers, medical workers, mental-health workers, legal-aid
employees, attorneys, police officers, probation officers, ministers, librarians and
agency administrators (Maslach et al., 1996: 6).
139
Table 31: Categories of MBI Scores
MBI Subscales
Lower third (low)
Middle third
Upper third (high)
(average)
Emotional exhaustion
<16
17-26
>27
Depersonalisation
<6
7-12
>13
Personal accomplishment
>39
38-32
<39
(Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996:6)
The MBI−HSS does therefore not measure the presence or absence of burnout and
should not be used for the purposes of clinical diagnosis (Schaufeli & Enzmann,
1998: 56). Furthermore, the normative criteria displayed in Table 31 are not based
on clinical experience, and should be interpreted with care.
Schaufeli (2003: 5)
cautions against arbitrary classification of burnout scores due to the “healthy worker”
effect.
According to Schaufeli (2003: 5), burnout research has generally been
conducted amongst employees that are actively employed, and not amongst those
that have already left the organisation due to burnout.
Clinical classification of
individual burnout scores could therefore prove misleading. One study has, however,
assessed the clinical validity of the MBI amongst a group of outpatients who sought
psychological treatment for work-related problems (Schaufeli, Bakker, Hoogduin,
Schaap & Kladler, 2001: 565). The study confirmed the validity of the three factor
structure of the MBI, and concluded that burnout can be “partly distinguished” from
other mental syndromes.
Maslach et al. (1996) argue against summing the scores on each of the three
components into a composite burnout score. Empirical evidence suggests that the
three components are conceptually distinct, and that an overall measure of burnout
could result in a loss of information. A further reason to maintain this distinctness of
the three components lies in the fact that numerous empirical studies have displayed
differential patterns between each of the three components and antecedent or
consequence variables (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993: 628).
140
A number of criticisms have been levelled against the MBI. One such criticism is that
both emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation items are phrased negatively, while
all personal accomplishment items are phrased positively. According to Demerouti et
al. (2001: 500), this can lead to “acquiescence tendencies” and artificial factor
loadings. Furthermore, Schaufeli and Van Dierendonck (1995: 1087) urge caution
regarding the validity of the burnout classification cut-off points in cross-national
settings and argue in favour of using nationally established and validated cut-off
points due to national differences in burnout scores. In a comparative study using
the normative American sample used to develop the test manual and the normative
Dutch sample, the American sample presented higher levels of reduced personal
accomplishment than the Dutch sample (Schaufeli & Van Dierendonck, 1995).
Despite this, however, the psychometric properties of the Maslach Burnout Inventory
have been confirmed outside of English-speaking countries (Schaufeli, 2003: 6).
While applauding the depth and scope of research using the MBI, Schaufeli (2003: 3)
raises the concern that the development of the MBI has somewhat retarded further
critical investigation into the conceptualisation of burnout. According to Schaufeli
(2003: 3), while the MBI is a psychometrically sound and robust instrument, the
“absolute predominance of the MBI” has rendered the concept synonymous with the
instrument that measures it, hence the fact that “burnout is what the MBI measures”.
4.3.2.2 The measurement of role identity (the Burke-Tully technique)
According to Callero (1992: 485), the concept of the “self” has enjoyed a rich
theoretical tradition amongst social scientists. Unfortunately, however, the concept
has not undergone similar developments in terms of measurement. As a result, the
measurement of the “self” is constrained in terms of two techniques, namely through
a focus on global self-esteem where the individual evaluates himself as object, and
through the production of a “multi-faceted” profile (Callero, 1992: 485). The most
dominant example of the latter approach includes the Twenty Statements Test,
where the respondent is asked to respond to an open-ended question of “Who am I?”
(Callero, 1992: 485).
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In contrast, Grube and Pilivian (2000: 1113) measured the role identity of volunteers
using an operationalisation of Turner’s (1978) concept of role−person merger.
According to Turner (1978), role−person merger is defined as the state in which a
particular role becomes so important that the role becomes dominant to the person’s
sense of self. This measure of role identity therefore measures the relative strength
of a particular identity and its impact on behaviour, but does not necessarily measure
the defining features of the specific identity.
According to Burke and Tully (1977: 881) measures of identity should satisfy four
criteria. Firstly, the measure should produce a quantitative score that can be used in
multi-variate analysis.
The measure should incorporate the “multi-dimensional
character” of most role identities and it should define the underlying dimensions in
order to give meaning to the quantitative score. Lastly, the measure should integrate
the concepts of both self and role.
From a measurement perspective, Burke (1980: 19) suggests that identity should be
conceptualised as a “multi-dimensional semantic space” within which the self
meanings of the particular identity in question can be located. This space should be
defined by shared cultural understandings of the dimensions contained within that
space, as well as be able to plot the locations of typically, stereotypically, ideally or
normatively defined identities within that space.
The measure should also
incorporate a link between the internal identity standard and the external role, and it
should recognise the relationship between identities and counter-identities.
Furthermore, the measure should also incorporate an understanding of the reflexive
nature of the self, recognise the indirect link between identity and performance and
recognise the nature of the image which intervenes between identity and
performance (Burke, 1980: 22).
The Burke-Tully (1977) measurement of role identity attempts to address these
criteria so that the concept of role identity can be used as a causal agent or an
independent variable in multi-variate analysis. It is based on the assumption that the
meaning of self in a role is only significant as it relates to an appropriate counter-role.
The technique makes use of the semantic differential scale developed by Osgood,
Suci and Tannenbaum (1957), which allows one to maximally distinguish a specific
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role from its pre-determined counter-role through the use of a mediation response.
Since identities are formed and enacted in relation to relevant counter identities, they
cannot be measured in isolation of these counter identities (Burke, 1980: 19). The
measure therefore also takes counter-roles into account since the semantic
differential space is based on similarities and differences between the role identity
and counter identities.
In order to measure role identity according to the Burke-Tully technique (1977), a list
of bipolar adjectives that strongly reflect the differences in meanings associated with
the role and the pre-determined counter-role, is used. The respondent is then asked
to judge, against each of the adjective pairs, the roles whose meanings are to be
measured.
The adjective pairs on which the two sets of ratings differ most are
presumed to tap the mediation responses that are most important in distinguishing
the role from the counter-role.
Discriminant analysis is then applied to the total
sample in order to determine which of the items have the highest discriminatory
power.
The adjectives are entered as discriminating variables and assigned a
coefficient. The larger the coefficient, the more discriminating the adjective is for the
role in question. Respondents are then required to rate self in role against the same
adjectives in step two. These ratings are then multiplied by the coefficient weights of
each of the adjectives to produce a single numerical value representing the meaning
of self in a particular role (Burke & Tully, 1977: 884).
To summarise, the Burke-Tully (1977) measurement consists of four steps. Firstly,
counter-roles, that are relevant to the situation under investigation, are identified.
This is then followed by the organisation of adjectives in a semantic differential format
for each role. Discriminant analysis is then used to locate a set of dimensions which
maximally distinguish the meanings attached to each role. Lastly, the applicability of
the role dimensions to the self descriptions is assessed (Reitzes & Burke, 1980: 50).
The validity and reliability of the Burke-Tully technique has not remained
unchallenged.
According to Callero (1992: 485), the identification of counter
identities to certain roles is not clear. Furthermore, respondents often find it difficult
to rate the self against the often counter-intuitive adjective pairs that are utilised
(Callero, 1992: 488). Neither of these two difficulties posed a problem for the current
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study, since the counter identity for the client service employee was determined by
the context and purpose of the study. In addition, all adjective pairs selected for
inclusion in the instrument were derived from interviews with client service employees
and are therefore considered highly relevant to respondents.
In this study, a set of 17 bipolar adjective pairs that correspond to the nature of the
role (client service employee) and counter-role (client) were developed for inclusion
in the study. Osgood et al. (1957) suggest that bipolar adjective pairs are developed
along three relatively independent dimensions upon which mediation responses are
generally connected. These dimensions include evaluation (good−bad); activity
(active−passive) and potency (strong−weak). Hoelter (1985: 1394) identifies eight
dimensions along which adjective pairs can be clustered. These include evaluation,
power, activity, stability, affect−general, affect−depression, anxiety and identity
salience.
The first three components correspond to Osgood et al.’s (1957)
dimensions of evaluation, potency and activity.
Burke and Tully (1977: 884)
maintain, however, that these three dimensions (evaluation, activity and potency)
may not necessarily tap the underlying components of all role identities.
They
instead propose the creation of adjective pairs that are relevant to the role identity
and counter-role identity in question, through the use of appropriate literature and
interviews with potential respondents.
Adjective pairs utilised in the current study were generated following telephonic
interviews with a randomly-selected group of six respondents. A random number
table was used to select two respondents from each of the three companies included
in the study.
Once respondent names were selected, a letter inviting them to
participate in the study was e-mailed to them (refer to Appendix D for an example of
the invitation letter). I then telephonically contacted each potential respondent a few
days after sending them the e-mail and personally invited them to participate in the
interviews. All respondents were requested to sign a consent form which they were
required to e-mail back to me prior to commencement of the interview (refer to
Appendix E for a copy of the consent form). The interviews were semi-structured and
attempted to elicit descriptions of the client service role and client role from each of
the six respondents (refer to Appendix F for a copy of the interview schedule used).
Since the interviews with the six respondents were conducted telephonically, the
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interviews were not tape recorded and have therefore not been transcribed. I did,
however, take detailed notes during each of the interviews. Special attention was
given to recording the adjectives used by each of the respondents in their
descriptions of themselves and the client. Each interview took approximately ten
minutes to complete. A total of 30 different adjectives were recorded to describe both
the client service employee and client. Only those adjectives that appeared across at
least three interviews and could be applied to the description of both client and client
service employee were included in the final questionnaire. A total of 17 pairs were
included in the final questionnaire following a pilot phase in which the client service
employees commented on the relevance of each of the adjective pairs.
It should be mentioned, however, that the present study utilises a modified version of
the Burke-Tully technique in that discriminant analysis is not applied to distinguish
between role and counter-role. This is due to the fact that clients were not included
as respondents in the survey, and as a result, an independent measure of the
counter-role does not exist. Discriminant analysis could therefore not be applied.
4.3.2.3 Questionnaire structure
The questionnaire essentially consisted of three sections. The first section included
the three sets of semantic differential questions measuring role identity. The second
section consisted of the MBI−HSS, and the third section incorporated a range of
additional and demographic questions.
It was decided to place the semantic
differential questions first, since placing the MBI−HSS first would have sensitised
respondents to the client–employee relationship, especially considering the fact that
the majority of questions in the Maslach Burnout Inventory are negatively phrased. A
number of additional questions were added to the section immediately following the
MBI–HSS.
The first of these included five additional items related to the
client−employee relationship. All five questions were positively phrased and were
added because one participating organisation, marketing research Company M, was
uncomfortable with the fact that the majority of MBI–HSS questions were negatively
phrased.
The organisation felt that exposure to the MBI–HSS would leave their
employees feeling negative towards the client and client-service work in general.
The five items were added to a separate section following the MBI–HSS and would
145
therefore not have had an impact on the distribution of responses on the MBI–HSS.
Furthermore, the MBI–HSS items were separately analysed and assessed from the
additional five items inserted into the questionnaire. Further questions measuring
employee loyalty to the organisation and perceived importance of life areas were also
added to the questionnaire. These questions were added to address the second
research question aimed at determining whether a relationship exists between
burnout and employee attitudes towards life, their work and the organisation.
As discussed in the literature review, the MBI–HSS has been successfully adapted to
a range of situations through the substitution of the word “recipients” with an
appropriate alternative. Therefore, in the present study, the word “recipients” was
replaced with “clients”. A couple of other minor changes to the way in which the
questions are phrased were also made.
Although Maslach et al. (1996: 19) do
caution against the use of the MBI–HSS outside of the human service professions, I
argue that these changes are minimal and should not detract from the established
validity of the MBI–HSS. (Refer to Appendix C for a list of incremental changes that
were made to the MBI–HSS for application in the present study and the motivations
thereof).
Demographic questions included position in organisation, department, region,
gender, marital status, highest educational qualifications, length of service, hours
worked per week, population group and age. Respondents were requested to place
their names on the questionnaire if they were willing, to allow for possible selection in
the qualitative phase of the research. It was pointed out to them that this would
jeopardise the anonymity of their responses.
4.3.2.4 Questionnaire pilot
The questionnaire was pre-tested in order to uncover questions that respondents
may not have understood or interpreted in the way that was intended. In accordance
with recommendations by Krosnick (1999: 541), the questionnaire was piloted among
a convenience sample of six client service employees who did not form part of the
research sample. Three of the six respondents were women; three were Afrikaansspeaking; while the rest of the sample was English-speaking.
Four of the
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respondents were white and two were coloured. Use was made of cognitive pretesting, where respondents were asked to think aloud while answering the questions,
thereby providing the researcher with insight into how each item was comprehended.
This was followed by a debrief session, where the researcher elicited feedback from
the respondents regarding the questionnaire.
Based on findings from the pilot, a number of changes were made to the
questionnaire without changing the standardised MBI–HSS. Most of the changes
incorporated aspects of more detailed explanation.
Pilot respondents felt that a
lengthier, more detailed explanation of how to complete the semantic differential was
needed. They also requested more detailed information in terms of the difference
between the semantic differential scale that referred to client service employees in
general and the semantic differential scale that referred to their own experience as
client service employees (self in role). It was felt that respondents may use their own
experiences as points of reference when completing the semantic differential scale
related to client service employees in general.
As a result, a more detailed
explanation was incorporated into the questionnaire. A more detailed definition of
“client service employee” was also added to the questionnaire.
4.3.2.5 Questionnaire administration
A number of factors have to be taken into account when designing and administering
survey questionnaires (Cavusgil & Elvey-Kirk, 1998: 1166). These include response
rates, response speeds, response quality and response completeness. A lack of
respondent anonymity is one of the biggest contributors to a lowered response rate
(Faria & Dickenson, 1996: 66). Since the present study did not offer respondent
anonymity, careful consideration was given to questionnaire administration to
enhance response rates.
One of the primary decisions facing survey researchers is whether to administer a
pen-and-paper based questionnaire or whether to conduct the survey electronically
via the internet or e-mail. While numerous studies have been completed comparing
the advantages and disadvantages of electronic versus paper-based surveys, little
evidence favouring the one over the other exists (Boyer, Olsen, Calantone &
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Jackson, 2002; Cook, Heath & Thompson, 2000; Kaplowitz, Hadlock & Levine,
2004).
After careful consideration of the literature comparing response rates of
electronic and mail surveys (Boyer et al., 2002; Sax, Gilmartin & Bryant, 2003; Sills &
Song, 2002; Wood, Nosko, Desmarais, Ross & Irvine, 2006), it was decided to make
use of a paper-based survey.
This was done since one of the primary factors
resulting in lowered response rate with electronic surveys is the perception amongst
respondents that electronic means of collecting data are less secure than traditional
paper-based methods (Sax et al., 2003). Since the survey required respondents to
include their names for the purpose of follow-up and was therefore not anonymous, it
was felt that use of a paper-based survey would most likely result in improved
response rates.
A number of survey administration methods were implemented to ensure an
acceptable response rate. As recommended by Kanuk and Berenson (1975: 440),
Yammarino, Skinner and Childers (1991) and Cavusgil and Elvey-Kirk (1998: 1166),
each of the potential respondents was e-mailed an introductory letter outlining the
purpose of the research and informing them that they would be posted a copy of the
survey (refer to Appendix G for a copy of the pre-notification letter sent to
respondents).
The pre-notification letter introduced the researcher and assured
potential respondents that management was aware of the research and supported it.
Potential respondents were informed that participation in the research was
completely voluntary, and the contact details of both the researcher and her
supervisor were given in the case of questions or concerns. The letter also stressed
that responses would be treated as confidential and that the research would be used
to better understand the challenges facing client service employees.
Approximately a week after e-mailing all potential respondents an introductory letter
to the survey, each respondent was posted a survey questionnaire and a pre-paid,
return envelope addressed to the researcher’s private bag. The inclusion of the prepaid envelope was a further attempt to increase the response rate to the survey and
also provided the respondents with an additional guarantee of confidentiality. Since
each respondent could place their completed questionnaires immediately into an
addressed envelope and seal it, the risk of a breach of confidentiality was reduced.
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The questionnaire was accompanied by a cover letter again introducing the
researcher and explaining the purpose of the research (refer to Appendix B for an
example of the cover letter). It was explained that all information gathered during the
course of the survey would be treated as confidential, although respondents would
be required to include their names on the questionnaire for potential follow-up during
the qualitative phase of the research.
An estimated time to complete the questionnaire of 20 minutes was communicated to
respondents and the contact numbers of both the researcher and supervisor were
included in case they had any queries. The letter also provided respondents with a
date for submission (3 weeks following receipt) and postage instructions were also
provided. A consent form was included in the questionnaire pack (refer to Appendix
B for an example of the consent form). Respondents were requested to sign the
consent form and return it to the researcher along with the questionnaire. A duplicate
consent form was also included for the respondent’s records. All documentation
used during the administration of the questionnaire was passed through the
University of Pretoria’s Ethics Committee for approval.
In an attempt to control for external variance and ensure that only persons that
formed part of the targeted sample completed the questionnaire, each questionnaire
was given a unique questionnaire number which was linked to the respondent name
on the list of names provided by each of the three companies. The name on each
returned questionnaire was then checked against the name on the master list. Since
respondents were required to place their names on the questionnaire and were
therefore not guaranteed anonymity, this step was deemed appropriate from an
ethical perspective. All respondents provided their names in the questionnaire and
signed the attached consent form, making it unlikely that any person other than the
targeted respondent would have completed the questionnaire.
As already mentioned respondents were given three weeks to complete the
questionnaire and post it back to the researcher using the pre-paid, self addressed
envelope provided.
Since follow-up reminders are regarded as one the best
techniques for improving response rates (Cook et al., 2000), a follow-up e-mail
reminder was sent to each of the respondents approximately one week after dispatch
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of the questionnaire (refer to Appendix H for an example of the e-mail). A second
reminder was sent approximately one week after the first and then a third reminder
was sent two days prior to cut-off date (refer to Appendices I and J for examples of
the follow-up reminders).
In order to increase the total response rate, a fourth reminder was sent to all
respondents approximately three weeks after the cut off date, but no further
responses were received.
While the lack of anonymity attached to the survey
questionnaire could have negatively affected response rates, it is also possible that
the time of year at which the survey was dispatched could have affected response
rates negatively. The survey was sent out at the beginning of December, a time of
year that is notoriously busy for client service professionals in South Africa.
Furthermore, a number of potential respondents could already have been on
vacation during the time of the survey.
All respondents made use of the return envelopes provided, but only respondents
from Company M returned the questionnaires directly to the researcher via the postal
service.
In the case of Company T and Company F, respondents placed the
questionnaires in the envelopes provided and submitted them to a contact person
within each of the companies. Since the return envelopes were addressed to the
researcher and since respondents were asked to seal the enveloped prior to handing
it in, confidentiality of responses was guaranteed. Confidentiality of participation,
was, however, compromised in these cases, since the contact persons in Company T
and Company F would have been aware of which employees had handed in the
return envelope. The contact person would however, not have had access to the
content of these envelopes, as respondents were requested to seal the envelope.
Confidentiality of content was therefore maintained. Once the completion date of the
survey had been reached, I had all responses couriered to Cape Town where they
were captured by myself in a Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) data
file. All questionnaires were returned in the enveloped provided, and all envelopes
had remained sealed until they were opened by me, which suggests that
confidentiality had been maintained. Each respondent’s data were captured using
the questionnaire code so to ensure confidentiality of response. Only I was able to
link the captured questionnaire code to the name on the questionnaire.
No
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personally identifiable information was captured in the SPSS data file, thereby
ensuring confidentiality of participant responses. All completed questionnaires are
currently stored under lock and key in my place of residence and will be kept for a
period of five years as required by the University of Pretoria’s ethics committee.
4.3.3 Data analysis procedures
Statistical analysis of the data was done by the Department of Statistics at the
University of Pretoria.
SAS version 9.2 and BMDP release 7.1 data analysis
packages were used to carry out the analysis.
The assessment of construct validity plays an important part in confirming the
adequacy of measures, since it establishes the degree to which indicators measure
the construct under investigation (Schwab, 1980).
Factor analysis was therefore
conducted on the MBI−HSS items in order to determine whether the factor structure
produced by the sample corresponded to the three burnout components of emotional
exhaustion, depersonalisation and personal accomplishment as defined by Maslach
and Jackson (1986). Factor loadings greater than 0.3 were regarded as sufficient for
inclusion (Hair, Anderson, Tatham & Black, 1992). A detailed explanation of the
factor analysis will be provided in the next section.
Following factor analysis of all MBI−HSS items, which resulted in a two-factor
conceptualisation of burnout, two subscales were created. These scales are labelled
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment and
the internal consistency of each was assessed using Cronbach’s Alpha coefficient. A
Cronbach Alpha of greater than 0.7 was regarded as sufficient as suggested by
Nunnally and Bernstein (1994).
By the Central Limit Theorem, normality of distributions for the sample was assumed.
For the General Linear Models, normality of residuals was tested using normal
probability plots, box plots and stem and leaf plots. The homogeneity of variance
assumption was tested using scatter plots of the squares of residuals against the
predicted values.
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The mean, standard deviation, minimum and maximum scores of the present sample
on each of the two burnout scales and burnout total were calculated. Analysis of
variance (ANOVA) tests were then performed in order to test for differences in
burnout scores between the biographic and demographic variables measured on
discrete scales, namely gender groupings (V83); marital status (V84); educational
level (V85); company (V106) and population group (V105).
In cases where
significant differences in burnout did exist between the groupings identified above,
Scheffe’s test was applied to test for significant differences between each of the
response categories.
Next, the relationship between the demographic variables measured on ratio scales
(age, length of service with current employer, length of service in a client service
environment, number of years working and average number of hours worked per
week)
and
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation,
reduced
personal
accomplishment and burnout total was assessed using the Pearson correlation
coefficient. Correlations were regarded as practically significant for r > 0.25 and p <
0.05.
The relationship between scores on the three burnout scales and perceptions of the
client relationship (V74−V78); the importance of life areas (V91−V95); satisfaction
with stakeholder relationships (V96−V99) and levels of loyalty and commitment to the
organisation was assessed using Spearman’s correlation coefficient. Spearman’s
coefficient was regarded as statistically more applicable than Pearson’s correlation
coefficient, since a number of variables included in these calculations were measured
at the ordinal level. Significant correlations were regarded as r ≥ 0.25 and p < 0.05.
Burnout total and its two subscales (emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation and
reduced personal accomplishment) were then correlated with the sample responses
to the Burke-Tully semantic differential items.
While the instrumentation used in the present study is identical to that proposed by
Burke and Tully (1977), the method of analysis was different.
The Burke-Tully
technique (1977) assumes that respondents from both the role and the counter-role
are included in the sample under investigation. In the present study, due to practical
152
reasons the client was not included as a respondent.
As a result, discriminant
analysis could not be applied to distinguish which adjective dimensions maximally
distinguish the role from the counter-role, and differentiating coefficients could not be
assigned.
In the present study, respondents were required to rate three roles on the set of
adjective pairs. Firstly, they were required to rate client service employees in general
(stereotypical role) on the set of adjectives. Secondly, they were required to rate the
client role (counter-role) on the set of adjectives, and lastly they rated themselves as
client service employees (self in role) on the set of adjective pairs. The rating of the
role in general (stereotypical role) is required for the discriminant analysis proposed
by Burke and Tully (1977), but because discriminant analysis was not used in the
present study, these measures (V1−V17) were excluded from the analysis. Instead,
a new variable was created (client/self difference) by computing the perceived
difference between the ratings of self in role and ratings of the client (counter-role).
The difference observed between the self in role and client in role ratings were
correlated with each of the burnout measures in order to determine whether levels of
burnout are related to perceived differences between how client service respondents
define themselves and how they perceive the client role. Spearman’s correlation
coefficient was used as the statistical procedure, since client/self difference was
measured on the ordinal level. Correlations r ≥ 0.25 and p < 0.05 were regarded as
practically significant correlations.
Burnout scores were then independently correlated with the adjective ratings of the
self in role (self) and rating of the client role (client) using Spearman’s Correlation
coefficient. This was done in order to determine whether burnout is related to role
identity and how one defines the client.
In each case, Spearman’s correlation
coefficient was used to test for statistically significant relationships. Correlations of r
≥ 0.25 and p < 0.05 were regarded as practically significant correlations.
4.3.4 Factor structure of the MBI−HSS
Prior to commencement of the factor analysis, all personal accomplishment variables
(V55, V58, V60, V63, V68, V69, V70 and V72) were recoded in the opposite
153
direction.
Since all emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation variables are
negatively phrased and all personal accomplishment variables are positively phrased,
it was decided to recode all personal accomplishment items in the opposite direction
to conform to the direction of the emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation items.
The implication of this is that a high score on the personal accomplishment items
would be indicative of high burnout, and a low score would be indicative of low
burnout. For ease of discussion, the personal accomplishment subscale will from
now on be referred to as the reduced personal accomplishment subscale.
Maximum Likelihood Factor Analysis (MLFA) with Direct Quartimin rotation of the
axes was performed on all 22 items of the MBI−HSS in order to determine whether
the item loadings conformed to the three-factor structure proposed by Maslach and
Jackson (1996). At the first round of factor analysis, a three factor solution was
specified as the MBI−HSS has been reported to consist of three factors.
Only
respondents that provided responses to all MBI−HSS items were included in the
analysis. As a result, the total number of responses stood at N = 94. Six Eigen
values > 1.00 were identified and the cumulative proportion of variance for the three
factors representing the highest Eigen values is displayed in Table 32.
Table 32: Cumulative proportion of variance on three factors
Factors
Cumulative proportion of variance explained
1
0.31
2
0.44
3
0.49
The three factors cumulatively contributed to 49.35 percent of the variance in the
data space.
Factor 1 contributes 31.23 percent of the variance, while Factor 2
explains 12.11 percent and Factor 3 explains 5.01 percent of the variance.
The rotated factor loadings of all the items are presented for r ≥ 0.30 in Table 33.
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Table 33: Rotated factor loadings (three factors)
Item
Factor 1
Factor 2
Factor 3
number
Depersonalisation
Reduced
Emotional Exhaustion
Accomplishment
V52
0.479
0.510
V53
0.594
V54
0.758
V56
0.473
V57
0.747
V59
0.482
V61
0.450
V62
0.652
V64
0.443
0.326
V65
0.345
0.482
V66
0.507
V67
0.818
V71
0.316
V73
0.312
0.618
0.496
R55
0.427
R58
0.614
R60
0.787
R63
0.392
R68
0.731
R69
0.634
R70
0.645
R72
0.509
-0.309
0.737
Factors loadings of less than 0.3 were suppressed. While Nunally and Bernstein
(1994) recommend the inclusion of factor loadings greater than 0.5, many
researchers regard factor loadings of 0.3 as sufficient (Hair et al., 1992; Pedhazur &
Schmelkin, 1991). When a three-factor solution was specified, a number of items
(V52, V64, V59, V64, V65, V71, VR58 and VR63) loaded substantially on more than
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one factor (r ≥ 0.30). Item V57 loaded strongly on the depersonalisation factor, but
was expected to load on the emotional exhaustion factor. Item V64 loaded more
strongly on the depersonalisation factor than on the emotional exhaustion factor
where it was expected to load. Furthermore, item V67 is an emotional exhaustion
item, but loaded on the depersonalisation factor. Similarly, item VR63, a personal
accomplishment item, loaded on the emotional exhaustion factor.
As reflected in Table 34, the correlations between factors show a moderate (r =
0.425) correlation between Factor 1 (Depersonalisation) and Factor 3 (Emotional
Exhaustion).
Table 34: Factor correlations for rotated factors (three factors)
Factor 1
Factor 2
Factor 1
1.000
Factor 2
0.099
1.000
Factor 3
0.425
0.130
Factor 3
1.000
Because of the numerous cross-loadings and the fact that four items did not load on
factors as expected, a two-factor solution was investigated. For the second round of
Maximum Likelihood Factor Analysis with Direct Quartimin rotation of the axes, a
two-factor solution was specified. As indicated in Table 35 the two factors together
explain 43.93 percent the variance in the data space, with Factor 1 accounting for
30.85 percent of the variance and Factor 2 accounting for 13.08 percent of the
variance observed.
Table 35: Cumulative proportion of variance (two factors)
Factor
Cumulative proportion of variance explained
1
0.31
2
0.44
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Table 36 displays the rotated factor loadings across the two specified factors for
loadings ≥ 0.25.
Table 36: Rotated factor loadings (two factors)
Item number Factor 1
Factor 2
Emotional exhaustion/Depersonalisation Reduced accomplishment
V52
0.850
V53
0.682
V54
0.775
V56
0.354
V57
0.728
V59
0.936
V61
0.401
V62
0.717
V64
0.663
V65
0.692
V66
0.443
V67
0.664
V71
0.690
V73
0.367
R55
0.435
R58
0.608
R60
0.797
R63
0.406
0.387
R68
0.736
R69
0.645
R70
0.654
R72
0.507
Emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation items loaded on Factor 1, and personal
accomplishment loaded on Factor 2.
Item VR63 remained problematic in that it
cross-loaded on both factors (r > 0.30).
157
The factor correlations for the rotated factors display a low correlation (r = 0.182) as
indicated in Table 37, indicating two clearly separate and distinguishable factors.
Table 37: Factor correlations for rotated factors (two factors)
Factor 1
Factor 1
1.000
Factor 2
0.182
Factor 2
1.000
Because item VR63 continued to load on both factors, a third round of Maximum
Likelihood Factor Analysis was run by omitting VR63 from the analysis. The two
factors produced account for 44.39 percent of the variance in the data space, with
Factor 1 accounting for 31.08 percent of the variance and Factor 2 accounting for
13.31 percent of the variance (Table 38).
Table 38: Cumulative proportion of variance (two factors, omitting item VR63)
Factor
Cumulative proportion of variance explained
1
0.31
2
0.44
The rotated factor loadings displayed in Table 3 show all personal accomplishment
items loading on Factor 2, and all emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation items
loading on Factor 1, r ≥ 0.30 without significant cross loadings.
158
Table 39: Rotated factor loadings (two factors, omitting VR63)
Item
Factor 1
Factor 2
number
Emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation
Reduced accomplishment
V52
0.849
V53
0.679
V54
0.768
V56
0.358
V57
0.734
V59
0.932
V61
0.404
V62
0.720
V64
0.664
V65
0.691
V66
0.448
V67
0.671
V71
0.689
V73
0.367
R55
0.428
R58
0.637
R60
0.773
R68
0.749
R69
0.618
R70
0.640
R72
0.526
The factors display a low correlation (r = 0.168) (Table 40). The Cronbach Alpha of
all items in the final two-factor solution is 0.8825. The Cronbach Alpha for Factor 1
emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation is 0.9070, and the Cronbach Alpha for
Factor 2 personal accomplishment is 0.8171.
159
Table 40: Factor correlations for rotated factors (three factors, omitting VR63)
Factor 1
Factor 1
1.000
Factor 2
0.168
Factor 2
1.000
The MBI−HSS used in the present research resulted in a two-factor structure with
item VR63 removed. While the two-factor structure confirmed above deviates from
the three-factor structure proposed by Maslach and Jackson (1996), Maslach et al.
(1996) have suggested that application of the MBI-HSS outside of the human service
professions may result in the collapse of depersonalisation and emotional exhaustion
into one factor.
Furthermore, a number of studies have found support for a two-
factor structure, with emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation items loading on a
single factor, and personal accomplishment items loading on another (Brookings et
al., 1985; Dignam et al., 1986; Green et al., 1991). The MBI–HSS as a two-factor
structure with item VR63 removed is therefore regarded as an acceptable and valid
measure of burnout for this sample.
4.4
THE QUALITATIVE PHASE
The primary purpose of the qualitative phase is to broaden understanding of the
nature of the differences between the role identities of high burnout client service
employees and low burnout client service employees.
Through the qualitative
exploration of interview data, it is intended that these differences be described and
understood to better explain the nature of the relationship between role identity and
burnout and the nature of the mechanisms by virtue of which this relationship exists.
A further aim of the qualitative research was to explore the role that perceptions of
organisational client discourse play in informing the role identities of client service
employees. The qualitative phase of the research therefore attempted to address
research questions three through to six:
3.
In what ways do the role identities of higher burnout employees differ from the
role identities of lower burnout employees?
160
3a. Is there a relationship between descriptions of the counter-role (client) and
the development of burnout?
3b. Is there a relationship between descriptions of the self (self in role) and the
development of burnout?
3c. Is there a relationship between the development of burnout and the
difference between descriptions of the self and descriptions of the counter-role
(client)?
4. To what extent do the role-related behaviours and subjective perceptions of
higher burnout employees differ from the role-related behaviours and subjective
perceptions of lower burnout employees?
5. Are lower burnout respondents able to self-verify more easily than higher burnout
respondents?
6. To what extent do higher burnout employees experience, interpret and internalise
the organisational client discourse differently when compared to lower burnout
client service employees?
It should be noted that reference is made to “higher” burnout employees and “lower”
burnout employees instead of “high” burnout employees and “low” burnout
employees. This has been purposefully done since only one of the respondents
included in the present study can be classified as experiencing “high” burnout.
Qualitative research has traditionally been categorised according to an array of
paradigms and strategies (Holliday, 2007: 17). These paradigms range from the
naturalist approaches including case studies, ethnography and ethno-methodology,
to the post-modern paradigm that includes the phenomenological, grounded theory
and action research strategies. These categories do, however, overlap significantly,
resulting in a fluid, rather than rigid categorisation of strategies (Holliday, 2007: 17).
But despite the numerous paradigmatic approaches to qualitative research, the
primary objectives of qualitative research remain constant. Hesse-Biber and Leavy
(2006: 5) define the practice of qualitative research as “reflective and process driven,
ultimately producing culturally situated and theory-enmeshed knowledge through an
ongoing interplay between theory and methods, researcher and researched”.
Similarly, Flick, Von Kardorff and Steinke (2004: 3) maintain that “qualitative research
161
claims to describe the world from the inside out, from the point of view of the people
that participate”. The processes employed during qualitative research are therefore
of paramount importance in ensuring the integrity of the data produced. To this end,
qualitative researchers are required to carefully document the research process and
constantly reflect on the interplay between process and interpretation. The sampling
and data-collection methods pertaining to the qualitative phase of the research are
therefore discussed in detail below.
4.4.1 Qualitative sample selection and description
The qualitative research in the present study was conducted by way of semistructured interviews (refer to Appendix K for an example of the semi-structured
interview schedule) with eight respondents who scored towards the higher end of the
burnout spectrum and nine respondents who scored towards the lower end of the
burnout spectrum. Table 41 reflects the quantitative sample respondents ranked
according to total burnout scores from highest to lowest.
provided
in
the
far
left-hand
column
and
scores
The respondent ID is
on
the
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation and personal accomplishment subscale are also
provided but not ranked.
Maslach and Jackson (1996) recommend that burnout
scores be interpreted as high, moderate or low. For the present study, total burnout
scores could range from 0 to 126. A score of 85 and over in the burnout total column
is indicative of high burnout. Scores between 43 and 84 are indicative of moderate
burnout, while scores lower than 42 signify low burnout. Since only one respondent
in the present sample can be classified as having high burnout, respondents included
in the qualitative research are grouped into those with higher scores on the burnout
continuum and those with lower scores on the burnout continuum. For the remainder
of the dissertation, these two groups will be referred to as the higher burnout group
and the lower burnout group.
