Affective states at work and prosocial organisational behaviour : a case study of health care workers in the NHS
Affective states at work (or job affect), defined as positive and negative feelings induced by commonplace events or circumstances in the workplace, have recently attracted increasing attention in the field of organisational psychology and behaviour. The main focus of interest in job affect has been in terms of its hypothetical positive behavioural consequences on prosocial organisational behaviour. However, existing conceptualisations of job affect leave much to be desired. Job affect is a mood state, and is conceptually distinct from related concepts such as job satisfaction, affective disposition, and emotions. Based on a sample of over 200 nurses working in a London based NHS Trust, the thesis focused on three main aims: a) to gain a better understanding of the nature of affect at work; b) to test the hypothesised link between job affect and prosocial organisational behaviour; and finally c) to explore the potential antecedents of job affect. To achieve the first aim, the structure of affect was first theoretically and empirically explored. In terms of affect structure, a unipolar Four-Factor Model was proposed for the present study as an alternative to the standard bipolar Two-Factor Model of affect found in the literature. The results of confirmatory factor analyses provided support for the proposed Four-Factor Model. Also, the four unipolar affect measures seemed reasonably independent of one another, and demonstrated high reliability and validity. Building on the unipolar Four-Factor Model, the second aim of the thesis was explored by testing the relationship between prosocial organisational behaviour (PSOB) and job affect conceptualised in unipolar terms. Based on this unipolar conceptualisation, two hypotheses were tested, namely that prosocial organisational behaviour is positively related to both positive and negative job affect. Two forms of PSOB important to the nursing context were proposed as the consequences of job affect: altruistic forms of PSOB and continuous-improvement forms of PSOB. Overall, the results supported the two research hypotheses, and the significant relationships were sustained after controlling for job attitudes in the analyses. Having shown that employees' affective experiences in the workplace are important in terms of PSOBs, the third and final aim was to identify key antecedents which generate particular affective experiences, while also looking at the impact of these antecedents on PSOBs. A series of antecedents, including job-design factors, social factors, and individual dispositional factors were hypothesised as the potential determinants of job affect. The findings broadly supported the hypothesised links, while also showing some of the antecedents to have a direct impact on PSOB. Contributions and major research implications as well as future research directions are discussed at the end.