Flexibility demands on organizations along with ever-changing economic conditions have made the working situation for employees less stable and more unpredictable. Perceptions of job insecurity have been more frequently reported and researched. Such perceived threats to one’s employment have been shown to give rise to stress experiences and have been linked to several different negative outcomes, such as strain reactions, dissatisfaction with the job, and turnover intention. Less is known about how job insecurity relates to different coping behaviors. In order to understand how individuals dealing with job insecurity react, the present study investigates to what extent the experience is related to different coping strategies. In light of research on possible gender differences in coping behaviors, the present study also takes gender into account, and tests whether men and women respond with different coping behaviors to job insecurity.
There is consensus regarding the negative impact of job insecurity, however, the reactions to this stressor are not the same for all individuals. Given that coping strategies have been found to mitigate negative reactions to various other work stressors, it is plausible that reactions to job insecurity also are affected by the type of coping behaviors utilized. The present study investigates the moderating effect of coping on the relation between job insecurity and its outcomes. Also, previous research has indicated that there are some gender differences in the reactions to job insecurity, and it is plausible that such gender differences may be attributed to different coping strategies. Consequently, the present study also aims to test whether coping moderates the relation between job insecurity and its outcomes differently among men as compared to women.
The research questions were investigated in a sample of Swedish employees, working in the service sector in administrative jobs, participating in larger longitudinal questionnaire study concerning employee attitudes and well-being in the context of the changing nature of working life. At Time 1, 1443 persons received the questionnaire, and 1051 usable questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 72%. At Time 2, 1393 questionnaires were sent out, 868 were returned for a response rate of 62%. Of those who participated at Time 1, 73% chose to participate at Time 2.
To test whether job insecurity was more strongly related to certain coping behaviors than others, regression analyses were conducted. The three types of coping behavior analyzed were change oriented coping, avoidance coping, and coping by devaluating the importance of the situation. The cross-sectional analyses indicated that job insecurity was moderately related to all three types of coping in the cross-sectional analysis, while there were no relations over time. However, when analyzed for gender differences, preliminary results suggest that job insecurity was unrelated to coping strategies among women, both within measurement point and over time, while among men there was an association between job insecurity at Time 1 and both change and avoidance coping at Time 1, as well as change coping at Time 2.
To test whether the effect of job insecurity on outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and mental and physical health was moderated by different coping behaviors moderated multiple regression analyses were carried out. The cross-sectional results indicate that the relation between job insecurity and mental health was moderated by avoidance coping in the entire sample. For women, higher levels of devaluation were associated with lowered job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and mental health when job insecurity was high. Avoidance coping, on the other hand, appeared to mitigate the negative relation between job insecurity and organizational commitment and mental health.
For men, change coping was associated with lower organizational commitment among those reporting high job insecurity, whereas devaluation appeared to mitigate the negative relation between job insecurity and mental and physical health.
The preliminary longitudinal analyses revealed main effects of job insecurity over time, both for men and women. Change coping was a significant predictor of subsequent organizational commitment among men and women, and mental health among women. None of the interaction effects tested in the cross-sectional analyses was significant over time.
The results suggest that job insecurity is associated with different coping strategies among women as compared to men, and that different coping strategies influence the relation between job insecurity and its outcomes quite differently, and also, that these differences become more pronounced when gender is taken into account. These preliminary results primarily shed light the relation between job insecurity, coping, and the outcomes within one time point, as a time lag of one year between measurements may be too long to uncover mitigating effects of coping over time. Nevertheless, the results point to the importance of coping strategies in dealing with job insecurity and may be useful in the implementation of appropriate assistance programs for employees experiencing job insecurity.