The influence of job insecurity on performance outcomes among Chinese, German and U.S. employees : evidence from self-reported and observational studies

  • Lara Christina ROLL

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


Since the 1980s our economy has been quickly evolving. Mergers, downsizing, privatizations and the recent economic crisis have exposed employees to a growing sense of uncertainty about their job future. Both quantitative and qualitative job insecurity has been linked to numerous negative performance and health outcomes for employees, negatively impacting organizations. Negative effects include burnout, reduced work engagement and decreased safety motivation and compliance. Most studies on job insecurity only look at one country, usually a Western country, and rely exclusively on self-reports. Therefore, the aims of the present research (including two studies) are to a) examine both qualitative and quantitative job insecurity in different cultural contexts, including an Eastern country and b) include behavioural measures to performance outcomes. Studies carried out before the economic crisis found more negative performance outcomes associated with job insecurity in collectivistic compared with individualistic cultures. The question arises whether the change in the economic environment since the economic crisis caused a change in the influence of job insecurity in Western as compared to Eastern countries. Thus, in the first study, the consequences of job insecurity for employees in the contexts of the U.S. were examined (N=969), where the crisis began, Germany (N=374), which is still affected by the subsequent Euro debt crisis, and China (N=205), which was initially mostly unaffected by the crisis but whose economy is currently experiencing a slowdown. Understanding the influence of job insecurity on employees’ performance in different national contexts is necessary for organizations to be successful and thrive. Two important performance outcomes are creativity and cognitive errors. Employees’ creativity can generate new ideas for products and procedures, which is a competitive advantage for organizations. In contrast, making and not detecting cognitive errors before they cause harm can reduce employees’ own and other people’s safety. Results of making and not detecting cognitive errors may include workplace injuries not only posing a threat to employees, but also to people around them, which can lead to significant costs for organizations. A theoretical model was developed and examined in which it was hypothesized that job insecurity influences those performance outcomes through burnout and work engagement. In the second study conducted in China (N=148), the first study was taken a step further and included observational data to investigate the relationship between performance outcomes and job insecurity. An error detection task was developed by adapting an established creativity test to examine whether the same results from the first study can be obtained using behavioural measures. In the first study, results supported the existence of cross-cultural differences in the relationship between performance outcomes and job insecurity. The second study showed similar results for self-report and observational data. To conclude, for organizations to be successful, it is highly important to understand performance outcomes of job insecurity in different national contexts and to implement measures to help employees cope with job insecurity in order to prevent negative consequences.
Date of Award7 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorOi Ling SIU (Supervisor) & Yau Wai Simon LI (Co-supervisor)

Cite this