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The study investigated psychological empowerment, organizational justice and abusive
supervision as predictors of work engagement among employees in manufacturing industries.
Three hundred and thirty two workers drawn from Coscharis Beverages and Pure Water
Manufacturing Company Ltd., Lagos and Happy Home Manufacturing Company, located
at Kirikiri industrial area in Lagos participated in the study. Four instruments which include
Psychological Empowerment Scale by Spreitzer (1995), Organizational Justice Scale by Colquits
(2001), Abusive Supervision Scale by Tepper (2000), and Utrencht Work Engagement Scale by
Schaufeli & Salanova (2002) were used for the study. The data collected were analyzed with
Linear Regression analysis. The result of the study shows that psychological empowerment and
organizational justice significantly predicted work engagement R = .247, P < .05 whereas
abusive supervision did not predict work engagement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title page i
Table of contents iv
Statement of the Problem 12
Purpose of the Study 14
Operational Definition of terms 14
Literature Review 16
Theoretical Review 16
Social Exchange Theory 16
The Equity Theory 21
Motivational-Based Theory 25
The Uncertainty Management Theory 32
Empirical Review 34
Psychological Empowerment and Work Engagement 34
Abusive Supervision and Work Engagement 36
Organizational Justice and Work Engagement 38
Summary of Literature Review 40
Implications of the Study 57
Suggestions for further studies 58
Limitations of the Study 60
The goal of every modern organization is to attain its zenith and remain competitive and
relevant in a continuously changing globalized market. Work engagement is the prerequisite for
the attainment and progressive advancement of organizations. During the past decade, work
engagement has attracted much attention of researchers and practitioners. The reason why work
engagement has been regarded as important is that, it contributes to various positive work
outcome and improves organization performance (Salanova, Agut,& Peiró 2005). Indeed,
empirical studies have revealed that work engagement predicts high level of organizational
commitment, job satisfaction, and job performance (Hakanen,Bakker & Schaufeli, 2006;
Koyuncu, Burke & Fiksenbaum, 2006; Salanova, Agut,& Peiró 2005). Recently, identifying
antecedents of work engagement has drawn much attention from researchers especially from
the developed countries of Europe and North America (Bakker, 2009; Schaufeli & Salanova,
2007).Studies in this area are also needed in Africa in other to explore antecedents of
engagement in developing countries of Africa. In attempt to bridge this gap, the present study
examined psychological empowerment, abusive supervision and organizational justice as
predictors of work engagement.
Work engagement, has been theorized to have positive impact on business performance
(Harris, 2006), financial performance and organizational success (Demerouti & Bakker, 2006;
Harter, Schmidt & Hayers, 2002; Richman, 2006; Lockwood, 2007), in-role performance
(Bakker & Demerouti, 2004), willingness to do extra-role performance (Bakker & Demerouti,
2004; Schaufeli, 2006).
Several scholars have written widely on the imperative of employee engagement in
modern organizations as advanced in the management literature (Bakker, 2009; Schaufeli &
Salanova, 2007). Recently, many empirical studies have shown that work engagement has
positive relationship with organizational performance. For example, Salanova et al, (2003)
revealed that engagement has a positive effect on group task performance. Also Salanova et al,
(2005) found that engaging employees improve service climate, and then enhance customerassessed
employee performance. Salanova and Schaufeli (2008) argued that work engagement
covers the basic dimensions of intrinsic motivation, which ensures goal oriented behaviour and
persistence in attaining objectives along with high levels of activation (vigour) as well as feeling
enthusiastic, identifying with and being proud of one’s job (dedication).
Employee engagement derives from studies of morale or a group’s willingness to
accomplish organizational objectives which began in the 1920s. The value of morale to
organizations was measured by US Army researchers during WWII to predict unity of effort and
attitudinal battle-readiness before combat. In the post-war mass production society that required
unity of effort in execution, (group) morale scores were used as predictors of speed, quality and
militancy. As thinking progressed, the knowledge of workers and emphasis on individual talent
management brought about the word term and the birth of ”work engagement” to describe an
individual’s attachment to the organization, fellow associates and the job. Therefore, employee
engagement connotes an individual emotional phenomenon; whereas morale is a group
emotional phenomenon of similar characteristics.
