Motivation theories used to explain turnover intention

This chapter discussed the used of motivation theory to explain the turnover intention or behavior amongst the auditors in Sabah. Besides, ‘turnover intention’ – the dependent variable, ‘job satisfaction’ and ‘organizational commitment’ – the independent variables are being defined and conceptualized in line with this study. The relevant literature or past research done on this area of study is also being reviewed. Lastly, the findings on the relationships between the variables are being discussed.

2.1 Theory

2.1.1 Theory of Reasoned Action

Turnover process models draw heavily from rational decision making models such as Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1980) theory of reasoned action, which stresses the importance of behavioral intentions in predicting and understanding turnover. However, there is research on the manner on which attitudes and intentions get translated into behavior that can inform turnover theory and research. Examples include research on perceptions of behavior control, behavior consistency, and the role of emotional arousal. For the purpose of this study, Perceived Behavioral Control is used……………………………. Perceived Behavioral Control

Many prominent models of the turnover process implicitly or explicitly use elements of Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1980) Theory of Reasoned Action. This theory and its evolution into the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991) suggest that intentions to perform a behavior are the more immediate precursors to actual behavior. Intentions are a function of attitudes toward performing the behavior, which are in turn a function of beliefs concerning the consequences and desirability of such consequences of performing the behavior, and subjective norms concerning the behavior, which are a function of beliefs concerning what important referents think about the behavior and one’s motivation to comply with those referents. A good deal of empirical research has supported this model, especially the critical role of intentions (Kim and Hunter, 1998).

Individuals that having the behavior intention not necessary execute the intention in reality, which introduce the importance of the role of behavioral control. Ajzen (1991) defined control beliefs as the presence or absence of factors that may facilitate or impede the performance of a behavior. Perceived behavioral control is an individual’s perceptions of their ability to perform a behavior based on control beliefs. Behavioral control is expected to reinforce behavioral intentions through increased perseverance and consideration of potential obstacles (Hom and Griffeth, 1995). In fact, Ajzen (1991) argues that behavior is a function of compatible intentions and perceptions of behavioral control. Perceived behavioral control should moderate the effect of intentions on behavioral control is positive.

Thus, in a turnover context, turnover intentions may only lead to turnover when individuals perceive that they have control over the decision to quit. There are a number of reasons that individuals might perceive less control over this decision. Family or financial constraints could restrict mobility. Over time, individuals become increasingly invested in an organization, making it more difficult to leave (Becker, 1960). Perceptions of the availability and quality of alternatives may affect perceived control. There is some evidence perceptions of alternatives interact with job satisfaction in leading to withdrawal (Jacofsky et al, 1986). Steel et al recently suggested that barriers to mobility are critical components of labor market cognitions. However, turnover researches do not typically directly measure perceived behavioral control over turnover decisions and have not assessed control as a potential moderator of the relationship between turnover intentions and turnover. Behavioral control should moderate the intentions-turnover relationship such that the relationship is stronger when control is higher, and weaker when control is lowest.

2.1.2 Role Theory

For the purpose of study, role theory is used to explain the role stress experienced by the auditors. Role theory assumes that individuals’ lives are spent acting out an assortment of ‘roles’ both within and outside the organizational context (Fisher, 2001). As cited by Fisher (2001), Katz and Kahn explained that each of these roles is assumed to be more a function of social setting rather than of the individual’s own personality characteristics. Therefore, Fisher (2001) suggested that every position within an organization can be thought of as a specific role into which an individual is “socialized”. Under the role episode model, the process of socialization happens when a role senders directly or indirectly communicating to the role incumbent (focal person) their expectations of the incumbent’s responsibilities.

Role ambiguity exits when goals of one’s job or methods of performing it are unclear (Johns et al, 2007). Scholars Johns et al (2007) further explained that there are three elements that can lead to ambiguity, which are (1) the organizational factors, for example the middle management might fail to provide the ‘big picture’ as they are not in the upper management level; (2) the role sender, for example role senders have unclear expectations of a focal person, or the message is not effectively communicate between a role sender and a focal person; (3) the focal person, as a new staff need time to fully digest the work expectation communicated to him.


On the other hand, role conflict occurs when compliance with one sent role would compliance with another difficult (Cited by Fisher (2001) from Kahn et al, 1964). Kahn et al (1964) identify five major types of role conflict as below:-

1) Intra-sender conflict – conflicting prescriptions/proscriptions from the same sender

2) Inter-sender conflict – conflicting prescriptions/proscriptions from different sender

3) Inter-role conflict – conflict between roles in situations where an individual holds more than one role

4) Person-role conflict – where an individual’s role requirements are incompatible with hus/her own beliefs, values and norms

5) Role-overload – reasonable expectations may have been received from role senders, but he/she may not have enough time to address them all

(Cited from Fisher (2001) review on Kahn et al (1964) research work)

Scholars Van Sell at al (1981), Jackson and Schuler (1985) observed that both role ambiguity and role conflict are linked to negative outcomes, such as lower job satisfaction, increase on perceived job tension, lower job performance and greater turnover intention.

