The meaning of furloughs on family identification

Date02 September 2019
Published date02 September 2019
AuthorAshley Mandeville,Marilyn Whitman,Jonathon Halbesleben
Subject MatterHr & organizational behaviour,Global hrm
The meaning of furloughs on
family identification
Ashley Mandeville
Department of Management,
Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, USA, and
Marilyn Whitman and Jonathon Halbesleben
Department of Management, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to extend the meaning maintenancemodel ( MMM) by elucidating the
meaning employees provide to both work and family during a furlough.
Design/methodology/approach The sample consisted of 180 state government employees, who
completed four surveys, starting at a time before a furlough was initiated through returning to work
following a furlough. The authors used random coefficient modeling of a mixed-effects model for
discontinuous change.
Findings Findings suggest that a furlough is associated with increases in perceived psychological contract
breach, an indication that the meaning of work is being threatened. Following the furlough, employees
family identity salience significantly increased. Further, rumination about the furlough increased the shift
in family identity salience.
Research limitations/implications This research tests the MMM in the context of furloughs and work-
family implications. The results suggest that employees experience fluid compensation, a key facet of the
MMM, during a furlough. Further, rumination of the experienced furlough can strengthen the fluid
compensation process.
Practical implications The implications for organizations implementing furloughs and various methods
for implementing furloughs are discussed.
Originality/value This research extends the MMM by empiricallyexamining it in the context of furloughs
and work-family implications. Further, it extends the MMM by examining the impact of rumination on the
fluid compensation process.
Keywords Quantitative, Furloughs, Psychological contract, Meaning, Meaning maintenance model
Paper type Research paper
The meaning of furloughs on family identification
Individuals have an innate need to seek meaning, defined as relating objects and events to
each other and to the self (Heine et al., 2006). By defining these relationships in the
organization, individuals establish work meaning and are able to predict events which
enable them to limit possible stressful ambiguities. Work meaning has significant
implications for employee work behavior, including job satisfaction (Duffy et al., 2015;
Wrzesniewski et al., 2003), engagement ( Jung and Yoon, 2016; May et al., 2004) and
individual performance (Chadi et al., 2016; Wrzesniewski, 2003). Work meaning also has
important implications for how individuals identify themselves (Sluss and Ashforth, 2007).
Researchers have examined identity transition processes that occur when meaning is lost
(Conroy and OLeary-Kelly, 2014), suggesting that negative work-related events can trigger
a loss of a sense of self. Yet, aside from examining identity transition processes, much of the
research on work meaning has focused on how meaning is derived and its implications.
Consequently, little is known about how employees react when meaning is threatened.
The meaning maintenance model (MMM; Heine et al., 2006) proposes that individuals
innately and automatically strive to make sense of themselves and their surroundings by
cognitively establishing systems of expected associations, referred to as meaning
frameworks (Proulx and Heine, 2006). The meaning provided by these expecte d
associations, however, is regularly disrupted by incongruent or unrelatable experiences
Personnel Review
Vol. 48 No. 6, 2019
pp. 1596-1610
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/PR-07-2018-0245
Received 11 July 2018
Revised 29 January 2019
Accepted 4 April 2019
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