162
Table 41: Respondents ranked from highest to lowest burnout scores
Respondent
ID
f44
t7
m31
m8
t54
f1
f36
f3
t34
f41
t40
m25
f33
t103
t47
t39
t43
m38
m18
t50
t41
t59
f43
m46
f39
m6
f34
t105
m27
m54
t99
t38
t82
m7
m29
t23
t53
m47
m2
f35
f24
m32
f29
m30
m62
t16
t45
t84
t10
Emotional Exhaustion/
Depersonalisation
score
71
65
52
47
52
53
62
52
56
58
52
42
41
53
52
51
50
54
47
48
44
43
44
45
40
26
43
30
23
30
41
18
39
22
20
29
42
30
33
31
36
22
20
17
22
27
15
25
18
Personal
Accomplishment
score
17
13
21
26
19
17
6
16
12
9
14
21
22
9
10
9
9
4
10
8
12
12
10
7
10
23
6
19
25
18
6
28
6
22
24
15
2
12
9
11
6
18
20
22
17
11
23
12
18
Total Burnout
score
High 88
Moderate 78
73
73
71
70
68
68
68
67
66
63
63
62
62
60
59
58
57
56
56
55
54
52
50
49
49
49
48
48
47
46
45
44
44
44
44
42
42
42
42
Low 40
40
39
39
38
38
37
36
Response
after
invitation
Accepted
Declined
Accepted
Accepted
Declined
Accepted
Declined
Accepted
Accepted
Declined
Declined
Declined
Accepted
Declined
Declined
Accepted
163
Respondent
ID
t27
t83
t44
t2
m26
f45
t35
t31
t94
t11
m17
m52
t3
f8
t20
t60
f31
t29
t46
t49
t30
m3
f6
t32
t58
t57
m35
t80
m34
t104
t1
t42
f28
t6
m28
f7
t25
t8
t93
t28
t56
t24
t22
t26
t14
Emotional Exhaustion/
Depersonalisation
score
29
19
18
27
21
33
29
23
25
22
20
17
30
27
27
14
24
24
16
20
26
19
15
15
18
15
20
20
10
13
11
14
14
10
8
14
13
9
11
12
14
6
4
5
6
Personal
Accomplishment
score
6
16
17
7
12
0
4
9
7
10
11
13
0
1
1
14
3
3
11
7
0
6
8
8
5
7
1
0
9
6
8
5
4
8
9
2
3
7
5
4
1
3
5
3
0
Total Burnout
score
35
35
35
34
33
33
33
32
32
32
31
30
30
28
28
28
27
27
27
27
26
25
23
23
23
22
21
20
19
19
19
19
18
18
17
16
16
16
16
16
15
9
9
8
6
Response
after
invitation
Accepted
Accepted
Declined
Declined
Accepted
Declined
Declined
Accepted
Declined
Declined
Accepted
Declined/Accepted
Declined/Accepted
Accepted
Accepted
While it would have been preferable to select only those respondents that are
experiencing either high burnout or low burnout, only one respondent could be
classified as high burnout (total burnout score higher than 84). Forty respondents
164
could be classified as displaying moderate burnout (total burnout score of between
42 and 84), and the rest displayed low burnout (burnout scores below 42).
Since the aim of the qualitative research was to compare the role identities of high
burnout respondents with the role identities of low burnout respondents, the sample
for inclusion in the qualitative phase was purposively selected by identifying the
respondents that scored the highest and those that scored the lowest on total
burnout. A final sample of ten higher burnout and ten lower burnout respondents
was regarded as sufficient to make the necessary qualitative comparisons, but in
order to accommodate refusals to participate, a number of additional respondents
were invited to participate in the research.
In order to ensure representivity of
respondents across each of the three companies, an attempt was made to include at
least two respondents from each of the three companies in both the higher and lower
burnout group.
In the case of the higher burnout respondents, the 16 respondents measuring the
highest in total burnout were invited to participate in the research. Each of the
potential respondents was e-mailed a letter of invitation (refer to Appendix L) asking
them if they would be willing to participate in a 45-minute interview. Five respondents
from Company T declined to participate in the interviews due to time pressures and
work commitments. Two respondents from Company F were no longer in the employ
of the company at the time respondents were recruited for participation in the
qualitative interviews and one respondent from Company M was also not available to
participate in the research. This resulted in a total of two respondents from Company
M, four from Company F and two from Company T. A total of eight higher burnout
respondents were interviewed.
The lowest 13 respondents were invited to participate in the research. While it would
have been preferable to invite the lowest measuring 16 respondents (as had been
done in the case of the higher burnout group) this may have resulted in an excessive
number of respondents from Company T included in the lower burnout group. As a
result, two respondents from Company T that scored within the lowest 16 burnout
scores were excluded from the first group of invited respondents due to the high
number of respondents from Company T already included in the lower burnout
165
sample. Only one respondent from Company M fell within the first group of invited
respondents and as a result, respondents M34 and M35 were included in the sample,
even though they fall outside of the lowest scoring 16.
Two respondents from Company F were no longer working for the call centre due to
the fact that the Cape Town section of the call centre was closed down. Regrettably,
no further respondents from Company F could be identified for inclusion in the low
burnout group. Respondent F6 would have been the next logical inclusion in the
sample from Company F, but it was decided not to consider respondents outside of
the lowest scoring 20. This decision was taken in order to ensure the best possible
concentration of higher burnout and lower burnout respondents. The lower burnout
group is therefore not representative of respondents from Company F. Six lower
burnout respondents from Company T declined to participate in the research due to
work pressures, and the first round of interviews went ahead with seven lower
burnout employees included in the sample.
Unfortunately, one respondent from
Company T had to cancel his interview at the last minute due to work commitments.
As a result, only six low burnout respondents were initially surveyed. The researcher
then decided to travel back to Company T in the Free State at a different stage to
interview this respondent. Respondents T22 and T24 who were initially unavailable
to participate, were again invited to participate and agreed.
A total of nine low
burnout interviews eventually took place.
Upon positive responses to the invitation, an interview was scheduled at a time and
place convenient to the respondent. All respondents chose to have the interviews at
their place of work.
In the case of Company M, Company F and Company T
(Mpumalanga), a separate boardroom was arranged for the interviews. In the case
of Company T (Free State), the researcher was provided with a private office from
which to conduct the interviews. Each respondent was asked to sign an informed
consent form that outlined the purpose of the research and guaranteed confidentiality
and anonymity of responses.
Respondents were also asked permission to tape
record the interview for the purpose of transcription (Refer to Appendix M for a copy
of the consent form). A description of interview respondents is reflected in Table 42.
Limited demographic information is, however, provided in Table 42, specifically to
protect the identity of participants.
166
Table 42: Description of interview respondents (N=17)
High Burnout respondents
Code
Company Town/Region
Gender
Population Group
Interview Duration
H1
M
Cape Town
Female
White
35 min
H2
M
Cape Town
Male
White
25 min
H3
F
Cape Town
Female
Coloured
40 min
H4
F
Cape Town
Female
Coloured
40 min
H5
F
Cape Town
Male
Coloured
35 min
H6
F
Cape Town
Male
White
30 min
H7
T
Mpumalanga
Male
White
30 min
H8
T
Mpumalanga
Male
White
32 min
Low Burnout respondents
Code
Company Town/Region
Gender
Population Group
Interview Duration
L1
M
Cape Town
Female
White
30 min
L2
M
Cape Town
Female
White
26 min
L3
M
Cape Town
Female
White
28 min
L4
T
Free State
Male
White
41 min
L5
T
Free State
Female
White
31 min
L6
T
Mpumalanga
Male
White
35 min
L7
T
Free State
Male
White
40 min
L8
T
Free State
Male
White
41 min
L9
T
Free State
Male
White
35 min
4.4.2 The qualitative interview method
The use of interviewing assumes that the research participants have important
knowledge about the social world that can be accessed through verbal
communication (Rubin & Rubin, 1995: 1). Interviewing allows the researcher to view
the world from the interviewee’s subjective perception, and uncover the meanings
attached to people’s experiences (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2006: 119; Kvale, 1996: 1).
Through the act of asking and listening, the researcher creates meaning by
recognising patterns that emerge from the descriptive interpretations of the social
world by the participants in the research. It is therefore less concerned with the
167
collection of facts and information, than with the interpretation of meaning that
subjects assign to the everyday lived experience (Flick, 2004a: 11; Warren, 2002:
83).
Interviewing is, however, far more complex that simply asking questions and getting
answers. According to Fontana and Frey (2005: 697), “the spoken or written word
always has a residue of ambiguity, no matter how carefully we word the questions
and how carefully we report or code the answers”. Interviewers should therefore take
cognisance of the fact that the interview situation can bring bias into the data
collected (Evans, Hearn, Uhlemann & Ivey, 1998: 57) because the “shared
assumptions, contextual understandings, common knowledge, and reciprocal aims of
speakers in everyday life are not present during the formal interview” (Lazarsfeld,
1935: 1). Care was therefore taken during the construction of the interview schedule
and administration of the interview to adhere to a number of principles aimed at
ensuring validity of the interview data. A description of the interview schedule and a
detailed explanation of the interview administration process will be discussed in the
two sections that follow.
4.4.2.1
The interview schedule
The interviews used in the present study were semi-structured in order to facilitate
analytical comparison between each of the respondents. Given the nature of the fact
that I, as researcher and interviewer, was aware of which respondents were
classified as higher burnout and which as lower burnout, the structured nature of the
questionnaire also reduced potential interviewer bias. The semi-structured nature of
the interview schedule did allow me to probe for clarity in cases of ambiguity, and ask
respondents to clarify responses.
Prior to interviewing, the study was “thematised” according to the research questions
outlined in the research argument (Flick, 2004a: 37).
Six primary themes for
exploration were identified and included: role-related meanings; perceptions of and
feelings towards the counter-role; the construction of identity and the role of
organisational discourse; role identity and behaviour; and behaviour and burnout
(refer to Appendix K for a copy of the interview schedule).
168
The interview schedule used during the present study primarily made use of
descriptive and experience/example questions (Janesick, 2004: 72). The use of
experience questions was regarded as particularly important in order to understand
the level of congruence between respondents’ perceptions and actual behaviours.
Probing took various forms including silence, encouragement, asking for immediate
clarification, retrospective clarification, immediate elaboration or retrospective
elaboration (Keats, 2000: 64).
The semi-structured interview schedule commenced with a general question asking
the respondent to explain his/her specific role in the organisation. This was followed
by questions relating specifically to the client and the client relationship.
Respondents were asked to list words or phrases to describe what it is like being a
client service employee and to describe the relationships they have with their clients.
In this section respondents were also asked to describe what the perfect client would
be like.
These questions attempted to elicit references to the client service
employee’s role identity and how they perceive the client (relevant counter-identity).
The next section of the interview schedule attempted to uncover employee
perceptions of management expectations pertaining to the client service role. In this
section respondents were asked to indicate whether they feel they are generally able
to meet the expectations of management and whether they believe these
expectations are fair.
These questions were asked with the intention to elicit
perceptions of the organisation’s client service discourse.
The next set of questions required respondents to describe the kinds of people they
thought management recruits for the client service role and what kinds of people they
would advise management to recruit. This section of the interview schedule was
aimed at eliciting further perceptions of the role and its associated identity.
The final section of the interview schedule was aimed at eliciting perceptions and
evaluations that respondents have about their roles. Here respondents were asked
to describe their challenges; what they like best and least about working in client
service and whether they would change anything about their jobs. It was intended
that this section uncover meanings related to the client service identity and that
169
respondents relate personal experiences that would give an indication of the kinds of
role-related behaviours they engage in. This section also attempted to ascertain
whether respondents were experiencing self-verification.
The interview schedule was piloted among a convenience sample of three client
service employees. A number of incremental changes were made to the schedule
primarily for purposes of clarification.
The primary challenge with interview research is to get the respondents to relay their
true opinions, perceptions and emotions and to eliminate the entry of bias into the
interview (Mischler, 1986: 15). According to Johnson and Weller (2002: 491) the
manner in which questions are framed and the use of supportive material during the
interview are of vital importance. To this end, a number of techniques suggested by
Weiss (1994: 75) were used to improve the depth and quality of the information
provided by the interview respondents.
The structure of the interview schedule also allowed for the researcher to ask the
respondents for concrete examples of their interactions with the client. This proved
useful in getting respondents to recall actual situations. During analysis, the actual
situations and emotions derived from these specific situations were compared with
the more subjective, general responses of the respondent. Furthermore, because
respondents represented only three different companies, the factual information
relayed by each respondent could be verified against the information provided by
other respondents of the same company.
The questions included in the interview schedule were not of a highly personal
nature, and did therefore not induce trauma or pose a significant threat to respondent
esteem. A small section of the interview schedule did attempt to elicit respondent
perceptions of management expectations, and given the fact that the interviews took
place during working hours at the place of work, could have resulted in a degree of
unease amongst some of the respondents. All respondents were, however, very
forthcoming with information and appeared to enjoy the interview.
170
4.4.2.2
Interview administration
In order to establish both emotional and cognitive rapport with respondents (Keats,
2001) I introduced myself to respondents and thanked them for agreeing to
participate in the interview. In order to create a comfortable atmosphere I stressed
that the purpose of the research interviews was to gain a deeper understanding of
the facets of client service. At no stage of the interview were respondents informed
that the study is aimed at investigating burnout, since interview responses are often
more valid if respondents are not aware of the research context underpinning what
they are being asked (Froddy, 1993: 53). This form of deception is in accordance
with the recommendations made by Maslach et al. (1996) who stress that
respondents should not be informed that burnout is being measured. Respondents
were instead informed that the research was being conducted in order to gain a
better understanding of client service work with particular focus on interactions with
the client.
It was stressed that respondents’ identities would remain confidential, and they were
also informed that selected employees from two other companies were also
participating in the research.
This appeared to reduce apprehension amongst
respondents that their responses may be linked to them personally.
Each
respondent was provided with an informed consent form, which they were asked to
sign (Appendix M). Respondents were asked permission to be tape-recorded and it
was explained that the purpose of the tape recording was to enable transcription of
the interviews. Respondents were assured that the recordings would be destroyed
following transcription of the interview, and I undertook not to refer to them or the
company by name during the course of the interview. Each respondent was given a
copy of the informed consent form to keep.
At the end of each interview, the
researcher asked the respondents whether they had any questions pertaining to the
research.
Most respondents were interested to know more about the research
resulting in an informal conversation about the research after the interview had been
concluded.
Respondents were, however, not informed that the research was
concerned with measuring burnout.
171
Since interviewing is not solely concerned with taking note of verbal content but also
about taking note of tone, voice and facial expression (Gordon, 1980: 5) all interviews
were recorded for transcription. As a result, I was able to take detailed notes during
the interview, reflecting the general tone of the interview, and any non-verbal cues
which may have added to interpretation of the interview data. In each case, an
interview contact sheet was compiled, in which I noted any pertinent points pertaining
to the interview, including general emotions displayed by the respondent during the
interview.
An inhibitor to communication (Gordon, 1980: 119) that was of particular concern
during the current research was that of time pressure. According to Gordon (1980:
119), interviews should be held at a time and place convenient to the respondent in
order to avoid the negative impact that time pressures can have on the flow of
communication during the interview.
Since all interviews took place at the
respondent’s place of work and during office hours so that respondents would not
need to travel, I was particularly aware of time pressures on respondents. In the
case of Company F, respondents are on a strict 45-minute lunch schedule. All
respondents from Company F were interviewed during their lunch breaks, resulting in
moderate time pressure during the interviews.
All interviews were, however,
comfortably completed within 45 minutes. At the Mpumalanga branch of Company T,
a fire drill interrupted the first interview. This resulted in both subsequent interviews
being scheduled at a later time.
Fortunately, all respondents were able to
accommodate the change in time.
4.4.3 Qualitative data analysis and interpretation
Qualitative research comprises a myriad of analysis strategies ranging from technical
standardised strategies to strategies that are highly interpretative, which ultimately
affect the manner in which data are generated (Marshall & Rossman, 2006: 154).
One of the primary areas of contestation regarding qualitative methodology is
whether it should follow and inductive or a deductive approach. Flick (2004a: 149)
for instance, maintains that research questions derived from prior theoretical
knowledge is crucial to the success of the qualitative study. Meinefield (2004: 15) on
172
the other hand, states that qualitative researchers should suspend all prior
knowledge on a specific subject during data analysis.
In an attempt to reconcile these divergent approaches to qualitative research, Miles
and Huberman (1994: 16) make a distinction between tight versus loose qualitative
research designs.
Tight qualitative research designs allow for a pre-existing
conceptual framework and well-defined research questions in order to frame the
study. Loose designs, on the other hand, keep pre-structuring to a minimum and
allow concepts to emerge from the data. Miles and Huberman (1994) suggest that
qualitative designs must have some structure to guide analysis.
A conceptual
framework accompanied by well-defined research questions indicating the primary
concepts or variables under investigation is therefore necessary. Similarly, Hyde
(2000: 82) maintains that deductive approaches in qualitative research go far in
ensuring conviction and theoretical coherence.
As a result, the present study adopted the tight research design as proposed by Miles
and Huberman (1994: 16) and Hyde (2000: 82), where a pre-existing conceptual
framework and research questions guide analysis. Well-defined research questions
were constructed to guide data analysis and interpretation, resulting in a number of
pre-determined conceptual categories.
While a pre-determined conceptual
framework did exist through which to interpret and analyse the data, initial coding of
the data was open to allowing new categories and concepts to emerge.
This
approach is similar to Layder’s (1998) adoptive theory approach, which can be
described as a “multi-strategy” approach, in which qualitative data analysis takes
account of existing theoretical ideas and ideas that develop directly as a result of
familiarity with the data (Lewins & Silver, 2007: 88). It also corresponds to later
reiterations of the Straussian grounded theory approach whereby the data are
framed through the use of often preliminarily defined codes, categories and
propositions (Charmaz, 2004: 496).
In contrast to quantitative data analysis where analysis commences after data
collection, the analysis and interpretation of qualitative data can commence as early
as during the data collection phase (Marshall & Rossman, 2006: 156).
In an
endeavour to record every step of data collection and analysis, I kept a detailed
173
analysis diary and completed a respondent contact sheet after each interview. The
contact sheet contained important observations by myself either during or
immediately after the interview which could be used during the analysis of the
qualitative data (Miles & Huberman, 1994: 50).
Once completed, all interviews were transcribed by an independent transcriber and
saved as Microsoft Word Documents. The transcriber was given the digital master
copy of recordings from which to work, and these were given back to me after the
transcriptions were completed. Each digital recording was given a unique code by
myself, which I was then able to link back to the date and time of the interview.
Respondent and company names did therefore not appear on any of the
transcriptions, nor was the transcriber given the names of respondents or companies.
During the interviews I did not refer to the respondents by name nor did I refer to the
company by name.
The anonymity and confidentiality of both respondents and
participating companies was therefore protected.
In cases where the digital
recording was unclear, the transcriber was instructed to place spaces in the text.
Once I had received all transcriptions back from the transcriber, I checked them for
accuracy by replaying the digital recordings while reading the transcriptions. I was
also able to complete most of the incomplete sentences or areas where the
transcriber indicated difficulties with clarity.
The transcribed documents were then uploaded into an Atlas.ti™ data file by myself
for analysis. Atlas.ti™ can be described as code-based theory building software,
which allows for traditional code and retrieve functions, as well as the construction of
theoretical models or networks. Atlas.ti™ was originally developed at the Technical
University of Berlin, and is now supported by Atlas.ti™ Scientific Software
Development GmbH. Coding schemes are developed non-hierarchically, but can be
grouped together in code families. Hierarchical or semantic links between codes can
be used to create structure on the coding scheme and articulate relationships
between concepts. Through the networking tool, functional links between concepts,
codes and categories can be created to generate theoretical models (Lewins &
Silver, 2007: 242).
174
The interview transcriptions of higher burnout respondents were saved in a separate
hermeneutic unit to the interview transcriptions of lower burnout respondents. A
hermeneutic unit is merely a file within the Atlas programme which provides data
structure to a project. This allowed for easy comparison between lower and higher
burnout responses. The hermeneutic unit of higher burnout interviews comprised a
total of eight primary documents (corresponding to each of the eight higher burnout
interviews). The hermeneutic unit of lower burnout interviews comprised a total of
nine primary documents (corresponding to each of the nine lower burnout interviews).
The present study incorporated all three phases of analysis as suggested by Miles
and Huberman (1994). These three phases are depicted in Figure 18 and comprise
data reduction (level 1 of the diagram), data display (level 2 of the diagram) and
conclusion drawing (level 3 of the diagram). Coding of the data, which takes place in
phase one and two of the analysis process, followed the approach suggested by
Grbich (2007), Miles and Huberman (1994) and Strauss and Corbin (1990) and
commenced with open coding, followed by axial coding and then selective coding.
Open coding, the first phase in the coding process, involved the initial combing of the
data followed by the application of preliminary codes to the data. These codes were
kept as succinct as possible in order to facilitate analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Axial coding was conducted next and involved comparing and contrasting the initial
codes created during open coding and then placing them into code families or
categories. During selective coding, the final phase in the coding process, code
categories were related and theoretically meaningful relationships between them
identified. These phases of coding are discussed in more detail in the sections that
follow.
175
Levels
Synthesis:
integrating data
into one
explanatory
framework
3. Developing and testing
propositions to construct
explanatory framework
1. Data
reduction
Testing hypotheses
and reducing data
for trends
Identifying themes
and trends in the
data
2. Repackaging and
aggregating the data
Trying out coding
categories to find a
set that fits
Creating a text
to work on
Delineating
deep
structure
Crosschecking
and matrix
analysis of
themes
Searching for relationships,
writing analytical memos, finding
out where emphases and gaps in
the data are
Coding of data, writing of analytical
notes on linkages to frameworks of
interpretation
Reconstruction of interview tapes
as written notes
Figure 18: The ladder of analytical abstraction
(Carney, 1990 as cited in Miles & Huberman, 1994: 92)
4.4.3.1
Open coding
Once all data were transcribed, a process of open coding took place where each line
or phrase of the data was combed and codes attached where applicable. During this
phase codes were given the opportunity to emerge from the data. As suggested by
Miles and Huberman (1994: 11) I moved quickly through the data and remained open
to whatever theoretical possibilities would occur in the data. To this end, a number of
questions were asked when coding the data.
These questions are presented in
Table 43 and were used to elicit codes and categories from the data (Charmaz,
2004: 508; Strauss, 1987: 30; Strauss & Corbin, 1990: 58).
176
Table 43: Questions used to illuminate themes in qualitative data
Strauss (1987: 30)
Charmaz (2004: 508)
Strauss and Corbin (1990:
58)
What is going on here? What is going on here?
What is the issue here?
Why is it being done?
What persons are
What is the person saying?
involved?
What if something
What do these actions and
What roles do they play
changed?
statements take for granted?
and how do they interact?
What would be the
How does content and structure How are aspects of the
outcome of any
support, maintain, impede or
change?
change these actions and
phenomenon addressed?
statements?
What category does the What processes are at play
Why? What reasons are
incident indicate?
given and what can be
here?
deduced?
Under what conditions did
For what reason, intention
these processes develop?
and purpose?
How does the respondent think, By what means?
feel and act when involved in
this process?
What are the consequences
What strategies were used
of this process?
to achieve the goal?
The open coding approach of the present study was inductive and a total of 391
initial codes were created in the higher burnout hermeneutic unit, while a total of 322
codes were created in the lower burnout hermeneutic unit. Upon closer inspection it
became evident that a number of the initial codes created were of similar meaning.
Codes encapsulating similar meanings or content were then merged, resulting in a
total of 183 codes attached to the higher burnout hermeneutic unit and 134 codes
attached to the lower burnout hermeneutic unit.
177
4.4.3.2
Axial coding
Once the open coding process was completed, the more abstract process of axial
coding commenced.
Through this process, the codes generated through open
coding were reconsidered and similar codes were grouped together.
Only codes that occurred more than six times throughout the interviews were used
for further analysis. A total of 30 codes were eventually created in the higher burnout
hermeneutic unit and 21 codes were created in the lower burnout hermeneutic unit.
4.4.3.3
Selective coding
Once axial coding was complete, I engaged in selective coding. During selective
coding the initial categories were examined in terms of their temporal and spatial
relationships (Böhm, 2004: 272) and were provided with a context (Strauss & Corbin,
1990: 76). Each category was broken into distinct components by searching for its
properties, its underlying assumptions, and the manner in which it develops and
changes (Charmaz, 2004: 511). This resulted in the development of themes, as the
relationships between categories were elaborated and understood.
Selective coding generally commences with the second phase of qualitative data
analysis, namely data display (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Once the data have been
coded and categorised through the process of data reduction, they must be displayed
in such a manner as to allow the researcher to construct relationships and
analytically inspired themes. For the purposes of the current study, selective coding
proceeded based on the theoretical model that was built in the research argument
chapter.
As a result, codes corresponding to the various components of the
conceptual framework included in Figure 10 in Chapter 3 were applied to the data.
Code families corresponding to the various theoretical components of the research
argument were formed and similar codes were again merged resulting in a further
reduction of initial codes. To this end, the data were coded according to a number of
themed questions, derived from the research questions presented in Chapter 3. It
should be mentioned that these themed questions were used as an analytical tool
during selective coding, and should therefore not be regarded as research questions.
178
They merely served to organise the data into meaningful themes reflecting the
components of Figure 10.
The themed questions used during selective coding include:
ƒ
How do client service employees perceive the counter-identity of client?
ƒ
How do client service employees define themselves within the client service
role (role identity)?
ƒ
What expectations for behaviour are implicit within these role identities
(identity standards)?
ƒ
What kinds of role-related behaviours result from these identity standards?
ƒ
What kinds of role-related attitudes result from these identity standards?
ƒ
Is there evidence of self-verification/self-verification failure, and do we witness
a diminished sense of self, feelings of subjective failure, reduced self-efficacy,
frustration and fatigue?
A number of display formats are available and range from matrix displays to network
displays. In the context of the present study, cross case analysis was conducted by
creating quotation count reports reflecting the code categories according to each of
the themed research questions. The analysis of the qualitative data analysis was
concluded with the construction of network diagrams, where the all codes are
presented and linked to the research questions derived from the research argument
presented in Chapter 3.
4.4.3.4
Credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability of the
qualitative data
The issue as to whether the concepts of reliability and validity are applicable in the
context of qualitative research has been frequently debated (Morse, Barret, Mayan,
Olson & Spiers, 2002).
According to Guba and Lincoln (1985), the concepts of
reliability so frequently used within the quantitative paradigm can be replaced with the
concepts of credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability, which,
together
account
for
trustworthiness
in
qualitative
research.
Credibility,
transferability, dependability and confirmability can be achieved through a rigorous
179
process of verification (Morse et al., 2002). According to the authors, verification “is
the process of checking, confirming, making sure, and being certain” (Morse et al.,
2002) and ultimately contributes to the reliability and validity of the study. A number
of verification strategies to ensure rigour of qualitative research as proposed by Guba
and Lincoln (1985) and Morse et al. (2002) were used in the present research and
will be discussed below.
Firstly, the mixed-methods approach to the present study is advantageous as it
allows the researcher to triangulate findings, thereby ensuring credibility. Findings
from the quantitative research were compared and contrasted to the qualitative
findings and in cases where contradictions existed, plausible explanations within the
context of the present study were sought. In cases where these explanations are
speculative or require further investigation, it is clearly stated.
Secondly, data
analysis commenced during the data collection phase, and analysis proceeded both
inductively and deductively, ensuring both integrity of the data, and providing
sufficient theoretical guidance and framing. Explanations for both qualitative and
quantitative observations are generally confirmed by the literature, and where
observations are not confirmed, it is clearly stated. Methodological and analytical
coherence were ensured by considering the study’s research questions during both
axial and selective coding. Qualitative conclusions were drawn by comparing and
contrasting cases, and negative instances are clearly mentioned and accounted for.
Although a number of respondents declined to participate in the qualitative
interviews, every effort was made to ensure that only respondents representing the
highest and lowest burnout scores were included in the sample, thereby ensuring an
appropriate sample.
180
CHAPTER 5
QUANTITATIVE RESULTS
5.1
BURNOUT LEVELS
As recommended by Maslach et al. (1996) scores on the MBI burnout continuum can
be divided into thirds, corresponding to low, moderate and high burnout levels. Since
burnout in the present study was computed using 21 items instead of the original 22
items proposed by Maslach and Jackson (1986), the continuum of burnout scores
ranges from +0 to +126 instead of from +0 to +132.
Table 44 provides a detailed reflection of the scores corresponding to low, moderate
and high burnout.
Table 44: Range of experienced burnout
Burnout Total
Reduced
Exhaust/Depers
Accomplishment
Range
0−126
0−42
0−84
Low
< 42
< 14
< 28
Moderate
43−84
15−28
29−56
High
> 85
> 29
> 57
As recommended by Maslach et al. (1996) scores on the MBI can be classified as
low when they are in the lower third of the normative distribution. High scores are in
the upper third, while moderate scores are in the middle third. Scores on the 14 item
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation scale run from +0 to +84, while scores on
the seven item personal accomplishment subscale run from +0 to +42. Since all
personal accomplishment subscales are positively phrased, while emotional
exhaustion and depersonalisation items are negatively phrased, the personal
accomplishment items were reverse coded. A high score on the reduced personal
accomplishment subscale would therefore indicate high burnout. In other words,
181
from this change reduced personal accomplishment means higher burnout as a result
of a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
The mean, standard deviation, minimum and maximum scores of the present sample
on
burnout
total,
personal
accomplishment
and
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation are reflected in Table 45.
Table 45: Mean scores on burnout (N=100)
Variable
N
Mean
SD
Min
Max
Items
Burnout Total*
94
39.20
18.47
6
88
21
Reduced Accomplishment
100
9.98
6.88
0
28
7
Exhaust/Depersonalisation
94
24.93
15.84
4
71
14
* Burnout Total refers to the combined score for reduced personal accomplishment and emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
With a total burnout mean of 39.20 (SD = 18.47), the sample represents a low total
burnout score. The sample reflects a mean of 9.98 (SD = 6.88) on the reduced
personal accomplishment subscale, which would also be classified as low burnout. A
mean of 24.93 (SD = 15.84) on the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale
similarly indicates relatively low levels of burnout among the present sample.
5.2
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND DEMOGRAPHIC AND
BIOGRAPHIC VARIABLES MEASURED ON DISCRETE SCALES
The statistical procedure Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine
whether any statistically significant differences in burnout scores exist between
groups characterised by biographic or demographic variables measured on discrete
scales.
Significance was measured using an F test, with p < 0.05 regarded as
statistically significant.
In cases where variables have more than two response
categories, Scheffe’s test was conducted to determine which pairs differ significantly.
The results of the ANOVA procedure per burnout component are presented in
sections below.
182
5.2.1 The relationship between reduced personal accomplishment and
discrete demographic and biographic variables
Table 46 reflects the results of the ANOVA performed to measure whether any
statistically significant differences exist between scores on the reduced personal
accomplishment subscale and the discrete biographic and demographic variables.
Mean scores per descriptive category are ranked from highest to lowest.
Table 46: Relationships between reduced personal accomplishment and
discrete biographic and demographic variables (ANOVA)
Variable
F
p
Descriptive categories
N
Mean
SD
Company
8.55
0.0004
Company M
23
14.78
7.35
Company F
20
9.30
6.43
Company T
57
8.28
6.00
Male
55
10.18
6.66
Female
45
9.73
7.22
People of colour
25
12.48
8.76
White
73
9.23
5.96
Single
34
10.79
7.55
Married or cohabiting
66
9.56
6.54
University degree
31
13.19
7.40
Post-school certificate
40
8.78
6.98
29
8.21
4.96
Gender
Population group
Marital status
Education
0
4.29
0.72
5.38
0.985
0.0411
0.399
0.0061
or diploma
Secondary education
As reflected in the table, the F test for reduced personal accomplishment indicates
significant differences between companies (F = 8.55, p = 0.0004); population group
(F = 4.29, p = 0.0411) and educational level (F = 5.38, p = 0.0061). No significant
183
differences were observed for gender or marital status differences. According to the
mean scores reflected in the table, people of colour display significantly higher levels
of reduced personal accomplishment than white respondents do.
Scheffe’s test was then applied to test which pairs of companies and which pairs of
educational levels differ on the reduced personal accomplishment subscale (Table
47).
Table 47: Scheffe’s test – Reduced personal accomplishment and company
†
Company pair wise comparison
Difference between means
p
Company M/Company F
5.48
*
Company M/Company T
6.50
*
Company F/Company T
1.02
†
p > .05
* p ≤ .05
According to the results of the Scheffe’s test presented in Table 47, Company M
displays significantly higher mean scores on the reduced personal accomplishment
subscale than Company F and Company T. No significantly different mean scores
are detected between Company F and Company T.
The result of the Scheffe’s test to determine which pairs of educational levels differ
significantly is presented in Table 48.
184
Table 48: Scheffe’s test – Reduced personal accomplishment and educational
level
Educational level pair wise comparison
Difference between means
p
University degree/post-school certificate or
4.42
*
University degree/Secondary education
4.99
*
Secondary education/post-school certificate or
0.57
†
diploma
diploma
†
p > .05
* p ≤ .05
Table 48 shows that respondents with a university degree present higher levels of
reduced personal accomplishment than respondents with a secondary education or
post-school certificate or diploma. No significant pair wise differences are observed
between respondents with a secondary education and those with a post school
certificate or diploma.
5.2.2 The relationship between emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation and
biographic and demographic variables measured on discrete scales
Table 49 reflects the results of the ANOVA performed to measure whether any
statistically
significant
differences
exist
between
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation and groups characterised by discrete biographic and
demographic variables.
185
Table 49: Relationships between discrete biographic/demographic variables
and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation (ANOVA)
Variable
F
p
Descriptive categories
N
Mean
SD
Company
3.68
0.029
Company F
18
37.67
17.08
Company M
23
28.13
13.34
Company T
53
26.32
15.65
Female
43
29.09
14.58
Male
51
28.80
16.98
People of colour
24
30.96
15.66
White
68
28.04
16.09
Single
33
31.39
16.04
Married or cohabiting
61
27.61
15.72
certificate 36
29.36
15.40
Gender
0.01
Population group 0.59
Marital status
Education
1.23
0.02
0.9304
0.4444
0.2711
0.9786
Post-school
or diploma
University degree
27
28.78
18.63
Secondary education
31
28.58
14.17
The F test indicates significant differences between the companies (F = 3.68 p =
0.029) on emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
None of the other discrete
biographic and demographic variables accounted for significant differences in
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation scores.
Results from Scheffe’s test conducted to measure which pairs of companies differ
significantly with regard to emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation scores, are
presented in Table 50.
186
Table 50: Scheffe’s test – Emotional Exhaustion/Depersonalisation and
company
†
Company pair wise comparison
Difference between means
p
Company F/Company M
9.54
†
Company F/Company T
11.35
*
Company M/Company T
1.81
†
p > .05
* p ≤ .05
The results in Table 50 show that Company F displays a significantly higher mean
score on the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale than Company T. No
statistically significant differences are detected between the mean scores of
Company F and Company M and Company M and Company T.
5.2.3 The relationship between burnout total and biographic and demographic
variables measured on discrete scales
The results of an ANOVA to test for significant differences between burnout total and
biographic/demographic variables measured on discrete scales are presented in
Table 51.
