Cognitive and Affective Job Insecurity

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Lixin Jiang of the University of Auckland and Dr. Lindsey M. Lavaysse of Washington State University–Vancouver. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “Cognitive and Affective Job Insecurity: A Meta-Analysis and a Primary Study,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Jiang reveals the inspiration for conducting this research :]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

I was driven by two primary reasons. The most recent meta-analysis on the outcome of job insecurity was published in 2008. The field has made a lot of progress since then. There is a great need to update our knowledge of outcomes of job insecurity. More importantly, when asking employees about their job insecurity, they often say, “I am really scared of the possibility of job loss.” This is what we called the affective aspect of job insecurity. However, the field still primarily focuses on cognitive job insecurity- the perceived possibility of job loss. Thus, there is a mismatch between how employees really experience job insecurity and what we actually measure in the academia. In order to address this problem, I conducted this meta-analysis to show that affective job insecurity has better predictive power than cognitive job insecurity and should be included in the theoretical development of job insecurity.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

We ended up having to code almost 500 articles (465 to be exact). I coded all articles. You can imagine it is a very time-consuming process. To complete the task, I coded 20 articles per day, which took me about one month. Then, I focused on my other work during the next month. Finally, I came back and recoded all articles all over again to make sure that all coding was correct. Of course, Linz, the second author, coded 20% of articles and we compared our notes. This was the most challenging part.

As predicted, affective job insecurity was a better predictor of employee outcomes than cognitive job insecurity. Additionally, we included a primary study as suggested by reviewers. We found that for those who treat their job as their number one priority (as opposed to those who do not believe their work plays an important role in their life), they become more vulnerable and report a significantly higher level of affective job insecurity when perceiving there is a possibility of job loss. The only one surprising finding is that the predictive validity of a scale tapping into both affective and cognitive job insecurity was not as bad as we have expected.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

If you are particularly interested in outcomes of job insecurity, then you should measure affective job insecurity. If you are interested in predictors of job insecurity, then you should measure cognitive job insecurity. Moreover, future research should examine moderators and mediators in the linkage between cognitive job insecurity and affective job insecurity. That is, why is there a relation between cognitive job insecurity and affective job insecurity? Who is more likely to report higher levels of affective job insecurity as a result of cognitive job insecurity?

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