Schaufeli (2002) define work engagement as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of
mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption. Rather than a momentary and
specific state, work engagement entails a more persistent and pervasive affective-cognitive state
that is not focused on any particular object, event, individual, or behaviour (Schaufeli et. al.,
Buckingham and Coffman (1999) report that in their first book titled “Break all the
rules”, researchers in Gallup organization spent years refining a set of employee opinion
questions that are related to organizational outcome which was called the ‘Gallup Workplace
Audit (GWA)’.Employees who score high on Gallup Work Audit are often those emotionally
engaged in their work and organization. Similar result was obtained from subsequent researches
(Buckingham & Coffman, 1999; Harter & Schmidt, 2002).This researchers also maintained that
engagement is not only about how people think but also about how they feel; proposing that the
engaged employees collectively are an “economic force that fuels an organization’s profit
growth. These Gallup organization studies framed employees in three categories:
• Actively engaged — employees who work with passion and are profoundly connected to the
• Not engaged/disengaged —employees who put time but not passion in their work and. They
are not connected to the organizational values. The disengaged employees is someone who
distancing from work roles (Kahn, 1990) and would not perform their job effectively.
Actively disengaged — employee busy to act out their unhappiness and undermine what their
engaged colleagues try to accomplish. This includes those who may engage in deviant behaviour
as a means of retaliation to injustice or abuse by managers and supervisors.
The best-performing companies know that an employee engagement improvement
strategy linked to the achievement of corporate goals will help them win in the marketplace.
Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of
colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup organization estimates this cost to
be more than $300 billion annually in lost productivity alone.
Psychological empowerment (Spreiter, 1995) and employee engagement (May, Gilson &
Harter, 2004) are important concepts to consider when dealing with changes at work settings and
improving performance. Psychological empowerment increases employees’ sense of personal
control and motivates them to engage in various forms of pro-active behaviours which in turn
results in positive managerial and organizational outcomes (Spreitzer & Quinn, 1997).
Psychological empowerment is a noticeable motivational construct in recent literature.
Researchers (Kahn, 1990; May, Gilson & Harter, 2005) have investigated the influence of
psychological empowerment and employee engagement as it affects efficiency in modern
organization. They discovered that there exist a positive relationship between psychological
conditions and employee engagement (May & Gilson, 2004).
Kanter (1993) have distinguished between two major constructs of empowerment:
structural empowerment and psychological empowerment. Structural empowerment is defined as
a practice, or set of practices that offer access to information, resources, support and opportunity
to learn in work environment (Kanter, 1993). Also, Spreitzer (1995) defined psychological
empowerment as a motivational construct manifested in four cognitions: meaning, competence,
self-determination, and impact (Spreitzer, 2005). Spreitzer argues that these four cognitions
reflect an active, rather than a passive, orientation to a work role. Some theorists have considered
that psychological empowerment is similar or relevant construct to intrinsic motivation. For
example, Thomas and Velthouse (1990) posited that psychological empowerment is presumed to
be a proximal cause of intrinsic task motivation.
According to Spreitzer (1995) psychological empowerment refers to an Individual’s
experience of intrinsic motivation that is based on cognitions about himself or herself in relation
to his or her work role. In their own view, Greco, Laschinger and Wong (2006) asserts that it is
reasonable to expect that, if employees experience an empowering workplace that fosters a fit
between their expectations and their working conditions, they would be more engaged in their
work. Engaged employees have a sense energetic and effective connection with their work
activities and see themselves as able to deal completely with the demands of their jobs
(Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzãles, Romá & Bakker, 2002).
Some of the most prominent works on psychological empowerment includes the work of
Conger and Kanungo (1988), Thomas Velthouse (1990) and Spreitzer (1995). In his own view,
Spreitzer (1995) argues that psychological empowerment exists when employees perceive that
they exercise some control over their work lives. Taking Conger and Kanungo’s (1988) model a
little further, Thomas and Velthouse (1990) identified four dimensions of task cognitions that
affect intrinsic task motivation — namely, choice (i.e. the degree to which individuals perceive
that they have choice in initiating and regulating actions, (also called self-determination),
meaningfulness (i.e. the perceived value of the task or goal), competence (i.e. self-efficacy) and
impact (i.e. the degree to which behaviour accomplishes the purpose of the ask). Spreitzer (1995)
incorporated this model in development and empirical validation of a multidimensional measure
of psychological empowerment in the workplace.
Also, Kahn (1990) reported that people vary in their engagement as a result of their
varying perceptions of the benefits they receive from a role. To understand psychological
empowerment therefore, it is important to understand its antecedents. Thomas and Velthouse
(1990) point out the need for individuals to have the competence to perform the task skillfully.