187
Table 51: Relationships between biographic/demographic variables and
burnout total (ANOVA)
Variable
F
p
Descriptive categories
N
Mean
SD
Company
3.68
0.0292
Company F
18
47.00
20.64
Company M
23
42.91
15.53
Company T
53
34.94
17.98
Male
51
39.24
19.56
Female
43
39.16
17.33
People of colour
24
43.75
17.96
White
68
37.54
18.60
Single
33
42.12
16.87
Married or cohabiting
61
37.62
19.23
University degree
31
41.77
16.91
certificate 36
38.69
17.83
36.93
21.20
Gender
Population
0
2.01
0.985
0.1598
group
Marital status
Education
1.27
0.51
0.262
0.6001
Post-school
or diploma
Secondary education
27
According to the data presented in Table 51, only client service organisation
accounted for significant differences in burnout total scores (F = 3.68, p = 0.0292).
No significant educational level, marital status, gender or population differences are
observed.
The results of a Scheffe’s test to determine which pairs of companies differ
significantly with regards to scores on burnout total, show no significant pair wise
differences (Table 52).
188
Table 52: Scheffe’s test – Burnout Total and company
†
Company pair wise comparison
Difference between means
p*
Company F/Company M
4.09
†
Company F/Company T
12.06
†
Company M/Company T
7.97
†
p > .05
* p ≤ .05
5.3
THE
RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN
BURNOUT
AND
SELECTED
DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES MEASURED AT THE RATIO LEVEL
Table 53 displays the relationship between selected demographic variables
measured at the ratio level and burnout. In order to investigate the relationships
between burnout and these demographic variables, Pearson’s correlation coefficient
was used. Correlations were regarded as significant p < 0.05 and practically relevant
if r > 0.25.
189
Table 53: Relationships between selected demographic variables and burnout
(N=94)
Burnout Total Reduced
Exhaust/
a
Accompb
Depers c
Variable
(r)
(r)
(r)
V82.Age
-0.16†
-0.20*
-0.09†
V86.Years employed by current
-0.14†
-0.19†
-0.08†
-0.24*
-0.28***
-0.16†
V88.Years working in total
-0.19†
-0.26**
-0.11†
V89.Hours worked per week
-0.14†
-0.11†
-0.1†
organisation
V87.Years working in a client service
environment
†
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
The data presented in Table 53 indicates that only one of the variables displays a
significant relationship with burnout total. Variable V87 (years working in a client
service environment) displays a significant negative relationship with burnout total,
but the correlation is low (r = -0.24; p = 0.0232) and thus of low practical value.
Variables V87 (years working in a client service environment), and V88 (years
working in total) display significant negative relationships with the reduced personal
accomplishment subscale.
This implies that the longer respondents have been
working and the longer they have been employed in a client service environment, the
lower their scores on the reduced personal accomplishment subscale and the less
burnout they are likely to experience.
No significant relationships were observed between the selected demographic
variables measured on a ratio scale and the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation
subscale.
190
5.4
THE
RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN
BURNOUT
AND
RESPONDENT
PERCEPTIONS OF THE CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
As mentioned in the research methodology chapter, an additional five questions (V74
to V78) were placed after the MBI items in the questionnaire. These questions were
all positively phrased and were included on request by the management of Company
M who felt that the majority of negatively phrased MBI items would leave their
employees feeling negative about their jobs. As a result, respondents were asked to
indicate their levels of agreement or disagreement with five statements on a five point
scale, where 1 = strongly agree and 5 = strongly disagree. For ease of interpretation
of the data, the items were all reverse coded for analysis so that 1 = strongly
disagree and 5 = strongly agree. In order to investigate the relationships between
burnout and perceptions of the client relationship, Spearman’s Rho was used as the
statistical procedure. Correlations were regarded as statistically significant if p < 0.05
and practically relevant if r > 0.25.
Table 54 reflects the relationships between perceptions of the client relationship,
burnout
total,
reduced
personal
accomplishment
and
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
191
Table 54: Relationships between perceptions of the client relationships and
burnout
Burnout Total Reduced
accompb
Variable
(r)
(r)
V74. My clients are understanding
-0.23*
-0.19†
V75. I feel that I live up to the expectations -0.28**
-0.35***
of my clients
V76. I am willing to put in a great deal of
-0.27**
-0.34***
effort to assist my clients
V77. I have power over my clients
-0.12†
-0.22*
Exhaust/
depers c
(r)
-0.23*
-0.18†
V78. I have built effective relationships
with my clients
-0.27**
a
†
-0.33**
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
-0.32**
-0.15†
-0.07†
n = 94
*** p < .001
Variables V75, V76 and V78 all display significant and practically relevant negative
correlations with burnout total. In other words, higher levels of burnout total are
associated with feeling less able to live up to the expectations of clients (V75); being
less willing to put in effort to assist the client (V76) and building less effective
relationships with the client (V78).
Variable V74 (my clients are understanding)
displays a significant negative relationship with burnout total, although the correlation
is too low to be regarded as practically relevant.
Variables V75, V76, and V78 also all display significant negative correlations with the
reduced personal accomplishment subscale.
In other words, levels of reduced
personal accomplishment are lower when respondents feel they are living up to the
expectations of their clients (V75); when they are willing to exert greater effort in
order to assist the client (V76); and when they regard their relationships with the
client as more effective (V78). Variable V77 (I have power over my clients) also
displays a significant negative relationship with reduced personal accomplishment,
but the correlation is too low to be regarded as practically useful.
192
Only variable V78 (I have built effective relationships with my clients) displayed a
significant negative relationship with the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation
subscale, suggesting that lower levels of emotional exhaustion are associated with
having built an effective relationship with the client.
5.5
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND THE IMPORTANCE OF
LIFE AREAS
The relationship between burnout and the importance of various life areas is reflected
in Table 55. Through items V96 to V99 respondents were asked to indicate on a
scale of 1 to 5 (where 1 = very important and 5 = not at all important) how important
various components of their lives are. For ease of interpretation, these items have
been reverse coded so that 1 = not at all important and 5 = very important. In other
words, in positive correlations a stronger level of importance will correlate with higher
levels of burnout.
Table 55: Relationships between importance of life areas and burnout
†
Burnout Total a Reduced
Exhaust/
Accompb
Depers c
Variable
(r)
(r)
(r)
V91. Importance of family
-0.20†
-0.12†
-0.21*
V92. Importance of friends
-0.11†
0.13†
-0.20†
V93. Importance of religion
-0.19†
-0.10†
-0.20†
V94. Importance of work
-0.37***
-0.33**
-0.27**
V95. Importance of service to others
-0.43***
-0.36***
-0.36***
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
The data reflected in Table 55 indicates a significant negative correlation between
V94 (importance of work) and V95 (importance of service to others) and burnout
total, reduced personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
193
This means that the more important respondents regard work and service to others,
the lower their burnout.
This finding is surprising since it was expected that
respondents that regard work as important may invest more emotional energy into
their work, and consequently experience more burnout.
The implications of this
finding will be discussed in Chapter 7. Variable V91 (importance of family) displays a
significant negative correlation with emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation, but this
correlation is too low to be regarded as practically relevant. Other lifestyle variables
like importance of friends and religion displayed no significant or practically relevant
correlations with burnout or its dimensions.
5.6
THE
RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN
BURNOUT
AND
PERCEIVED
SATISFACTION WITH STAKEHOLDER RELATIONSHIPS
The extent to which satisfaction with stakeholders in the client service environment
correlates with burnout is presented in this section. Respondents were asked to
indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 1 = not satisfied at all and 5 = extremely satisfied)
how satisfied they were with clients, supervisors, co-workers and subordinates.
Table 56 reflects the Spearman correlation coefficients pertaining to the relationships
between burnout and satisfaction with stakeholders.
194
Table 56: Relationships between satisfaction with stakeholders and burnout
total
†
Burnout
Reduced
Exhaust/
Total a
Accompb
Depers c
Variable
(r)
(r)
(r)
V96. Satisfied relationships with co-workers
-0.21*
-0.10†
-0.22*
V97. Satisfied relationships with supervisors
-0.03***
-0.16†
-0.35***
V98. Satisfied relationships with subordinates
-0.09†
-0.01†
-0.08†
V99. Satisfied relationships with clients
-0.36***
-0.36***
-0.27**
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
Variable 99 (satisfied relationship with clients) displays a significant negative
relationship with burnout total, reduced personal accomplishment and emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation, suggesting that greater levels of satisfaction with the
client
relationship
are
associated
with
lower
levels
of
accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
reduced
personal
Although variables
V96 (satisfied relationships with co-workers) and V97 (satisfied relationships with
supervisors) display statistically significant negative relationships with burnout total,
the relationships are weak. Variable V97 (satisfied relationships with supervisors)
displays a significant negative and practically relevant relationship with emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation. This indicates that greater levels of satisfaction with
supervisor
relationships
are
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
associated
with
lower
levels
of
emotional
Variable V96 displays a significant negative
correlation with emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation, but this correlation is weak.
Satisfaction with subordinate relationships showed no statistically significant
relationships with burnout total or its dimensions. It is therefore evident that burnout
in the present sample is not significantly associated with quality of subordinate or coworkers relationships.
195
5.7
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND EMPLOYEE ATTITUDES
TOWARDS THE ORGANISATION
This section explores the relationship of burnout with levels of commitment and
loyalty to the organisation.
Respondents were asked to indicate their level of
commitment and loyalty to the organisation on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 = strongly
agree and 5 = strongly disagree. For ease of interpretation, the items V100 to V104
have been reverse coded, so that 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree. In
other words, a positive correlation would indicate a positive relationship between
burnout and increased levels of agreement with the statement. All items displayed in
Table 57 reflect significant correlations with burnout total.
Table 57: Relationships between employee attitudes towards the organisation
and burnout total
Burnout
Reduced
Exhaust/
Total a
Accompb
Depers c
Variable
(r)
(r)
(r)
V100. I am willing to work hard to make this
-0.30**
-0.38***
-0.17†
-0.49***
-0.25*
-0.45***
0.29**
0.09†
0.30**
organisation successful
V101. I tell friends this is a good organisation to
work for
V102. I feel very little loyalty to this organisation
V103. I am proud to tell others I work for this
-0.40***
†
-0.16
-0.39***
0.12†
0.43***
organisation
V.104. Deciding to work for this organisation was 0.43***
a mistake
†
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
Variables V100 (I am willing to work hard to make this organisation successful), V101
(I tell friends this is a good organisation to work for) and V103 (I am proud to tell
196
others I work for this organisation) reflect significant negative correlations with
burnout total. Variables V102 (I feel very little loyalty towards this organisation) and
V104 (deciding to work for this organisation was a mistake) reflect significant positive
relationships with burnout total. In other words, the more committed to and proud the
individual is of the organisation for which they work, the lower the levels of burnout
total.
Only variables V100 (I am willing to work hard to make this organisation successful)
and V101 (I tell friends this is a good organisation work for) display significant
negative correlations with reduced personal accomplishment. This means that lower
levels of reduced personal accomplishment are associated with being willing to work
hard to make the organisation successful and telling friends that the organisational is
a good organisation to work for.
V101, V102, V103 and V104 display significant correlations with emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation, suggesting that greater levels of commitment to and
pride in the organisation are associated with lower levels of emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
5.8
THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
BURNOUT
AND
THE
PERCEIVED
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SELF AND THE CLIENT
This section presents data pertaining to the relationship between burnout and the
perceived difference between the client service employee and the client on a set of
bipolar adjectives. As mentioned in the methodology chapter, a new variable was
created by calculating the difference (D) between the client service employees’
ratings of themselves (self in role) and their ratings of the client (counter-role) on a
set of bipolar adjectives. This represents how client service employees perceive
themselves in relation to the client.
Table 58 reflects the correlations between
burnout and its dimensions and the perceived difference between the self and the
client on the set of adjective pairs.
197
Table 58: Relationship between perceived difference between the client and the
self and burnout
Burnout
Reduced
Exhaust/
Total a
Accompb
Depers c
(r)
(r)
Perceived difference between client and self (r)
†
D1. Powerful
- Powerless
-0.15†
-0.29**
-0.07†
D2. Submissive
- Domineering
0.00†
0.12†
-0.03†
D3. Helpful
- Unhelpful
0.05†
-0.11†
0.11†
D4. Appreciated
- Unappreciated
-0.21*
-0.02†
-0.23*
D5. Considerate
- Inconsiderate
0.01†
-0.25*
0.15†
D6. Weak
- Strong
0.26*
0.29**
0.19†
D7. Nice
- Mean
-0.07†
-0.07†
-0.01†
D8. Aggressive
- Defensive
0.16†
0.03†
0.15†
D9. Restricted
- Unrestricted
-0.01†
0.13†
-0.06†
D10. Understanding
- Not understanding -0.19†
-0.25*
-0.07†
D11. Superior
- Inferior
-0.15†
-0.08†
-0.15†
D12. Active
- Passive
-0.25*
-0.27**
-0.14†
D13. Respected
- Not respected
-0.14†
-0.10†
-0.14†
D14. Flexible
- Rigid
-0.05†
-0.17†
0.03†
D15. Important
- Unimportant
0.01†
0.07†
-0.02†
D16. Patient
- Impatient
-0.03†
-0.28**
0.13†
D17. Leading
- Following
-0.14†
-0.21*
-0.06†
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
As reflected in Table 58, two variables, D6 (weak−strong) and D12 (active−passive)
reflect a significant positive correlation with burnout. This suggests that the more
different client service employees perceive themselves to be from the client on a
weak–strong and an active-passive continuum, the higher their levels of burnout. It
is, however, not possible from the data reflected in the table to ascertain whether the
client is regarded as more or less strong and/or passive than the self.
198
Table 58 also reflects the relationship between perceived difference between the
client and self and levels of reduced personal accomplishment.
From the data
presented, a significant positive correlation exists between perceived difference on
the weak−strong continuum (D6) and reduced personal accomplishment.
This
suggests that the greater the perceived difference between the client and the self on
the
weak−strong
accomplishment.
continuum,
A
the
significant
higher
negative
the
levels
relationship
of
reduced
exists
personal
between
D1
(powerful−powerless), D5 (considerate−inconsiderate), D10 (understanding−not
understanding), D12 (active−passive), D16 (patient−impatient) and scores on the
reduced personal accomplishment subscale.
This suggests that the greater the
perceived difference between the client and the self on the above-mentioned
continuums, the lower the level of reduced personal accomplishment.
No significant and practically relevant correlations are observed between perceived
difference between the self and client and the experience of emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
5.9
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND PERCEPTIONS OF THE
COUNTER-ROLE
While the previous section explored the relationship between the perceived
difference between the self and the client and levels of burnout, this section explores
data pertaining to the relationship between the client service employee’s description
of the client on a set of bipolar adjectives and burnout.
Table 59 reflects the
Spearman correlation coefficients for the relationship between burnout and
descriptions of the client (counter-role).
199
Table 59: Relationship between perception of the client and burnout
Variable
Burnout Total Reduced
Exhaust/
a
Depers c
Accomp
b
(r)
(r)
(r)
V18. Powerful
- Powerless
0.14†
0.093†
0.11†
V19. Submissive
- Domineering
0.07†
0.07†
0.07†
V20. Helpful
- Unhelpful
0.16†
0.08†
0.17†
V21. Appreciated
- Unappreciated
0.17†
0.25*
0.11†
V22. Considerate
- Inconsiderate
0.19†
-0.07†
0.29**
V23. Weak
- Strong
0.01†
-0.04†
0.02†
V24. Nice
- Mean
0.12†
0.10†
0.14†
V25. Aggressive
- Defensive
0.12†
0.05†
0.11†
V26. Restricted
- Unrestricted
-0.14†
-0.02†
-0.15†
V27. Understanding
- Not
0.11†
-0.02†
0.21†
understanding
†
V28. Superior
- Inferior
-0.11†
-0.04†
-0.13†
V29. Active
- Passive
-0.06†
-0.01†
-0.05†
V30. Respected
- Not respected
0.21*
0.28**
0.13†
V31. Flexible
- Rigid
0.26*
0.09†
0.30**
V32. Important
- Unimportant
0.37***
0.44***
0.25*
V33. Patient
- Impatient
0.21*
-0.00†
0.29**
V34. Leading
- Following
0.10†
0.09†
0.09†
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
According to the data presented in Table 59, only V31 (flexible−rigid) and V32
(important−unimportant)
reflect
practically
relevant
and
significant
positive
correlations with burnout total. In other words, the more rigid the client is perceived
to be, the higher the level of burnout experienced by the client service employee.
This positive relationship also suggests that the more unimportant the client service
200
employee perceives the client to be, the higher the level of burnout. Variables V30
(respected−not respected) and V33 (patient−impatient) also display a significant
correlation with burnout total, but these correlations are too low to be considered
practically relevant.
When considering the relationship between descriptions of the client and reduced
personal accomplishment, only variables V21 (appreciated−unappreciated), V30
(respected−not respected) and V32 (important−unimportant) display significant
correlations with the personal accomplishment subscale. It appears therefore that
higher levels of reduced personal accomplishment are associated with perceptions of
the client as less appreciated, less respected and more unimportant.
The far right hand column of Table 59 reflects the correlations between descriptions
of the client and scores on the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale.
Only
variables
V22
(considerate−inconsiderate),
V31
(flexible−rigid),
V32
(important−unimportant) and V33 (patient−impatient) are significantly positively
correlated with the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale. This means
that higher levels of emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation are associated with
perceiving the client as more inconsiderate, more rigid, less important and more
impatient.
5.10 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BURNOUT AND DESCRIPTIONS OF THE
SELF (SELF IN ROLE)
The final section of the data presentation examines the relationship between burnout
and client service employee ratings of themselves (self in role) on the list of bipolar
adjective pairs (see Table 60).
201
Table 60: Relationship between self in role and burnout
Burnout
Total
Variable
†
a
Reduced
Exhaust/
b
Depers c
Accomp
(r)
(r)
(r)
V35. Powerful
- Powerless
0.22†
0.48***
0.22*
V36. Submissive
- Domineering
0.08†
-0.14†
0.08†
V37. Helpful
- Unhelpful
0.06†
0.32**
0.06†
V38. Appreciated
- Unappreciated
0.31**
0.19†
0.31**
V39. Considerate
- Inconsiderate
0.12†
0.42***
0.12†
V40. Weak
- Strong
-0.27**
-0.45***
-0.27**
V41. Nice
- Mean
0.186†
0.26**
0.18†
V42. Aggressive
- Defensive
-0.08†
0.02†
-0.08†
V43. Restricted
- Unrestricted
-0.08†
-0.20*
-0.08†
V44. Understanding
- Not understanding 0.36***
0.48***
0.36***
V45. Superior
- Inferior
0.09†
0.06†
0.09†
V46. Active
- Passive
0.11†
0.41***
0.11†
V47. Respected
- Not respected
0.30**
0.28**
0.30**
V48. Flexible
- Rigid
0.35***
0.45***
0.35***
†
V49. Important
- Unimportant
0.18
0.25*
0.18†
V50. Patient
- Impatient
0.23*
0.49***
0.23*
V51. Leading
- Following
0.11†
0.46***
0.11†
p > .05
a
* p ≤ .05
b
n = 100
** p < .01
c
n = 94
n = 94
*** p < .001
The second column in Table 60 reflects the correlation coefficients for the
relationships between the self in role rating and burnout total.
(appreciated–unappreciated),
V44
(understanding–not
Variables V38
understanding),
V47
(respected–not respected); V48 (flexible–rigid) display significant positive and
practically relevant correlations with total burnout scores. Higher levels of burnout
are therefore associated with the client service employee feeling unappreciated, not
202
respected, less understanding and more rigid in their roles. Variable V40 (weak–
strong) displays a significant and practically relevant negative correlation with
burnout, suggesting that lower levels of burnout are associated with feeling strong in
the client service role.
The reduced personal accomplishment subscale is significantly correlated with a
number of self-in role descriptions.
(helpful−unhelpful),
V39
Variables V35 (powerful−powerless), V37
(considerate–inconsiderate),
V41
(nice–mean),
V44
(understanding–not understanding), V46 (active−passive), V47 (respected–not
respected), V48 (flexible–rigid), V.49 (important–unimportant), V50 (patient–
impatient) and V51 (leading−following) all display significant positive correlations with
the reduced personal accomplishment subscale. This suggests that the higher levels
of reduced personal accomplishment are associated with feeling powerless,
unhelpful, inconsiderate, mean, not understanding, passive, rigid, impatient,
following, less important and less respected in their roles.
Again, variable V40
(weak−strong) displays a significant negative relationship with reduced personal
accomplishment, implying that client service employees who perceive themselves as
stronger, rather than weaker, experience higher levels of personal accomplishment in
their roles.
The last column in Table 60 reflects the correlations between rating of the self in role
and
the
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation
(appreciated–unappreciated),
V40
subscale.
(weak–strong),
V44
Variables
V38
(understanding–not
understanding); V47 (respected–not respected) and V48 (flexible−rigid) display
significant positive correlations with emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation. This
implies
that
for
client
service
employees,
higher
levels
of
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation are associated with feeling unappreciated, less
respected, less understanding and rigid in their roles. Variable 40 (weak−strong)
displays
a
significant
exhaustion/depersonalisation,
negative
meaning
correlation
that
higher
with
levels
emotional
of
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation are associated with feelings of weakness.
203
Only variables V36 (submissive−domineering); V42 (aggressive−defensive) and V45
(superior−inferior) displayed no significant correlations with any of the burnout
dimensions.
5.11 SUMMARY OF RESULTS
The findings from the quantitative data of the research are summarised below:
1. The mean score for burnout for the study sample can be classified as low
according to the criteria proposed by Maslach et al. (1996).
2. Gender and marital status do not contribute to significant differences in burnout
scores.
3. People of colour display significantly higher levels of reduced personal
accomplishment than white respondents.
4. Company M displays a significant higher mean score on the reduced personal
accomplishment subscale than Company T and Company F.
5. Company F displays a significantly higher mean score on the emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale compared to Company T.
6. Respondents with a university degree present higher levels of reduced personal
accomplishment than respondents with a secondary education or post school
certificate or diploma do.
7. V87 (years of working in a client service environment and V88 (years working in
total) display statistically significant negative relationships with the personal
accomplishment subscale. This suggests that the longer respondents have been
working and/or have been employed in a client service environment, the higher
their levels of personal accomplishment.
8. The perceptions among client service employees that they are living up to the
expectations of their clients (V75) display a statistically significant negative
relationship with both the burnout total and the personal accomplishment
subscale. This suggests that reduced personal accomplishment and burnout
scores are associated with perceptions that the client service employee is living
up to expectations of the client.
9. Willingness to put in a great deal of effort to assist the client (V76) also showed a
significant
negative
relationship
with
both
burnout
total
and
personal
204
accomplishment, implying that lower burnout employees are willing to put in
greater effort to assist the client than higher burnout employees are.
10. The perception amongst client service employees that they have built effective
relationships with the client (V78) displays a significant negative relationship with
burnout
total,
reduced
personal
accomplishment
the
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale. This means that the more effective the
client service employee perceives the relationship with the client, the lower his
level of burnout total, reduced personal accomplishment and emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
11. The importance of work (V94) and the importance of service to others (V95)
display significant negative relationships with the burnout total, reduced personal
accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscales.
This
finding implies that lower burnout respondents regard work and service to others
as more important than their higher burnout counterparts do.
12. Satisfaction with the client relationship (V99) displays a significant negative
correlation
with
burnout
total,
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
personal
accomplishment
and
emotional
This signifies that satisfaction with the client
relationship is associated with lower levels of burnout total, reduced personal
accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
13. Satisfaction with supervisors (V97) displays a significant negative correlation with
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation,
indicating
supervisor
relationships
with
is
associated
lower
that
satisfaction
levels
of
with
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
14. Variable 100 (I am willing to work hard to make this organisation successful)
reflects a significant negative relationship with burnout total and reduced personal
accomplishment, suggesting lower levels of burnout and reduced personal
accomplishment are associated with being willing to work hard to make the
organisation successful.
15. Telling friends that the organisation is a good organisation to work for (V101)
presents a significant negative relationship with burnout total, reduced personal
accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation. This suggests that
lower burnout employees tend to be more proud of the organisations for which
they work than higher burnout employees are.
205
16. The more proud (V103) and loyal (V102) respondents are to the organisation, the
higher their burnout total and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation scores.
17. Respondents that feel it was a mistake to work for the organisation (V104)
experience
higher
levels
of
burnout
total
and
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation that those that do not feel it was a mistake.
18. The greater the perceived difference between the client and the self on the
powerful−powerless;
considerate−inconsiderate;
understanding−not
understanding; active−passive; and the patient−impatient continuums, the lower
the
reduced
personal
accomplishment.
This
means
that
personal
accomplishment is associated with greater perceived differences between the
client and the self on the above-mentioned adjective pairs.
19. The greater the perceived difference between the client and the self on the
weak−strong continuum, the higher the level of reduced personal accomplishment
and burnout total.
This means that higher levels of reduced personal
accomplishment and burnout are related to feeling different to the client on a
weak−strong continuum.
20. Descriptions of the client on the flexible−rigid (V31) and important−unimportant
(V32) adjective scales display significant correlations with burnout total. In other
words perceiving the client as rigid and unimportant is associated with higher
levels of burnout.
21. Descriptions
of
the
client
on
the
appreciated−not
appreciated
(V21);
respected−not respected (V30) and important−unimportant (V32) items show
significant correlations with reduced personal accomplishment. This means that
the belief that the client is not appreciated, not respected and unimportant is
associated with lower levels of personal accomplishment.
22. Descriptions
of
the
client
on
the
considerate−inconsiderate
(V22);
important−unimportant (V32); flexible−rigid (V31) and patient−impatient (V33)
adjective
pairs
are
significantly
correlated
with
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation. This indicates that the more inconsiderate,
unimportant, rigid and/or impatient the client is perceived to be, the more
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation is experienced by the client service
employee.
23. Respondent descriptions of the self in role displayed a number of significant
correlations with burnout total. Variables V38 (appreciated−unappreciated); V40
206
(weak−strong); V44 (understanding−not understanding); V48 (flexible−rigid) and
V47 (respected−not respected) all display significant correlations with total
burnout scores.
These correlations imply that lower levels of burnout are
associated with feeling stronger, while higher levels of burnout are associated
with feeling less understanding, more rigid, more unappreciated and less
respected.
24. Scores on the personal accomplishment subscale display a number of significant
correlations with the self in role descriptions. These correlations indicate that
higher levels of reduced personal accomplishment are associated with feeling
powerless, unhelpful, inconsiderate, mean, less understanding, passive, rigid, not
respected, impatient, following, and unimportant.
Lower levels of personal
accomplishment are associated with feeling stronger rather than weaker in the
role.
25. A number of the self in role items displayed significant correlations with the
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale. Variables V38 (appreciated–
unappreciated), V40 (weak–strong), V44 (understanding–not understanding) and
V48
(flexible−rigid)
display
significant
correlations
with
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation. This suggests that higher levels of emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation are associated with feeling unappreciated, less
respected, less understanding and more rigid.
Lower levels of emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation are associated with feeling stronger as opposed to
weaker.
The quantitative findings presented in this chapter will be interpreted in detail in
Chapter 7. From the data presented in this chapter, however, it is clear that the
company to which the client service employee belongs is significantly associated with
levels of burnout. It is also interesting to note that contrary to expectations, there
were few significant correlations between how client service employees perceive the
client and their levels of burnout. It would therefore appear that how client service
employees define themselves (self in role) is more strongly related to the
development of burnout than how they perceive the client.
207
CHAPTER 6
QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSIS
6.1
INTRODUCTION
This chapter is devoted to presenting and interpreting the qualitative data produced
through the 17 semi-structured interviews with client service employees.
The
qualitative data analysis phase commenced with a process of open coding, which
involved the application of preliminary codes to the data. This was followed by a
process of axial coding, where the initial codes were placed into code families or
categories. Through the process of selective coding, meaningful relationships were
assigned to the codes. Finally, the themes and relationships identified during coding
were integrated into the conceptual framework developed in Chapter 3.
6.2
THE CODING PROCESS
Following a process of open and axial coding, 30 codes were generated within the
higher burnout hermeneutic unit and 25 codes were created in the lower burnout
hermeneutic unit. The codes generated within the higher burnout hermeneutic unit
are displayed in Table 61, while the codes generated in the lower burnout
hermeneutic unit are displayed in Table 62. The number appearing in the second
column corresponds to the number of times the code appears across the interviews
within each of the hermeneutic units.
208
Table 61: Axial codes occurring within the higher burnout hermeneutic unit
Higher burnout respondent codes
Times appearing
Feel powerless in helping the client
46
The client comes first no matter what
44
Expects something from the client relationship
36
Subordinate to the client
36
Engages in emotional labour
31
Personalises the client relationship
29
Experiences little self-verification
27
Controlling client
25
Evidence of exhaustion
25
Address client feeling
23
Builds client up
21
Management demands excellent client service
20
Empathises with client
20
Client is boss
19
Abusive client
19
Management does not understand what it is like
18
Management does not support us
16
Clients have unreasonable expectations
14
Take sole responsibility for the client
14
Builds relationship with the client
13
Powerless against the client
13
Expect a sense of self-verification from helping someone
11
Must help the client
11
Feel guilt for not helping the client
10
Not appreciated by client
10
Powerful client
9
Not respected by client
9
Feels management expectations are unreasonable
8
Client does not understand us
7
Must understand the client
7
209
Table 62: Axial codes occurring within the lower burnout hermeneutic unit
Lower burnout respondent codes
Times appearing
Experiences a sense of accomplishment
49
Able to manage the client
39
Must partner with the client
37
Solution-orientated
32
Clients are demanding
32
Does not take sole responsibility for the client
28
Expects something from the client relationship
27
Must give the client the best service possible
21
More knowledgeable than the client
21
Able to exert power over the client
19
Must be people-orientated
18
Has a sense of autonomy
17
Superior to the client
17
Client is appreciative
17
Positive feelings towards the client
14
Does not take role personally
14
Must help the client
13
Keep the client happy
10
Distances oneself from the work
10
Evidence of emotional labour
9
Clients trust us
8
Dependent on the client for information
6
Finally, a process of selective coding was initiated.
This process developed
deductively, in that the theoretical argument developed in Chapter 3 was consulted
and applied to the data.
Code families corresponding to the various theoretical
components of the research argument were formed and similar codes were again
merged resulting in a further reduction of initial codes.
A number of themed
questions, derived from the research questions posed in the research argument
chapter, were constructed in order to facilitate the coding process:
210
ƒ
How do client service employees describe the client (counter-role)?
ƒ
How do client service employees define themselves within the client service
role (role identity)?
ƒ
What expectations for behaviour are implicit within these role identities
(identity standards)?
ƒ
What kinds of role-related behaviours are associated with these identity
standards?
ƒ
What kinds of role-related attitudes are associated with these identity
standards?
ƒ
Is there evidence of self-verification or self-verification failure, and is there
evidence of a diminished sense of self, feelings of subjective failure, reduced
self-efficacy, frustration and fatigue?
The remainder of this chapter is devoted to presenting the coded data according to
these themed questions, and interpreting these findings in light of the theoretical
argument presented in Chapter 3. Primary importance is placed on describing the
similarities and differences between the codes embedded in the higher burnout
interviews and those embedded within the lower burnout interviews.
After the codes pertaining to both higher and lower burnout respondents are
presented, quotation count reports reflecting the number of times each of the codes
appears within a single interview will be discussed.
In each case, selected
quotations drawn from the semi-structured interviews are presented as evidence of
the construction of a code.
6.3
DATA PRESENTATION
The qualitative data are presented in sections that correspond to the themed
questions presented above. First, client service employee perceptions of the client
(counter-role) are presented.
This is followed by a section describing the client
service role identity. Next, an analysis of role-related expectations and role-related
behaviours are presented. This is followed by a section describing the emotional
consequences of the role identity. The final section of presented data deals with
211
evidence of self-verification. Each section commences with a brief summary of data
pertaining to both higher and lower burnout hermeneutic units. This is followed by a
separate section pertaining to higher burnout respondents and then another
pertaining specifically to lower burnout respondents.
6.3.1 Perception of the client (counter-role)
According to Burke (1980: 19) the role identity assumed by a particular individual in a
specific position is always related to an alternative, relevant counter identity. In the
case of client service employees this counter identity would be the client.
The
perception of the client counter identity is important to consider insofar as it will give
an important indication of the manner in which client service employees view their
own roles.
Once axial coding was completed, all codes relating to the client service employee’s
perception of the client (counter-role) were grouped into a code family titled
Perception of the client (counter-role). The individual codes comprising this code
family are listed according to higher burnout and lower burnout respondents in the
Table 63. The number in brackets corresponds to the number of times the code
appeared across the lower burnout or higher burnout hermeneutic unit.
Table 63: Perception of the counter-role (client)
Higher Burnout Respondents
Lower Burnout Respondents
Controlling client (25)
Clients are demanding (31)
Abusive client (19)
Clients are appreciative (17)
Client is boss (19)
Positive feelings towards the client (14)
Clients have unreasonable expectations (14) Clients trust us (8)
Powerful client (9)
Not respected by client (9)
As presented in Table 63, higher burnout respondents view the client as powerful
and controlling.
They perceive the client as abusive, authoritarian and having
212
unreasonable expectations.
Lower burnout respondents, on the other, have
significantly more positive perceptions of the client. Although they perceive the client
as demanding, they view clients as appreciative and trusting.
6.3.1.1 Perceptions of the client amongst higher burnout respondents
Table 64 presents the quotation count per code across each of the higher burnout
respondents.
For ease of clarity, each respondent has been given a unique
identification number. Higher burnout identification numbers have been designated
an “H”, while lower burnout respondents have been designated an “L”.
The
Company (M, F or T) to which the respondent belongs is also indicated in the table
below the respondent identification number.
Table 64: Quotation count report – Perception of the client (counter-role)
amongst higher burnout respondents
Respondents
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H6
H7
H8
Codes
M
M
F
F
F
F
T
T
Controlling client (25)
6
8
3
3
2
0
1
2
Clients are abusive (19)
7
1
5
4
0
2
0
0
Client is boss (19)
4
7
2
2
0
0
0
4
Clients have unreasonable
2
3
1
3
4
1
0
0
Powerful client (9)
6
2
0
0
0
0
0
1
Not respected by client (9)
5
4
0
0
0
0
0
0
expectations (14)
All respondents except for respondent H6 view the client as controlling. In a number
of instances they describe the client as abusive and as having unreasonable
expectations. Most higher burnout respondents also perceive the client as being in a
position of authority, and that they have to do what the client says no matter what.
213
Respondents H6 and H7 differ somewhat from the other higher burnout respondents
because they display less negative perceptions of the client. Respondent H7, for
instance, only describes the client as controlling, but does not perceive the client as
abusive or describe the client as the boss. Upon further inspection of respondents
H7’s interview, it appears that he has built strong relationships with the clients and
does therefore not describe them in negative terms. This may explain why he refers
to them as controlling, but not necessarily abusive. Respondent H6 tends to
personalise the client, and therefore seldom refers to the client in negative terms.
The two respondents from Company M (H1 and H2) describe the client as powerful
and disrespectful to them in a number of instances. These views are not shared by
the other higher burnout respondents, which is an indication that the perception of
the client as powerful and disrespectful is particular to respondents from Company M.
