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Job involvement and identity

Abstract

Job involvement has been seen as influencing interrole conflict through role segmentation and time and attention devoted to the job role. This study tested both a direct and a moderated relationship using these variables.

The sample consisted of 456 employees in a major American service organization who completed paper-and-pencil instruments including the Job Involvement Questionnaire and new measures of the moderators and interrole conflict.

There was evidence of an indirect relationship between job involvement and interrole conflict. Segmentation explained more variance than time or attention devoted to roles. Though there was a direct correlation between job involvement and conflict, it was weak and had no unique variance when the moderators were included.

Job Involvement and Interrole Conflict

Because most people have multiple roles, such as parent and worker, interrole conflict is an important issue. Yet, little is known about interrole conflict and how it might be related to job characteristics such as involvement.

Interrole conflict is usually defined as the conflicts between the expectations of roles enacted by one person. However, most surveys only measure it in terms of time pressures (e.g. Kopelman, Greenhaus, & Conolly, 1983), or the interference of working hours with other roles (e.g. Hicks & Klimoski, 1981).

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of three moderating variables on the relationship between job involvement and interrole conflict.

Interrole conflict

Interrole conflict is usually defined as “incompatibility between the role expectations of different roles” (Frone & Rice, 1987, p. 46). For example, Greenhaus and Beutell (1985) defined interrole conflict as “a form of role conflict in which the sets of opposing pressures arise from participation in different roles.…when pressures arising in one role are incompatible with pressures arising in another role.” (p. 77) Sarbin and Allen (1968) wrote that interrole conflict was “due to simultaneous occupancy of two or more positions having incompatible role expectations.” (p. 540)

Causes. Using open-ended questions and an innovative measure of interrole conflict, Peters and Cantrell (1993) found that, among working women, the most common reported cause of interrole conflict was their parents’ disapproval of their life choices.

Mednick (1987) found significant correlations of interrole conflict with family affect, family worries, family conflict, age and number of children, and both job and work involvement, among insurance agents. There were negative correlations between interrole conflict and family social support, sales, and job tenure (but not age).

Crandall (1992) found that the total hours worked increased interrole conflict. O’Driscoll, Ilgen, and Hildreth (1992) found that, while time invested in job-related activities was related to interference between job demands and off-the-job life, off-job time demands were not.

Correlates. Interrole conflict has been related to lower sales income (1987); work overload (Cooke & Rousseau, 1984); stress (Barling and MacEwen, 1991); increased cognitive diffulties (Barling & MacEwen, 1991); impaired martial functioning (Barling, 1986; Blood & Wolfe, 1960); and family conflict (Wiersma & van den Berg, 1991).

Interrole conflict was also related to lower satisfaction with the job (Cooke & Rousseau, 1984; Jackson & Schuler, 1985; Jones & Butler, 1980; Pleck, Staines, & Lang, 1980; Staines & O’Connor, 1980; Wiersma and van den Berg, 1991); with the family; (Kopelman, Greenhaus, and Connolly, 1983; Pleck et al., 1980; Staines & O’Connor, 1980); and with the role of working mother (Barling & MacEwen, 1991).

Job involvement

Job involvement is defined as "psychological identification with a job" (Kanungo, 1982, p.97). This definition implies that a job-involved person sees her or his job “as an important part of his self-concept” (Lawler & Hall, 1970, p. 311), and that jobs “define one’s self-concept in a major way” (Kanungo, 1982, p. 82).

Job involvement has been clearly linked to absenteeism (e.g., Blau, 1986; Farrell & Stamm, 1988; Shore, Newton, & Thornton, 1990; Scott & McClellan, 1990), and to turnover or intent to leave (e.g., Baba & Jamal, 1991; Huselid & Day, 1991; Ingram, Lee, & Lucas, 1991; Shore, Newton, & Thornton, 1990). The most well-documented correlate of job involvement is job satisfaction (e.g., Baba & Jamal, 1991; Elloy, Everett, & Flynn, 1991; Gerpott, 1990; Mathieu & Farr, 1991; Paterson & O’Driscoll, 1990; Shore, Newton, & Thornton, 1990). A number of other attitudes and behaviors have also been linked to job involvement.

Time and attention as moderators

Frone and Rice (1987) suggested job involvement may increase role pressures and cause people to spend more time and attention being spent on the role, causing difficulties in filling the expectations of other roles. Both would increase interrole conflict. Their research supported the idea that job involvement, by increasing time and attention devoted to the job, would increase interrole conflict for those with other demanding roles. Others have also found that job involvement was related to off-work time devoted to the job (Greenhaus, Parasuraman, Granrose, Rabinowitz, and Beutell, 1989; Wiener & Gechman, 1977); and that time devoted to the job was related to interrole conflict (Crandall, 1992).