2.2 Conceptualization of Dependent Variable

Turnover refers to resignation from an organization (Lee and Liu, 2006; Johns et al, 2007). Turnover can be classified as ‘internal’ and ‘external’, ‘voluntary’ or ‘involuntary’ (Wiley, 1993). By ‘internal turnover’, it means that an employee is transferred to another department within the same company or group of companies. On the other hand, ‘external turnover’ refers to the resignation of an employee permanently and henceforth represents the cost outflow to an organization. Wiley (1993) further explained that involuntary turnover happens when an employee is terminated for just caused, for example: sickness, death, retirement due to old age; and ‘voluntary turnover’ is a situation whereby the employee join another organization on his/her accord, or participate in the voluntary separation scheme.

Employee is the human capital of an organization (Quote). Employees have become the important tangible asset in an organization in this new k-knowledge world, especially within the service industry. Successful and established companies such as Virgin Airline and Honda have invested substantial amount on their employees in term of training and development cost, aiming to shape their employees to maintain the competitive edge. Henceforth, an employee departure is considered a nightmare to an organization especially with the highly skilled employees such as the IT specialist and audit managers. Not only the organization is unable to recover the training cost (Quote), they also lose their competitive advantage when the highly experienced and skilled employees join another competitor firm. High turnover also experienced in the unskilled position such as in the manufacturing plant and hotel line due to the low replacement cost for unskilled employees. The ease of replacing employees for the lower rank staff no doubt will not cause substantial loss to an organization, but will affect the service or product quality as the new employees are unfamiliar with the organization’s culture and work procedures. As a result of the significance of these costs, employees’ turnover has been widely studied since the 1900s with the various publications of qualitative and quantitative researchers of exceeding 1500 (Munchinsy and Morrow, 1980).

Given the significance of the study, the determinants of turnover intention is widely studied in various industries, such as the hotelier (Atang, 2010), manufacturing (Udo et al, 1007), teachers (Currivan, 2000) information system (IT) (Rahman, 2008; Muliawan et al, 2009) and among public accountants or auditors (Lander et al, 1993; Perryer et al, 2010; Reed et al, 1994; Viator, 2001; Law, 2005; Lui et al, 2001; Hsieh et al, 2009; Hasin and Omar, 2007). The reasons for voluntary turnover are numerous and the list of determinants is still expanding. The most common reasons given by leavers are due to job dissatisfaction, lacking of career growth opportunities, poor relationship between supervisor and subordinate, to name a few. Khatri et al (2001) studied high turnover in Asian countries with sample size of 422 taken from food and beverage industry, shipping and marine industry and retailing industry suggested that the main reasons for high turnover were procedural justice and low organizational commitment. The researchers also reported that managers had more turnover intention than non-managers and procedural justice was considered more important than the distributive justice, while organizational commitment was found to be very critical in turnover intention. Job satisfaction, organizational commitment and intention to leave are among the most commonly proposed antecedents to turnover (Tett and Meyer, 1993).

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The reasons of having turnover intention might vary based on individualistic (Atang, 2010). The recent research noted that researchers used other new variables sust as employees’ personality (Dole and Schroeder, 2001; Hsieh et al, 2009), hardiness (Law, 2005), gender (Reed et al, 1994) and organizational tenure (Udo et al, 1997) to determine the moderating effect on the turnover intention. It is observed that there are not many research done in the local setting and hence it is doubtful that if those results obtained from the Western countries can be generalized in Asia, in particular, Malaysia. Henceforth, the primary focus of this study is to examine the relationship between role stress and job satisfaction towards turnover intention amongst the auditors in Sabah, using organizational commitment as mediating variable.

In the academic writing, most of the research that focus on employee turnover used direct determinant of turnover, intent to stay (Iverson, 1992; Price 1997) or turnover intention (Perryer et al, 2010; Hsieh et al, 2009; Rahman et al, 2008) to predict turnover as the data of ‘actual turnover’ is typically hard to collect. Intent to stay (or leave) is defined as employees’ behavioral intention that has been found to have a strong negative influence on actual turnover (Iverson, 1992). A link between behavioural intentions and behavior has been well documented in the social psychological literature (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980), as has a link between turnover intentions and turnover (Irvine and Evans, 1995; Richer et al, 2002; Tett and Meyer, 1993). Richer at al (2002) further commented that most employees having the intention to leave their job would most likely to quit if they have the choice. Other researchers agreed that behavioral intention is the most determinant of actual behaviour (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Steel and Ovalle, 1984) and Rasch and Harrell (1990) further commented that there is positive relationships exist between intention to leave and turnover behaviour. The finding that turnover intention is the strongest predictor of turnover is similarly consistent (Meyer at at., 2002; Tett and Meyer, 1993).

The turnover intention for this present study will be conceptualized as the “having the intention or behavior to leave the organization voluntary” (Atang, 2010). Based on the above discussion, turnover intention would be used interchangeable with ‘Intent to stay (or leave)’.

2.3 Independent variables

For the purpose of this study, role stress and job satisfaction are chosen as the independent variables that are most representing determinants in influencing the turnover intention amongst auditors in Sabah.

