When the shaking stops, the thinking starts : a grounded theory of turnover decision making in the context of a significant extra-organisational shock.
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Voluntary turnover has been the subject of scholarly inquiry for more than 100 years and much is understood about the drivers of turnover, and the decision-making processes involved. To date most models of voluntary turnover have assumed a rational and sequential decision process, initiated primarily by dissatisfaction with the job and the perceived availability of alternatives. Operating within a strong predictive research agenda, countless studies have sought to validate, extend and refine these traditional models through the addition of distal antecedents, mediators, moderators, and proximal antecedents of turnover. The net result of this research is a large body of empirical support for a somewhat modest relationship between job dissatisfaction, perceived alternatives, turnover intentions, job search behaviour and actual turnover. Far less scholarly attention has been directed at understanding shock-induced turnover that is not necessarily derived from dissatisfaction. Moreover, almost no consideration has been given to understanding how a significant and commonly experienced extra-organisational shock, such as natural disaster, might impact turnover decision making. Additionally, the dynamic and cumulative impacts of multiple shocks on turnover decision making have to date not been examined by turnover researchers.
In addressing these gaps this thesis presents a leaver-centric theory of employee turnover decision making that is grounded in the post-disaster context. Data for the study were collected from in-depth interviews with 31 leavers in four large organisations in Christchurch, New Zealand; an area that experienced a major natural disaster in the form of the Canterbury earthquake sequence. This context provided a unique setting in which to study turnover as the primary shock was followed by a series of smaller shocks, resulting in a period of sustained disruption to the pre-shock status quo. Grounded theory methods are used to develop a typology of leaving which describes four distinct patterns of turnover decision making that follow a significant extra-organisational shock. The proposed typology not only addresses the heterogeneous and complex nature of turnover decision making, but also provides a more nuanced explanation of the turnover process explicating how the choice of decision path followed is influenced by four contextual factors which emerged from the data: (1) pre-shock motivational state; (2) decision difficulty; (3) experienced shock magnitude; and (4) the availability of resources. The research findings address several shortcomings in the extant literature on employee turnover, and offer practical recommendations for managers seeking to retain employees in a post-disaster setting.