Spreitzer (1995) extends this notion by focusing on self esteem. She notes that the individuals
must recognize their ability to perform the task and view themselves as a valuable resource with
talents that can contribute to the organization. Recognizing an individual’s contribution through
a reward system is depicted as an antecedent to psychological empowerment by Conger and
Kanungo (1988) and Spreitzer (1995). Spreitzer points out the importance of recognizing
individual contribution because individuals do not always make a connection to their role in a
group or organizational award. Individual rewards make a clear connection between an
individual’s performance and the benefit to the organization. These types of rewards also
reinforce performance and it fosters continuity of such behaviour by the individual. Conger and
Kanungo (1988) also noted that rewards must be valued by the members in light of their
contribution. These rewards are designed to build their self efficacy through recognizing their
abilities to do the work. Hence employee engagement might depend on the extent of perceived
rewards and recognition for their role performances. Thus, self efficacy is a major antecedent for
psychological empowerment (Yukl, 2006).
The empowerment literature provides a rich base on how to build the efficacy and
motivation of employees. The enabling process of empowerment is essential to the development
of self-efficacy (Conger & Kanungo, 1988), and self efficacy is the core of psychological
empowerment. In general, the three categories that either foster or decrease feelings of
empowerment are: the work, the people, and the organization (Yukl, 2006). Conger and
Kanungo (1988), Thomas and Velthouse, (1990); and Spreitzer (1995) in their studies found one
common thread as a factor that instill psychological empowerment, which is the need to create a
context in which individuals believe they have control over their behavior for the task and how
the task gets done. Spreitzer (1995) notes that once individuals recognize the degree to which
they determine outcomes within organization, they begin to see themselves as causal agents; this
feeling increases their commitment to the work and organization. Thus, empowerment is
increased when individuals share in the key decisions of the organization either through
representation or direct input. Menial decisions do not contribute to the fostering of
empowerment; individuals (employees) should be included in key decisions that influence their
work within the organization (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990).
The aim of psychological empowerment is to build the efficacy and motivation in the
individual to be drawn to and complete the tasks. In this paradigm, leadership is more focused on
making the tasks attractive by creating meaning and connections for the individuals rather than
pushing employees toward a task (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990).This does not simply imply that
empowerment is all about sharing of power and delegating, rather it indicates how “the intrinsic
motivation and self-efficacy of people are influenced by leadership behavior, job characteristics,
organization structure, and their own needs and value” (Yukl, 2006). The empowerment process
strives to develop followers who can lead themselves by thinking and acting independently
(Conger & Kanungo, 1988). It is this process that encourages commitment, risk taking, and
innovation (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990).
Typically, studies of empowerment take one of two perspectives: relational or
motivational. From the relationship perspective, empowerment is about sharing decision making
and authority among individuals in the organization; however, studies indicate that sharing
leadership is simply not enough (Yukl, 2006). The motivational lens goes a step further to
describing empowerment as enabling individuals. Supervisors are charged with the responsibility
of enhancing the self efficacy of individuals, which in turn enables and motivates individuals to
carry out responsibilities. Four of the key sources of power are position, personal characteristics,
expertise, and the opportunity to access specialized knowledge (Conger & Kanungo. 1988). In
all, empowerment has been perceived by researchers as aiming at achieving the following:
1. Developing the ability to access and control material and non-material resources and to
effectively mobilize them in order to influence decision outcomes.
2.Developing the ability to access and influence decision making processes on various levels
(household, community, national, global) in order to ensure the proper representation of one’s
interests (also described as getting a “voice”). (This usually requires the formation of local
organizations to facilitate collective action)
3. Gaining an awareness of dominant ideologies and of the nature of domination that one is
subjected to in order to discover one’s identity, and ultimately to develop the ability to
independently determine one’s preferences and act upon them.
4. Developing the ability to trust in one’s personal abilities in order to act with confidence.
Despite the aims and expectation about different empowerment programs, the reality
however, has been that; real empowerment is yet to be achieved. An attempt at solving this
problem has necessitated a discussion of this nature. From this premise, it is obvious that specific
psychological state contributes to employee engagement and that psychologically empowered
employees engage more in pro-social behaviors. Spreitzer (1995) defines empowerment as
intrinsic motivation manifested in four cognitions reflecting individual’s orientation to his or her
work role. The four cognitions are: meaning, competence, self-determination and impact.