2.3.1 Role Stress

Role stress is identified as stressors at individual level (Ivancevich et al, 2008) and has now becomes the focus point of the Organizational Behavior and Management study due to the importance of having a quality work-life balance. Under role theory (as explained in Section 2.1), stress can arise from a particular role episode when sent roles conflict with each other, or when information required to effectively carry out a sent role is lacking (Fisher, 2001). These situations are known as role ambiguity and role conflict.

A role is a set of expectations on individual behavior due to his/her position in an organization (Lee, 1996). Role ambiguity and role conflict are typically viewed as a consequence of audit structure practice (Wittayapoom and Mahasarakham, 2007). The definition of role ambiguity and role conflict are thoroughly examined as below:- Role Ambiguity

Role ambiguity happens when an individual is unclear about the expectations or requirements of his/her job (Hitt et al, 2006). This includes ambiguity on the methods to be used, how performance is evaluated, an individual’s responsibility and also the limits of one’s authority (Johns et al, 2007). Black (1988) stated that role ambiguity happens when there is a lack of the necessary information available to a given organizational position. Smith (1990) in his review on Senatra’s (1988) study noted that 70 percent and 47 percent of reported role ambiguity in men and women respectively was attributed to organizational factors, such as adequacy of authority to make decisions and formalization of firm policies. Ambiguity on the audit work creates tension and anxiety, and hence leads to emotional stress, as employees are unclear of the expectations. Many of audit juniors experience role ambiguity, as they are unfamiliar with the work procedures and company’s culture. Besides, different audit environment warrants different attention from the audit staff, for example, the audit of a financial institute is different from auditing a non-profit organization. Henceforth, a new comer would easily feel lost and frustrated if there is no proper guidance and this might affect his/her work commitment or trigger the turnover intention. Vaitor (2001) in his research finding on public accounting organizations in United States concluded that informal mentors do indeed help to reduce role ambiguity among the audit staff. Ambiguity tends to decrease as length of time in the job role increases (Jackson and Schuler, 1985, as cited by Johns et al, 2007).

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Role conflict is termed as the degree of incongruity or incompatibility of expectations associated with the role (House and Rizzo, 1972; Johns et al, 2007). Atang (2010) stated that employees perceive a role conflict when there is incompatibility between expectations and demands from various workgroups and conflicting role to be carried out by individual employee. Katz and Kahn (1978) explained in detail that conflict is the simultaneous occurrence of two or more role sending such that agreement with one party would make more difficult for the agreement of another (see details on Section 2.1 on role theory). For example, auditor A is assigned to work on an outstation assignment by his direct supervisor, but is requested to attend a training course as requested by the human resource manager for the same working week. Hence, auditor A is said having a role conflict. Viator (2001) suggested two types of role conflict that is relevant in the accounting practice, namely the ‘inter-sender’, which occur when the expectations of one role sender are in conflict with another role senders; and the ‘person-role conflict’, which happen when the role requirements violate the needs, capacities or beliefs of the individual (Viator, 2001). Sorenson and Sorenson (1974) operationalized role conflict as ‘conflict between an auditor’s professional’ and ‘bureaucratic orientations’.

Role conflict is arguably more severe experienced with female due to the society perception that woman is the primary care-givers (Law, 2010). For example, married women with first-born children are expected to stay in-house to nurse the baby, while her career may become less priority. This perception would cause stress to career women today who valued their job above all. The significance of role conflict is discussed in Smith (1990) studies in his review on Senatra’s (1988) research work, which stated that organizational stressors accounted for 64 percent of the reported role conflict among males, 79 percent among females. The factors that resulted in role conflict for both man and female that identified in the study are excessive job and time pressures, conflicting objectives, and suppression of relevant information (Senatra(1988) as cited by Smith (1990) studies). Empirical Evidence of Role Stress in the Accounting Profession

As cited by Fisher (2001), Senatra (1980) was the first study in the accounting literature to examine the sources of role stress with public accounting firms. Senatra identified ten specific elements of the organizational climate of the public accounting firms in which he hypothesized would affect perceptions of role ambiguity and role conflict, which were(1) violations in the chain of command; (2) formalization of firm rules and procedures; (3) emphasis on subordinate personnel development; (4) tolerance of error; (5) top-management receptiveness to ideas and suggestions; (6) adequacy of work coordination; (7) timeliness of superiors’ responses to problems; (8) information suppression by superiors and subordinates; (9) adequacy of authority; (10) adequacy of professional autonomy. Using a survey of 88 senior accountants, Senatra (1980) concluded that ‘violations in the chain of command’ tends to increase both role ambiguity and role conflict.

For the purpose of this study, role ambiguity is defined as the lack of clear and precise information regarding what is expected of the role incumbent (Muliawan et al, 2009), which is important to perform the job (Rizzo et al, 1970). Role conflict refers to occasions when an individual receives conflicting information or requests (Muliawan et al, 2009) when there is incompatibility between expectations and demands from various workgroups (Harris et al, 2006).

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