Segmentation as a moderator

Goode (1960) and Merton (1957) wrote that people may reduce their interrole conflict by using role-segmentation, defined as “assigning each set of role-demands to different situations” (Merton, 1957, p.116) Segmentation can also be described as segregating “roles in time and space (to avoid having to choose between incompatible demands)” (Thoits, 1987, p. 12). If a person uses segmentation, roles will not seem to conflict with each other, because each role is confined to a certain situation. Role segregation (Sarbin & Allen, 1968) is a similar construct.

Job involvement is defined as a state of identification with work (Kanungo, 1982). Therefore, if one has high job involvement, the job becomes part of one’s identity. If identity crosses situational boundaries, the job role of a person with high job involvement will also cross situational boundaries. If this is the case, then job involvement reduces segmentation of the job role. Therefore, as job involvement increases, the potential for segmentation may decrease; and as segmentation decreases, interrole conflict may rise.

The assumptions of this explanation are that most people use segmentation; that no replacement for segmentation will be used; and that identifying with a role will cause it to generalize across situations.

Based on this, one may test two questions: whether job involvement is negatively related to segmentation, and whether segmentation is negatively related to interrole conflict.

Segmentation and attention devoted to the job are conceptually related. Segmentation is, essentially, the ability to pay attention to roles only when appropriate or necessary. Therefore, a further question may be asked: whether attention to the job has a unique contribution to the variance in interrole conflict when segmentation is in the equation.

A direct relationship

Job involvement may directly affect interrole conflict. Although interrole conflict may normally be avoided by withdrawing from one of the roles, high levels of job involvement might prevent withdrawal from the job role, and other roles (such as parent) may be non-negotiable. Job involvement may also be a direct factor if the question is not merely how much time there is, but who has priority over it: e.g., the job or the family. Thus, a further question is whether job involvement explains any variance in interrole conflict, after time, attention, and segmentation have been considered.

Applications

One final question is which factor contributes the most unique variance to interrole conflict. The answer has implications for those who wish to lower the amount of interrole conflict in their (or others’) lives. For example, if time contributes the most unique variance, people could reduce their conflict by cutting back on their hours or honing their time management skills. If segmentation contributes the most unique variance, people could try to separate their roles further.

Methods

Procedure and subjects

The sample was the full staff of a large service company with a number of locations across the United States. One location was a recently-acquired company, which was not yet fully integrated into the organization. In the responding sample, the average age was 39 years, the average salary was $33,000, 70% were female, 68% were married, and 56% had no children.

One survey was sent to each full-time employee via interoffice mail on July 18, 1994. They were sent with a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a letter from a high-ranking contact explaining who was doing the survey and asking that employees return it within one week.

Measures

Job involvement. Kanungo’s (1982) Job Involvement Questionnaire (JIQ) was used. It has shown an inter-item consistency ranging from .74 to .90 (Blau, 1985; Elloy, Everett, & Flynn, 1991; Kanungo, 1982; Mednick, 1987); discriminant validity against related constructs (Blau, 1985, 1987, 1989; Brooke, Russell, & Price, 1988); and convergent validity with the Lodahl and Kejner (1965) scale and pictorial and semantic-differential measures (Kanungo, 1982).

Interrole conflict. Existing measures were considered first. Holahan and Gilbert (1979) used six scales to measure the conflicts between the roles of worker, spouse, parent, and self. Sample items included “Wanting to be a ‘good’ spouse vs. being unwilling to risk taking the time from your work” and “Spending most evenings on work-related activities vs. spending most evenings with your family” (p. 87). This measure appeared to concentrate on time and attention demands; the full text was not reported; and it may have been too long for the conditions of this study.

Kopelman, Greenhaus, and Connolly’s (1983) measure was based primarily on time and work demands. The Peters and Cantrell (1993) method was too time-consuming for this application. Therefore, a new measure of interrole conflict was developed, using the definition of interrole conflict as conflicts between the expectations (not only time and attention demands) of different roles.

Development of new measures. Measures of interrole conflict, segmentation, and time and attention devoted to roles were developed together. New items were created based on the literature and existing items. Three psychology graduate students, working separately, checked the face validity of each item; items and the instructions were modified or deleted accordingly, then returned to the same students. After these students approved the items, three other students were asked to classify each item, and misclassified items were dropped. The scales were then presented to three different students for face validity checking. The measures were then given to a pilot sample of working students, then to full-time employees at several companies with under ten employees. Items with an interitem correlation of below .30 were revised or replaced. The measures were then given to the final sample, after which two items in the segmentation scale with an interitem correlation of below .30 were removed.