Both respondents from Company M service a particularly powerful client company,
which may explain this description.
6.3.1.1.1 Controlling, abusive and domineering clients
When asked to describe the relationships they have with their clients, higher burnout
respondents often remarked on the domineering nature of most of their clients, as
indicated in the selected quotes below:
ƒ
“They [the clients] are very knowledgeable about their industry but they are
quite arrogant with it, so if they have an idea in their minds that’s how it
should be.” Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“No it doesn’t always work – one-example – we had this project that we did
and we told them [the clients] over and over again that it wasn’t the correct
way of doing it. They were adamant that that was the way they wanted it
done.” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“There is this Afrikaans word – a gangryper – that’s the guys that as you walk
down the hall, they just pull you …please just sort this out for me.”
Respondent H8, Company T.
ƒ
“Aaaag – most of the time, from our point of view, we don’t have any say. I
mean, I can’t call the shots.” Respondent H8, Company T.
214
ƒ
“You are walking down the passage and they ask you if you can quickly come
and help them.” Respondent H7, Company T.
ƒ
“Then you get the brokers that are in the same line as you are but are also
pushing on you.” Respondent H3, Company F.
Five of the eight higher burnout respondents perceive their clients as abusive. Words
used to describe the abusive nature of clients include references to being
“threatened” by the client, “taking punches” from the client, being “undermined” and
“crushed” by the client.
One respondent was made to feel like a “piece of dirt”
beneath the client’s feet, and another describes having clients that “crack you down
as a person.”
The selected quotes below indicate the extent of the perceived
psychological abuse experienced by higher burnout client service employees:
ƒ
“It is quite hard to keep ourselves motivated – to actually want to work with
these people, because sometimes they [the clients] are just downright ugly.”
Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“You really do feel like you are the piece of dirt beneath their [the client’s] feet
and that’s not cool.” Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“The client is swearing at you and you are taking the punches.” Respondent
H4, Company F.
ƒ
“And they [the clients] hit you as a person. Some of them do that. They can
crack you down as a person to get what they want.” Respondent H3,
Company F.
Five of the eight higher burnout respondents also perceive the client as being the
boss and having to do as the client says no matter what. Clients are described as
dictating procedures and tasks, even when these instructions are perceived by the
client service employee as incorrect or detrimental to the client:
ƒ
“Often they [the clients] come to you with a very specific idea of what they
want done and that’s not necessarily the best way of doing it, or the most
effective or efficient way of doing it.” Respondent H2, Company M.
215
ƒ
“Um, it’s not so much Company M that I work for; it’s the client that I work for.”
Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“I think the main thing to remember is that your client is always right, no matter
what.” Respondent H8, Company T.
6.3.1.1.2 Clients have unrealistic expectations
Many of the higher burnout respondents also perceive the client as having
unreasonable expectations and being inflexible:
ƒ
“They [the clients] are unreasonable, a lot of the time and because they are so
big and they know they are big clients, they expect a lot from us.” Respondent
H1, Company M.
ƒ
“If deadlines could be more flexible that would be one of the biggest things. It
adds unnecessary pressure sometimes.” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“Aaaagh… they [the clients] expect things to be done NOW.” Respondent H5,
Company F.
ƒ
“Sometimes you do get people [clients] that couldn’t be bothered and just want
everything – they expect you to know everything.” Respondent H6, Company
F.
6.3.1.2 Perception of the client amongst lower burnout respondents
As indicated in Table 65, while all lower burnout respondents view the client as
demanding, they do not view these demands as unreasonable. While the higher
burnout respondents perceived the client to be demanding, controlling, inflexible and
unreasonable, lower burnout respondents tend to find justifications for the demanding
nature of most clients. They all display generally positive feelings towards the client,
and perceive the client as needy and appreciative.
216
Table 65: Quotation count report − Perceptions of client (counter-role) amongst
lower burnout respondents
Respondents
L1
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8
L9
Code
M
M
M
T
T
T
T
T
T
Clients are demanding (32)
11
5
2
2
2
7
1
1
1
Clients are appreciative (17)
2
2
2
1
1
3
2
2
2
Positive feelings towards client (14)
1
2
1
1
1
3
1
2
2
Clients trust us (8)
0
2
2
0
0
0
2
1
1
The interview transcripts of respondents L1, L4, L5 and L6 do not display evidence
that they perceive the client as trusting although no evidence to the contrary could be
found either. All three respondents, did, however, display favourable and positive
perceptions of the client.
6.3.1.2.1 Clients are justifiably demanding
From the quotes listed below, it is evident that although the lower burnout
respondents view the client as demanding and sometimes unrealistic, they do not
perceive the demands as being unreasonable. While higher burnout respondents
describe the client’s demands in a negative light, lower burnout respondents describe
the client as demanding, but at the same time indicate that they are able and willing
to meet the client’s demands. One respondent from Company T, for instance, relates
the demanding requirements of the client, but states emphatically that he will do
whatever the client asks him to do, suggesting a strong sense of self-efficacy and
confidence.
217
ƒ
“Whatever the issues they [the clients] may have with their permits, the
badging, the printer, the computer – I have to be able to fix that problem there
and then. You can’t take an hour to fix it; it has to be done in a second
because there is a long line of people. So that’s basically what I do. I do
anything they ask me to do.” Respondent L6, Company T.
Similarly, another respondent from Company T reports that clients often have
unrealistic expectations, but feels that he is able to meet these expectations.
ƒ
“That’s what is interesting about the challenge. It sounds bad really, they [the
clients] say “Here is a cell phone, make a Porsche out of it.” People say
“Huuhggh, how we gonna do it?” But you can do it.” Respondent L4, Company
T.
Contrary to higher burnout respondents, lower burnout respondents are of the
opinion that they can assist the client with their demands. A number of respondents
also indicated in the interviews that the client is justified in terms of their demands
and expectations.
ƒ
“The tasks they [the clients] give you might sound impossible, but if you have
the mentality of it’s impossible, you are not going to get very far.
The
challenges are that nothing is impossible; it’s a mindset.” Respondent L4,
Company T.
ƒ
“It doesn’t matter how crazy or impractical their [the clients] needs are, we are
very much about doing whatever, or helping the client as much as possible.”
Respondent L1, Company M.
6.3.1.2.2 Clients are perceived in a positive light
All lower burnout respondents view the role of client in a positive light, and feel that
the clients are appreciative. When asked to comment on what they like best about
client service, a number of the lower burnout respondents mentioned the client. For
218
instance, one respondent mentioned that she liked client service because it enabled
her to interact with highly-skilled clients:
ƒ
“I like to work with highly-skilled people although they are more difficult to work
with – they keep you on your toes – you need to be ahead of them. On the
other hand, you feel very satisfied if you achieve that little thing to get that
other guy to understand and get them up to a certain level.” Respondent L5,
Company T.
One respondent from Company M describes her client as “close” and “organised”,
while another from company M describes her client as “lovely to deal with”:
ƒ
“I have a client that is very close – I love dealing with her. I think it is someone
who is organised on their side.” Respondent L3, Company M.
ƒ
“She really appreciates what I do and she appreciates the effort I make and
she is really lovely to deal with. At the moment she is quite ideal.” Respondent
L2, Company M.
Other lower burnout respondents described their clients as trusting and
understanding:
ƒ
“The clients here are – I like to work with them, they are understanding and
listen.” Respondent L8, Company T.
ƒ
“Enjoyable − mostly.
What I like about it is that we are building a better
relationship with the client. A strong good relationship – we understand each
other.” Respondent L9, Company T.
All lower burnout respondents perceive the client as appreciative, citing numerous
instances in which they received positive and welcome feedback from clients:
219
ƒ
“Clients often say it’s a great presentation – thanks etc. That’s what we work
towards.” Respondent L3, Company M.
ƒ
“I think they [the clients] give positive feedback.
They send you positive
feedback – ‘Thank you for the good job’ or whatever and also to your
managers and I think also from the way that you see the relationship
developing – they call you more often and trust you with other things; maybe
not even to do with your own research.” Respondent L2, Company M.
ƒ
“Even if it is bad news, they like the work you’ve done and find it useful. I like
wowing the clients with something interesting.” Respondent L1, Company M.
ƒ
“They praise you and go ‘Wow, this guy knows what he is doing.’ That is
satisfying that they put you on a pedestal sometimes.”
Respondent L6,
Company T.
ƒ
“The response from the client is great because we know what we are doing.”
Respondent L7, Company T.
ƒ
“Normally you get an e-mail from them [the clients] first, saying ‘thank you for
the great effort you put into resolving this situation and resolving this.’ So they
make it visible to everyone – they don’t just keep it to themselves.”
Respondent L8, Company T.
ƒ
“End result − satisfied client – that’s the best. When he comes back and gives
recognition.” Respondent L9, Company T.
It is clear from the data presented in this section that lower burnout respondents
perceive the client differently to their higher burnout counterparts. Both higher and
lower burnout respondents describe the client as demanding, but lower burnout
respondents clearly feel able to meet the demands set by their client. Higher burnout
respondents describe these demands in a negative light, and view the client as
inflexible, controlling and abusive. Lower burnout respondents describe the client
and the relationships they have built with the client in positive terms and believe the
client is appreciative and understanding.
220
6.3.2 The client service role identity
The second themed question according to which codes were categorised was the
client service employee role identity i.e. how do client service employees define their
roles in relation to the client?
As indicated in the Table 66, higher burnout
respondents view themselves as subordinate to the client, while lower burnout
respondents define themselves as superior to the client and more knowledgeable
than the client.
Table 66: The client service role identity
Higher Burnout Respondents
Lower Burnout Respondents
Subordinate to the client (36)
More knowledgeable than the client (21)
Superior to the client (17)
6.3.2.1 The client service role identity among higher burnout respondents
As depicted in the quotation count report in Table 67, all higher burnout respondents
viewed themselves as subordinate to the client in some way.
Table 67: Quotation count report – Client service role identity among higher
burnout respondents
Respondents
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H6
H7
H8
Code
M
M
F
F
F
F
T
T
Subordinate to client (36)
12
4
4
3
1
7
1
4
Due to the differing nature of the client service environments across each of the three
companies included in the research, the sense of subordination felt by each of the
respondents is portrayed slightly differently. In the case of Company F, respondents
perceive severe penalties accruing to them if they do not provide adequate service to
the client.
These penalties and “punishments” are enforced by the company
221
management, and seem to suggest to the client service employee that they are
inferior to, or lesser than the client. They also indicate that they feel threatened by
management and hence display feelings of apprehension. For instance, one
respondent stated that:
ƒ
“The moment you mess up they find out that you messed up and they will
come running after you with a pitchfork or something.” Respondent H6,
Company F.
Similarly, after relaying a mistake that she had made when dealing with a client,
another respondent of the same company seemed to offer repentance for her error,
which suggests a reverence for the client and a subordination of the self:
ƒ
“Yes, I was wrong, I won’t say that was an exception but what I had to learn
was to make sure – if you don’t understand, ask.” Respondent H4, Company
F.
In a similar case, a respondent from Company F expressed her gratitude for having
been taught how to speak to the client, and has, as a result, become a better person:
ƒ
“It teaches you to do your best. They teach you how to speak back to the
client/brokers but it makes you a better person. We have gone through
courses; we have gone through speech as to how to speak to the clients. It
makes you a better person.” Respondent H4, Company F.
Her constant reference to becoming a “better person” through the training, could
suggest a feeling of subordination or unworthiness in the role. It is speculated that
this could have occurred through the internalisation of an organisational discourse
that advocates training for employees to become better client service employees and
hence better people.
This could be described as a subtle form of manipulation
through company propaganda.
222
Another respondent from Company F was of the opinion that the organisation does
not allow employees to express themselves if they have been poorly treated by the
client. According to the respondent:
ƒ
“You just grit your teeth – some people can’t.
You can’t just grit.
But
Company F has a way that you have to grit your teeth.” Respondent H3,
Company F.
The respondent clearly felt that her rights to self-expression are limited due to the fact
that the client and his/her needs take priority over employee needs and concerns:
ƒ
“The client comes first in all cases, even though they are angry with us and
scream at us, we get it sorted out.” Respondent H3, Company F.
One respondent from Company F perceives a degree of humiliation from the
company management, which he internalises as part of his identity. He refers to the
company treating them like children, and humiliating them by placing a “floatie” above
their heads if they score poorly on service delivery:
ƒ
“That’s a good one – that they [management] treat us like a bunch of kids.
They treat us like kids – every time you go on a break, you have to put up a
flag – look, I’m going on a break, or look, I’m going on lunch or can I go to the
bathroom! Look, we’re not school kids anymore.” Respondent H6, Company
F.
ƒ
“They [management] rank us on a board – like you are number one – they
even have this whole new humiliation thing, where the person who gets the
worst calls or the worst statistics – ‘cause everything is recorded and
monitored, they put like a floatie tube above his desk to say to everybody ‘Hey
look, this is the drowner – this is the worst person we’ve got in here.’ That isn’t
right – I mean, how does that person feel? Lucky it’s not me.” Respondent H6,
Company F.
223
The role of the company client discourse in shaping the role identities of client service
employees is clearly illustrated in the case of Company F.
By implementing
initiatives that humiliate employees if they do not perform adequately in terms of
client service, employees are made to feel inferior and subordinate. Higher burnout
employees from Company F perceive the company as curtailing their freedom of
expression, which could also result in feelings of oppression and subordination.
In the case of Company M, feelings of subordination were experienced through direct
contact with the client. One respondent was particularly vocal in her descriptions of
subordination. When asked to list a couple of words or phrases that would explain
what it is like being a client service employee, she mentioned the following:
ƒ
“I think it would be “underdog”, for one. I think I say underdog because most of
the time we end up having to do what they [the client] say anyway.”
Respondent H1, Company M.
She then went on to describe how she was often made to feel worthless by the client:
ƒ
“So ja, it does make you feel a little bit like you aren’t adding anything and you
are not worth much and I think you kind of get used to that.” Respondent H1,
Company M.
Another respondent from company M expressed similar sentiments, in that the he
describes his role as keeping the client happy and not “irritating” them, implying a
subordinate role when dealing with the client. He goes on to explain how clients
often want things done that may not be in their best interests. He feels unable to
prevent this, and suggests a feeling of defeat and subordination:
ƒ
“They [the clients] were adamant that that was the way they wanted it done.
So you try, but you soon realise – it’s their money and they are spending it.”
Respondent H2, Company M.
224
Higher burnout respondents at Company T also feel subordinate and defeated as a
result of client service work. One respondent from Company T describes how they
as client service employees tend to experience the most criticism.
Most higher
burnout respondents display similar evidence of defeat when dealing with the client,
suggesting feelings of low self-efficacy and possibly decreased feelings of personal
accomplishment. According to a respondent from Company T:
ƒ
“There are always a lot of parties involved in solving the problem. But we are
the end guys so get the most flack about it.” Respondent H8, Company T.
6.3.2.2 The client service role identity among lower burnout respondents
As illustrated in Table 68, all lower burnout respondents except L7 described
themselves as more knowledgeable than the client.
Similarly, all lower burnout
respondents except for L8 described themselves as superior to the client.
Table 68: Quotation count report – Client service role identity among lower
burnout respondents
Respondents
L1
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8
L9
Code
M
M
M
T
T
T
T
T
T
More knowledgeable that the
1
2
5
1
7
2
0
1
2
4
2
4
1
1
2
2
0
1
client (21)
Superior to the client (17)
Lower burnout respondents in Company M, for instance, often describe the client as
“stupid” and “not research literate” and view their role as educating the client and
showing them that they (client service employees at Company M) are the experts:
225
ƒ
“You get used to it. After a few years you get to a level of expectation and you
know they [the clients] are stupid and that they annoy you – but that is just
who they are!” Respondent L3, Company M.
ƒ
“Some of them are…you need to baby them a bit to follow up on things, they
are not very organised.” Respondent L1, Company M.
One respondent expressed the fact that she sees herself as more knowledgeable
than the client in a gentler fashion by explaining how she assists and coaches the
client through research results without being condescending. This could be regarded
as similar to the manner in which parents engage with their children, and suggests a
feeling of maternalism on the part of the client service employee.
ƒ
“Certain clients you have to take through very gently and the way you give
them their results is very different. Whereas the ones that are more research
literate you can take the analysis to them at a high level, give them more
complicated things and they can take it in and that is what they want.”
Respondent L2, Company M.
Lower burnout respondents from Company T also viewed themselves as more
knowledgeable than the client. When asked to describe his role as a client service
employee, one respondent defined his role as improving the client’s business,
thereby suggesting a position of knowledge and expertise:
ƒ
“My role is for the owner [client] not to waste processes and procedures and
not waste…find new ways of work, better ways to work.” Respondent L4,
Company T.
Another respondent expressed his satisfaction at being able to help his clients fix
simple computer matters:
226
ƒ
“They [clients] think you are intelligent because you can fix a computer.”
Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“For me, maybe a printer would be giving up and they [the clients] can’t figure
it out, so after an hour of them trying to figure it out, they phone and it takes
me like five minutes.” Respondent L6, Company T.
Another respondent from Company T continually made reference to having to
educate the client and make them understand things:
ƒ
“Like drawing a picture so that they [the clients] can understand it and then we
take it from there.” Respondent L5, Company T.
Similarly, two respondents from Company T describe the clients as thinking they
know best, but not really being more knowledgeable than they are:
ƒ
“The client always thinks he is right. As soon as you get into a company that
services clients, it’s the first thing that you learn – the client is always right.
Even though you know they are not.” Respondent L8, Company T.
ƒ
“Most frustrating, well… they think they know everything and that they know
better than you – even though they don’t really.” Respondent L9, Company T.
While higher burnout respondents display a sense of defeat when dealing with the
client, lower burnout respondents experience a high degree of self-efficacy. They
define themselves as the experts and believe that they can and will help the client.
Higher burnout respondents perceive the client as prescriptive and unreasonable,
and as a result, feel constrained and inhibited within their roles.
Lower burnout
respondents on the other hand, perceive the client as being receptive to their
expertise.
Company T provides a service to their client service employees whereby they can
initiate complaints against the client. This mechanism allows the employee to speak
freely and openly about their roles and serves to create a separation between
themselves and the client. The company is in a sense portraying a client service
227
discourse that acknowledges the employees difficult role in relation to the client and
the potential for misunderstanding and abuse on the part of the client.
This
mechanism appears to validate the client service employee by providing him a forum
to convey his complaints against the client:
ƒ
“So what I do is – if I have a complaint [about the client], which I never actually
do, I would go to IM and tell them about my complaint and ask them if when
they have a meeting with the client please tell them that this is my complaint.”
Respondent L6, Company T.
This discourse at Company T is further evidenced by the fact that one respondent
feels that the client is less important than the employees in his company, and that
client service employees should not subordinate themselves to the client:
ƒ
“The client is important, but not as important as our own people.” Respondent
L7, Company T.
From the analysis and quotations presented above, it is clear that lower burnout
respondents define their role identities differently when compared to higher burnout
respondents. Higher burnout respondents perceive themselves as subordinate to the
client, while lower burnout respondents view themselves as superior to and often
more knowledgeable than the client.
While both higher and lower burnout
respondents perceive the client as demanding, lower burnout respondents feel that
they are able to meet these demands. Higher burnout respondents tend to display a
sense of defeat when dealing with the client. They perceive abuse and control from
the client, which also suggests a level of subordination to the client. Lower burnout
respondents, on the other hand, generally express favourable attitudes towards the
client, and feel trusted and respected by the client.
The meanings that are contained within the various role identities discussed above
encompass a set of role-related expectations that prescribe behaviour that is
considered appropriate within a specific role-related situation. According to Burke’s
(1991; 1997) cybernetic model of identity, role identities comprise a set of meanings
228
that act as a standard against which perceptions of the environment are compared.
In the case of higher burnout respondents, the subordinated identity should carry with
it specific behavioural expectations that are different from the expectations contained
within the role identities of lower burnout respondents. The next question or theme
according to which the codes were grouped made reference to these behavioural
expectations.
6.3.3 Role-related expectations
In order to identify the role-related meanings of the interview respondents, codes
generated during axial coding were grouped according to the question: What are the
behavioural expectations implicit in the role identities of higher burnout and lower
burnout respondents?
As indicated in Table 69, the behavioural expectation
occurring frequently amongst higher burnout respondents is a belief that the client
always comes first no matter what. Included in this expectation on the part of higher
burnout respondents is a sense of self-sacrifice.
Higher burnout respondents are
also particularly aware of the service standards expected by organisational
management, and internalise these expectations as their own.
Table 69: Role-related expectations
Higher Burnout Respondents
Lower Burnout Respondents
Client comes first no matter what (44)
Must partner with the client (37)
Expects something from the client
Expects something from the
relationship (36)
client relationship (27)
Management demands and expects
Endeavour to give the best client
excellent client service (20)
service possible (21)
Expects a sense of self-verification by
Must be people-orientated (18)
helping someone (11)
Must help the client (11)
Keep the client happy (10)
Lower burnout respondents, on the other hand, clearly endeavour to partner with the
client. Since they do not see themselves in a subordinate role to the client, all lower
229
burnout respondents expressed an expectation to create a partnership with the client
and work with the client. Lower burnout respondents believe that they should be
people-orientated in helping the client and focused in keeping the client happy.
While lower burnout respondents also aim to assist the client to the best of their
ability, they are able to separate themselves from the role and do not take the client’s
demands personally.
Interestingly, both higher and lower burnout respondents expect something in return
from the client. Higher burnout respondents only expect praise and appreciation,
while lower burnout respondents expect co-operation as well as praise and
appreciation from the client.
6.3.3.1 Role-related expectations among higher burnout respondents
As indicated in the quotation count report for higher burnout respondents (Table 70),
all higher burnout respondents expect the client to come first no matter what.
Table 70: Quotation count report – Role-related expectations among higher
burnout respondents
Respondents
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H6
H7 H8
Code
M
M
F
F
F
F
T
T
Client comes first no matter what (44)
10
1
4
3
8
2
3
13
Expects something from the client
13
4
3
3
1
1
6
5
3
3
4
3
1
3
1
2
0
0
2
6
1
1
0
1
1
3
2
0
1
3
0
1
relationship (36)
Management demands and expects
excellent client service (20)
Expects a sense of self-verification by
helping someone (11)
Must help the client (11)
230
Higher burnout respondents perceive organisational management as demanding and
expecting excellent client service.
The internalisation of these managerial
expectations coupled with a role identity that places the client service employee in a
subordinate position to that of the client, seems to result in the higher burnout client
service employee sacrificing his/her needs in favour of the clients’.
6.3.3.1.1 Client comes first no matter what
When describing their roles, all higher burnout respondents mentioned that they will
often go above and beyond the call of duty in order to assist the client. The selected
quotations presented below suggest that higher burnout respondents expect
themselves to assist the client no matter what, often resulting in excessive effort on
the part of the employee:
ƒ
“I always go the extra.” Respondent H7, Company T.
ƒ
“I will make sure that I assist the client and get information. Sometimes it
takes 4-5 people just to get some sort of information so that I can give
feedback to the client. So instead of saying ‘Call this person at this number’ I
would actually call them myself and say ‘Look, this is the situation, this is the
client’s concerns – what can we do to assist this guy?’ Also suggest let’s do
this or that.” Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
“I don’t know how a mother feels, but if a child wants attention here and a
husband wants attention there, it is a lot of dragging on you. Sometimes it
gets like you are pulled here and pulled there and you need to perform and
help the client. The primary person in this whole thing would be the client.”
Respondent H4, Company F.
ƒ
“To assist the client to the best of your ability and obviously go that little bit
extra.
Instead of just sending it off to someone, phoning the tow truck –
getting the tow truck there. And just that step further like phoning them half an
hour later to find out if they did pitch up.” Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
Then I also have to maintain the relationship in terms of ensuring that their
requests are met, that anything they ask for, we say ‘How high?’” Respondent
H1, Company M.
231
Higher burnout respondents from both Company T and Company F are often
prepared to go against company processes and procedures in order to keep the
client happy and solve their problems.
As implied by the quotations below, two
respondents from Company T feel it is often necessary to go against company
procedure in order to assist the client:
ƒ
“But for that point if that guy [the client] has a serious problem you sort it out
no matter what. No processes, no procedures – you do what you want.”
Respondent H8, Company T.
ƒ
“Even though there are processes and procedures, there comes a time when
you have to jump the bridge.” Respondent H8, Company T.
ƒ
“It is not the standard – sometimes you have to go beyond or change the
standard a bit. “ Respondent H7, Company T.
In many of the instances described above, respondents are aware that they may get
into trouble with management for breaking organisational procedure in order to help
the client. It could therefore be argued that these employees are either more fearful
of the client than they are of their own organisation’s management, or it could mean
that they have internalised the subordinate identity and will, as a result, do anything
for the client. Similarly, a number of respondents from Company F are also prepared
to override company procedure to assist the client, as indicated by the quotations
below:
ƒ
“The client comes first in all cases, even though they [management] are angry
with us and scream at us, we get it sorted out.” Respondent H3, Company F
referring to the reactions of management when she goes against procedure to
assist the client.
ƒ
“You have to make a decision. Even if it is not 100% following process – each
and every call is a different scenario – it depends on what the client needs.
And you have to make the call on your side as to what is the best thing.”
Respondent H5, Company F.
232
Again, these respondents are very aware that they may get into trouble for breaking
company policy and procedure, and as a result, experience a sense of role conflict
and dissonance. On the one hand they are expected to assist the client no matter
what, but on the other hand they must report to company management who expects
them to follow procedure. Management clearly disciplines them when they break
with company policy, even if this was in aid of the client. The fact that these client
service employees are still willing to do so, may suggest a subordination of the self in
favour of the client.
Such expectations to assist the client at any cost could lead to role overload and role
conflict, which could ultimately result in burnout, as argued through the research
argument set out in Chapter 3. Higher burnout respondents perceive the client as
controlling, powerful and superior and, as a result, define themselves as subordinate
to the client. This subordinate role identity contains a set of expectations that should
guide and/or constrain individual role-related behaviour. Higher burnout respondents
expect the client to come first no matter what, and, as a result, engage in role-related
behaviour that could result in role overload and role conflict. This expectation to
assist the client no matter what, also appears to create role-related expectations that
run counter to their pre-defined organisational roles, in that they are prepared to override company procedures and processes in order to assist the client. As discussed in
the literature review, role overload and role conflict are two of the primary contributors
or antecedents to burnout. From the above qualitative illustrations it is clear that the
manner in which client service employees define themselves in relation to the client
i.e. subordinate, carries implications for their role-related expectations, which
ultimately could result in role overload and role conflict and subsequently burnout.
Higher burnout respondents also expect themselves to make a number of personal
sacrifices in order to assist the client. Some mentioned the impossibility of taking
time off work in order to deal with daily chores, due to the fact that the client always
comes first. One respondent mentioned that he is always on standby to assist the
client, and is therefore unable to attend to personal matters:
233
ƒ
“It’s one of those things, if you are going to be away 30 minutes – it’s 30
minutes too long and you need to turn around and sort it out. It’s like standby –
you always have to be there for your guys and try and help.” Respondent H8,
Company T.
Similarly, another respondent commented on the fact that is it impossible to take any
time off work:
ƒ
“Well, you need a lot of attention to detail, so you can’t sort of break away and
do other things like sometimes if you have to do personal things, you don’t
have the time or luxury to be able to do that during the day because you are
consumed in a crisis management type of thing.” Respondent H2, Company
M.
Another respondent made frequent mention of the fact that a number of people
working for the organisation will “kill” themselves working and trying to please the
client:
ƒ
“It is very often that we get people that are mostly work. They will work till they
die – which I don’t think is a healthy thing at the end of the day.” Respondent
H1, Company M, commenting on the type of person employed at Company M.
6.3.3.1.2 Management demands and expects excellent client service
All higher burnout respondents included in the qualitative sample perceive the
company as setting extremely high expectations insofar as client service is
concerned.
When asked whether they feel that these expectations are
unreasonable, they generally expressed that they felt the expectations to be
reasonable. This suggests that they have, most likely, internalised these company
expectations into their own role-related expectations.
The expectations of
management were expressed in a number of different ways by each of the
respondents.
234
Most higher burnout respondents remarked on how their companies always strive to
be the best in the business, and how management expects excellent client service
from everyone, all the time. From the selected quotations below, it is clear that these
employees perceive management as expecting excellent client service from them no
matter what.
These client service employees are therefore internalising a client
discourse that suggests to them that they subordinate themselves in favour of
meeting the client’s needs. The internalisation of such a client discourse may also
explain why higher burnout client service employees are prepared to go against
organisational policy and procedure in order to assist the client.
While they are
aware that they may be disciplined for this, they do so regardless because it has
been implicitly suggested to them through the client discourse.
ƒ
“They [management] expect you to go more than the extra mile to keep the
client happy.” Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“I think they [management] expect us to always be on top of our game.”
Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“For us the client is number one…. They [management] are very clientorientated – they are worried about what the client feels.” Respondent H5,
Company F.
ƒ
“They [management] expect us to do what we are supposed to do and that
little bit extra.” Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“What they [management] do is they audit our calls – listen to our calls to see
how I spoke to the client – perhaps I said “ja, ja” instead of saying “yes”. They
try to teach us to give 100% client service.” Respondent H4, Company F.
ƒ
“They [management] are very focused on client centricity. It is one of the main
legs of the Company T values.” Respondent H8, Company T.
Some higher burnout respondents commented on the fact that their companies only
employ the best in the business in order to ensure excellent client service:
235
ƒ
“I think it is almost a company profile. They [management] are looking for the
best people in the industry.” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“The people who work here are the best in the business – they, the big people
on top are the best in the business and demand high customer service.”
Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“They [management] are looking for young people, fresh people, who can do
the job and everything else; who doesn’t have the grasp of, - should I say,
what overload is.” Respondent H3, Company F.
While it could be argued that client service employees may find strength and
recognition in this, the expectation to always be the best becomes part of the identity
standard. Burke maintains that failure to maintain a role identity in terms of the
identity standard could result in a failed sense of self verification, which could
ultimately lead to burnout.
As shown later in this chapter, higher burnout
respondents tend to construct role identities based on unrealistic standards, resulting
in a failed sense of self-verification.
While higher burnout respondents clearly aim to assist the client no matter what, this
expectation is reinforced and possibly informed by the discourse of organisational
management. This discourse clearly seems to suggest that the client always comes
first. This could carry implications for self-verification by higher burnout respondents.
If, for instance, higher burnout employees are not able to act in accordance with the
expectations contained in the identity standard, they may suffer failed selfverification, which could result in burnout.
6.3.3.1.3 Expectations of the client service role
As indicated in the quotation count, all higher burnout respondents expect something
in return from the client service role.
These expectations vary, but include an
expectation to grow, learn and develop as a person; an expectation to feel fulfilled
when helping someone; and an expectation to be appreciated by the client.
236
Two respondents expect to be challenged and learn through their work in order to
grow and develop as people:
ƒ
“You do want to be challenged, otherwise you won’t grow and I must admit
that this is the one positive about the client that I currently work on – they do
challenge me – sometimes not in the most appropriate way – it is often
condescending.” Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“I feel I need to grow. I have learnt a lot like how to sympathise and have
empathy for people.” Respondent H4, Company F.
A number of higher burnout respondents expressed a need to be appreciated by the
client, suggesting that they expect a degree of admiration when enacting the client
service role:
ƒ
“Actually, it would be quite nice for me to actually have a client that
appreciates what we do and doesn’t just take it for granted.” Respondent H1,
Company M.
ƒ
“It is praise – you want praise the whole day – it’s insane, because of this
praise you got.
Weird.
It’s like you are programmed to run on praise.”
Respondent H3, Company F.
Higher burnout respondents also want to derive a sense of satisfaction from helping
someone. This also suggests that they expect to receive a level of appreciation
when enacting the client service role:
ƒ
“The thing is it feels good to make someone happy, especially if it was urgent
stuff.
It also makes you look good with your peers.”
Respondent H8,
Company T.
ƒ
“I have made that my aim in order to help people and meet new people.”
Respondent H4, Company F.
ƒ
“Your first achievement as a man or woman and it feels good to be able to
help somebody – it really does – especially if you can achieve what they
expect from you.” Respondent H5, Company F.
237
ƒ
“Otherwise it does feel good to be helping someone. To do some good for an
old lady stuck next to the road – to be able to help her out. That’s a good
feeling.” Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“It becomes frustrating because now you have all this extra work of everybody
phoning you all the time, but at least the user is still satisfied, and it builds my
name anyway.” Respondent H7, Company T.
The expectations reflected in the respondent quotations above are important to
consider in the context of this study.
As mentioned in the literature review and
Chapter 3, role identities incorporate identity standards according to which individuals
believe their roles should be enacted. These identity standards not only refer to
behavioural expectations (i.e. how the individual should behave in the role), but also
refer to expected rewards or outcomes from the enactment of a role. In other words,
people are likely to enact a role in a specific way in order to accrue some kind of
valued outcome from the environment.
The role-related expectations of higher
burnout employees expressed above are clearly incorporated into their respective
identity standards. While they believe that the client should come first no matter
what, they also aim to achieve appreciation and a sense of fulfilment from enactment
of the role. Failure to achieve role-related outcomes that are congruent with the
identity standard could lead to a failure of self-verification and a diminished sense of
self. As will be shown later in the chapter, higher burnout respondents do not report
high levels of appreciation from the client. This suggests that while they expect
appreciation, they are not receiving it. This could ultimately lead to a sense of failed
self-verification and could contribute to the development of burnout.
6.3.3.2 Role-related expectations among lower burnout respondents
As indicated in the quotation count report Table 71, lower burnout respondents also
believe that they must give the client the best service possible and demand
something from the client relationship.
238
Table 71: Quotation count report – Role-related expectations among lower
burnout respondents
Respondents
L1
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8
L9
Code
M
M
M
T
T
T
T
T
T
Must partner with the client (37)
4
4
9
4
7
1
2
1
5
Expects something from the client
2
1
5
4
4
5
2
2
2
2
4
3
1
6
2
1
1
1
Must be people orientated (18)
4
2
2
2
4
2
0
1
1
Must keep the client happy (10)
2
0
3
1
1
2
0
1
0
relationship (27)
Must provide the best client service
possible (21)
While higher burnout respondents demand appreciation, lower burnout respondents
demand co-operation as well as appreciation from the client.
Lower burnout
respondents differ significantly from the higher burnout respondents in that they
expect to partner with the client in solving the client’s problems.
6.3.3.2.1 Expect to provide the best client service possible
As reflected in the Table 71, lower burnout respondents strive to provide the best
client service possible and are often willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to
assist the client. One respondent is willing to make personal sacrifices in order to
assist the client, but no lower burnout respondents reported being willing to break
with company policy in order to serve the client.
ƒ
“We want them [the clients] to come back to us. We want to give them better
service than anybody else and we manage to do that – we go beyond the
services that we are supposed to give them.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“I think we are very client-orientated – we don’t just want the client to come to us
and say we want this and give it to them. We want to do more.” Respondent L3,
Company M.
239
ƒ
“Because they want the best service. I think all the employees have not just
been employed randomly – they have been chosen for service, speed and
education.” Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“I do try to go the extra mile and see if there is something extra I can do for him
(the client).” Respondent L8, Company T.
ƒ
“All that is actually part of the customer focus that shows you that the most
important thing is the customer or the client.” Respondent L9, Company T.
6.3.3.2.2 Expect appreciation, co-operation and respect from the client
As is the case with the higher burnout respondents, lower burnout respondents also
expect appreciation from the client as indicated in the selected quotations below:
ƒ
“We have these performance appraisals twice a year, which determined our
level of satisfaction regarding the company. So if our clients don’t tell the
managers that we are doing well, he can’t give us a higher level.” Respondent
L6, Company T.
