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 FOCUS – ADDRESSING BIAS AND RACISM OF BLACK MEN IN LEADERSHIP AND EMPLOYMENT

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Baker, V. L., & Pifer, M. J. (2011). The role of relationships in the transition from doctor to independent scholar. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(1), 5-17. http://doi.org/10.1080/0158037X. 2010.515569

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https://doi.org/10.1177/00910260211001397

Public Personnel Management
2022, Vol. 51(1) 71 –96
© The Author(s) 2021

Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions

DOI: 10.1177/00910260211001397
journals.sagepub.com/home/ppm

Article

The Impact of Human
Resources Environment and
Organizational Identification
on Employees’ Psychological
Well-Being

Imran Hameed1, Muhammad Umer Ijaz2,
and Meghna Sabharwal3

Abstract
This study explores how Human Resources (HR) environment (i.e., job autonomy,
opportunities for advancement, involved communication, and decisive action)
promotes psychological well-being of public employees. We advance the literature by
identifying organizational identification (OID) as the underpinning mechanism through
which HR environment can foster employees’ well-being. OID is termed as a “social
cure,” owing to its strong link with employee health and well-being. The results of
structural equation modeling show a positive association among HR practices and
OID, which subsequently enhances well-being of public sector employees. Managerial
implications for public sector leaders are discussed in detail.

Keywords
psychological well-being, organizational identification, public personnel management,
HR environment

Introduction

Societies today are more concerned about healthy workplaces than ever before (Burton,
2010) and are taking keen interest in health issues not only to minimize health expen-
ditures but also for using well-being as a key indicator of national prosperity (e.g., as

1Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan
2Deakin Business School, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
3The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, USA

Corresponding Author:
Meghna Sabharwal Public and Nonprofit Management Program, School of Economic, Political and Policy
Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W. Campbell Rd, GR 31, Richardson, TX 75080, USA.
Email: [email protected]

1001397PPMXXX10.1177/00910260211001397Public Personnel ManagementHameed et al.
research-article2021

72 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

seen in national initiatives such as the UK’s Happiness Index and the EU’s Quality of
Life Survey and in global initiatives such as the Social Progress Index and the World
Happiness Report; Helliwell et al., 2013). One way to respond to this issue in the
workplace is to design Human Resource Management (HRM) practices that focus on
employee well-being (Sabharwal et al., 2019; Schulte et al., 2015). However, due to
the rise of New Public Management, most HRM research in public sector organiza-
tions mainly focuses on practices used to enhance organizational performance (e.g.,
Blackman et al., 2019; Vermeeren et al., 2014) while ignoring the well-being of public
personnel. Although important, the pursuit of performance-centric outcomes often
result at the cost of employee health and well-being (Guest, 2017).

Experts in public administration recognized several factors that improve an indi-
viduals’ well-being e.g., implying high-performance work practices (Fan et al., 2014),
and maintaining work-family balance (Ryu, 2016). More recently, studies have argued
that positive organizational environment and HR practices such as job autonomy,
opportunities for advancement, involved communication, and decisive action can play
an influential role in eliciting employees’ well-being (Fisher, 2010; Grawitch et al.,
2006; Guest, 2017; Kossek et al., 2014; Sonnentag, 2016). Kossek et al. (2014) argued
these HR practices serve as organizational strategies for enhancing employees’ well-
being and developing sustainable workforce. Despite its importance, very few studies
(e.g., Baptiste, 2008; Noblet et al., 2005) investigate the HRM-well-being link within
public sector organizations.

Furthermore, Chen and Cooper (2014) note that well-being research has primarily
focused on the direct impact of workplace characteristics and HR practices on
employee well-being, and largely omitted important psychological states as underly-
ing mechanisms of this relationship. Despite the recent calls for adopting psychologi-
cal mechanisms in public administration (Grimmelikhuijsen et al., 2017; Liu & Perry,
2016), little research has explored the mechanisms which intervene between HRM
practices and employee well-being. Therefore, there is a need to identify and theorize
the underpinning mechanism that account for the transformation of specific HR prac-
tices into employee well-being. Existing literature has suggested some mechanisms of
improving employee’s psychological well-being such as perceived control (Thompson
& Prottas, 2006), meaningful work (Arnold et al., 2007), and organizational commit-
ment (Meyer & Maltin, 2010).