The format of the interrole conflict items was based on Holahan and Gilbert’s (1979) measure; some of the items were identical or similar to Holahan and Gilbert’s. Time devoted to roles was measured using items similar to those used by O’Driscoll, Ilgen, and Hildreth (1992). Attention devoted to roles was measured by asking people whether they thought about their job, parent, spouse, and various “leisure activities” roles “rarely, sometimes, often, or continuously.” (Two other sets of items were judged as being less effective by the reviewers). The scales, with inter-item correlations for each item, are in the appendix.

The attention and interrole conflict scales were only partially filled out by people who did not have children or a spouse. Therefore, for attention, missing values were recoded as the minimum (the amount of attention they were most likely to have given to roles they did not have). Otherwise, the responding sample would have consisted only of married parents. The interrole conflict scale, which used Likert-type items, was calculated as a mean of completed items.

Findings

The reliability of the measures is reported below. The scales were factor analyzed; one item from the JIQ was misclassified, and one item from the JIQ was spread across more than one factor. Otherwise, all the items from the scales were correctly classified.

Reliabilities and descriptive statistics

Variable

Items

a

n

M

s.d.

Job involvement

10 .79 456 33.5 9.1
Segmentation

6 .83 446 22.0 7.5
Interrole conflict (sum)

10 .90 259 30.5 11.7
Interrole conflict (mean)

.85 457 3.0 1.2

To check for nonlinear relationships, scatterplots were created and relationships were tested using polynomial equations. In most cases, using polynomial equations did not add to the explained variance; when it did, the increase in explained variance did not justify using nonlinear analysis.

Correlations of time and attention with interrole conflict and job involvement

Time devoted to roles (hours/week)

M

s.d.

Interrole
Conflict

Job
Involvement

Job

52.6 13.6 .20** .14**
Family

35.8 16.5 – .01 – .12*
Other

17.3 12.9 – .08 – .18**
Total

105.5 22.9 .06 – .09

Attention devoted to roles (scale from 1 to 6)

Job

4.3 1.3 .21** .47**
Parent

3.2 2.2 .16** – .01
Spouse

3.5 2.0 .08 .00
Other

3.3 1.6 .03 – .01
Total

14.1 4.9 .17** .11*
Interrole Conflict

3.0 1.2 1.00 .09*
Segmentation

22.0 7.5 – .28** – .42**
* p ≤ .05 ** p ≤ .01

This table shows the correlations between job involvement, interrole conflict, and the moderator variables. Of the time and attention items, time and attention devoted to the job had the strongest relationship with conflict. Job involvement had a small but significant direct relationship with interrole conflict. The strength of the relationship between job involvement and the moderator variables, and between the moderators and interrole conflict, was stronger.

Job involvement contributed no significant, unique variance to conflict after controlling for the effect of either time or attention devoted to the job.

The unique contributions of each moderator to conflict were tested (see Table 3). The total variance contributed by each variable, including variance explained by other variables, is described as “total R2.”

Unique variance in conflict contributed by four variables

Variable

Unique R2

Total R2

Segmentation

.04 .08
Time devoted to the job role

.02 .04
Attention to the job role

.01 .04
Job involvement

.00 .01

Discussion

This study used data from 456 workers to learn about the relationship between job involvement and interrole conflict. The basic hypotheses were (1) job involvement directly affects interrole conflict; (2) job involvement increases time and attention devoted to the job, thereby causing conflict; and (3) job involvement prevents segmentation of roles, thereby increasing conflict. The latter two hypotheses were supported.

Time and attention as moderators

Job involvement was related to time and attention given to the job role, though the relationship with time was weak.

Prior research focused on time as the primary cause of interrole conflict (e.g., Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). In this study, time devoted to the job role was related to conflict, but the relationship was slightly weaker than that of attention and conflict. The total amount of time devoted to all roles was not related to interrole conflict.

Frone and Rice (1987) wrote that the effects of time and attention demands may be higher for parents, as the parent role has high, inflexible time and attention demands. For those with children, that did not turn out to be the case —the correlation was weaker than for the general sample — but that may have been due to restriction of range.

Segmentation as a moderator

It was predicted that job involvement would prevent segmentation, because if a person identifies with their job, they must carry it with them (as part of their identity) at all times. The data supported this prediction. Because of this, there is also some support for the idea that job involvement is a matter of identity.

While segmentation may lower the conflict people feel between their roles, those who have high job involvement may not be able to use segmentation globally. If, however, people can leave incompatible job expectations at work (and retain compatible expectations), then interrole conflict might be reduced without reducing job involvement.

A direct relationship

If job involvement affects interrole conflict only by increasing time and attention given to certain roles, one would expect that job involvement would contribute no additional variance to conflict. A multiple regression showed that this was, indeed, the case. Job involvement contributed very little to the variance in interrole conflict even when no other variables were included.