ƒ
“I think I need the affirmation that you get from a client when you do something
well.” Respondent L3, Company M.
Two lower burnout respondents also expressed the desire to learn, grow and be
challenged through the client service role:
ƒ
“I like to work with the highly-skilled people although they are more difficult to
work with – they keep you on your toes – you need to be ahead of them. On
the other hand you feel very satisfied if you achieve that little thing to get the
other guy [client] to understand and get them up to a certain level.”
Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“You meet different people, different cultures, you get to know their ways.
Everybody teaches somebody else something – you live learning.”
Respondent L4, Company T.
240
Interestingly, however, the lower burnout respondents differ from the higher burnout
respondents in that they demand information, co-operation and respect from the
client. As indicated in the quotations below, lower burnout respondents believe they
are only able to help the client sufficiently if and when the client co-operates with
them, by either expressing his/her needs clearly, or by providing the necessary
information:
ƒ
“I need to know what they [the clients] want in order to give it to them. I need
to get the service from my company to give it to him. If he can’t explain what
he wants and I can’t understand him how can I give him the service that he is
supposed to get.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“Umm, people [clients] who don’t know what they mean.
People will say
something without doing their homework. So get your facts right first and then
call me.” Respondent L4, Company T when asked what he dislikes most about
client service work.
ƒ
“The client should be somebody who has trust in you and somebody who
supplies you with what you need to help them timeously.” Respondent L1,
Company M.
ƒ
“I think there is more respect at the agency. They [the clients] have more
respect for you being in that role whereas internally I think you are more of a
punching bag for a lot of things.” Respondent L2, Company M stating that she
prefers working at a research agency because the clients respect her.
ƒ
“Well, the client has specific needs and the client also has his responsibilities.
Everybody here has a business to run so there are some expectations of the
client as well.” Respondent L7, Company T.
ƒ
“You will never get the perfect client, but I want understanding clients that listen
to your side of the story as well and don’t just demand.” Respondent L8,
Company T.
ƒ
“I would say that there should be a mutual understanding between the client
and us.
They do need to understand our business.” Respondent L9,
Company T.
241
Although lower burnout respondents want to give the client the best service possible
and will make sacrifices in order to assist the client, they do demand a certain level of
co-operation and respect from the client in exchange. Higher burnout respondents,
on the other hand, do not demand this kind of respect from the client. Since lower
burnout respondents define themselves as somewhat superior to and more
knowledgeable that the client, it is understandable that they would expect cooperation and respect from the client.
6.3.3.2.3 Expect to partner with the client
Probably one of the most notable differences between the lower burnout respondents
and the higher burnout respondents is the fact that the lower burnout respondents
expect to partner with the client in order to assist them and help them solve their
problems. As illustrated in the selected quotations below, a number of lower burnout
respondents actually used the word “partner” or “partnership” when describing the
relationships they have with clients, while other lower burnout respondents refer to
the relationship as symbiotic, where both the client and the client service employee or
company derive some benefit from the relationship:
ƒ
“If you can get the client to understand what it is all about, he can work with
you.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“Then they [the client] generally jump and help out.
Unfortunately you
sometimes get to a point where you have to threaten them and say, ‘Listen,
this is the timing for the project and I need this and this by then – if you can’t
get it to me, then unfortunately your study is going to suffer because I have to
extend the timing – so we kind of need to work together here and are you
willing to help?’” Respondent L3, Company M when asked how she deals with
difficult clients.
ƒ
“Somebody you can partner with, somebody who knows what they want but
gives you freedom to advise them and listens to your advice.” Respondent L1,
Company M.
ƒ
“We want to be a consultant role and really work with the client and become
like a partner for them.” Respondent L2, Company M.
242
ƒ
“And we work together – you know, we don’t just work, they [the clients] do
their bit as well. ‘Listen guys, we got a problem’ and together we fix it.”
Respondent L4, Company T.
ƒ
“In my eyes the perfect client would be the client that is honest, has integrity,
there is a trust relationship and open communication – meaning that if there
is any deviation, it comes from both sides.” Respondent L7, Company T.
ƒ
“You try to make them [the client] understand that this is not just our process,
that they [the client] and Company T sat together and worked this process out
and this is the way it has to be.” Respondent L9, Company T.
From the quotations provided above, it is clear that lower burnout respondents expect
to partner with the client. Although lower burnout respondents define themselves as
superior and more knowledgeable that the client, they do aim to assist the client no
matter what. As a result, a partnership between themselves and the client provides
the foundation upon which the client service role identity is based. Higher burnout
respondents, on the other hand, view the client as superior and controlling. As a
result, they aim to meet the client’s needs while subordinating their own.
6.3.4 Role-related behaviours
The next themed question according to which the data were coded makes reference
to the behavioural implications of the expectations contained within the identity
standards of both higher and lower burnout employees.
As indicated in Table 72, the behaviour of higher burnout respondents towards the
client differs from the behaviour of lower burnout respondents.
243
Table 72: Role-related behaviours
Higher Burnout Respondents
Lower Burnout Respondents
Engage in emotional labour (31)
Able to manage the client (39)
Personalises the client relationship (29)
Solution-orientated (32)
Address client feeling (23)
Does not take sole responsibility for
Build client up (21)
the client (28)
Take sole responsibility for the client (14)
Able to exert power over the client (19)
Build relationship with the client (13)
Distances oneself from the client (10)
Engage in emotional labour (9)
Higher burnout respondents engage in more emotional labour than lower burnout
respondents do.
Higher burnout respondents tend to personalise the client
relationship and focus to a large extent on engaging with the client on an emotional
or affective level. They also tend to take sole or personal responsibility for the client
and want to build the client up. Although they do engage in emotional labour from
time to time, lower burnout respondents do not take sole responsibility for the client.
They are able to manage the client relationship and exert considerable power over
the client.
While higher burnout respondents personalise the client relationship,
lower burnout respondents are solution orientated, focusing instead of the task at
hand rather than becoming personally involved in the client situation.
6.3.4.1 Role-related behaviour among higher burnout respondents
Table 73 reflects the quotation count report for role-related behaviours amongst
higher burnout respondents.
244
Table 73: Quotation count report – Role-related behaviour among higher
burnout respondents
Respondents
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H6
H7 H8
Code
M
M
F
F
F
F
T
T
Engages in emotional labour (31)
2
0
12
6
4
3
1
3
Personalises the client relationship (29)
0
3
5
7
3
4
6
1
Addresses client feeling (23)
4
4
2
3
1
2
2
5
Build client up (21)
1
4
3
2
2
3
1
5
Take sole responsibility for the client
1
1
2
1
4
2
1
2
2
2
2
1
1
0
5
0
(14)
Build relationship with the client (13)
Only one (H2) higher burnout respondent did not display evidence of engaging in
emotional labour. All higher burnout respondents attempt to take sole responsibility
for the client and attempt to deal with the client on an affective level by addressing
the client’s feelings.
6.3.4.1.1 Engage in emotional labour
Most of the quotations pertaining to the use of emotional labour include negative
reference to the client service role, where respondents express having to act or
behave in a certain way (often contrary to the way they actually feel) in order to keep
the client happy:
245
“On the phone I can’t lose my temper, I just keep calm and try to sort it out. But
ƒ
you can’t always be upbeat and happy and ‘thank you for calling!’” Respondent
H6, Company F.
“When I am alone there are a lot of thoughts going through my mind. ’Jis, this
ƒ
client hey!’ But when you are face to face ‘Ja, it’s our problem, we’ll fix it for you,
are you happy now?’” Respondent H8, Company T.
“As I said though, when it comes to larger clients this becomes a bit blurred – it
ƒ
is not easy to say to the client ‘just bugger off you idiot’ and we sometimes have
to take things and swallow, which we wouldn’t normally have to do.” Respondent
H1, Company M.
“And sometimes we are so controlled and so robot like.” Respondent H3,
ƒ
Company F.
“Like myself, you get your on days and you get your off days. And when you get
ƒ
your off days, just try and pretend a bit.” Respondent H4, Company F.
Displays of emotional labour were frequently required in Company F, due largely to
the nature of call centre work. All respondents in Company F explained how they
were required to “learn” how to engage appropriately with the client, and often
needed to alter their tone of voice in order to sound pleasant to the client:
ƒ
“I have grown a lot – to speak to people, for instance. The type of work that I
am doing, we don’t see the person face to face but the person can pick up, by
the tone of your voice if you are agitated, if you are trying to help, if you are
trying to put down the call as quickly as possible.” Respondent H4, Company
F.
ƒ
“How we assist the client, how we talk to the client – certain words that we
use. We are measured in – if I could say – just our general approach to the
call.” Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
“Talk to the person nicely – that’s what they look for. Friendly and upbeat –
we are a call centre at the end of the day and people have to feel like you
enjoy working here when people phone in.” Respondent H6, Company F.
246
It appears from the selected quotations above that higher burnout employees seem
to engage in surface acting, where they attempt to control their emotional
expressions in accordance with the display rules of the organisation (Brotheridge &
Grandey, 2003; Brotheridge & Lee, 2003).
According to the higher burnout
respondents interviewed, they have been taught to engage with the client in a
particular way, and often have to hide their true/authentic emotions.
6.3.4.1.2 Address client feeling
As shown in the selected quotations below, higher burnout respondents are very
focused on ensuring that the client is feeling happy.
While lower burnout
respondents are generally more task and solution orientated, higher burnout
respondents were largely focused on making the client feel comfortable and good
about themselves. They do this by identifying with the client’s emotional state and/or
empathising with them.
One respondent from Company T, for instance, makes an effort to ensure that clients
do not feel like their computer problems are their (the client’s) fault. Furthermore, a
large proportion of the displays of emotional labour are specifically utilised in an effort
to make the client feel comfortable and keep the client happy.
This requires
considerable effort on the part of the client service employee, and could potentially
lead to emotional exhaustion:
247
ƒ
“If you come across as agitated, obviously the person on the other side will
also feel that way.” Respondent H4, Company F.
ƒ
“You have to listen to the person’s [client’s] tone of voice, if they are angry, if
they are happy – hardly ever are they happy. You have to assess every call
as it comes in and make sure – not make sure – you have to assess the
situation and find out what that person needs you to do and follow up the call.”
Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“If you had to irritate a client or jeopardise that work, that is a financial stream
that gets compromised so ja, I think it is really about keeping them happy and
giving them what they need so that they don’t go elsewhere.” Respondent H2,
Company M.
ƒ
“You kind of make a guardian angel or angel of some sort. You are there to
listen to the client’s problems and assist them. Most of the time it is – I mean it
is a personalised business.” Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
“Also to really just make sure that they [the clients] are feeling comfortable and
confident.”
Respondent H1, Company M when asked what her primary
responsibilities towards the client are.
ƒ
“I try not to let the client feel that it is their fault.” Respondent H8, Company T.
6.3.4.1.3 Empathise and identify with client
Higher burnout respondents tend to empathise with the client.
In the case of
Company F, this came to the fore strongly as most of these employees identify with
the difficult situations experienced by their clients and then try to personally assist the
client by engaging with them on an emotional level. This is an unexpected finding in
the case of higher burnout respondents, since one of the primary distinguishing
factors of burnout is the depersonalisation of the client relationships. The findings of
the present study suggest that the higher burnout respondents personalise the client
relationship by identifying with the client, while lower burnout employees are able to
distance themselves from the client:
248
ƒ
“You have to be able to be kind, for the lack of another word. You have to be
understanding of a particular person’s situation. They listen for that in your
voice. Somebody phones in – their son died in a crash – you can’t be rude –
we have to have that certain sympathy – you can hear it in a person’s voice.
Talk to the person nicely – that’s what they look for. Friendly upbeat – we are
a call centre at the end of the day and people have to feel like you enjoy
working here when people phone in.” Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“Like with the floods that we had. I think it was in Mossel Bay there were like
people that lost houses and I mean millions of rands and we had to, as a team
we had to come together and discuss how we were going to handle this, as we
cannot just give them a new home. We started encouraging the people and
from them on I learnt to have empathy.” Respondent H4, Company F.
ƒ
“You can imagine yourself in the same predicament [as the client] and then all
you get is a company on the other side saying, ‘No we can’t do that.’”
Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
“Well, our ethic is actually very professional, they [management] regard the
professionalism that you have to care and empathise with the situation that the
client has.” Respondent H3, Company F.
Higher burnout respondents from Company M also tend to identify with the client by
empathising with the client’s often stressful or difficult situations. Both respondents,
for instance, understand that the client cannot always be considerate due to the
amount of stress they face internally:
ƒ
“So, I think their [the client’s] stress levels and the pressure they are under just
ripples into us.” Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“I think they [the client] also get placed under a lot of pressure from their side
when they service their internal clients. They are often stuck between us and
another department, so there is pressure on their side that we don’t see.”
Respondent H2, Company M.
Two respondents also express understanding and empathy for the fact that clients
get angry and upset:
249
ƒ
“Well, it’s quite easy, if a client complains he complains with good reason.”
Respondent H8, Company T.
ƒ
“But sometimes we do mess up because we deal with so many people and
people (the clients) do get angry, but for good reason.” Respondent H5,
Company F.
The selected citations above could be regarded as examples of deep acting – a form
of emotional labour where the client service employee changes the way he or she
feels in order to be in accordance with what is organisationally required (Brotheridge
& Grandey, 2002). By identifying and empathising with the client on an emotional
level client service employees attempt to feel for the client – a clear example of deep
acting. As cited in the literature review, Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) and
Brotheridge and Lee (2003) have conducted extensive research on the implications
of deep and surface acting for the development of emotional exhaustion,
depersonalisation and personal accomplishment.
The implications of this in the
context of the present study will be discussed in greater detail in the Chapter 7.
6.3.4.1.4 Establish relationships with the client
Higher burnout respondents are focused on building relationships with the clients. In
many instances, this relationship is rather personal and familiar in nature.
Again,
this is an unexpected finding in the case of higher burnout respondents since it was
anticipated that they would depersonalise the relationship with the client.
Respondents in Company T and Company F, for instance, enjoy the fact that they
are able to establish these familiar relationships with the client.
250
ƒ
“It’s just a name to you, but with me its more than a name – I know their [the
clients’] family, where they come from, what they do and what their task is in
the company.” Respondent H7, Company T.
ƒ
“I think if you are not a people’s person you might have a different feeling – but
I love people. It’s always interesting and you make friends.” Respondent H8,
Company T.
ƒ
“When you talk to them [the clients] with a query and you fill in the spaces, so
you gradually learn to comment on the day or the work and so you build a
relationship, they know you by name.” Respondent H3, Company F.
It could be argued that the establishment of personal relationships with the client
could contribute to the development of burnout.
Client service employees that
establish personal relationships with the client may be less likely to separate
themselves from the role due to over-identification with the client. This could result in
them taking their roles personally, resulting in role overload and feelings of guilt when
they are unable to satisfy the client.
6.3.4.1.5 Take sole responsibility for the client’s problems
Because they tend to engage with the client on a personal level, higher burnout
respondents tend to take sole responsibility for the client and the client’s problems.
In some cases, this is reflected by the way they internalise the client’s needs or
problems and then feel guilty for not being able to help them. One respondent, for
instance, expressed helplessness at not being able to assist the client, suggesting a
sense of personal responsibility or accountability for the well-being of the client:
ƒ
“Not helping the way …. they [the clients] have a certain need and sometimes
I just don’t grasp what that need is. I am not giving the full help that I can.”
Respondent H3, Company F.
Another respondent from Company T also expressed helplessness and confusion at
not being able to assist the client, and felt like the client’s problems may be his fault:
251
ƒ
“You always get a problem – a client – you are so confused by what is
happening because, like I said, there are so many parties involved. At the end
of the day, you wonder whether it is your fault.” Respondent H8, Company T.
Similarly, both respondents from Company M admit to internalising the client’s
problems and carrying responsibility for the client.
One respondent refers to
developing “broad shoulders” in order to bear the clients problems, while the other
mentions that the stress experienced by the client tends to “ripple” into her and her
team:
ƒ
“I guess you get broad shoulders hey!” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“This puts a whole lot more stress on us than there actually need be, because
we have to keep everyone happy.
So I think their stress levels and the
pressure that they are put under, just ripples into us.” Respondent H1,
Company M.
Two respondents from Company F constantly make reference to going the extra mile
in order to assist the client, and taking personal responsibility for the client:
ƒ
“Definitely somebody who is, who does not pass the buck – somebody that is
willing to take ownership of a situation and not just pass it on to someone
else.” Respondent H6, Company F when asked what kinds of people
Company F should employ.
ƒ
“So instead of saying ‘call this person at this number’ I would actually call them
myself and say ‘Look, this is the situation, this is the client’s concerns – what
can we do to assist the guy.’” Also suggest, let’s do this or that. Respondent
H5, Company F.
By assuming personal responsibility for the client and his/her problems, higher
burnout respondents may engage in role overload, which, as suggested in the
literature review, could contribute to the development of burnout. By being unable to
distance themselves from the client service role and the client’s problems, higher
burnout respondents may display greater levels of guilt and personal failure when
252
they are unable to help the client. This could result in reduced feelings of personal
accomplishment and possibly burnout.
6.3.4.2 Role-related behaviours among lower burnout respondents
The role-related behaviour of lower burnout respondents differs from that of their
higher burnout counterparts. While higher burnout respondents empathise with their
clients; engage with them on a personal level and take sole responsibility for their
problems, lower burnout respondents are able to manage the client and exert a
certain degree of power over the client. Lower burnout respondents tend to distance
themselves from the client and are largely task or solution orientated (see Table 74).
Table 74: Quotation count report – Role-related behaviours among lower
burnout respondents
Respondents
L1
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8 L9
Code
M
M
M
T
T
T
T
T
T
Able to manage the client (39)
3
2
9
2
7
5
2
4
5
Solution-orientated (32)
9
1
3
6
4
2
2
3
2
Does not take personal
5
4
1
1
5
2
3
4
3
2
1
6
4
0
4
0
1
1
1
2
1
0
0
1
2
2
1
3
0
3
1
0
2
0
0
0
responsibility for the client (28)
Able to exert power over the client
(19)
Distances oneself from the
client/work (10)
Engages in emotional labour (9)
6.3.4.2.1 Engage in emotional labour
As indicated by the selected quotes below, lower burnout respondents engage in a
degree of emotional labour but cited fewer examples of this during their interviews
when compared with higher burnout respondents.
253
ƒ
“I suppose it can be frustrating at times – you might want to say ‘No, you’re
crazy, we can’t do that’ − but you just can’t.” Respondent L1, Company M.
ƒ
“If we have a problem we must still smile at all times at the client.” Respondent
L6, Company T.
ƒ
“That’s how I deal with the clients and yes, many times you feel like cracking,
but you don’t, you maintain your cool and say, ‘Yes, ok.’” Respondent L4,
Company T.
ƒ
“You kind of vent behind the scenes – not in front of the client, but with your
peers.” Respondent L3, Company M.
From the selected quotations above it appears as though lower burnout respondents
engage in surface acting, rather than deep acting. Lower burnout respondents feel
irritated or frustrated by the client and modify their behaviour so as to hide this true
feeling from the client.
6.3.4.2.2 Task and solution orientated
Despite engaging in surface acting, lower burnout respondents seldom engage with
the client on a personal or emotional level and are far more solution or task
orientated than the higher burnout respondents. While higher burnout respondents
are generally focused on building comfortable and happy relationships with the client
which makes them take personal responsibility for the client, lower burnout
respondents are focused on finding a solution for the client without taking personal
responsibility for the client’s problems.
In addition, lower burnout respondents
display evidence of being able to manage the client, and are simultaneously able to
exert considerable power over the client. Each of these factors and their associated
codes will be discussed in the sections below.
Lower burnout respondents appear more task orientated than their higher burnout
counterparts. When asked to describe their roles, most lower burnout respondents
focus on the tasks they are supposed to perform and express them in terms of finding
solutions for the client. Higher burnout respondents, on the other hand, are more
focused on building and maintaining relationships with the client, and engage with
254
them on a more personal, rather than a task-orientated level. As indicated by the
selected quotes below, lower burnout respondents describe their roles as solving the
client’s business related problems through proactively engaging with them to find a
solution or improvement:
ƒ
“My role is for the client not to waste processes and procedures and not
waste…find new ways to work, better ways to work, also safety. I multi-task, I
do everything. To make sure not to waste, to monitor calls, escalations, to
make sure everything is being met.” Respondent L4, Company T.
ƒ
“The services – if there is a problem – if you want to improve it you have to
look at a lot of statistics, detail, find out about the improvement that can be
done and work out a plan, implement it and make sure that everything is done
and measured.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“Well, with finding out what their [the clients’] research problem is, what the
issue is in their business and then designing some sort of research solution.”
Respondent L1, Company M.
ƒ
“Work-shopping with them [the clients] and taking what their strategy
objectives are and trying to find research-based solutions to help them.”
Respondent L2, Company M.
ƒ
“The challenge is that if the client raises a concern you know that it must be
addressed in the fastest time and make sure that the matter has been
addressed with your people too, so that it does not happen again.”
Respondent L7, Company T.
ƒ
“Otherwise I will try and get a way round to make it work the way he [the client]
wants it to work.” Respondent L8, Company T.
ƒ
“If you understand your client’s business then you understand where he wants
to go and then you have new ways or initiatives that you can propose to give
the client value.” Respondent L9, Company T.
During the interviews, lower burnout respondents often reported that they enjoyed
finding solutions for the client, and that no challenge presented by the client was too
difficult or impossible to achieve.
Lower burnout respondents view their client’s
255
problems as a challenge and are more solution orientated that their higher burnout
counterparts:
ƒ
“The tasks they [the clients] give you might sound impossible but if you have
the mentality of it’s impossible, you are not going to get very far.
The
challenges are that nothing is impossible. It’s a mindset.” Respondent L4,
Company T.
ƒ
“Although we have a specific agreed service level – we don’t just wait for that
level – as soon as we get the problem, we handle it.” Respondent L5,
Company T.
ƒ
“It doesn’t matter how crazy or impractical their needs are, we are very much
about doing whatever, or helping the client as much as possible.” Respondent
L1, Company M.
ƒ
“I communicate with the client. I tell the client what I plan to do – this is the
problem – don’t worry – this is the solution.” Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“They [the clients] are all very diverse, they all have different needs and I think
the great thing about my job is that I interact with people at different levels of
the company, in different roles, in totally different industries and have to get to
know them and their needs and anticipate their needs and be proactive in
designing solutions for them.” Respondent L3, Company M.
6.3.4.2.3 Do not take personal responsibility for the client
Unlike the higher burnout respondents, lower burnout respondents do not take their
roles personally and do not take personal responsibility for the client. As reflected in
the selected quotes below, most lower burnout respondents work in teams and
therefore feel like they are not alone when dealing with the client’s problems. As
indicated in bold in the selected quotations below, lower burnout respondents make
frequent reference to working in supportive teams. This suggests that teamwork or
social support may play a mediating role in the development of burnout amongst
lower burnout respondent:
256
ƒ
“We try to work as a team and you rely on other people to help you if you have
demands from your client that you need to fulfil and you can’t.” Respondent
L1, Company M.
ƒ
“A lot of pride in what they do, I think it is a lot like – it’s a family – an intimate
atmosphere. I find the people that I have worked with – I think I have been
quite lucky as well – they are very supportive – a supportive base. People are
very willing to help with any question.” Respondent L2, Company M.
ƒ
“We are a team, so if you ask for something you get it. It’s nice to work like
that.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“If I can’t be there, there are always people in our team. If I can’t attend to the
problem then there is someone else who can.” Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“It’s very important – you must have redundancy within your operational
space. So I will go out if necessary, but I will also take my people with me.”
Respondent L7, Company T.
ƒ
“It may be one of the calls that escalated, or the problem was never resolved
so now there is this query and you need to give feedback, but there are now
many parties involved in it so for me to give feedback, I first need to engage
with all the others.” Respondent L9, Company T.
Perhaps because they are solution orientated and do not take sole responsibility for
the client, lower burnout respondents also do not take their roles as personally as the
higher burnout respondents do. As indicated by the selected quotations in the box
below, lower burnout respondents are able to distance themselves from their roles.
They are able to ignore the stress placed on them by the client and instead focus on
the task at hand:
ƒ
“You are at the agency and a client phones and asks you for something
unreasonable and speaks to you in a certain way, you can put the phone
down and just take a moment, and then you can do it and you don’t have to
see them for a while.” Respondent L2, Company M.
ƒ
“I just do my job and ignore the fact that they [the client] are having a stressful
day.” Respondent L6, Company T.
257
ƒ
“You learn to accept it and that where you don’t – if you don’t create a
relationship and you just go there and do the job and leave.” Respondent L4,
Company T.
ƒ
So the clients are important, but I see them as an operational issue –
operational things that must be addressed.” Respondent L7, Company T. “
Many of the lower burnout respondents reported having a number of outside
interests, which enable them to forget about work. In so doing, they are able to
distance themselves from the client and do not let the client service work interfere or
dominate their personal lives:
ƒ
“I try to keep very strict 08:00 to 17:00 hours so that I can close the door on
that and go and do something else and think about something else. I try to
keep weekends free and I don’t like to work overtime. I try and manage things
so that I have time away from it so that I don’t get sick of it.” Respondent L1,
Company M.
ƒ
“I keep it to myself.
After work I have my sport to go to and relax.”
Respondent L9, Company T.
While higher burnout respondents personalise the role and the relationship with the
client and as a result, tend to display guilt when they are not able to meet the needs
of the client, lower burnout respondents do not show signs of guilt when they are
unable to adequately assist the client:
258
ƒ
“It’s their [the client’s] research, they are paying for it and if they don’t get their
money’s worth it is not my fault – I did warn them.” Respondent L3, Company
M.
ƒ
“It’s just one of those things – you just try and deal with it to the best of your
ability. I mean, you know you can’t take it personally and you can’t make
judgements on them [the clients] as a person – it’s just the way they work.”
Respondent L2, Company M.
ƒ
“You are looking at the odds – if they [the clients] don’t like you then they don’t
like you. You still deal with them. I don’t talk too much, just let me do my
work.” Respondent L4, Company T.
6.3.4.2.4 Able to manage the client
Because lower burnout respondents see themselves in a partnership with the client
and expect a certain level of co-operation from the client, they are able to exert
influence over the client and manage them to a certain extent. For instance, two
respondents from Company M feel able to make demands on the client, reflecting a
high degree of self-empowerment in the client service situation:
ƒ
“Unfortunately you sometimes get to a point where you have to threaten them
[the clients] and say ‘Listen, this is the timing for the project and a need this
and that by then. If you can’t get it to me then unfortunately your study is
going to suffer because I have to extend the timing.’” Respondent L3,
Company M.
ƒ
“You have to push them [the clients] to give you what you need or what you
are looking for to help them.” Respondent L1, Company M.
Other lower burnout respondents are able to manage the expectations of clients by
educating them and helping them understand better, suggesting a high degree of
self-efficacy and empowerment when dealing with the client:
259
ƒ
“It is largely a case of not pushing back on their [the clients’] requests,
particularly straight away, but giving them time to think. We have to give them
some advice and steer them in a different direction.”
Respondent L1,
Company M.
ƒ
“They [the client] don’t know the whole picture sometimes and the older people
are not always there, so its new people so sometimes you have to help them
to understand better.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“That is why I say the trust relationship between you and the client is the
bottom line. If you got that and they trust you from day one – ahhh − it’s like
honey for you.” Respondent L4, Company T.
All lower burnout respondents from Company T are able to manage the client in
cases where they feel the client is being unreasonable. They are, for instance, able
to report unreasonable clients to management within the company. Two respondents
are even able to tell the client to his face when they feel a situation is unfavourable:
ƒ
“If we see there is a problem, we go to their [the client’s] senior people or to
the company senior management and ask them to help as well.” Respondent
L5, Company T.
ƒ
“If he [the client] got a problem then I tell him straight – I say: “Listen, this is
the way it is – I don’t like what you do, let’s go to the park.” Respondent L4,
Company T.
ƒ
“Like this one client – he started to do his own thing and then I told him that he
can’t do it anymore.” Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“From the start he [the client] was unreasonable and we had many bad
experiences. We took it up with his management side and they talked to him
and now it is better.” Respondent L9, Company T.
ƒ
“I try not to show it bothers me, but sometimes you just tell them [the clients] to
move out of my personal space because I need to concentrate on my work –
go make yourself some coffee.” Respondent L8, Company T.
The role identity of lower burnout respondents’ results in role-related behaviour
associated with managing the client relationship and in some cases, exerting power
260
over the client. Since lower burnout respondents define themselves as superior to
and more knowledgeable than the client, they are able to exert a certain degree of
control over the relationship and in so doing, experience a degree of autonomy. As
indicated in the literature review, feelings of autonomy and control over one’s work
environment can buffer the development of burnout.
6.3.5 The emotional consequences of the role identity
The meaning content of the identity standard also has an impact on work-related
perceptions.
A failure to meet the role-related expectations contained within the
identity standard could result in a diminished sense of self, a sense of subjective
failure, frustration and fatigue – all states that have been linked to the development of
burnout.
As indicated in Table 75, the majority of higher burnout respondents feel powerless
against the client, while lower burnout respondents perceive a large degree of
autonomy through their work.
Table 75: The emotional consequences of the role identity
Higher Burnout Respondents
Lower Burnout Respondents
Powerless in relation to the client (13)
Has a sense of autonomy (17)
In feeling powerless in relation to the client, higher burnout respondents express that
they are unable to protect themselves from the unreasonable demands made by the
client. Lower burnout respondents, on the other hand, appear to have a large degree
of control over and autonomy within the client service relationship, which enables
them to protect themselves from unrealistic demands.
6.3.5.1 Emotional consequences of the role identity among higher burnout
respondents
As reflected in the quotation count in Table 76, higher burnout respondents from
Company T do not experience this loss of power in relation to the client.
261
Respondents from Company M and Company F, however, cite numerous instances
where they are unable to stand up for themselves when interacting with the client.
Table 76: Quotation count report − Emotional consequences of the role identity
among higher burnout respondents
Respondents
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H6
H7
H8
Code
M
M
F
F
F
F
T
T
Feel powerless in relation to client
5
1
3
2
1
1
0
0
(13)
The selected quotations in the box below are evidence of the loss of power and
helplessness in relation to the client felt by the majority of the higher burnout
respondents.
In many instances this loss of power is also a consequence of
perceiving the client as nasty and abusive:
ƒ
“Pretty much, ja but they [the clients] didn’t really apologise. Often what they
will do if we don’t, if they don’t get the outcome that they want, they will try and
blame us.” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“Most of the time from our point of view we don’t have any say. I mean, I can’t
call the shots and say do this.” Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
“Some people out there phone in with the idea that they are going to be nasty
− they have had bad service and no matter who picks up the phone they get it.
I want to get that out of my life – I want to get somewhere where it is more
predictable.” Respondent H6, Company F.
These feelings of powerlessness also appear to result in a loss of control and
autonomy amongst the higher burnout respondents.
262
6.3.5.2 Emotional consequences of the role identity among lower burnout
respondents
As indicated in Table 77, lower burnout respondents experience a sense of
autonomy within their roles.
Table 77: Quotation count report − Emotional consequences of the role identity
among lower burnout respondents
Respondents
L1
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8
L9
Code
M
M
M
T
T
T
T
T
T
Has a sense of autonomy (17)
1
2
3
3
4
2
0
1
1
This sense of autonomy may be due to the fact that they perceive themselves as
superior to and more knowledgeable than the client.
As indicated by the selected quotations below, lower burnout respondents
experience a large degree of independence and freedom in their work, resulting in
the perception of control and power within the role. This sense of autonomy and
control is clearly indicated by the fact that lower burnout client service employees are
able to manage the client and exert a level of power over the client:
ƒ
“That is quite stressful, but otherwise I don’t have stress. Like I said, I keep
my environment stable.” Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“I don’t know about other environments, but here they [management] don’t
check up on me. There is freedom and I can initiate – whatever I want within
the boundaries. I like it.” Respondent L5, Company T.
ƒ
“I have clients that are mine − that I am in charge of.” Respondent L2,
Company M.
ƒ
“You have to be strong and show them [the client] that you can manage this
and sort it out in the end.” Respondent L8, Company T.
263
ƒ
“It is not strict and rigid. You are free to do the best for your client which
encourages you to be more proactive, and creative in the solutions that you
offer your client.” Respondent L3, Company M.
ƒ
“I am not going to wait for my manager to do it – I want to do it myself.”
Respondent L4, Company T.
6.3.6 Evidence of self-verification
According to the research argument and the theoretical model presented in Chapter
3, failure to self-verify can also result in burnout.
According to Burke’s (1991a;
1991b) identity control model, self-verification occurs when the role-related
behavioural outcomes of an individual are congruent with the expectations contained
in the role-related identity standard. Failure to match role-related outcomes with
these expectations results in failed self-verification, and, according to the research
argument, could also contribute to the development of burnout.
In the case of client service employees, self-verification can fail if the expectations
contained in the identity standard are experienced as unreasonable or practically
unattainable.
Self-verification can also fail if the expectations contained in the
identity standard are unrealistic and require the individual to engage in considerable
role overload, which could result in emotional exhaustion. Non-verification of the self
through identity processes can result in feelings of anxiety and distress.
These
feelings of anxiety and distress could then, ultimately result in burnout. As Cherniss
(1993), Cordes and Dougherty (1993), Freudenberger and Richelson (1980), Pines
and Maslach (1978), Pines (1993) and Vanheule and Verhaeghe (2004; 2005) have
shown, a failure to successfully meet personal and organisational expectations can
result in reduced feelings of self-efficacy and ultimately lead to burnout.
As indicated in the quotation count in Table 78, higher burnout respondents feel guilt
for not helping the client; feel humiliated by the company when they are unable to
help the client and, as a consequence, feel little self-verification.
264
Table 78: Evidence of self-verification
Higher Burnout Respondents
Lower Burnout Respondents
Feel powerless in helping the client (46)
Experience a high degree of personal
accomplishment (49)
Experience little self-verification (27)
Feel guilt for not helping the client (10)
Lower burnout respondents, on the other hand, have strong feelings of personal
accomplishment, suggesting that they do indeed experience self-verification.
6.3.6.1 Evidence of failed self-verification among higher burnout respondents
As indicated by Table 79, higher burnout respondents feel powerless in helping the
client.
Table 79: Quotation count report – Evidence of failed self-verification among
higher burnout respondents
Respondents
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H6
H7
H8
Code
M
M
F
F
F
F
T
T
Feel powerless in helping the client (46)
2
6
4
5
18
4
4
3
Experience little self-verification (27)
11
4
2
2
2
2
1
3
Feel guilt for not helping the client (10)
0
0
4
0
2
3
0
1
Furthermore, a number of high burnout respondents experience a sense of guilt
when they are unable to assist the client, and all higher burnout respondents display
evidence of failed self-verification.
265
6.3.6.1.1 Feel powerless in helping the client
As illustrated by the selected quotations below, higher burnout respondents often feel
despondent when dealing with the client. They feel that they are unable to help the
client in the way that they would have liked − even when they have exercised all their
options. Many higher burnout respondents are not happy with the quality of service
they are giving the client, but feel unable to do any better:
ƒ
“If you speak to the client and you don’t assist the client – and let’s say, for
example, there is a complaint from the client – management comes down on
you.
But I mean, what happens if you have exercised all your options.”
Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
“It gets frustrating because, for us, with what we know – for instance a cell
phone claim takes about a day – two days – and now because it needs to be
transferred to this department or that branch it takes two days.” Respondent
H4, Company F.
ƒ
“I can deal with a person when something is not fixed and I can plug it in
and…It’s very hard explaining to someone that you can’t help them when they
are stuck next to the side of the road.” Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“You want to give them the best piece of work possible and sometimes, you
just don’t have the capacity to be able to do it.” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“Not helping the way… they have a certain need and sometimes I just don’t
grasp that that need is. I am not giving the full help that I can.” Respondent
H3, Company F.
ƒ
“We have to deal with red tape and the clients hate the red tape so that is
where the arguments and the complaints come in.” Respondent H7, Company
T.
ƒ
“The biggest challenge I think is trying to please this particular client at the end
of the day! Because it just seems – with this particular client that I am servicing
– that they are never really fully happy with what we are doing.” Respondent
H1, Company M.
266
ƒ
“You always get a problem – a client – you are so confused by what is
happening because, like I said, there are so many parties involved. At the end
of the day, you wonder if it is your fault.” Respondent H8, Company T.
From a number of quotations above, it is clear that higher burnout respondents feel
let down by the companies for which they work.
Some suggest that they have
insufficient capacity and resources to service the client, while others feel that
company processes inhibit their ability to adequately assist the client. These feelings
could all contribute to the sense of helplessness and defeat experienced by higher
burnout respondents.
Clearly higher burnout respondents feel unable to assist the client in the way that
they would like.
It is important to note that these feelings of inadequacy are
subjective. As discussed earlier, higher burnout employees aim to help the client no
matter what. These expectations may therefore be unrealistic, resulting in higher
burnout respondents being unable to verify:
ƒ
“If we can show them [the clients] that we are changing and that we are more
efficient and obviously, word of mouth, they will tell the guys ‘Well, actually,
Company T is not that bad.’” Respondent H8, Company T.
ƒ
“Actually, it would be quite nice for me to actually have a client that
appreciates what we do and doesn’t just take it for granted.” Respondent H1,
Company M.
ƒ
“Well, basically when they [the client] come back and tell you ‘No, that’s not
suitable, or that’s too expensive or…’” Respondent H2, Company M.
ƒ
“But my managers still see the standard – they don’t see the extra and I know I
will probably get into trouble.” Respondent H7, Company T.
ƒ
“Not helping the way…they [the clients] have a certain need and sometimes I
just don’t grasp what that need is. I am not giving the full help that I can.”
Respondent H3, Company F.
In some cases, higher burnout respondents feel ashamed about the company for
which they work, while in other cases failed self-verification is evident when they
267
relate that they are not appreciated by the client or by the company for which they
work:
ƒ
“With a lot of things taking place now claims are taking a bit longer. Our
company is in a change structure so we can’t deliver what we normally could.”
Respondent H4, Company F.
ƒ
“It makes you feel – not really unappreciated, but sometimes stupid.”
Respondent H5, Company F.
6.3.6.1.2 Feel guilt when unable to help the client
Some higher burnout respondents translate this difficulty to self-verify into feelings of
guilt. One respondent wonders whether it his fault that the clients have problems.
Another respondent feels guilty when she cannot grasp what the client needs and
another feels bad when he cannot assist the client due to red tape:
ƒ
“And we do feel bad when we can’t assist the client because there are a lot of
processes to follow. You can only do so much and you feel so bad that you
can’t help the guy, especially when it is a personal situation like that.”
Respondent H5, Company F.
ƒ
You wonder if it is your fault at all.” Respondent H8, Company T.
ƒ
“They [the clients] have a certain need and sometimes I just don’t grasp what
that need is.” Respondent H3, Company F.
High burnout respondents report feeling “emotionally challenged” and “emotionally
drained.” Selected quotations indicating this sense of burnout experienced by
higher burnout respondents include:
268
ƒ
“I feel emotionally challenged because they can be a very difficult client.”
Respondent H1, Company M.
ƒ
“Stressful – it’s very – a lot of the calls are trauma calls and they do have an
impact on you. Like your emotional state.” Respondent H6, Company F.
ƒ
“Not to be nasty, but you have to have psychoanalysis later – it really gets to
your head.” Respondent H3, Company F.
ƒ
“It would be like taking a balloon, blowing it up with hot air and Valium and all
that. And just taking a pin and popping it and then just having a clump of
nothing with a hole in the end.” Respondent H3, Company F.
ƒ
“It’s draining emotionally. There are a lot of calls that you receive and you
don’t know how to handle or hear…people call in with a lot of stuff.”
Respondent H5, Company F.
6.3.6.2 Evidence of self-verification among lower burnout respondents
Lower burnout respondents, on the other hand, feel a strong sense of self-verification
and personal accomplishment as reflected in Table 80.
Table 80: Quotation count report − Evidence of self-verification amongst lower
burnout respondents
Respondents
Code
Experiences
a
sense
of
L1
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8
L9
M
M
M
T
T
T
T
T
T
8
2
10
4
5
9
5
3
3
accomplishment (49)
As indicated by the selected quotations below, lower burnout respondents
experience a strong sense of self-verification. Most are of the opinion that they are
able to assist and impress the client through the service that they provide. Some feel
that they are making a positive contribution to the company and others would even
like more challenges – again indicating a high degree of self-efficacy and personal
accomplishment:
269
ƒ
“It’s going to take time, but I am seeing the difference I am making.”
Respondent L4, Company T.
ƒ
“I think it happens quite often here. It’s even better when you have a client
that is very sceptical in the beginning and then you wow them!” Respondent
L3, Company M.
ƒ
“Make it a bit more challenging you know.
At the moment I feel I know
everything that is going on so maybe if they could make it more challenging –
otherwise I wouldn’t want to change my job.” Respondent L6, Company T.
ƒ
“I like it when you go to present to a client and you have something that really
meets their needs and is interesting to them and they enjoy what you have to
share with them. Even if it is bad news. They like the work that you’ve done
and they find it useful. I like wowing the clients with something interesting.”
Respondent L1, Company M.
ƒ
“And I believe that my small contribution in this big company will have a great
effect somewhere.” Respondent L7, Company T.
Lower burnout respondents also receive a large degree of appreciation and praise
from the client, contributing to the sense of self-verification:
ƒ
“I like it that you fulfil their needs and that they are happy with the work that
you have done. That sense of satisfaction – it is very gratifying to feel that
you’ve helped them, that you’ve improved their business somehow. You are
adding value and that gives me a thrill.” Respondent L1, Company M.
ƒ
“Yes, we do [get a lot of appreciation from the client] – because we do a great
job.” Respondent L7, Company T.
ƒ
“They (the client) mail to management just to tell of the excellent service they
received.” Respondent L8, Company T.
ƒ
“We get mails at least every second day for recognition of the technicians.”
Respondent L9, Company T.
ƒ
“Clients often say it’s a great presentation – thanks etc. That’s what we work
towards.” Respondent L3, Company M.
270
ƒ
“They [the clients] praise you and go ‘Wow – this guy knows what he is doing.’
That is satisfying that they put you on a pedestal sometimes.” Respondent L6,
Company T.
6.4
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
It is clear from the qualitative data presented in this chapter that the role identities of
higher burnout client service employees differ from the role identities of lower burnout
employees.
To summarise, higher burnout employees view themselves as subordinate to the
client. They perceive the client as controlling, abusive and as having unreasonable
expectations.
Lower burnout respondents, on the other hand, display positive
feelings towards the client and perceive themselves as superior to and more
knowledgeable than the client. It appears that because lower burnout respondents
feel knowledgeable and superior to the client, they also feel empowered to meet the
demands of their client and expect to establish a partnership with the client. Lower
burnout respondents demand co-operation and respect from the client, are task and
solution orientated and are able to establish a psychological distance between
themselves and the client. They experience a large degree of appreciation from the
client and, as a result, experience self-verification. Higher burnout respondents, on
the other hand, tend to personalise the client relationship by empathising and
identifying with the client. They experience a sense of defeat and powerlessness
when dealing with the client cite numerous instances where they have difficulty in
self-verifying.
271
CHAPTER 7
DISCUSSION
7.1
INTRODUCTION
The conceptual framework developed in Chapter 3 argues that the role identities of
client service employees carry implications for the development of burnout.
According to the conceptual framework, role identities of client service employees are
derived from, and partly shaped by, the dominant client discourse of the organisation.
These role identities, which contain role-related expectations, influence role-related
behaviour and subjective perceptions in a number of ways. In cases where this rolerelated behaviour results in role overload, role conflict, role ambiguity or emotional
labour, it could result in burnout. Furthermore, role identities can inform subjective
perceptions of the work environment.
If these perceptions include feelings of
inequity, a loss of autonomy or a sense of failure, burnout could result. The present
study also proposes that processes related to failed self-verification could contribute
to the development of burnout. If individuals are unable to positively affirm a role
identity through the processes of self-verification, they could suffer a diminished
sense of self and a loss of efficacy – both of these being recognised antecedents to
burnout.
In the remainder of this chapter, the qualitative and quantitative results are
interpreted using the conceptual framework developed in Chapter 3. In so doing,
each of the research questions posed in Chapter 3 are addressed. It should be
noted that all research questions pertaining to the relationship between burnout and
role identity are discussed first, after which they are integrated using the conceptual
model developed in Chapter 3. The research questions pertaining to the relationship
between role identity and discourse are dealt with after this in a separate section.
272
7.2
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
7.2.1 Research Question 1: To what extent are client service employees’
burnout
levels
related
to
their
biographic
and
demographic
characteristics?
Previous research on the antecedents to burnout has shown relationships between
burnout and a number of biographical and demographic variables. While the primary
objective of the present research is to explore whether a relationship between
burnout and role identity exists, a selection of biographic and demographic variables
were included in the questionnaire. This was done with the purpose of controlling for
external variance and to enrich interpretation of possible relationships between
burnout and role identity. To this end, a number of noteworthy relationships were
found between burnout and biographical and demographic variables.
Prior to discussing these relationships, it is appropriate to introduce a cautionary note
regarding the interaction effects and causal relationships between role identity,
burnout and the above-mentioned variables.
Given the nature of the present
research, the interaction between role identity, burnout, demographic/biographic
characteristics and orientation to work, organisation and life is unclear.
While
previous research confirms many of the significant relationships found between
burnout and demographic/biographic characteristics in the present study, it remains
unclear as to the causal direction of the relationships. It is also unclear as to whether
any of these variables could potentially mediate the relationship between role identity
and burnout. It also remains uncertain as to whether role identity is a consequence
of, or antecedent to, any of these variables.
In the paragraphs that follow, the
significant relationships between burnout, demographic/biographic characteristics
and orientation to life, work and organisation will be discussed. Where applicable,
speculations will be made regarding the possible interaction effects and causal
relationships between these variables.
Gender (V83), marital status (V84), age (V82), tenure at current organisation (V86)
and hours worked per week (V89) do not display significant relationships with burnout
total,
personal
accomplishment
or
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation.
273
Participating organisation (V106), population group (V105), educational level (V85),
total working years (V88) and years working in a service environment (V87) all
display significant associations with burnout or either of its components, and will be
discussed below.
Firstly, the company to which the client service employee belongs (participating
organisation) displays a significant relationship with burnout total, reduced personal
accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
Respondents from
Company M display statistically significantly higher mean scores on reduced personal
accomplishment when compared with respondents from Company F and Company
T. Respondents from Company F, on the other hand, display significantly higher
mean scores on the emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation subscale than
respondents from Company T. This finding is important because it suggests that in
the present sample, the development of burnout is associated with the organisation
to which respondents belong. It could also mean that the development of burnout is
associated with the kind of service work one is engaged in. Since a number of the
antecedents to burnout are organisational, different companies with different
organisational practices and policies would influence the development of burnout
differently. While role identity is not regarded as an organisational variable, it is
acknowledged that the organisational client discourse would shape the identities
constructed by its employees. In the case of Company M, for instance, it could be
speculated that the client discourse shapes the construction of role identities that
possibly obstruct the experience of personal accomplishment.
In the case of
Company F, the role identities shaped in response to the organisational client
discourse may facilitate the development of emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
Caution should therefore be exercised when interpreting the relationships between
burnout and respondent scores on the adjective pairs used to describe the client and
the self in role.
Since each of the three companies under investigation represents different service
sectors, the type of service work required on the part of the client service employee is
markedly different. Furthermore, the type of client serviced by each of the companies
is also markedly different. Client service employees from Company F, for instance,
engage with clients processing insurance claims. These clients are generally in a
274
position of need and may come across as emotionally vulnerable.
From the
qualitative interviews conducted with higher burnout employees from Company F, it is
evident that these employees engage in a considerable amount of emotional labour.
They are “taught” how to relate to the client appropriately, suggesting a strong
propensity for surface acting, but also tend to emphasise and identify with the client’s
problems – suggestive of deep acting. Client service employees from Company T
also engage with clients who are in need of assistance, but these clients are not
emotionally vulnerable because of this need. Client service employees from this
organisation display evidence of engaging in surface acting with the client, insofar as
hiding irritation and making the client feel comfortable. While it has been suggested
the deep acting is negatively associated with depersonalisation and reduced
personal accomplishment (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002), research also suggests
that emotional labour which does not result in favourable client relationships or
verification of the self, could result in the development of burnout (Brotheridge & Lee,
2002). This may be the case in Company F. While these employees engage in both
surface and deep acting, they are unable to establish favourable relationships and
often feel guilt for not helping as much as they could. While it would have been
appropriate to control for company effect during the quantitative analysis of the data,
the small sample size rendered this impractical. Results from the qualitative phase of
the research show, however, that higher burnout employees from different
companies exhibit similar role identity characteristics. This appears to suggest that
while the client service context may be vastly different, the nature of the role identities
are similar across the higher burnout group.
Population group also displays a significant association with experienced burnout in
the present sample.
White respondents present significantly higher levels of
personal accomplishment than their black, coloured and indian counterparts. No
previous research conducted in South Africa could be found to support or contradict
this finding. Since only 25 respondents in the present sample are not part of the
white population group, further research is needed to determine whether population
group does indeed have a significant influence on burnout scores.
Respondents who have been working in a client service environment for longer
display lower levels of burnout and reduced personal accomplishment when
275
compared with those that have less client service experience. Similarly, employees
who have been working for a longer period of time, also display lower levels of
burnout when compared with those working for shorter. Previous research into the
antecedents of burnout has shown how work-related expectations become more
realistic the more experience the individual has in the working environment, resulting
in increased levels of personal accomplishment (Kuruuzum et al., 2008).
Since
unrealistic expectations have been linked to the development of burnout (Brill, 1984;
Cherniss, 1980; Freudenberger & Richelson, 1980), longer serving employees with
more realistic expectations would experience more accomplishment and therefore
less burnout.
Furthermore, from a role identity perspective, failure to self-verify
occurs when an individual is not able to match behavioural outcomes with
behavioural expectations.
Individuals with limited working experience in a client
service setting may therefore construct role identities based on unrealistic
expectations and, as a consequence, experience diminished levels of personal
accomplishment.
Educational levels display a significant positive relationship with reduced personal
accomplishment.
Scheffe’s test indicates a pair wise statistically significant
difference between the reduced personal accomplishment scores of respondents with
a degree or postgraduate degree and respondents with a diploma or secondary
school education. In other words, respondents with a degree or postgraduate degree
display higher levels of reduced personal accomplishment than respondents with a
diploma or secondary education. This association can be explained with reference to
levels of expectations. Individuals with higher levels of education tend to have higher
(and possibly less-realistic) expectations of what they are able to achieve when
compared with individuals with lower levels of education (Pines & Maslach, 1978).
Since unrealistic expectations are associated with the development of burnout, more
highly educated individuals would experience higher levels of burnout.
The findings of this study show that burnout is associated with a number of
demographic and biographic variables.
The service organisation for which the
respondent works displays a significant relationship with burnout and both its
components, suggesting that service setting is a predictor of burnout. Length of
276
service and educational levels are also negatively associated with reduced personal
accomplishment, pointing to the role of expectations in the development of burnout.
7.2.2 Research Question 2: To what extent are client service employees’
burnout levels associated with their orientation towards life, work and
organisation?
Results from a Spearmen Correlation Analysis show that the importance placed on
work (V94) and service to others (V95) is significantly negatively related to burnout
total, reduced personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
This implies that the more important client service employees regard work and
service to others, the lower their levels of burnout, reduced personal accomplishment
and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation. In accordance with research conducted
by Brotheridge and Lee (2002), the importance of work and service to others could
be an indication of the extent to which the individual employee identifies with the
client service role. Employees that regard work and service to others as important
are identifying strongly with the client service role and hence experiencing lower
levels of burnout. This finding corresponds with the proposition by Brotheridge and
Lee (2002: 60) that individuals who identify with their roles are likely to feel authentic
and cope better with work-related demands than individuals that do not identify with
their roles. Individuals who regard work and service to others as important are likely
to approach their work with energy, involvement and efficacy, resulting in job
engagement − the opposite of burnout (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). It could further be
speculated that client service employees that regard work and service to others as
important and worthwhile are likely to experience efficacy and pride in themselves.
Those that do not regard work and service to others as important may construct role
identities that position themselves as powerless and lacking influence in the client
service relationship. As a consequence, they could experience reduced feelings of
personal accomplishment and a sense of defeat. This possibility is supported by
Schaufeli and Bakker’s (2004) Wellbeing at Work Model, which suggests that people
are less likely to experience burnout if they are engaged in work that they deem
important and pleasurable.
It also coincides with the existential perspective on
burnout which is premised on the notion that people need to believe that what they
277
do is meaningful, important and significant in order to buffer the development of
burnout (Pines, 2002).
It could also be argued that orientation towards work and service to others is a
consequence of burnout rather than an antecedent to burnout.
Higher burnout
respondents may regard work and service to others as less important than their lower
burnout colleagues do because they have depersonalised the work and service
context. In such an instance, decreasing importance is placed on work and service
to others as a consequence of burnout, since withdrawal from work is regarded as a
mechanism by which individuals cope with excessive emotional exhaustion
(Cherniss, 1993).
Satisfaction with supervisor relationships (V97) displays a significant negative
relationship with emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation. Higher levels of emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation are associated with less satisfactory relationships with
supervisors. Data from the qualitative interviews also indicates that higher burnout
respondents are dissatisfied with the relationships they have with supervisors and
managers.
The reasons given are numerous.
A number of higher burnout
employees feel that they are not provided with enough resources in order to ensure
excellent client service. They report being humiliated by management and are afraid
of sanctions imposed by management should they break company policy to assist the
client. Many higher burnout respondents also reported feeling unable to express
themselves and their concerns regarding the client. These findings are supported by
previous research that shows how perceived social support plays a role in buffering
the development of burnout (Maslach et al., 1996). Social support, which would
include supervisory support, is a job resource that enables individuals to cope with
excessive job demands (Kuruuzum et al., 2008). Interestingly, however, satisfaction
with co-worker and subordinate relationships did not display significant relationships
with either of the burnout components.
Pride in the organisation (V101, V103) and loyalty and commitment to the
organisation (V100, V102, V104) also display significant relationships with burnout
total, personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation. This
indicates that the more proud individuals are of their organisations and the more loyal
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and committed they are to their organisations, the lower their levels of burnout.
Again, the interaction between role identity and burnout with orientation towards the
organisation is not addressed by the present research. This renders it difficult to
ascertain whether levels of organisational pride, loyalty and commitment would play a
role in the construction of the client service role identity, or whether role identity
would influence levels of organisational pride, loyalty and commitment. It could be
speculated that employees who are proud, loyal and committed to their organisations
would experience a greater sense of pride and meaning in their work, resulting in
reduced levels of burnout (Pines, 2002).
Such a sentiment resonates with the
findings by Buunk et al. (2007) that claim that burnout is linked to feelings of shame
and inferiority. It could therefore be argued that if employees are not proud of the
organisations for which they work, they could experience feelings of inferiority and
shame, resulting in burnout. Data from the interviews of the present research shows
that higher burnout employees report feeling let down by their organisations who
appear not to provide them with enough resources and support.
Burnout has been linked to withdrawal behaviours including reduced organisational
commitment (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998). The fact that respondents with higher
levels of burnout report lower levels of commitment and pride in their organisations,
could be explained by the fact that withdrawal behaviours are an observed
consequence of burnout.
The findings of this study show that burnout levels among client service employees
are associated with orientations towards work and the organisation. Higher burnout
respondents regard work and service to others as less important than lower burnout
respondents do. They report being less satisfied with both supervisor and client
relationships when compared with lower burnout respondents and experience less
commitment to and pride in their employing organisations.
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7.2.3 Research Question 3: In what ways do the role identities of higher
burnout employees differ from the role identities of lower burnout
employees?
In order to address this research question, it was necessary to determine how client
service employees describe/define the client; how they describe themselves (self in
role); and how they describe themselves in relation to the client (difference between
descriptions of the self in role and descriptions of the client).
The role-related
expectations contained within the role identity (identity standard) were also explored.
7.2.3.1 Descriptions of the client
Spearman correlation analyses of the relationship between burnout and employee
descriptions of the client on the set of adjective pairs indicates that higher burnout
client service employees describe the client as more impatient, inconsiderate and
rigid than lower burnout client service employees do.
Lower levels of reduced
personal accomplishment are associated with describing the client as more important
and more respected, while lower levels of emotional exhaustion are associated with
describing the client as understanding. Lower burnout respondents also display
higher levels of satisfaction with the relationships they have built with the client when
compared with higher burnout respondents.
Data from the interviews confirms this finding that higher burnout respondents differ
from lower burnout respondents in their descriptions of the client. While both higher
and lower burnout respondents view the client as demanding, higher burnout
employees describe the client as having unreasonable expectations. Higher burnout
respondents also describe the client in a negative light, often citing the client as
abusive, domineering, dictatorial and controlling. Lower burnout respondents, on the
other hand, recognise that the client is demanding, but do not perceive client
demands as unreasonable. They generally displayed positive feelings towards the
client, describing the client as trusting, respectful and appreciative.
While both the quantitative and qualitative results suggest that lower burnout
respondents perceive the client in a more positive light than the higher burnout
280
respondents do, it is surprising to note that higher burnout respondents regard the
client as less respected and less important than lower burnout respondents do.
Since higher burnout respondents describe themselves as subordinate to the client,
one would have expected that they perceive the client as more important and more
respected than their lower burnout counterparts do. It should be noted, however, that
the adjective pairs were rated on a scale of one to seven and that over 80 percent of
respondents rated the client on the important side of the scale. This clearly indicates
that higher burnout respondents do not necessarily view the client as unimportant
and not respected, but that they merely regard the client as less important and less
respected than the lower burnout respondent do.
While higher burnout respondents may regard the client as less important and less
respected than lower burnout respondents do, higher burnout respondents perceive
themselves as powerless against the client and subordinate to the client.
It is
therefore important to make a distinction between perceptions of the client (counterrole) and perceptions of the self (self in role). A client service employee may, for
instance regard the client as unimportant or not respected, but if they do not perceive
themselves as important or respected, the view of the client may become secondary,
while the perception of the self can influence role-related behaviour instead. This
finding is important in the context of the current study. According to Burke and Tully
(1977) the identity of an individual only has meaning insofar it is related to a relevant
counter-identity.
The Burke-Tully technique therefore includes the measure of
counter-identity as a variable to consider when defining a particular role identity in
question. While the present research did not make use of the Burke-Tully (1977)
analysis technique as it was intended, it is important to note that descriptions of the
client displayed less significant correlations with burnout and its components than
descriptions of the self did. This suggests that descriptions of the self may be better
predictors of burnout levels than descriptions of the counter-identity are.
The conceptual framework developed in Chapter 3 proposes role identity as a
possible antecedent to the development of burnout. The negative descriptions of the
client by higher burnout respondents could however, be a consequence of burnout
rather than a component of the employee’s role identity. As cautioned by Maslach
and Leiter (1996) a large percentage of burnout research is subject to causal
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limitations. Since burnout has been linked to the development of negative workrelated attitudes (Cherniss, 1980; Pines & Aronson, 1988; Schaufeli & Enzmann,
1998) the negative sentiments expressed by higher burnout respondents towards the
client may be a consequence of burnout, rather than an antecedent to the
development of burnout. However, in the present study, the direction of causality can
be inferred from the qualitative data.
As shown in subsequent sections of this
chapter, the role identities of client service employees have direct implications for
role-related behaviours and subjective perceptions, which in turn, influence the selfverification process and ultimately induce or inhibit the development of burnout.
7.2.3.2 Descriptions of the self in role
Results from the Spearman correlation analysis of the relationship between burnout
and client service employee descriptions of themselves, in the client service role on
the list of adjectives, indicate that levels of burnout are associated with a number of
self descriptions. Respondents scoring higher on burnout total, reduced personal
accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation describe themselves as
weaker than lower burnout respondents do. Respondents with higher burnout total
and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation scores also describe themselves as less
respected, more unappreciated and more rigid than those respondents with lower
scores on these components do.
Furthermore, higher scores on the reduced
personal accomplishment scale are associated with descriptions of the self as feeling
more
passive,
while
higher
scores
on
both
the
emotional
exhaustion/depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment scales are
associated with feelings of being more powerless.
These findings are supported with data from the interviews, where higher burnout
respondents describe themselves as subordinate to the client and report
experiencing a sense of defeat and inferiority when dealing with the client. Lower
burnout employees, on the other hand, describe themselves as superior to and more
knowledgeable than the client.
They perceive themselves as the experts and
experience a high degree of self-efficacy when engaging with the client.
These
findings confirm the results of research conducted by Buunk et al. (2007) which
concluded that being placed in an unwanted and subordinate position would result in
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a number of social stresses such as powerlessness, shame, a loss of status and
feelings of inferiority.
7.2.3.3 Descriptions of the self in relation to the client
Spearman correlation analysis of the relationship between perceived difference
between the client and client service employee on the set of adjectives and burnout
yielded an interesting and noteworthy finding in the context of the present research.
According to the data, levels of reduced personal accomplishment appear lower in
cases where the client service employee perceives a greater difference between
themselves
and
the
client
on
the
active−passive;
powerful−powerless;
considerate−inconsiderate; understanding−not understanding and patient−impatient
adjective pairs. The only adjective pair where a larger perceived difference between
the client and the respondent resulted in increased levels of burnout total and
reduced personal accomplishment was the weak−strong continuum. This suggests
that a differentiation between the client service employee and the client role identity
in certain aspects is necessary to increase experienced personal accomplishment.
7.2.3.4 Role-related expectations
Role identities encompass a set of role-related expectations that guide role-related
behaviour (Hogg et al., 1995). These role-related expectations are derived from the
identity standard of the role identity, and are therefore personal role-related
expectations held by the individual.
Data from the interviews suggest that the role-related expectations of higher burnout
employees differ from the role-related expectations of lower burnout employees. In
the case of higher burnout respondents, the subordinated role identity appears to
carry specific behavioural expectations that are different from the expectations
contained within the role identities of lower burnout respondents.
It appears as
though higher burnout employees internalise the organisational expectation that they
assist the client no matter what. This is evidenced by the fact that higher burnout
employees will often go above and beyond the call of duty to assist the client. In
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many instances, higher burnout employees will break company policy and procedure
in order to address the client’s demands. While lower burnout employees also aim to
provide excellent client service, they are able to distance themselves from the client
service role, and do not display evidence of breaking with company policy or
procedure.
According to Singh (2000) and Chung and Schneider (2002) client
service employees suffer considerable stress because they are often expected to
satisfy both the client and their employers. This results in considerable role conflict,
characterised by incompatibility between the various expectations associated with a
single role, as the needs of the client may clash with company policy and procedure.
This role conflict was evident among the higher burnout employees that participated
in the interviews. While they are in most instances prepared to break company policy
in order to assist the client, they are also very aware that they could be punished by
the employing organisation for doing so. Lower burnout respondents do not appear to
display such role conflict. Many were able to distance themselves from the role, and
were able to report an unreasonable client to management or co-workers.
Qualitative demands such as role conflict have been linked to burnout on numerous
occasions (Low et al., 2001; Maslach et al., 2001: Singh et al., 1994) and the present
study is no exception.
Because lower burnout respondents describe themselves as superior to and more
knowledgeable than the client, they expect co-operation and respect from the client.
This expectation seems to have facilitated the development of a partnership with the
client among the lower burnout respondents.
By referring to the client service
relationship as a partnership, lower burnout respondents create a culture of
reciprocity between themselves and the client. This sense of reciprocity appears to
inhibit the development of burnout amongst these respondents in that it implies that
the client carry some responsibility for the outcome of the service relationship. This
finding is congruent with research by Truchot and Deregard (2001) and Bakker et al.
(2000) which suggests that perceived reciprocity in the client/service provider
relationship is a significant buffer against the development of burnout.
The findings of the research clearly suggest that the role identities of respondents on
the higher end of the burnout spectrum differ from the role identities of respondents
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on the lower end of the burnout spectrum.
Levels of burnout are significantly
associated with both client and self in role descriptions on a number of the bipolar
adjective pairs, suggesting that role identity and burnout are related.
7.2.4 Research Question 4: To what extent do the role-related behaviours and
subjective perceptions of higher burnout employees differ from the rolerelated behaviours and subjective perceptions of lower burnout
employees?
Research question four investigates the extent to which the role-related behaviours
and subjective perceptions of higher burnout respondents differ from the role-related
behaviours and perceptions of lower burnout respondents and is answered with
reference to the qualitative research only. While it is acknowledged that subjective
perceptions and role-related behaviours are conceptually distinct, it is necessary to
incorporate them into the same research question.
As will be shown in the
paragraphs below, role-related perceptions and behaviours are closely related,
rendering it difficult to discuss them separately.
Data from the qualitative phase of the research suggest that the role-related
behaviours of higher burnout employees differ from the role-related behaviours of
lower burnout employees.
While both higher and lower burnout client service
employees engage in emotional labour, higher burnout employees do so to a far
greater extent than their lower burnout counterparts.
Lower burnout employees
appear to engage in surface acting, where the displays of emotion are not actually
felt or internalised.
Higher burnout respondents, on the other hand, appear to
engage in both surface and deep acting, since they appear to identify with and
empathise with the client on a number of occasions. This finding seems somewhat
contradictory to previous findings by Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) who maintain
that deep acting is positively associated with feelings of personal accomplishment,
while surface acting is positively associated with emotional exhaustion and
depersonalisation.
They also maintain that deep acting is more likely when
employees receive social support from colleagues and supervisors. In the context of
the present research, it appears that deep acting may be associated with higher
burnout, and that higher burnout employees experience less social support. These
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findings should be interpreted with caution, since evidence of emotional labour in the
present sample was not measured quantitatively. The distinction between deep and
surface acting in the present research is drawn from limited qualitative observations
and interpretations drawn from these observations and are merely inferred.
According to Tracy (2005) emotional labour is regarded as less stressful to the
employee if it is viewed as part of a “strategic exchange”.
Since lower burnout
respondents included in the present research aim to establish a partnership with the
client based on mutual respect and co-operation, it could be argued that the display
of emotion is viewed as part of a strategic exchange. In such a context, the role
identity of the lower burnout respondent appears to moderate the negative
consequences of emotional labour in the service context.
Lower burnout employees are far more task and solution orientated, while higher
burnout employees are focused on establishing personal relationships with the client
and tend to take sole or personal responsibility for the client.
Lower burnout
employees are able to distance themselves from the client service role and are able
to manage and exert power over the client, while higher burnout employees tend to
empathise and identify with the clients problems.
Based on the research argument developed in Chapter 3, and previous research on
role identity that suggests that role identities carry implications for role-related
behaviours, it can be argued that the role identities of client service employees
influence their role-related behaviours. Higher burnout employees view the client as
demanding, controlling and dictatorial and describe themselves as more restricted,
passive, powerless and subordinate than the lower burnout respondents do. This
clearly suggests a lack of autonomy on the part of the client service employee and
could indicate a loss of control over the client service situation. Since job control and
autonomy are regarded as job resources that buffer the development of burnout
(Fernet et al., 2004; Maslach et al., 1996; Xanthopoulou et al., 2007), it makes sense
that higher burnout respondents report experiencing less control and autonomy.
Client service employees who feel powerless, restricted and who lack autonomy are
also likely to experience low levels of self-efficacy and reduced levels of personal
286
accomplishment (Maslach, et al., 1996; Xanthapoulou et al., 2007). This is clearly
reflected in the qualitative research where higher burnout respondents describe
feeling powerless in helping the client. Low burnout respondents, on the other hand,
displayed evidence of being able to manage the client and are often able to exert
power over the client.
It could be argued that the reason why lower burnout
respondents are more likely to feel a sense of efficacy is because they define
themselves as more knowledgeable and superior to the client.
Client service employees that describe themselves as dominated by, and subordinate
to, the client will undoubtedly feel restricted in terms of being able to assist the client.
Added to this is the fact that a number of higher burnout client service employees
report receiving little support and resources from their companies. When employees
have too much work to do with too few resources, burnout is likely to result (Bakker &
Demerouti, 2007; Demerouti et al., 2003; Maslach & Leiter, 2005; Maslach et al.,
1996). In the present research, this lack of resources appears to further contribute to
the individual’s feelings of powerlessness. It could be speculated that client service
employees compensate for this sense of powerlessness by engaging with the client
on a personal level. Since they are unable to assist the client appropriately through
other means, empathising and identifying with the client may be the only means
through which higher burnout client service employees feel able to assist the client.
Furthermore, from the qualitative data it is also clear that higher burnout respondents
expect recognition and appreciation from the client relationship. Given the fact that
they feel disempowered to assist the client, the only way they may be able to attain
this recognition is through engaging with the client on a personal level.
The finding that higher burnout client service employees tend to identify with and
personalise the client relationship runs counter to one of the central consequences of
burnout i.e. depersonalisation. This finding is, however, congruent with the results of
a study conducted by Vanheule et al. (2003) that showed that high burnout
individuals display a strong sense of personal obligation towards their clients and
often manifest feelings of powerlessness in their interactions with the client. These
individuals tend to identify closely with their clients and often feel threatened in their
exchanges with them.
Low burnout individuals, on the other hand, manage to
maintain subjective distance from the client, hold flexible expectations regarding
287
client outcomes and attribute failure to the client or context rather than their own
inadequacies.
Instead of expressing feelings of powerlessness, low burnout
individuals would resign themselves to the impossibility of difficult situations.
Instead of depersonalising the client, it could be argued that higher burnout
respondents display evidence of withdrawing from work role by placing less
importance on work and service to others. As an alternative to treating the client as
an impersonal object, higher burnout respondents appear to be cynical towards work
and the client service role by placing less importance of the notion of work and
service to others. They are also less committed and loyal to their organisations,
suggesting withdrawal from the employing organisation. This finding corresponds
with the definition that depersonalisation entails the development of cynical attitudes
towards work − characterised by withdrawal behaviours, the use of negative or
derogatory language towards people at work and the possible intellectualisation of
the work situation (Maslach & Jackson, 1986; Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998).
The reason as to why higher burnout client service employees included in the present
research do not depersonalise the client, could be explained through reference to
their role-related expectations. As already indicated, the role identities of high
burnout employees entail a perceived obligation that they help the client no matter
what. Because they perceive a lack of autonomy, control and resources, they may
feel unable to act in accordance with the identity standard.