Meaning refers to a sense of rose or personal connection to work (Mishra & Spreitzer, 1998).
Empowered people posses a feeling that their work is important to them and they care about
what they are doing (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997). Competence entails individuals’ beliefs that they
have necessary skills and abilities to perform their work well (Mishra & Spreitzer, 1998). Selfdetermination
refers to a sense of freedom about how individuals do their work (Mishra &
Spreitzer, 1998). Impact describes a belief that individuals can influence the system in which
they are embedded (Mishra & Spreitzer, 1998).
Kahn (1990) distinguished three psychological conditions that must exist for employees
to be engaged — namely, psychological meaningfulness, psychological safety, and
psychological availability. From a psychological empowerment perspective, Spreitzer (1995)
refers to four personal psychological determinants that might affect organizational behaviournamely,
meaning competence self-determination and impact. These four determinants can also
be regarded as psychological conditions that lead to employee engagement. The experience of
being empowered has been proposed to be a mediator between empowering managerial practices
and the outcomes expected from empowered workers, such as engagement, organizational
commitment and job performance (Spreitzer, 1995; Stander & Rothmann, 2008). Kahn (1990)
and May (2004) note that, in order for the human spirit to thrive at work, individuals must be
able to engage themselves cognitively, emotionally and physically.
Employee’s perceptions of variables such as Abusive supervision and organizational
justice could moderate how psychologically empowered and engaged an employee may be.
Several supervisors have been described as petty tyrants (Ashforth, 1997) or abusive supervisors
(Tepper, 2000) because of their hostile treatment of employees. Abusive supervisors are said to
be “engaged in the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviours, excluding
physical contact” (Tepper, 2000) towards subordinates.
Abusive supervision as defined by Tepper (2000) is a type of destructive leadership style
which manifest in subordinates’ perceptions of the extent to which supervisors engage in
sustained display of hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviours, excluding physical contact. It
connotes an unfriendly relationship between management and employees resulting in lack of
adequate communication and rapport, lack of initiative on the side of the employees, and
triggering mixed feelings between supervisors and employees. Abusive supervision as described
is a key aspect of interpersonal mistreatment in the workplace that employees receive at the
hands of their supervisor.
Tepper (2000) pointed out several important features for his conceptualization of abusive
supervision. First, similar to emotional abuse, abusive supervision is a subjective perception of
employees. As a result, different employees may have different perceptions the same behaviours
from the same manager, and what one employee considers hostile behaviour from a supervisor
may be acceptable behaviour to another employee. In this view, it is the meaning that an
individual employee makes out of supervisors behaviour towards him or her that actually
determines if the employees is abused or not. A second feature of abusive supervision as
crystallized by Tepper is that, consistent with the long-term nature of emotional use, the
demonstration of abusive supervision is also ongoing, not just occasional. In other words, the
hostile behaviours that characterize abusive supervision are common elements in the daily
interactions between the supervisor and the subordinate. Finally, the hosti1e behaviours can be
verbal or nonverbal; however, these behaviours do not include physical contact. In Tepper’s
framework, only the supervisor’s taunts and mocking (verbal) or rude gestures (nonverbal) are
categorized as abusive supervision. Abusive supervision has been demonstrated to reduce
employees’ job and life satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship
behaviours (Terper, 2007).In this study, it the interest of the researcher to test if abusive
supervision actually predict work engagement.
Several researchers have explored mechanisms and processes through which justice
perceptions influence workers attitudes and behaviour (e.g., Colquoitt, 2001; Colquitt, Scott,
Judge & Shaw, 2006). Generally, justice is known as entailing “just” behaviours or treatment or
the administration of the law in maintaining and rendering justice. In an organizational setting,
there are established moral and ethical standards, a level of fairness that management is expected
to show as they interact with employees. When this standard is violated, it is injustice. However,
level of perception of injustice may be influenced by individual differences.