Public administration literature has recently identified organizational identification
(OID) as a motivational base for public servants (Miao et al., 2019; Rho et al., 2015).
OID is defined as the “perception of oneness with or belongingness to an organiza-
tion” (Mael & Ashforth, 1992, p. 104). OID is explained with the help of social iden-
tity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). This theory states that individuals’ physical and
psychological health are significantly impacted by social factors that affect their social
identity. Following this notion, growing number of researchers are inquiring how
group membership (in our case organizational membership) affects employees’ health
and well-being. Jetten et al. (2017) argue that group membership provides individuals
with meaning, support, and a positive sense of social identity, thus positively impact-
ing their health. Owing to its strong association with health and well-being, in recent

Hameed et al. 73

literature, identification is termed as a “social cure” (Haslam et al., 2018). We rational-
ize that the degree to which public personnel identify with their organization, mediates
the relationship between HRM practices and employee well-being. Identification with
a social group develops a sense of security, reduces uncertainty, and enhances one’s
self esteem (Miao et al., 2019); thus, improving employee well-being. A careful analy-
sis of the literature on public sector organizations discloses that very little attention is
being paid to OID of public servants and their psychological well-being, thus generat-
ing a strong need for this study.

The current study makes multiple contributions to the public administration litera-
ture. First, by enhancing our understanding of how HR environment influences
employee’s psychological well-being by examining the impact of four specific HR
practices (job autonomy, opportunities for advancement, involved communication,
and decisive action) on the well-being of employees. Second, by probing the “black
box” of how OID acts as a mediator to transform HR environment into employee’s
psychological well-being. Furthermore, we investigate workplace well-being by col-
lecting primary data from research and development (R&D) public sector organiza-
tions in Pakistan. Numerous studies have suggested a significant difference in
employees’ well-being with varying HR practices and outcomes across sectors and
countries (Brunetto et al., 2018). Thus, a better understanding of the relationship
between HR environment and well-being can be obtained by exploring these relation-
ships in a different contextual work environment.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

Improving organizational performance through HRM practices has been the central
research question in SHRM during last two decades. SHRM scholars agree that HR
practices lead to higher firm performance by improving employees’ competence, com-
mitment, and productivity (Appelbaum et al., 2000; Datta et al., 2005). The two widely
used frameworks explaining HRM-performance link are Ability-Motivation-
Opportunity (AMO) model (Jiang et al., 2012) and Power-Information-Reward-
Knowledge (PIRK) model (Boxall & Macky, 2009; Guerrero & Barraud-Didier,
2004). Both of these models recognize that employees are the key to organizational
performance. However, the relationship between HR practices and organizational per-
formance is indirectly impacted through a series of mediators often referred to as the
black box of Human Resources Management (Purcell et al., 2003; Wright & Gardner,
2003). Keeping in view the critical role of employees in organizational performance,
scholars started to focus on employee-centered outcomes like employee well-being
(e.g., Guest, 1999, 2017; van de Voorde et al., 2012).

While many scholars claimed that the HRM-performance link is pursued at the cost
of compromising employee well-being, Guest (2017) suggested the need for well-
being drives the relationship between HRM and performance. Edgar et al. (2015)
argued that employees with higher level of psychological well-being at work demon-
strated better task performance. Similarly, Judge et al. (2001) and Wright and
Cropanzano (2007) support the notion that happy workers are more productive.

74 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

Capturing the similar instance, HRM scholars not only focused on well-being as an
important outcome (Guest, 1999) but also consider it as a key mechanism between HR
practices and various individual and organizational performance indicators (Peccei,
2004). In addition to being an important predictor of performance, other factors like
high workload (Guest, 2017), changes in technology (Derks & Bakker, 2010) presence
of toxic leadership (Schyns & Schilling, 2013) and experience of bullying at work
(Woodrow & Guest, 2014) make well-being a “center stage” to embed in HRM debate
(Kowalski & Loretto, 2017).