When an individual
experiences an incongruence between the expectations contained in the identity
standard (in this case helping the client at all costs) and the outcome of a situation,
they tend to modify their role-related behaviours in order to ensure that future
behavioural outcomes are congruent with role-related expectations (Stets & Burke,
2003). By taking personal responsibility for the client, identifying and empathising
with the client, higher burnout employees may be exercising the only option that they
feel is available to them to assist the client and hence live up to their role-related
expectations. In such an instance, depersonalising the client relationship would not
be an option.
Data from the interviews indicates that lower burnout respondents tend to work in
teams and experience a large degree of support from co-workers. Higher burnout
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respondents did not display evidence of this, and instead report taking personal or
exclusive responsibility for the client. The fact that higher burnout employees take
sole responsibility for the client appears to be partly a function of their work context,
since they do report a lack of support, resources and understanding from
management.
Unclear institutional goals, a lack of leadership and social support
and social isolation has been shown to contribute to the development of burnout
(Albar-Marin & Garcia-Ramirez, 2005; Cherniss, 1980; Van der Doef & Maes, 1999).
Furthermore, Leiter and Maslach (1988) report that good co-worker relationships and
contact with one’s supervisor are significant buffers to the development of burnout.
Results from the Spearman correlation analysis of the relationship between burnout
and satisfaction with supervisory relationships supports this finding that higher levels
of emotional exhaustion are associated with less satisfactory co-worker and
supervisory relationships. It can therefore be argued that in the context of the present
study, lack of social support from both supervisors and co-workers contributes to the
development of burnout among client service employees.
Probably one of the primary differences between higher and lower burnout
respondents is the fact that lower burnout respondents partner with the client. Higher
burnout respondents report inequitable relationships with the client assert that the
client exerts considerable control over the client service interaction. Lower burnout
respondents, on the other hand, report partnering with the client through a mutual
exchange of respect, co-operation and information.
Although lower burnout
respondents define themselves as experts and more knowledgeable than the client,
they realise that they need assistance and co-operation from the client in order to
fulfil their service obligations.
They therefore seek a partnership with the client,
whereby both the client and the client service employee or company derive some
benefit from the relationship while working towards a common goal. In accordance
with research by Bakker et al. (2000) and Truchot and Deregard (2001) it can
therefore be concluded that the establishment of a reciprocal partnership between
client service employee and client may inhibit the development of burnout.
It appears from the interviews that higher burnout respondents experience a reduced
sense of efficacy and control over the client service situation and describe feeling
powerless in helping the client. These feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness
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are also evident from the quantitative research. When asked to describe themselves
on the set of contrasting adjective pairs, respondents with higher levels of burnout
total describe themselves as less understanding and less patient than respondents
that score lower on burnout total do. Respondents that score higher on reduced
personal accomplishment, tend to describe themselves as less helpful, less
considerate, meaner, less understanding and more passive than respondents that
score lower on reduced personal accomplishment do.
Furthermore, scores on
emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation tend to be higher in respondents that
describe themselves as less patient and less understanding than those that regard
themselves as more understanding and patient.
These sentiments correspond with
the sense of defeat and reduced personal accomplishment observed among the
higher burnout interview respondents during the interviews. Because higher burnout
employees engage with the client on a personal level and internalise and identify with
the client’s problems, they also display a large degree of guilt that they are unable to
assist the client to the level they would like to.
The findings of this study show that the role-related behaviours and subjective
perceptions of higher burnout employees differ from the role-related behaviour and
subjective perceptions of lower burnout employees.
Higher burnout employees
engage in both deep acting and surface acting, while lower burnout employees
appear to engage only in surface acting. Lower burnout employees are more task
and solution orientated than their higher burnout colleagues and experience a large
degree of social support from both colleagues and supervisors. They demand cooperation from the client, and in so doing, establish a partnership with the client.
Higher burnout employees appear to identify and empathise with the client and
experience little social support from colleagues or management. They also report a
lack of resources to do their work, and consequently feel powerless in being able to
assist the client.
Instead of depersonalising the client in order to cope, higher
burnout employees appear to become more cynical towards work and organisation.
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7.2.5 Research Question 5: Are lower burnout respondents able to self-verify
more easily than higher burnout respondents?
As suggested by the discussions in the preceding sections, the role identities of client
service employees appear to carry implications for role-related behaviours and
subjective perceptions.
These role-related perceptions and behaviours in turn
appear to either facilitate or inhibit the development of burnout. A further way in
which role identities could contribute to the development of burnout is through the
process of self verification. According to Burke (1991) individuals attempt to act in
accordance with the expectations contained within the identity standard of the role
identity. When the individual is able to act in accordance with these behavioural
expectations self verification occurs, resulting in feelings of esteem and personal
mastery (Cast & Burke, 2002). Failure to match role-related outcomes with these
expectations results in failed self-verification, which according to the research
argument presented in Chapter 3, could contribute to the development of burnout.
The role of failed expectations in the development of burnout has been frequently
documented (Brill, 1984; Cherniss, 1980; Freudenberger & Richelson, 1980: 13;
Hyvonen et al., 2009). Data from the present study found a significant, albeit low,
negative correlation between number of years working in a client service
environment/number of years working in total and reduced personal accomplishment.
This appears to support the fact that burnout is expectationally mediated. Individuals
that have been employed for longer apparently have more realistic expectations,
rendering self-verification easier and inhibiting the development of burnout.
Results from the Spearman correlation analysis of the relationship between burnout
and descriptions of the self in role confirm that feelings of reduced self-efficacy are
related to burnout.
Higher levels of reduced personal accomplishment are
significantly associated with feeling less patient, less considerate and less helpful in
the service situation. Higher burnout respondents also tend to feel less appreciated
than their lower burnout colleagues. Furthermore, the quantitative data displayed a
significant moderate negative relationship between the statement: “I feel I live up to
the expectations of my clients” and burnout total and personal accomplishment. This
illustrates that lower burnout employees are more likely to experience a sense of self291
verification and personal accomplishment in their roles than higher burnout
respondents are. A significant negative relationship was also found between the
statement: “I have built effective relationships with my clients” and burnout total,
reduced personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion/depersonalisation.
The qualitative data presented in the Chapter 5 indicate that lower burnout
respondents experience a large degree of self-verification, while higher burnout
respondent experience a sense of defeat and feel guilt for not helping the client.
Higher burnout respondents also report feeling humiliated by the companies for
which they work and, coupled with a sense of defeat, experience little selfverification. According to the existential perspective, the cause of burnout lies in
people’s desire to believe that their lives are meaningful and that the things they do
are significant (Pines, 2002).
While the higher burnout respondents continue to
remain committed to the client, they do display evidence of withdrawing from work.
They cite work and service to others as less important than their lower burnout
colleagues do, and display less committed and satisfied relationships with the
organisation, their colleagues and supervisors. The existential perspective of burnout
corresponds closely to Freudenberger and Richelson’s (1980) definition of burnout
that maintains that burnout is a “state of fatigue of frustration brought about by
devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected
reward”. In the case of the higher burnout respondents, they expect to be able to
help the client no matter what and expect to derive a sense of personal gratification
through client service work. Their subordinate role identities and a lack of support
from the companies for which they work makes the attainment of these expectations
difficult.
This ultimately results in a sense of defeat, unworthiness and failure.
According to Cherniss (1993) when people do not feel successful, they may chose to
psychologically withdraw from work, resulting in depersonalisation and/or cynicism.
The findings of the present research appear consistent with the observation made by
Hallsten (1993: 99) that burnout occurs when the enactment of an active, selfdefinition role is threatened with no alternative role at hand. According to Hallsten
(1993) individuals strive to create a positive sense of self through role enactment.
Role enactment therefore maintains a positive role identity if it is successful in
verifying the identity standard. If the individual is unable to self-verify, the feelings of
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powerlessness and low self-esteem experienced by the higher burnout interview
respondents occur.
Results from the qualitative data clearly show that higher burnout client service
employees feel subordinate to the client. They lack control over and autonomy within
the client service situation and therefore feel powerless and less able to assist the
client when compared with lower burnout respondents
By virtue of their role
identities, higher burnout client service employees feel constrained in terms of their
behavioural resources and options.
They experience little support from their
companies and therefore feel particularly restricted and powerless in terms of being
able to meet the expectations of both the client and the organisation for which they
work. Role identities in organisational settings are often differentiated by status and
power (Stets & Tshushima, 2001: 286). Individuals with high status are less likely
than low status individuals to experience self-verification due to the fact that they
have fewer resources at their disposal to confirm their self views. In situations such
as these, client service employees may find it difficult to self-verify and suffer the
associated negative emotions.
7.2.6 Research Question 6: Do higher burnout employees experience,
interpret and internalise the organisational client discourse differently
when compared with lower burnout client service employees?
The differential role of organisational client discourse in the construction of the client
service role identity between higher burnout and lower burnout respondents did not
emerge as clearly from the qualitative data as anticipated. While a large section of
the interview schedule was devoted to eliciting descriptions of the client service ethic
of the organisation, few discernable differences could be detected between higher
burnout employees and lower burnout employees. Both higher and lower burnout
respondents described their organisations as having a professional client service
ethic aimed at delivering excellent client service. Individual interpretations of the
client ethic therefore had to be distilled from other sections of the interviews.
The role of organisational client discourse in shaping a subordinate role identity was
clearly evident in the case of the higher burnout respondents from Company F.
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Unfortunately, no interviews could be conducted with lower burnout respondents from
this company. As a result, it is not possible to ascertain whether the organisational
client discourse would have been differently interpreted and internalised by lower
burnout respondents from Company F.
From the qualitative data it is clear that
higher burnout respondents from Company F feel humiliated by company
management if they fail to deliver excellent client service. Respondents from the
company report being treated like children as a result of having to perform company
rituals like putting up a flag before being excused to visit the restroom and having a
“floatie” placed above their heads if they performed poorly. These organisational
rituals or practices are all part of an organisational discourse that could have
contributed to the subordinate role identity amongst client service employees at
Company F.
Respondents from Company F frequently remarked that they are fearful of the
sanctions or punishments that could be imposed upon them if they do not provide
excellent client service or if they make a mistake while assisting the client. According
to Alvesson and Willmott (2004) one of the most prominent ways through which
organisations shape the identities of their employees is through various forms of
control. In the context of the present research, such mechanisms of control could
inform a subordinate client service identity by suggesting to employees that they are
inferior to the client.
Such a discourse of sanctions may also suggest to the
employee that the client be assisted no matter what. This could ironically be what
propels the client service employee to break company policy and procedure.
Higher burnout respondents from all three service organisations report that their
companies demand excellent client service, and that any compromise in terms of
service delivery is not an option. In the case of both Company T and Company F,
higher burnout respondents often reported breaking with company policy in order to
deliver on excellent client service.
It could be concluded that the discourse as
interpreted by higher burnout respondents of these companies suggests that they
place the client’s needs above company policy.
Higher burnout respondents from Company M often reported that their managers do
not understand what it is like being a client service employee. They feel that the
294
organisation does not identify with them, and as a result, they feel misunderstood
and unsupported. This may suggest that these client service employees experience
a disparity between their experiences and the client discourse of the organisation.
This could potentially result in alienation and ultimately withdrawal from the company.
It is clear from the interviews that employees from the same organisation differ with
regard to the extent to which they draw on the organisational client discourse and
construct their identities. The enactment of a specific role identity is an individual
activity, and different client service employees within the same organisation may
interpret and internalise the expectation contained in the organisational client
discourse differently. This would also explain why client service employees belonging
to the same organisation, and who are therefore exposed to the same client service
discourse, adopt distinctly different client service role identities. Some similarities in
the way higher burnout respondents construct identities in response to the client
organisational discourse could however, be detected. A number of higher burnout
respondents reported that their companies did not provide them with any support
when dealing with the client. Lower burnout respondents from Company T, on the
other hand, reported that their companies provide them with a platform whereby they
are able to lodge complaints against unreasonable clients. By allowing the employee
this vehicle for self-expression, Company T is validating the feelings and opinions of
its employees. This validation may inform a sense of worthiness amongst these
employees, allowing them to experience self-efficacy and self-verification. Vanheule
et al. (2003: 333) refer to such a mechanism as a “mediating third party” and maintain
that such mechanisms facilitate the creation of a subjective distance between the
service employee and the client.
Although the present research found limited evidence of the role that organisational
client discourse plays in the construction of the client service role identity, the
literature pertaining to organisational discourse clearly shows how organisational
discourse can influence the construction of role identity. From the data presented in
this dissertation, it is clear that the role identities of higher burnout respondents differ
from the role identities of lower burnout respondents. As a result, higher burnout
respondents engage in different role-related behaviours when compared with lower
burnout respondents.
These role-related behaviours carry implications for the
295
development of burnout and the individual’s propensity to self-verify. Despite the
inconclusive nature of the findings pertaining to the relationship between
organisational discourse and role identity, one could argue that organisations that
make a conscious effort to define the client service ethic around the principles of
partnership with the client, may be able to influence the role identities of their
employees in such a way that the employees are able to manage their client service
relationships better.
7.3
INTEGRATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
The two diagrams below reflect the research argument developed in Chapter 3 as
applied to the qualitative and quantitative results of the study. Figure 19 refers to
high burnout respondents, while Figure 20 refers to lower burnout respondents.
296
Role identity
Perceived role identity of client
(counter-identity):
ƒ Controlling
ƒ Abusive
ƒ Client is boss
ƒ Unreasonable expectations
ƒ Powerful
ƒ Disrespectful
ƒ Impatient/inflexible
ƒ Inconsiderate
ƒ
ƒ
ƒ
ƒ
Self role identity (client service
employee):
ƒ Subordinate to client
ƒ Weak
ƒ Restricted
ƒ Passive
ƒ Powerless
ƒ Unappreciated
Identity Standard: Role-related expectations
Assist client no matter what
Expect appreciation from client
Expect sense of self-verification in helping someone
Management demands excellent client service
Identity Process/
Self-verification
Meaning Content
Role-related behaviour:
ƒ Engages in emotional
labour
ƒ Personalises client
relationship
ƒ Address client feeling
ƒ Build client up
ƒ Take sole responsibility
for the client
ƒ Build relationship with
client
Role-related attitudes:
ƒ Powerless against the
client
ƒ Sense of defeat
ƒ Little autonomy and
control
ƒ Cynical towards work
and service to others
ƒ Less loyal and
committed to employing
organisation
ƒ Less considerate,
patient, helpful
ƒ
ƒ
ƒ
ƒ
Feel powerless in
helping the client
Experiences little
self-verification
Feel guilty for not
helping the client
Company humiliates
us if we don’t do well
Figure 19: Role identity among higher burnout employees
The role identities of higher burnout respondents can be defined by the way they
describe themselves and the client and by the role-related expectations contained in
the identity standard. According to Figure 19, higher burnout respondents describe
297
the client as controlling, abusive, powerful and disrespectful. They perceive the client
as being domineering and having unrealistic expectations.
Higher burnout
employees perceive themselves as weak, passive, powerless, unappreciated,
restricted and subordinate to the client. As a result, the role-related expectations
contained in the identity standard of higher burnout employees include placing the
clients’ needs first and helping the client no matter what.
As mentioned, the
expectations contained in the identity standard carry important implications for rolerelated behaviours and attitudes, which, according to the theory presented in the
literature review, can contribute to the development of burnout. From a behavioural
perspective, the expectation to help the client no matter what results in higher
burnout employees going against company policy in order to assist the client. This
results in considerable role conflict as they try to reconcile the needs of the client with
the expectations of the company for which they work. The expectation that they help
the client no matter what also results in higher burnout respondents taking sole
responsibility for the client and personalising the client relationship. This results in
considerable role overload and emotional exhaustion, as higher burnout respondents
identify closely with the problems of their clients.
The role identities of higher burnout employees also result in role-related attitudes
that pre-dispose them to the development of burnout. Because they view themselves
as subordinate to and powerless against the client, they experience a lack of
autonomy within and control over the client service situation. This contributes to
reduced efficacy and diminished levels of personal accomplishment. Added to this is
the fact that higher burnout respondents report receiving very little support from their
companies, further contributing to these feelings of powerlessness.
It appears that higher burnout employees try to compensate for these feelings of
powerlessness by empathising and engaging with the client on a personal level. This
behaviour, coupled with the fact that higher burnout employees display a strong
sense of personal obligation to the client, further contributes to emotional exhaustion
among higher burnout client service employees.
It is also clear from the research that because of these feelings of powerlessness and
subordination, higher burnout employees feel unable to live up to their expectations
298
of helping the client no matter what. As a result, higher burnout employees report
little self verification within their roles and experience feelings of guilt, humiliation and
cynicism.
299
Role identity
Perceived role identity of client
(counter-identity):
ƒ Demanding
ƒ Appreciative
ƒ Positive feelings towards the client
ƒ Trusting
ƒ Respecting
ƒ Important
ƒ Respected
Self role identity
(client service employee):
ƒ Superior to client
ƒ More knowledgeable than client
ƒ Appreciated
ƒ Respected expert
Identity Standard: Role-related expectations
Expect to partner with the client
Expect respect and co-operation from the client
ƒ Must give excellent client service
ƒ Must keep client happy
ƒ
Identity process/
Self-verification
Meaning content
Role-related
behaviour:
ƒ Able to manage
the client
ƒ Solution/Task
orientated
ƒ Does not take sole
responsibility for
client
ƒ Don’t take role
personally
ƒ Able to distance
oneself from client
ƒ Engages in
emotional labour
ƒ Teamwork
Role-related attitudes:
ƒ Has sense of
autonomy
ƒ Efficacy
ƒ Feel supported
ƒ
ƒ
Experiences a sense of
personal accomplishment
Enhanced esteem
Figure 20: Role identity among lower burnout employees
The role identities of lower burnout employees are characterised by their role-related
expectations and the way they describe themselves and the client. As indicated by
300
Figure 20, while lower burnout employees describe their clients as demanding, they
generally perceive their clients as appreciative, respecting and trusting.
They
describe themselves as knowledgeable experts and often report feeling superior to
the client. While they expect to provide excellent client service, they demand respect
and cooperation from the client and aim to establish a partnership with the client
characterised by a sense of reciprocity.
Because lower burnout respondents perceive themselves as knowledgeable experts
in partnership with the client, they do not personalise the client relationship. Instead,
lower burnout employees engage in task and solution orientated behaviour and are
able to manage client expectations and behaviour. This provides them with a sense
of autonomy within and control over the client relationship, engendering feelings of
accomplishment and efficacy. They also describe receiving considerable support
from colleagues when dealing with the client and consequently feel empowered
within the client relationship.
Furthermore, the identity standards of lower burnout employees are not unrealistic or
unreasonable. While they aim to partner with the client, they are able to distance
themselves from the client and the client service role. By using this autonomy, power
and control to meet realistic expectations, lower burnout employees are able to selfverify more easily than higher burnout employees.
7.4
CONTRIBUTION OF THE RESEARCH
7.4.1 Academic contributions
The present research makes a number of significant contributions to the broader field
of organisational behaviour and the study of burnout in client service settings in
particular.
The research introduces the concept of role identity as an important
variable to consider in the development of burnout. By employing role identity as a
construct, the research was able to link self descriptions, definitions of the counter
role and role-related expectations within the client service context to the development
of burnout. As was shown, these facets of the client service role identity are derived
from organisational discourse and can therefore be managed and transformed
301
through this discourse. As a result, the study provides organisational theorists and
practitioners with a further point of intervention with which to reduce burnout in client
service settings.
Previous research focusing on the relationship between social,
professional and occupational identification and burnout has not managed to
operationalise the identity construct in such a way that it can be used to inhibit the
development of burnout.
The study has also developed a conceptual framework, derived from both qualitative
and quantitative findings, that shows how role identity can contribute to role-related
attitudes and behaviours that could lead to or inhibit the development of burnout.
The study is therefore not merely descriptive in nature, but provides a tentative
explanatory framework linking burnout and role identity and exploring the
mechanisms by virtue of which this relationship exists. To summarise, the present
study showed that:
1. The kind of service organisation to which the employee belongs is significantly
associated with the development of burnout.
2. A number of demographic and biographic variables are associated with the
development of burnout. These include length of employment, educational
level and population group.
3. The role identities of higher burnout client service employees differ from the
role identities of lower burnout client service employees.
4. The role identities of client service employees carry implications for rolerelated attitudes and behaviours, which could ultimately lead to the
development of burnout.
5. The role identities of client service employees carry implications for the
individual’s propensity to self-verify.
6. Failure to self-verify contributes to the development of burnout.
7. The role identities of client service employees are in part, informed by the
client discourse of the organisation.
The majority of studies utilising the MBI−HSS have done so within the context of
human service workers who provide care or service of a personal nature to a
recipient. The present study contributes to the field of burnout literature by illustrating
302
that the MBI−HSS can be used outside of the human services setting albeit with
minor modifications.
Most studies into the antecedents of burnout have focused on situational or
organisational variables. In addition to such research, the present study’s focus on
the relationship between role identity and burnout illustrates the role of subjective
identity perceptions in the development of burnout. Furthermore, with its focus on the
implications of role identity for the development of burnout, the present research
introduces a social interactionist/sociological perspective to our understanding of
burnout.
This perspective deepens our understanding of the role of subjective
perceptions in the development of burnout, and the role that organisational discourse
can play in shaping these perceptions.
The present study also makes a methodological contribution to burnout research.
Most burnout research has been quantitative in nature, focusing largely on the causal
relationships between variables. This study expands on this tradition by adding a
qualitative component to the quantitative component. In so doing, the study is not
merely descriptive in nature, but offers a tentative explanatory framework, linking role
identity to the development of burnout.
7.4.2 Contributions for client service organisations
The findings of the present study have practical significance for client service
organisations that wish to positively influence the role identities of their employees.
As was shown, the manner in which client service employees perceive themselves in
the client service role holds implications for the development of burnout among these
employees. If they feel powerless and weak in relation to the client, burnout is likely
to result. If, however, they feel like knowledgeable experts exercising control and
autonomy within the client service role, burnout is likely to be inhibited. If client
service organisations wish to reduce the detrimental effects of burnout in the
workplace, they need to pay careful attention to the way their client service
employees perceive themselves in relation to the client. By linking the construction of
the client service identity to organisational client discourse, a unique point of
303
intervention for organisations wishing to reframe organisational identities is provided.
By being aware of the organisational factors that shape the client service role identity
and understanding how and why certain role identities may predispose the employee
to burnout, organisational management can play a role in developing organisational
discourse that facilitates the enactment of healthy role identities. Since client service
employees construct role identities in response to the dominant client discourse of
the organisation, client service companies should exercise caution as to how they
define and refer to the client/employee interaction through this discourse.
In so
doing, service organisations should pay particular attention to the role-related
expectations they communicate through this discourse; how they refer to and
represent the client; and how they refer to and engage with the service employee.
As was shown through this research, client service employees internalise role-related
expectations communicated to them through the organisational client discourse
(Grube & Piliavin, 2000; Neale & Griffin, 2006). Organisations should therefore make
a concerted effort to frame service-related expectations realistically and ensure that
they provide the employee with the resources necessary to successfully meet these
expectations. Both higher burnout and lower burnout respondents included in the
qualitative phase of the research expect to provide excellent client service. What
differentiates the higher burnout respondents from the lower burnout respondents is
the fact that higher burnout respondents endeavour to help the client no matter what.
Achieving this unrealistic expectation on the part of higher burnout employees is
thwarted by the fact that they lack the necessary control and autonomy within the
client service relationship to realise this expectation. Client service organisations
should therefore be cautious of positioning the client as the boss and should provide
employees with the necessary support and resources they need in order to
experience a sense of autonomy and control in the role.
The manner in which the service organisation defines and refers to the client service
employee is an important mechanism through which service organisations can
influence the role identities of their employees. As was shown by the research,
higher burnout employees tend to express less loyalty to and pride in their
organisations. Employees that are not proud of where they work may internalise
feelings of inferiority and shame, resulting in subordinate role identities.
Client
304
service organisations should therefore instil pride in the organisation, by providing the
client service employee with sufficient resources and social support to do their work
effectively. Social support and resources can be cultivated by facilitating favourable
relationships with supervisors and encouraging teamwork.
In order to inhibit the formation of subordinate and inferior role identities, service
organisations must ensure that client service employees perceive their roles as being
important to the success of the organisation (Grube & Piliavin, 2000). This can be
achieved by referring to client service employees as knowledgeable experts and by
allowing them authority and control within the client service setting. Client service
organisations should also openly acknowledge the difficulties experienced by client
service employees by providing them a platform through which they are able to
openly air grievances and client-related complaints. This strategy was utilised well by
Company T, where client service employees are able to discuss grievances against
the client. This strategy appears to validate the client service employee, makes them
feel important and establishes the organisational management as an ally to the
employee.
The provision of a platform whereby client service employees are able to share their
grievances and concerns also facilitates the creation of a social distance between the
employee and the client. According to Mills and Moshavi (1999), the establishment
of social distance between the employee and the client is the most appropriate way
for client service professionals to maintain a degree of authority within the client
service setting.
Employee−client relationships characterised by psychological
attachment, where service providers attempt to create a warm and comfortable
relationship with their clients, tend to elevate the authority of the client and undermine
the status of the client service employee.
Higher burnout employees included in the present study reported taking sole
responsibility for the client without support or assistance from co-workers and
management.
Organisations should instead facilitate a culture of support where
client service employees work in teams and can rely on each other for assistance.
The facilitation of social support in the client service setting is also positively related
305
to deep acting, which, according to research by Brotheridge and Lee (2002) is less
emotionally exhausting for the employee.
Through the implementation of these recommendations, client service organisations
will create an empowered workforce. This should result in lower levels of burnout,
and consequently, increased productivity and improved client relations.
7.5
LIMITATIONS OF THE PRESENT RESEARCH
As in other burnout research, the present study is also affected by causal limitations.
Since both role identity and burnout are subjective experiences, it is difficult to
ascertain from the research whether the role identities measured are in fact
antecedents to burnout, or whether they are consequences of burnout. It has been
well documented that burnout results in negative attitudes towards one’s work,
colleagues and clients.
The negative attitudes of higher burnout respondents
measured through both the quantitative and qualitative phase of the research may
therefore be a consequence of burnout.
From the qualitative research it can,
however, be concluded that the negative attitudes embedded within the role identities
of higher burnout respondents inform specific role-related behaviours.
These
behaviours appear to contribute to the development of burnout. It could therefore be
argued that insight into causality can be inferred from the qualitative research. This
inference is, however, explorative and further confirmatory research is needed to
establish the direction of causality by virtue of which a relationship between burnout
and role identity exists.
A further limitation of the present research is the low to moderate burnout scores.
Only one respondent reflected a burnout score that could be classified as high. This
may have been due to the fact that respondents were required to put their names on
the questionnaires, and as a result, responded more moderately than they would
have had the questionnaire been anonymous.
These low to moderate burnout
scores could have contributed to the fact that a large proportion of the adjective pairs
displayed low or no correlation with burnout total and its subscales. Because burnout
scores where used to differentiate between respondents and role identities
306
subsequently deduced from this differentiation, the differences in role identities
between respondents classified as lower and higher burnout may have been clearer
had burnout scores been more differentiated.
Descriptions of the client on the set of bipolar adjectives also showed fewer
correlations with burnout than anticipated – given the explanation that role identity is
constituted in part from comparisons of the self with the counter-role. Descriptions of
the self along the set of bipolar adjectives displayed a number of significant
correlations, but the majority of these correlations remained relatively low. The fewer
than anticipated correlations between burnout and the adjective pairs could be
explained with reference to the instrumentation used to measure role identity
quantitatively and the subsequent analysis procedures. The Burke-Tully technique
(1977) requires that respondents representing the counter-identity be included in the
sample so that appropriate discriminant analysis can be performed. The present
research deviated from this method and only included client service employees.
Discriminant analysis could therefore not be performed and use was instead made of
correlation analysis. While the adjective pairs used in the questionnaire were derived
from interviews with client service employees, it may have been difficult for
respondents to adequately differentiate between the meanings of each of the two
pairs.
This could have resulted in an arbitrary classification of the self and the
counter-role according to the adjective pairs.
A further limitation to the present research is the relatively small quantitative sample
size.
This rendered certain robust statistical modelling methodologies to detect
significant differences in the relationships between variables (such as structural
equation modelling) impossible. Furthermore, while every effort was made to obtain
a heterogeneous and representative sample, 76 percent of respondents in the
research sample are white and 57 percent are from Company T. The relationships
observed in the present research may therefore be influenced by the fact that the
sample is relatively homogenous in terms of population group and not representative
of the South African sample. This would render generalisability of the results to all
client service employees in South Africa problematic.
307
A further limitation with regards to the generalisability of the finding is related to the
fact that no respondents from Company F were included in the lower burnout sample
for interviews. It is therefore not possible to compare the qualitative responses of
higher burnout respondents from Company F with the qualitative responses of lower
burnout respondents from Company F.
Although three different client service organisations representing three distinct
service industries participated in the research, caution should be exercised when
generalising the findings of the present research to a broader range of service
sectors. The service workers included in the sample cannot be described as human
service professionals, since they do not engage with the personal problems of clients
in the same manner in which doctors, nurses and psychologists do. Service work
conducted by these professions is arguably more emotionally demanding than the
work conducted by the respondents in the present sample, and while the present
research did uncover aspects related to emotion work, professions involved in more
emotionally demanding service encounters may display different role identity
characteristics.
7.6
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
Despite these limitations, the study attests to the importance of role identity as a
construct to consider in the development of burnout. Since the concept of role identity
is a relatively new concept in the field of organisational behaviour, the research
presented is largely exploratory. While the explanatory conceptual framework linking
role identity to the development of burnout is supported by both the qualitative and
quantitative findings of the study, it remains explorative.
Further confirmatory
research is therefore needed to establish causality and directional links between the
burnout components and role identity. For instance, the conceptual model developed
through this research suggests that role identities carry implications for role-related
behaviours and subjective perceptions.
While this relationship is theoretically
supported by the literature and the qualitative findings of the present study, further
quantitative research is needed to establish the strength of this relationship, and
whether extraneous variables have the potential to influence the nature of this
308
relationship. Furthermore, the conceptual model presented here also suggests that
the subjective perceptions and role-related behaviours that are derived from the client
service role identity have the potential to either facilitate or inhibit the development of
burnout. Again, while this relationship is supported by the literature on burnout and
the qualitative findings of this study, quantitative research is needed to establish the
nature of this relationship. It would also prove useful to determine which of the
burnout components are related to the various role-related behaviours and
perceptions.
While the present research established that the role identities of higher burnout
employees differ from the role identities of lower burnout employees, further research
is needed to quantify the nature of this difference. This could be achieved by clearly
operationalising the role identity construct for application in the field of organisational
behaviour and within the client service setting. The Burke-Tully (1977) measure of
role identity used in the present research is cumbersome to administer and
responses to the adjective pairs are often open to interpretation. Further research
could therefore be greatly enhanced with the development of a role identity measure
that treats role identity as a single construct that can be used in multi-variate
analysis.
Further research is also needed to differentiate between the construct of role identity
and other constructs utilised within the field of organisational behaviour. The concept
of work ethic, for instance, may be related to role identity, and further research will be
needed to untangle the conceptual underpinnings of each of these terms.
While it has been theorised that client service employees will create role identities
based on the dominant client discourse of the organisation, it cannot be concluded
that role identities are merely a function of organisational client discourse. Individuals
occupy a number of role identities which they enact at different times and in different
contexts. Role identities are therefore complex phenomena, which could also be
influenced by a number of biographical and lifestyle factors. Further research into the
relationship between role identity and burnout should therefore be explored within the
context of demographic/biographic and lifestyle variables.
In the context of the
present study, a number of these variables displayed significant relationships with
309
burnout. It is not clear from the present study whether and how these variables
interact with role identity.
It is therefore suggested that further research explore
these interactions.
The manner in which the organisation refers to and defines the client through its
organisational discourse informs the role-related expectations of the client service
employee.
These role-related expectations become the identity standard against
which the individual will judge his or her role-related behaviours.
Organisations
therefore have immense power in framing the role identities of their members.
Further research is needed to determine how client service employees interpret and
internalise these discourses. This could be done through the use of experimental
research designs, where different types of client service discourse are introduced to
different research samples to determine the impact on role-related behaviour and
subjective perception. This will enable the development of recommendations to
organisational management as to how best to frame and communicate the client
discourse to engage and empower their employees. Since the construction of a
client service role identity is related to organisational discourse, further insights into
the manner in which organisational discourse informs role identity could be exposed
by limiting the sample to respondents representative of a single service industry.
The present research uncovered a couple of interesting findings regarding the
relationship between role identity, emotional labour and burnout. Since evidence of
emotional labour was only measured qualitatively, and the distinction between deep
and surface acting made based on limited qualitative observations, further research
is needed to explore these relationships in greater detail. Questions that could guide
such research would include whether or not role identity mediates the relationship
between emotional labour and burnout, or whether role identity influences the
manner in which employees deal with the emotional demands of their work.
7.7
IN CONCLUSION
The present research has shown how the role identities of client service employees
are associated with the development of burnout. By influencing the enactment of
role-related
behaviours
and
informing
role-related
attitudes
and
subjective
310
perceptions, the client service role identity can either facilitate or inhibit the
development of burnout.
Since role identities also incorporate role-related
expectations, they carry implications for the self-verification of the client service
employee. As was shown through this research, the potential to self-verify greatly
reduces the development of burnout.
It is therefore hoped that the present research has provided researchers and
practitioners in the field of organisational behaviour with a further point of intervention
when addressing burnout in client service settings.
As the global service sector
grows, competition amongst service firms is likely to increase. This will undoubtedly
result in greater service expectations amongst the public at large.
Du Gay and
Salaman’s (1992: 622) remark that clients have become the “moral centre of the
enterprising universe” is likely to gain in relevance, as client service employees are
placed under greater pressure by their service organisations. This trend is likely to
result in increasing levels of burnout in the industry as a whole.
It is therefore
important that organisations acknowledge the role of role identity in the development
of burnout and actively implement interventions aimed at creating empowered client
service identities.
While it is acknowledged that burnout is a complex phenomenon that must be
addressed on numerous fronts, service organisations and managers can greatly
reduce the levels of experienced burnout by creating an organisation client discourse
that positions the client service employee as an empowered partner in the service
relationship. Such a discourse is likely to result in realistic expectations regarding the
service relationship and lead to the formation of client service role identities that
enable the employee to stimulate the formation of role identities that result in
rewarding client service relationships.
311
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APPENDIX A: LETTER OF REQUEST
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3438
To:
RE: STUDY ON ROLE IDENTITY AND BURNOUT AMONGST CLIENT SERVICE
EMPLOYEES
I am conducting research on the relationship between role identity and burnout
amongst client service employees and hereby request permission to use (insert
organisation name) as a site for the research. The research forms part of a PhD in
Organisational Behaviour at the University of Pretoria and will be conducted in an
ethically sound and responsible manner. The purpose of the research, benefits of
participation and methodology will be outlined in the paragraphs that follow.
Purpose of the research
Burnout syndrome, characterised by feelings of reduced personal accomplishment,
emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation of both clients and co-workers, can
prove detrimental to both the individual employee and the organisation. Burnout has
been linked to symptoms such as anxiety, depression and diminished levels of self
esteem, and withdrawal behaviours such as turnover intention, absenteeism, reduced
organisational commitment and a decrease in job performance. Previous research
on burnout in client service organisations suggests that the client-employee
relationship remains a critical contributing variable to burnout amongst client service
employees.
342
The proposed study will therefore investigate the relationship between role identity
and burnout amongst client service employees through the use of a pen and paper
based survey conducted amongst client service employees and semi-structured
interviews with approximately five selected employees1.
