Some people stay on in a company for years together, often because of lack of alternatives and sometimes because of a sense of obligation. But researchers from the Concordia University, the Université de Montréal and HEC Montréal, have found that doing this can lead to emotional exhaustion, a chronic state of physical and mental depletion resulting from continuous stress and excessive job demands.
Published in the journal Human Relations, the study found that people who stay in their organizations because they feel an obligation towards their employer are more likely to experience burnout. The same applies when employees stay because they don’t perceive employment alternatives outside their organization.
“When employees stay with their organization because they feel that they have no other options, they are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion. This feeling, in turn, may lead them to leave the organization. The implication is that employers should try to minimize this ‘lack of alternatives’ type of commitment among employees by developing their competencies, thus increasing their feeling of mobility and, paradoxically, contributing to them wanting to stay with the organization,” says co-author Alexandra Panaccio, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.
The researchers also found that people with high self-esteem are most affected by a perceived lack of employment alternatives—possibly because that perception is inconsistent with their self-view as important and competent people.
“It may be that, in the absence of an emotional bond with the organisation, commitment based on obligation is experienced as a kind of indebtedness—a loss of autonomy that is emotionally draining over time,” says Panaccio.
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