Cropanzano and Folger ( 2007) defined perceptions of organizational justice as “the
degree to which individuals believe the outcomes they receive and the ways they are being
treated within organizations are fair, equitable, and in line with expected moral and ethical
standards. Perception of organizational justice has been applied to investigate a variety of
organizationally relevant attitudes and behaviours (Colquitt et al., 2001; Latham & Pinder,
2005). In comparison to those who are justly treated, for example, unjustly treated individuals
tend to experience more psychological distress and are less satisfied with their jobs (Colquitt,
2004; Tepper, 2001).These perceptions influence psychological empowerment and thus work
Evidences from organizational justice researches has indicated that employee’s who
believe they are being treated fairly and equitably within an organization will tend to engage in
acts which are pro-social and entirely beneficial to the organization (actively engaged); on the
contrary, employees who feel the other way round are most likely to engage in acts that are
entirely detrimental to the welfare of the organization (that is, actively disengaged). In order
words, a work environment perceived by the work group as fair will have a greater chance to
satisfy workers, raise morale and engagement than a climate perceived as unjust. Therefore, we
can expect that in high justice climate conditions employees will tend to experience higher levels
of psychological empowerment and therefore engagement would be at its optimum. Individuals
heed the interpersonal treatment that they receive from organizational authorities (Lind & Tyler
1988). Fair and respectful interpersonal treatment leads people to be satisfied and to believe they
are valued (Judge, Scott & Ilies 2006; Skarlicki & Folgerl997).
Furthermore, empirical evidence has demonstrated that individuals retaliate against
perceived injustices (Greenberg & Alge, 1998; Skarlicki & Folger 1997; Skarlicki, Folger &
Tesluk 1999), threats to identity (Aquino & Douglas 2003), violations of trust (Bies & Tripp,
1996), and personal offenses (Aquino, Tripp & Bies, 2001).
Statement of the Problem
Literatures show that work engagement is the pioneering force of successful
organizations. Organ (1998); Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Pain and Bachrack (2002) are of the
opinion that managers and supervisors cannot foresee all contingencies or fully anticipate
activities that they may desire or need employees to perform. Considering the nature of the
globalized market, it is crucial for organization to increase the level of Psychological
empowerment within their organization in other to get the best out of their employee’s.
Employee engagement is an imperative condition for modern organization to compete and
remain relevant in the business world.
Psychological empowerment is viewed as an antecedent to work engagement because of
the potential benefits that can result from it, including increased commitment, better decisions,
improved quality, more innovation, and increased job satisfaction (Spreitzer, 1995; Stander &
Rothmann, 2008).Several studies have revealed that employees’ feelings of involvement,
cohesiveness, commitment, potency, and performance are enhanced by the good leadership
qualities (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Charismatic leaders have a positive influence on their
subordinates psyche and can change the self- focus of the employees to collective focus (Yorges,
Weiss & Strickland, 1999). As a result, subordinates become more involved with the vision of
the leader and are willing to make sacrifices for that vision (House & Howell, 1992).
Ambrose and Schminke (2003) observe that the majority of empirical studies on
organization justice focus on the direct effects of justice. As a result, there exist very limited
studies on the role of organizational justice on employee engagement. Masterson (2000); Judge
and Colquitt, (2004) noted that we still do not fully understand the mechanisms through which
justice perceptions influence individuals’ attitudes, intentions, and behaviours. Based on
available literatures and the nature of this research, it is virtually impossible to understand why
fair treatment can have positive consequences. Supervisory mistreatment can cause low levels of
perceived organizational justice, leading to lower levels of turnover and psychological distress,
and less favourable attitudes toward the job and the organization (Tepper, 2000); while evidences
abounds that perception of fairness among employees impact on their level of engagement
This study specifically investigates the following questions:
i.) Would psychological empowerment significantly predict work engagement?
ii.) Would perceive organizational justice significantly predict work engagement?
iii.) Would abusive supervision significantly predict work engagement?
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study specifically is to investigate:
1. Whether Psychological empowerment will significantly predict work engagement.
2. Whether organizational justice will significantly predict work engagement.
3. Whether abusive supervision will significantly predict work engagement.
Operational Definition of Terms
Psychological empowerment is an individual’s perception and experience of intrinsic
motivation based on cognitions about him or herself in relation to his or her work role as
measured by Psychological Empowerment Scale (PES) (Spreitzer, 1995).
Abusive Supervision refers to subordinates’ perceptions of the extent to which supervisors
engage in the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviours, (for example
gestures) excluding physical contact as measured by Abusive Supervision Scale (ASS) (Tepper,
Organizational Justice refers to employees’ perception of fairness in an organization as
measured by Organizational Justice Scale (OJS) (Colquits, 2001).
Employee/work engagement refers to the extent to which workforce commitment, both
emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission, and vision of the
organization. Work engagement will be measured by the employee version of Utrecht Work
Engagement Scale (UWES) developed by Schaufeli & Salanova (2002).