What are the benefits to the organisation?
The results of both the survey questionnaire and the semi-structured interviews will
be made available to (insert organisation name) at an aggregated level. A burnout
score
indicating
the
level
of
burnout
(emotional
exhaustion,
feelings
of
depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment) will form part of the data
produced by the survey. Since high levels of burnout can have a detrimental impact
on employee job satisfaction and performance and consequently result in high
turnover intention, absenteeism and reduced organisational commitment, an
indication of current burnout levels amongst employees will enable (insert
organisation name) to react appropriately should burnout levels be high. By
combining the data from the survey and the interviews, the research will provide an
excellent indication of
a) how employees perceive themselves in relation to the client and
b) whether there is a relationship between this perception and burnout
The identity of (insert organisation name) and its employees will remain confidential
throughout the dissertation and any future publications that derive there from.
I hereby ask permission to conduct the above-mentioned research at (insert
organisation name). As outlined in Appendix A, the research would require that:
ƒ
approximately two randomly selected client service employees participate in a
voluntary interview of approximately 10 minutes each
1
For a more detailed explanation of the methodology, please refer to Appendix A attached.
343
ƒ
all client service employees within (insert organisation name) be asked to
complete a pen and paper based survey that should take no longer than
fifteen minutes to complete
ƒ
approximately five client service employees be invited to participate in a fortyfive minute semi-structured interview.
In order to fulfil the objectives outlined above, I would need to have access to the
names, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of all client service employees.
Access to general company documents such as vision, mission, strategic plans and
general job descriptions would also prove helpful.
Please advise as to whether you would regard the above arrangements as feasible.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at the numbers listed below should you require
any additional information regarding the above.
I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your kind consideration of my
request.
Kind Regards
Carly Steyn (Researcher)
083 543 5794
[email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (Study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
344
Appendix
Research Methodology
In order to address the objectives of the study, use will be made of a pen and paper
based
survey
and
approximately
five
semi-structured
interviews.
Prior
to
implementation of the survey, two short interviews of approximately ten minutes each
will be conducted with a random sample of two employees.
The aim of these
interviews will be to elicit a number of adjective pairs describing the nature of client
service employee and client. These adjectives pairs will be used as items in the
questionnaire.
The survey will consist of two sections measuring role identity and burnout and
should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete. All questions included in the
survey questionnaire are derived from validated and established instruments.
Survey respondents will be asked to provide their names when completing the
questionnaire and informed that they may be contacted by the researcher and invited
to partake in a follow-up interview. Despite this loss of anonymity to the researcher,
confidentiality of responses will be guaranteed and respondents will be assured that
only the researcher will be able to link their names to their responses. Anonymity
and confidentiality of participant towards the employer will be guaranteed. Employees
will be reminded that participation in both the survey and the interview is completely
voluntary.
Following administration of the questionnaire, approximately five employees will be
selected for participation in semi-structured interviews of approximately 45 minutes
each.
Potential participants will receive an invitation to participate and it will be
stressed that participation is voluntary. Participants will also be informed that the
researcher will treat all information gathered during the course of the interview as
confidential and that their names will in no way be linked to their responses.
All respondents (survey and interview) will be requested to sign informed consent
forms protecting their rights are participants in the research.
345
In order to avoid response bias, respondents will not be informed that the research is
concerned with measuring “burnout”. Respondents will instead be informed that the
research aims to elicit feedback regarding perceptions of and attitudes towards the
client and client relationships.
346
APPENDIX B: LETTER OF INTRODUCTION, QUESTIONNAIRE AND CONSENT
FORM
DEPARTEMENT
MENSLIKE
HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3574
Q#
Dear respondent
I, Carly Steyn, am conducting a study on the role identity of client service employees
and their perceptions of the client service relationship. The research forms part of a
doctoral thesis in Organisational Behaviour at the University of Pretoria. The study is
supported by the senior management of TNS Research Surveys and your
participation would be greatly valued.
Purpose of the survey
This survey forms a component of the research and seeks to elicit responses from
client service employees regarding perceptions of and attitudes towards their clients
and client service in general.
All research executives, account managers and
business managers within (insert company name) have been posted a copy of the
questionnaire.
Your participation
Although completion of the survey is completely voluntary, your participation in this
research will make a huge contribution to the success of the study. It is intended that
the results of the research contribute towards our understanding of the pressures and
challenges facing client service employees and I would thus like to encourage you to
participate.
Confidentiality of participation and responses
The questionnaire will take no longer than twenty minutes to complete and your
participation and responses to each of the questions will be completely confidential
and will be strictly used for research purposes. You will be asked to complete your
name on the questionnaire, and the researcher may contact you via e-mail to
participate in a follow-up interview lasting approximately 45 minutes. Your name will
therefore only be used for the purpose of follow-up by the researcher, and only the
researcher will be able to link your name to your questionnaire. Your name and your
specific responses will always be treated as confidential and will under no
circumstances be divulged to any other source, especially your employer.
347
Participation in the follow up interview is completely voluntary, and you may decide to
withdraw from the research at any stage without any adverse consequences.
Should you have any questions, concerns or queries relating to the research, please
feel free to contact the researcher, Carly Steyn, or her study leader, Dr. Mias de
Klerk, at the contact details below.
Carly Steyn (researcher)
Tel: 083 543 5794
E-mail: [email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
If you are willing to participate in the study and complete the survey questionnaire on
role identity and client service, please complete the attached consent form, and post
it, together with your completed questionnaire, back to the researcher no later than 8
December 2008.
You merely need to place your completed questionnaire and
consent form in the self-addressed pre-paid envelope provided and post it back to
the researcher, Carly Steyn.
Thank you for your time and effort in participating in this study. Your contribution is
greatly appreciated.
348
INFORMED CONSENT FORM
By signing the consent form you are entering into a consent agreement between
yourself and the researcher.
This agreement protects your rights as a person
participating in the research.
1) I hereby consent to take part in a research study by participating in a
questionnaire on perceptions of the client service role.
2) I further state that I am aware that participation is voluntary and that I may
withdraw at any time without any adverse consequences.
3) I understand that my name and my specific responses will always be treated
as confidential and will under no circumstances be divulged to any other
source, especially my employer.
4) I understand that the data gathered will be confidential and that in the event of
publication of this research, no personally identifying information will be
disclosed.
_______________________
Signature of participant
__________________________
Date
349
ROLE IDENTITY AND CLIENT SERVICE QUESTIONNAIRE
Q#
The purpose of this questionnaire is to measure how client service employees feel
about their work and their day to day interactions with their clients. For the purposes
of this survey, client service employees, like yourself, are defined as people that
interact with the client and provide a service to a client or a client organisation on a
regular basis. The questionnaire is derived from validated and established
measurement instruments and consists of three sections. The first section covers
your perceptions of the client and the client service role. The second section covers
your perceptions of client interaction in your company, while the last section covers
selected biographical and work related information. There are no right and wrong
answers to any of the questions. I am purely interested in your personal attitudes
and perceptions of client service and client relationships.
Please read and follow all instructions carefully.
PLEASE ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS
SECTION 1: Perceptions of the client and the client service role
Each scale on the next page is composed of a pair of adjectives separated by a
series of horizontal lines. Each pair has been chosen to represent two kinds of
contrasting states. Each one of us and our clients belong somewhere along the line
between the two extremes. For instance, since most of us are neither the most
competitive nor the least competitive person we know, we may put a cross mark on
the line between the two extremes.
Example:
Competitive ___
___
___
_X_
___
___
___
Uncompetitive
If, for instance, you regard yourself as a highly competitive person, you may place
your cross (X) on one of the lines closer to the word “competitive.”
Competitive ___
_X_
___
___
___
___
___
Uncompetitive
If you regard yourself as uncompetitive, you may place your cross on one of the lines
closer to the word “uncompetitive.”
Competitive ___
___
___
___
___
_X_
___
Uncompetitive
350
Now, please read each pair of adjectives below and place a cross (x) on the blank
space that comes closest to your first impression feeling as to where client service
employees in general usually fit in. Please note that you are not being asked to
describe yourself in this section, but rather where you believe client service
employees (employees that provide a service to a client) in general fit in. Please
make sure that your cross falls on the line and not in the spaces between the lines.
There are no right or wrong answers.
Usually, client service employees are…
V1
Powerful
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Powerless
V2
Submissive ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Domineering
V3
Helpful
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unhelpful
V4
Appreciated ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unappreciated
V5
Considerate ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Inconsiderate
V6
Weak
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Strong
V7
Nice
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Mean
V8
Aggressive
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Defensive
V9
Restricted
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unrestricted
V10
Understanding___ ___
___
___
___
___
___
Not understanding
V11
Superior
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Inferior
V12
Active
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Passive
V13
Respected
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Not respected
V14
Flexible
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Rigid
V15
Important
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unimportant
V16
Patient
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Impatient
V17
Leading
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Following
351
Now, place a cross (x) on the blank space between each of the adjective pairs below
that comes closest to your first impression feeling as to how you personally
experience your clients. Please ensure that your cross falls on the line and not in
the spaces between the lines.
In my experience, my clients are usually…
V18
Powerful
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Powerless
V19
Submissive ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Domineering
V20
Helpful
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unhelpful
V21
Appreciated ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unappreciated
V22
Considerate ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Inconsiderate
V23
Weak
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Strong
V24
Nice
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Mean
V25
Aggressive
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Defensive
V26
Restricted
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unrestricted
V27
Understanding___ ___
___
___
___
___
___
Not understanding
V28
Superior
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Inferior
V29
Active
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Passive
V30
Respected
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Not respected
V31
Flexible
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Rigid
V32
Important
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unimportant
V33
Patient
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Impatient
V34
Leading
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Following
352
Now, based on your own personal experience as a client service employee, place
a mark on the blank space between each of the adjective pairs below that comes
closest to your first impression feeling as to how you feel as a client service
employee. Again, please ensure that your cross (X) falls on the line and not in the
spaces between the lines.
As a client service employee, I usually am
V35
Powerful
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Powerless
V36
Submissive ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Domineering
V37
Helpful
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unhelpful
V38
Appreciated ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unappreciated
V39
Considerate ___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Inconsiderate
V40
Weak
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Strong
V41
Nice
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Mean
V42
Aggressive
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Defensive
V43
Restricted
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unrestricted
V44
Understanding___ ___
___
___
___
___
___
Not understanding
V45
Superior
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Inferior
V46
Active
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Passive
V47
Respected
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Not respected
V48
Flexible
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Rigid
V49
Important
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Unimportant
V50
Patient
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Impatient
V51
Leading
___
___
___
___
___
___
___
Following
353
SECTION 2: CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS AND INTERACTION
People have different experiences when working with and interacting with clients.
The statements listed below reflect a number of feelings that could be associated
with the client service role. Please indicate on the scale provided, how often, if at all,
you experience the particular feeling. Indicate your response by circling the
appropriate category.
Never
A few
times a
year
Once a
month
A few
times a
month
Once a
week
A few
times a
week
Every
day
V52. I feel emotionally drained
from my work
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V53. I feel used up at the end of
the workday
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V56. I feel I treat some clients as if
they were impersonal objects
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V57. Working with clients all day is
really a strain for me
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V58. I deal very effectively with the
0
problems of my clients
1
2
3
4
5
6
V59. I feel burned out from my
work
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V60. I feel I am positively
influencing my clients through my
work
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V61. I’ve become more callous
towards people since I took this
job
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V62. I worry that this job is
hardening me emotionally
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V63. I feel very energetic
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V54. I feel fatigued when I get up
in the morning and have to face
another workday
V55. I can easily understand how
my clients feel about things
354
Never
A few
times a
year
Once a
month
A few
times a
month
Once a
week
A few
times a
week
Every
day
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V65. I feel I’m working too hard on
my job
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V66. I don’t really care what
happens to some clients
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V67. Working with clients directly
puts too much stress on me
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V68. I can easily create a relaxed
atmosphere with my clients
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V69. I feel exhilarated after
working closely with my clients
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V70. I have accomplished many
worthwhile things in this job
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V71. I feel like I am at the end of
my rope
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V72. In my work, I deal with my
client’s problems very calmly
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V73. I feel my clients blame me for
some of their problems
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
V64. I feel frustrated by my job
Please indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with the statements listed
below:
Strongly
Agree
Agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Disagree
Strongly
disagree
1
2
3
4
5
1
2
3
4
5
V76. I am willing to put in a great deal of
effort to assist my clients
1
2
3
4
5
1
2
3
4
5
1
2
3
4
5
V74. My clients are understanding
V75. I feel that I live up to the
expectations of my clients
V77. I have power over my clients
V78. I have built effective relationships
with my clients
355
Section 3: Biographical and work-related information
The last couple of questions make reference to biographical, lifestyle and work
related information and will be used purely for statistical purposes.
Name: _____________________________
E-mail: _____________________________
Telephone number: ___________________
(please note that only the researcher will be able to link your name to your
responses. Your name is purely needed so that the researcher can contact you
should you be selected to participate in a follow up interview).
V79. Position in organisation: ______________________________
V80. Department: _______________________________________
V81. Region: ___________________________________________
V82. Age (in years): _______
V83. Gender:
Tick the appropriate response
Male
Female
Please
tick
1
2
V84. Are you currently:
Tick the appropriate response
Married
Unmarried but cohabiting with a partner
Divorced
Separated
Widowed
Single
Please
tick
1
2
3
4
5
6
356
V85. Qualifications (mark highest level attained):
Tick the highest level attained only
Secondary/high school
Std. 10 or equivalent
Post school certificate/diploma
National diploma/national higher diploma
Bachelors degree or equivalent
Honours degree or equivalent
Masters degree or equivalent
Doctoral degree or equivalent
Please
tick
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
V86. How long have you been working for this (your current) employer/organisation?
Years: ______; Months: ______
V87. How long have you been working in a client service environment?
Years: ______; Months: ______
V88. How long have you been working in total i.e., since you left school/university?
Years: ______; Months: ______
V89. How many hours do you on average work per week?:
________
V90. How many hours do you officially have to work per week?: ______
For each of the following, indicate how important or unimportant it is in your life by
circling the appropriate response. Would you say it is:
Very important Rather
important
V91. Family
1
2
Neither
important nor
unimportant
3
V92. Friends
1
2
3
4
5
V93. Religion
1
2
3
4
5
V94. Work
1
2
3
4
5
V95. Service
to others
1
2
3
4
5
Not very
important
Not at all
important
4
5
357
For each of the following, please indicate (by circling the appropriate response)
how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with:
Not satisfied Not Satisfied Somewhat
at all
satisfied
Very
satisfied
Extremely
satisfied
Not
applicable
V96. Relationships with
your co-workers
1
2
3
4
5
6
V97. Relationships with
your supervisors
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
6
V98. Relationships with
your subordinates (if
applicable)
V99. Relationships with
your clients
Please indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with the following
statements about your job by circling the appropriate response:
Strongly
Agree
Agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Disagree
Strongly
disagree
V100. I am willing to work hard to make
this organisation successful
1
2
3
4
5
V101. I tell friends this is a great
organisation to work for
1
2
3
4
5
V102. I feel very little loyalty towards this
organisation
1
2
3
4
5
V103. I am proud to tell others that I
work for this organisation
1
2
3
4
5
V104. Deciding to work for this
organisation was a mistake
1
2
3
4
5
V105. Population group (for statistical purposes only)
Tick the appropriate response
Black
White
Coloured
Indian
Asian
Please
tick
1
2
3
4
5
358
Thank you! Your survey is now complete. Please return the survey to the
researcher, Carly Steyn, by placing the questionnaire along with your signed
consent form in the self-addressed, pre-paid envelope provided, sealing it and
posting it. Please note that the survey form goes directly to the researcher’s
post box, and that only the researcher has access to your questionnaire.
Thank you for your time and effort in completing the questionnaire. Should
you wish to receive feedback regarding the results of the study, please tick the
box provided.
□ Yes, I would like to receive feedback on the results of the study. Please send
feedback to:
Name _________________________
Address_________________________________________________
□ No, I do not wish to receive feedback on the results of the study
359
APPENDIX C: MBI–HSS CHANGED ITEMS
Client
service
employee Maslach Burnout Inventory HSS
survey
V46. I feel emotionally drained I feel emotionally drained from my work
from my work
Motivation for change
No change
V47. I feel used up at the end
of the workday
I feel used up at the end of the workday
No Change
V48. I feel fatigued when I get
up in the morning and have to
face another workday
V49. I can easily understand
how my clients feel about
things
I feel fatigued when I get up in the
morning and have to face another day
on the job
I can easily understand how my
recipients feel about things
No Change
V50. I feel I treat some clients
as if they were impersonal
objects
V51. Working with people all
day is really a strain for me
V52. I deal very effectively with
the problems of my clients
I feel I treat some recipients as if they
were impersonal objects
Replaced “recipients” with
“clients”
Working with people all day is really a
strain for me
I deal very effectively with the problems
of my recipients
No change
V53. I feel burned out from my
work
I feel burned out from my work
No change
V54. I feel I am positively
influencing my clients through
my work
I feel I am positively influencing other
people’s lives through my work
V55. I’ve become more callous
towards people since I took this
job
V56. I worry that this job is
hardening me emotionally
I’ve become more callous towards
people since I took this job
Replaced “other people’s lives”
with “my clients” in order to
focus the attention of the
respondent on the client and
not colleagues or co-workers
No change
I worry that this job is hardening me
emotionally
No change
V57. I feel very energetic
V58. I feel frustrated by my job
I feel very energetic
I feel frustrated by my job
No change
No change
V61. Working with clients
directly puts too much stress
on me
Working with people directly puts too
much stress on me
V62. I can easily create a
relaxed atmosphere with my
clients
V63. I feel exhilarated after
working closely with my clients
V64. I have accomplished
many worthwhile things in this
job
I can easily create a relaxed
atmosphere with my recipients
Replaced “people” with
“clients” in order to focus the
respondent’s attention on the
client and not on colleagues
or co-workers
Replaced “recipients” with
“clients”
I feel exhilarated after working closely
with my recipients
I have accomplished many worthwhile
things in this job
Replaced “recipients” with
“clients”
Replaced “recipients” with
“clients”
Replaced “recipients” with
“clients”
No change
360
Client service employee
survey
V66. In my work, I deal with my
client’s problems very calmly
Maslach Burnout Inventory HSS
Motivation for change
In my work, I deal with emotional
problems very calmly
V67. I feel my clients blame me
for some of their problems
I feel recipients blame me for some of
their problems
Replaced “emotional problems”
with “my client’s problems”.
Because of the nature of
service work conducted by
employees in the sample, the
word “emotional” was deemed
inappropriate.
Replaced “recipients” with
“clients”
361
APPENDIX D: ADJECTIVE INTERVIEW INVITATION LETTER
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3438
Dear
My name is Carly Steyn and I am conducting a research study on the role identity of
client service employees and their perceptions of the client service relationship in
[insert organisation name]. The research forms part of a doctoral thesis in
Organisational Behaviour at the University of Pretoria. The study is supported by the
senior management of [insert organisation name].
In order to address the objectives of the research, use will be made of an electronic,
web-based survey and semi-structured interviews. Prior to the implementation of the
survey, however, a couple of ten minute telephonic interviews with a randomly
selected sample of client service employees will be conducted. The purpose of these
interviews is to elicit perceptions of the nature of the client-service relationship in
[insert organisation name] so that an appropriate and relevant questionnaire can be
constructed.
Your name has been randomly selected as a possible participant in this ten minute
interview.
Although participation in this interview is completely voluntary, your
participation in this research will make a huge contribution to the success of the study
and I would thus like to encourage you to participate. It is intended that the research
contribute to our understanding of the issues and challenges facing the client service
role. During the interview, you will be asked to describe your role as a client service
employee in [insert organisation name] and asked to comment briefly on your daily
362
interactions with the client and your perceptions thereof. Your name and your specific
responses will always be treated as confidential and will under no circumstances be
divulged to any other source, especially your employer.
The researcher will contact you telephonically in a couple of days time to find out
whether you would be willing to participate in the interview.
The researcher will then
set up a date and time most convenient to you. Please note that participation in this
interview will exclude you from further participation in the electronic web-based
survey.
Your time and effort in participating in this research is greatly appreciated.
Kind Regards
Carly Steyn (researcher)
Tel: 083 543 5794
E-mail: [email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
363
APPENDIX E: ADJECTIVE INTERVIEW INFORMED CONSENT
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3438
Dear (INSERT RESPONDENT NAME)
Thank you for your willingness to participate in a ten minute telephonic interview.
The information derived from the interview will be used to construct a survey
questionnaire on role identity and client service interactions that will be administered
amongst client service employees in [insert organisation name].
The interview will take no longer than ten minutes and the information you provide
during the interview will be kept confidential and will only be used for research
purposes.
In the event of publication of this research, no personally identifying
information will be disclosed.
Your participation in this interview is completely voluntary, and you may withdraw
from the interview at any time without any adverse consequences.
Participation in this interview will exclude you from further participation further
components of the research.
You are kindly requested to complete the informed consent form enclosed herein and
return it to the researcher using the self-addressed envelope provided.
Should you have any questions, queries or comments regarding this interview, you
may contact the researcher, Carly Steyn, or her study leader, Dr. Mias de Klerk, at
the contact numbers below.
364
Thank you for your time and effort in participating in this research.
Kind regards
Carly Steyn (Researcher)
Tel: 083 543 5794
E-Mail: [email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (Study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
365
INFORMED CONSENT FORM
By signing the consent form you are entering into a consent agreement between
yourself and the researcher.
This agreement protects your rights as a person
participating in the research.
5) I hereby consent to take part in research study by participating in a ten minute
telephonic interview
6) I further state that I am aware that participation is voluntary and that I may
withdraw at any time without any adverse consequences.
7) I understand that the data gathered will be confidential and that in the event of
publication of this research, no personally identifying information will be
disclosed
_______________________
Signature of participant
__________________________
Date
366
INFORMED CONSENT FORM (PARTICIPANTS COPY)
By signing the consent form you are entering into a consent agreement between
yourself and the researcher.
This agreement protects your rights as a person
participating in the research.
8) I hereby consent to take part in research study by participating in a ten minute
telephonic interview
9) I further state that I am aware that participation is voluntary and that I may
withdraw at any time without any adverse consequences.
10) I understand that the data gathered will be confidential and that in the event of
publication of this research, no personally identifying information will be
disclosed
_______________________
Signature of participant
__________________________
Date
367
APPENDIX F: ADJECTIVE PAIR INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
Adjective pairs generation interview schedule
Duration: 10 Minutes
Organisation name:______________________________________
Date:__________________________________________________
Time:__________________________________________________
Hello, my name is Carly, and as I explained in my e-mail to you, I am conducting
research on the role identities of client service employees. The research forms part
of a PhD study at the University of Pretoria and is supported by the senior
management of [insert organisation name].
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this ten minute interview and for completing
the informed consent form. The purpose of this short interview is to gain insight into
the nature of client service work in [insert organisation name] so that an appropriate
and relevant questionnaire can be constructed and disseminated to your colleagues.
Your participation in this research is completely voluntary and you may withdraw from
the interview at any time. Your participation in this interview will be treated as
confidential, as will your responses to all of the questions. Participation in this
interview will, however, exclude you from further participation in any further
components of the research. Are you happy to continue?
I am now going to ask you a couple of questions about your work as a client service
employee in [insert organisation name]. By client service employee I mean an
employee that interacts with clients on a regular and consistent basis.
1. Could you describe your day to day activities in your current position as they
relate to client service?
2. As a client service employee within [insert organisation name], what is your
primary role in relation to the client?
368
3. How would you describe the relationships you have built and maintained with
your clients up to now?
4. What words would you use to describe your clients? Probe for motivation.
5. What do you like most about being a client service employee? Probe for
motivation
6. What do you like least about being a client service employee? Probe for
motivation
369
7. What characteristics would you say make you successful at what you do?
Probe for motivation.
370
APPENDIX G: SURVEY NOTIFICATION LETTER
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3438
Dear respondent
My name is Carly Steyn and I am conducting a research study on the role identity of
client service employees and their perceptions of the client service relationship in
[insert organisation name]. The research is supported by the senior management of
[insert organisation name and forms part of a doctoral thesis in Organisational
Behaviour at the University of Pretoria.
In a few days time, all client service employees in [insert division/department name]
will be mailed survey to complete. The survey forms a component of the research
and seeks to elicit responses from client service employees regarding perceptions of
and attitudes towards their clients and client service in general.
Although completion of the survey is completely voluntary, your participation in this
research will make a huge contribution to the success of the study. It is intended that
the study contribute to our understanding of the issues and challenges facing the
client service role and I would thus like to encourage you to participate.
Should you have any questions, concerns or queries relating to the research, please
feel free to contact the researcher, Carly Steyn, or my study leader, Dr. Mias de Klerk
at the numbers below.
Kind Regards
Carly Steyn (researcher)
Tel: 083 543 5794
E-mail: [email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
371
APPENDIX H: FIRST REMINDER
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3574
Dear Participant
You should have recently received a letter and questionnaire relating to client service
role identity. As explained in the letter attached to the questionnaire, you have been
selected to take part in a research study measuring the role identity of client service
employees and related perceptions.
This e-mail is a further request to you to complete the questionnaire and return it to
(insert name) by the 8th December 2008. If you did not receive the previous letter
and questionnaire or have any questions relating to the study, please contact us at
the numbers listed below.
Carly Steyn (Researcher)
083 543 5794
[email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (Study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
The success of this study is entirely dependent on your participation. Please assist
us by completing the questionnaire. If you have already completed the questionnaire
and returned it, we wish to thank you for your participation.
Kind Regards
Carly Steyn (Researcher)
372
APPENDIX I: SECOND REMINDER
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3574
Dear Participant
You should have recently received a letter and questionnaire relating to client service
role identity. As explained in the letter attached to the questionnaire, you have been
selected to take part in a research study measuring the role identity of client service
employees and related perceptions.
This e-mail is a further request to you to complete the questionnaire and return it to
(insert name) by the 8th December 2008. If you did not receive the previous letter
and questionnaire or have any questions relating to the study, please contact us at
the numbers listed below.
Carly Steyn (Researcher)
083 543 5794
[email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (Study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
The success of this study is entirely dependent on your participation. Please assist
us by completing the questionnaire. If you have already completed the questionnaire
and returned it, we wish to thank you for your participation.
373
APPENDIX J: FINAL REMINDER
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3574
Please ignore this e-mail if you have already completed the questionnaire on
client service role identity.
Dear Participant
In November of last year you were sent a questionnaire measuring your perceptions
of the client service role. The response to this questionnaire is, however, still too low
for scientific purposes. If you have not had time to complete the questionnaire, we
are requesting you to please do so, if at all possible. The questionnaire can be
returned to the researcher, Carly Steyn, before the 19th January 2009 using the prepaid self-addressed envelope provided.
We would very much like to obtain a representative sample since the information
gathered by this survey will be valuable to both client service employees and their
organisations.
If you have discarded or misplaced the questionnaire and return envelope, please
contact Carly Steyn ([email protected] or [email protected]), who will send
you a new questionnaire.
Please assist us by completing the questionnaire. The success of the study depends
entirely on the number of responses attained.
Yours truly
Carly Steyn (researcher)
Tel: 083 543 5794
E-mail: [email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
374
APPENDIX K: INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
Semi-structured interview schedule
Respondent ID
Date
Location
Start time
______________________
______________________
______________________
______________________
Hello, my name is Carly, and I am the researcher on the project. Thank you for
agreeing to participate in the interview. As was mentioned in the consent form
that you just signed, all the information you share with me today will be kept
completely confidential and anonymous. The interview is being tape recorded
purely for purposes of transcription, and once the interview has been transcribed,
the tapes will be destroyed. No personally identifiable information will be
contained in the transcriptions, so no one will be able to link this interview to you
personally. During the interview, I will refrain from referring to you by name, so as
to ensure anonymity of the transcriptions. The interview should not take longer
that 45 minutes, and your participation is completely voluntary. You may choose
to leave the interview at any time without any adverse consequences. Your
participation is, however, greatly appreciated, since it is hoped that through the
results of the study we can gain better insights into the exact nature of client
service work and how client service employees feel about their roles. Your
perceptions, opinions and experiences as a client service employee will greatly
assist us in doing so.
During the next 45 minutes, I will be asking you questions related to your role in
the organisation, your relationships with your clients and how you feel about being
a client service employee. There are no right or wrong answers to any of the
questions, I would just like you to answer them as honestly as you can.
Would you still like to continue?
I am first going to ask you some questions about your role in the organisation,
your clients and your interactions with then.
1. How would you explain your specific role in the organisation?
a. When you say you are responsible for ….. what does that entail?
2. So what would be your specific responsibilities in terms of the client?
3. Using the pen and in front of you, could you list a couple of words or phrases
that describe what it is like to be a client service employee at (insert company
name). Probe for reasons
a. Why do you use the word….
b. Why do you say ……
c. Could you explain what you mean by ….
375
4. Tell me about your clients. What are they like?
a. How would you describe the relationships that you have built with your
clients?
5. In your opinion, what would the perfect client be like? Probe for reasons
a. Why would that make the perfect client?
6. To what extent do your clients resemble the perfect client?
I am now going to ask you some questions about the client ethic, or culture of the
organisation, and the expectations that management have of you when dealing with
the client.
1. All client service organisations (those that provide a service to the client) have
a specific service culture or ethic that sets them apart from other service
organisations in the same industry. The service culture or service ethic
generally includes the service values and norms that the organisation seeks to
uphold when dealing with the client. The service culture or ethic can also be
described as the image the organisation wants to portray to clients about the
service it provides. How would you describe the service culture or ethic at
(insert company name)?
a. Why do you say the company has a service culture of ….
b. How is this culture communicated to you
2. What are the implications of this kind of service culture for you as a client
service employee? Probe for reasons
a. Why do you say that?
3. What expectations do you think management of (insert company name) has of
your when dealing with the client?
a. How are these expectations communicated to you?
b. What are your feelings of these expectations?
4. Are you always able to meet these expectations? If not, probe for reasons as
to why? If not, ask whether anything could be done about it?
a. In what instances are you not able to meet these expectations?
b. Can you provide me with an example or describe a specific incident of
when you were not able to meet these specific expectations?
c. How did that make you feel?
d. What was management’s reaction to this? What was the client’s
reaction to this?
e. Do you think the majority of client service employees are able to meet
these expectations?
376
5. How do you know whether or not you are meeting the expectations of
management?
6. Do you feel these expectations are fair?
7. What kinds of people do you think management looks for when recruiting and
selecting client service employees like yourself?
a. Why do you think they look for people that are ……
8. Do you feel that you fit the profile?
9. If you were to advise management on the kind of people they should employ
as client service employees in (insert company name), what would you tell
them?
a. Why would you say that they should employ people that are like…..
I am now going to ask you some questions about how you feel about your role as a
client service employee at (insert company name)
1. Could you describe some of the primary challenges you face as a client
service employee? Probe in terms of how these challenges make the
employee feel? And whether they have managed to do anything about the
challenges?
a. Could you describe a specific instance or situations when you found
that challenging
b. How did it make you feel?
c. What did you do about it?
d. What did management do about the situation?
2. What do you like best about being a client service employee at (insert
organisation name)?
a. Why do you like that best?
3. What do you like least about being a client service employee at (insert
organisation name)?
a. Why do you like that least?
b. How does it make you feel?
4. Is there anything you would like to change about your job?
a. Why would you like to change that
5. Do you intend staying with (insert organisation name) or would you eventually
like to move on to another organisation? If respondent wishes to leave ask:
377
a. Do you think you would like to stay in client service?
b. Why would you like to move from this organisation?
Thank you. That concludes the interview. I really appreciate your honesty and the
time that you have devoted to discuss these issues with me. Is there anything from
your side that you would like to say or ask?
Close time:
378
APPENDIX L: INTERVIEW INVITATION LETTER
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3438
Dear [INSERT PARTICIPANT NAME]
Thank you so much for taking the time to complete the role identity and client service
questionnaire. Your response is greatly appreciated.
You have been selected to participate in a follow up interview during which you will
be asked to share your experiences and opinions regarding your role as a client
service employee. The interview forms part of a PhD research project at the
University of Pretoria.
Your participation in this interview would be of great value. Although participation in
the interview is completely voluntary, your participation in this research will make a
huge contribution. It is intended that the research contributes to our understanding of
the challenges and issues facing the client service role and I would thus like to
encourage you to participate. Participation is completely voluntary, and you will be
free to leave the interview at any time. The information you provide during the
interview will be kept confidential and will only be used for research purposes. In the
event of publication of the research, no personally identifying information will be
disclosed.
I will contact you telephonically in a couple of days to find out whether you would be
willing to participate.
Thank you for your time and effort in participating in this research.
Kind regards
Carly Steyn
379
APPENDIX M: INTERVIEW INFORMED CONSENT
DEPARTEMENT MENSLIKE HULPBRONBESTUUR
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Tel.: 012-420-3074
Fax: 012-420-3438
Dear Participant
Thank you for your willingness to participate in an interview on role identity and client
service. The purpose of this interview is to gather information on your experiences
as a client service employee and on your day to day interactions with the client.
The interview will take no longer than 45 minutes and the information you provide
during the interview will be kept confidential and will only be used for research
purposes. In the event of publication of this research, no personally identifying
information will be disclosed.
Although the interview will be recorded, all recording will be destroyed as soon as
they have been transcribed. Until then, recordings will be kept under lock and key
and only the researcher will have access to them. The content of the transcriptions
will not contain any personally identifiable information and only the researcher will
have access to them.
Your participation in this interview is completely voluntary, and you may withdraw
from the research at any time without any adverse consequences.
Should you have any questions, queries or comments regarding this interview, you
may contact the researcher, Carly Steyn, or her study leader, Dr. Mias de Klerk, at
the contact numbers below.
Thank you for your time and effort in participating in this research.
Kind regards
Carly Steyn (Researcher)
Tel: 083 543 5794
E-Mail: [email protected]
Dr. Mias de Klerk (Study leader)
Tel: 011 344 2533
E-mail: [email protected]
INFORMED CONSENT FORM
380
By signing the consent form you are entering into a consent agreement between
yourself and the researcher. This agreement protects your rights as a person
participating in the research.
1) I hereby consent to take part in research study by participating in an interview
of approximately 45 minutes long
2) I further state that I am aware that participation is voluntary and that I may
withdraw at any time without any adverse consequences.
3) I understand that the data gathered will be confidential and that in the event of
publication of this research, no personally identifying information will be
disclosed
4) I understand that in order to facilitate transcription of the interview, the
interview will be tape recorded. Only the researcher will have access to the
tapes and they will be kept under lock and key until they are transcribed, after
which they will be destroyed. No personally identifying information will be
contained in the transcriptions.
_______________________
Signature of participant
__________________________
Date
381
INFORMED CONSENT FORM (PARTICIPANT COPY)
By signing the consent form you are entering into a consent agreement between
yourself and the researcher. This agreement protects your rights as a person
participating in the research.
1) I hereby consent to take part in research study by participating in an interview
of approximately 45 minutes long
2) I further state that I am aware that participation is voluntary and that I may
withdraw at any time without any adverse consequences.
3) I understand that the data gathered will be confidential and that in the event of
publication of this research, no personally identifying information will be
disclosed
4) I understand that in order to facilitate transcription of the interview, the
interview will be tape recorded. Only the researcher will have access to the
tapes and they will be kept under lock and key until they are transcribed, after
which they will be destroyed. No personally identifying information will be
contained in the transcriptions.
_______________________
Signature of participant
__________________________
Date
382
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