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Factor 3: Change in affect and attitudes

According to affective events theory (AET), an event can set off a chain reaction of emotional and attitudinal responses (Mignonac & Herrbach, 2004; Rupp & Spencer, 2006; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). The event and the responses can develop into behavioural reactions, according to planned behaviour theory (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). Thus, affect is a proximal consequence of a triggering event and mediates the relationship between the event and attitudinal change, the distal consequence of the trigger (Zhao, Wayne, Glibkowski & Bravo, 2007). Together, AET and the theory of planned behaviour suggest that when a negative shock occurs (e.g., a breach in the psychological contract) an employee may have a negative emotional reaction, such as feeling violated (Morrison & Robinson, 1997; Zhao et al., 2007). These negative feelings may deflate critical work attitudes, such as job satisfaction (Zhao et al., 2007). Conversely, a positive shock, such as a promotion, typically elicits positive feelings (e.g., attachment to the organization), which may evolve into positive attitudes (e.g., engagement) towards one’s job and organization. Thus, triggering events set the stage for a fast pathway to turnover (see Figure 21.3), as shocks result in somewhat sudden changes in affect and attitude.

Even if a shock is not experienced, employee affect and attitudes may still change (March & Simon, 1958); this is depicted as the slow pathway to turnover in Figure 21.3. Over time an individual may become aware of a sense of misfit with the job or organization, not because of a particular event but perhaps because of progressive changes in identity, interests, preferences or needs as the individual moves through life-stages (Rothuasen, Henderson, Arnold & Malshe, 2015; Skinner, Elton, Auer & Pocock, 2014). As discussed earlier, a sense of misfit can generate a slow decline in positive affect towards the job or organization and a gradual decline in positive work attitudes, such as job satisfaction.

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