Loneliness in the Workplace
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Loneliness in the workplace has received relatively little attention in the literature. The research surrounding loneliness tends to focus almost exclusively on personal characteristics as the primary determinant of the experience, and largely ignores the workplace as a potential trigger of loneliness. As such, personality tends to be overestimated as the reason for loneliness, whilst only modest emphasis is given to environmental factors, such as organisational environments. Therefore, the overall aim of this thesis was to explore the notion of loneliness in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on examining the antecedents and outcomes of its development in work contexts. The first stage of the research included the development and empirical examination of a scale measuring work-related loneliness. A 16-item scale was constructed and tested for its reliability and factor structure on a sample of 514 employees from various organisations. Exploratory factor analysis indicated two factors best represent the data, namely Social Companionship and Emotional Deprivation at Work. For the main study, a theoretical model was constructed whereby various antecedents (personal characteristics, social support, job characteristics, and emotional climate) were hypothesised to influence the development of work-related loneliness, which in turn was thought to affect employee attitudes and wellbeing. Employees from various organisations were invited to participate in the online research via email, which generated 362 submissions from diverse occupational groups. Structural equation modelling techniques were used to assess the hypothesised model, which was evaluated against a number of fit criteria. The initial results provided limited support for the Loneliness at Work Model. Consequently, a number of adjustments were necessary to obtain sufficient fit. The modified model suggests that organisational climate (comprising climate of fear, community spirit at work, and organisational fit) serves to simultaneously predict the emotional deprivation factor of loneliness (made up of seven items) and employee attitude and wellbeing. The results indicate that environmental factors such as fear, lack of community spirit, and value congruence play a role in the experience of work-related loneliness and have an overall negative effect on employee withdrawal behaviours and job satisfaction. The findings from this study offer insight into possible areas for organisational intervention and future research.