Frone and Rice (1987) also wrote that role involvement may only increase conflict for those who have a role with inflexible demands (such as parent). Job involvement was not related to conflict among parents, but this may have been due to the considerably smaller sample size, or the varying ages of the children.

Predictors of conflict

The most substantial impact on conflict was made by segmentation. This implies that helping people to improve their segmenting skills may help to reduce their conflict.

Time and attention accounted for similar amounts of the variance in interrole conflict (4%) when examined separately. However, as part of an equation including all moderator variables and job involvement, time devoted to the job role accounted for 2% of the unique variance in conflict; attention to the job role accounted for only 1% of the variance. This may be due to the strong correlation of segmentation and attention to the job role (r = –.54, p ≤.001).

Of the two similar constructs, segmentation and attention, segmentation had a stronger unique impact on interrole conflict. Thus, it seems that when and where attention is given to the job role may be more important than simply how much attention is given to the job role.

Other possible moderators

All of the moderators, taken together, explained only 12% of the variance in conflict. Interrole conflict was not highly correlated with any of the variables in this study, including demographics.

The strongest determinants of conflict may be out of the range of this study. Other causes of conflict may include parental or social approval (Peters & Cantrell, 1993), family and social support, family conflict and affect (e.g. Mednick, 1987), and involvement in other than the job role (Frone & Rice, 1987).

Other Issues

Although this study used theoretical work by Frone and Rice (1987), their research was not focused on the same goals. Frone and Rice, following a paper by Greenhaus and Beutell (1985), sought to find out whether family involvement moderated the relationship between job involvement and work-family conflict. They also looked at whether within-domain (e.g., spouse and parent) and cross-domain (e.g., spouse and job) involvements had different relationships with conflict.

Conflict had a negative correlation with age. This may indicate that people learned to deal with conflict through, say, better time scheduling or delegation of roles. It may also indicate that younger people needed to participate in more roles, or to fill their roles more completely, because they could not delegate (due to their income, job level, or the nature of their roles).

Barling and MacEwen (1991) wrote that women may not place their family role aside while at work. However, there were no significant differences between men and women in either interrole conflict or role segmentation in this study; this was also true when the sample was limited to those with children.

Limitations

The sample included only workers in a single organization, raising the possibility of sampling artifacts. However, the variety of subcultures in this company’s locations was shown by variety in the scale means. The inclusion of the recently acquired division may have helped to add variety, as well. Generalization beyond North Americans in office jobs may be premature.

Some items were subject to bias; for example, if a person has strong beliefs in family, they may inflate the time they devote to family. Using other measures of time and attention paid to various roles (such as diaries), as well as behavioral scale anchors, would lower the potential for bias and errors.

The role measures examined the conflict or segmentation of role pairs. Some role pairs may have different dynamics from others, so that it is safest to generalize from this study only to job-family, job-spouse, or job-self conflict. It is possible that there are different types of segmentation, such as job-parent, spouse-parent, etc., which have different characteristics and different relationships with types of involvement and interrole conflict.

Future Research

One of the more important findings of this study is that job involvement may interfere with segmentation. This is important not only because of the issue of interrole conflict, but because it implies that job involvement is, as it is defined, identification with the job role. Generally, research and theory involving job involvement has not centered on identity, but on matters such as motivation (e.g. Kanungo, 1982), socialization (e.g. Lodahl & Kejner, 1965), and job characteristics (e.g. Hackman & Lawler, 1971). Treating job involvement as a matter of identity may help to clarify its relationship with other constructs. Some new questions arise; for example, if one relies on the job role for one’s identity, what happens to a person when their job role is taken away through layoffs or retirement?

The concept of segmentation has been largely neglected. Some questions for future research include whether segmentation is a trainable skill, and whether there are negative consequences.

The study of interrole conflict may benefit by following the lead of Peters and Cantrell (1993) in using qualitative measures to determine the causes of interrole conflict. The relationship of interrole conflict to role performance may also be explored further, with more powerful instruments.

Conclusion

This study was designed to investigate three possible moderators between job involvement and interrole conflict: segmentation and time and attention devoted to the job. While all three appear to be moderators, segmentation explained the most variance in interrole conflict. Job involvement and interrole conflict do not seem to be directly related.

Segmentation and the other coping mechanisms discussed here are fertile grounds for theory and practice. Many other ideas (such as delegation) are yet to be rediscovered and used.

While this study made a contribution to explaining causes of interrole conflict, the amount of variance in conflict explained by all the variables in this study was still relatively small. There are many opportunities for future research in this area.

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This article copyright © 1996, David Zatz. Please do not reprint without written permission. For bibliographic references, you may wish to consult the original dissertation from which this was summarized, shown as reference #41 above.


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