HRM and Public Personnel Well-Being

Despite understanding the critical role of well-being at work, the concept has not gar-
nered much attention among public sector employees (Lahat & Ofek, 2020). Discussing
the benefits of Employee Wellness Programs, Otenyo and Smith (2017) claim that
government organizations lag behind the private sector in well-being initiatives.
Although public and semipublic organizations start borrowing HRM practices from
private sector to improve performance outcomes (Blom et al., 2020), these practices
have rarely been used for well-being purpose. Recently, some scholars have investi-
gated how HRM practices can improve public personnel well-being. For example,
Tuan et al. (2020) found that disability inclusive HR practice can foster well-being of
public employees with disabilities. Comparing the emotional well-being of public vs
private sector employees, Lahat and Ofek (2020) argued that HR environment (includ-
ing level of discretion, employee participation and social relationship) is responsible
for higher levels of emotional well-being among public sector employees. However,
an important question remains is the mediating mechanism through which HR envi-
ronment can lead to employee well-being (van de Voorde et al., 2017; Ogbonnaya &
Messersmith, 2019).

The impact of HR environment on employee well-being is not straightforward and
is linked with various critical internal factors (Ogbonnaya & Messersmith, 2019).
Mediators matter because they are the theoretical linkages explaining how a particular
approach accounts for some specific outcomes and not others (Boxall et al., 2016).
HRM Scholars have identified various mediating mechanisms such as psychological
contracts (Raeder et al., 2012), trust (Alfes et al., 2012), employee engagement (Truss
et al., 2013), and person-organization fit (Mostafa & Gould-Williams, 2014) through
which HR environment can lead to employee outcomes. Public administration schol-
ars need to be cautious while adopting private sector practices given the differential
motives, values, and attitudes that may influence the effectiveness of HRM practices
(Perry et al., 2010). Unlike private sector, public sector employees are motivated by
intrinsic factors rather extrinsic factors (Buelens & van den Broeck, 2007). Therefore,
a different social mechanism like OID is required to best explain the HR-well-being
relationship among public sector employees. Recently, Boyd and Nowell (2020) have
proposed and tested the impact of multiple factors (including affective organizational
commitment and identification) on public servants’ well-being. Their results sup-
ported the important role of OID in fostering public employees’ well-being, opening

Hameed et al. 75

an avenue for future research to study these relationships using social identity theory
framework.

Psychological Well-Being

Well-being is a broad concept and defined as the perception of employees regarding the
quality of their life and the quality of their psychological and social functioning (Keyes
et al., 2000). The concept of well-being has two different viewpoints. The first one is a
hedonic view, which takes well-being as a state of happiness and pleasure. The second
one is a eudaimonic view, which considers well-being as living a meaningful life. The
eudaimonic view consists of (a) personal growth and self-realization, (b) authenticity
and personal expressiveness, and (c) the pursuit of meaning in life (Ryff & Keyes,
1995). Hence, eudaimonic well-being is conceptualized as the meaningfulness of life
whereas the hedonic well-being is the subjective feeling of happiness (Sonnentag,
2016). This study utilizes the tripartite model of subjective well-being consisting of
satisfaction with life, the absence of negative affect, and the presence of positive affect
(Diener et al., 1985). Employees who are satisfied with their life and work tend to be
helpful and cooperative with coworkers, exhibit punctuality, and longer tenures as com-
pared to dissatisfied employees (Spector, 1997). Individuals high on psychological
well-being tend to be good decision makers, and exhibit better interpersonal behaviors,
and high in-role performance (Wright & Cropanzano, 2004). The above arguments
advocate the importance of employees’ psychological well-being for organizational
success and personal growth of individuals. This study makes an effort to understand
the process of development of psychological well-being through identification.

Role of OID in Improving Employees’ Psychological Well-
Being

The basic postulation of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) is that individ-
ual’s identification with a particular group helps him or her uphold a positive self-
concept; in fact, research shows significant positive association of social identification
with self-esteem (Crocker et al., 1994; Phinney et al., 1997). The OID-well-being
relationship can be explained using the social identity theory. For example, collective
(group specific) self-evaluation is positively linked with an individual’s overall self-
esteem and job satisfaction, while negatively related to depression (Crocker et al.,
1994). Employees feel proud when affiliated with a reputable organization because it
reinforces their feelings of self-worth (Smidts et al., 2001). An individual who feels a
sense of meaning, purposefulness, and belonging (i.e., favorable social identification)
with a specific group, is more likely to show positive psychological outcomes such as
job satisfaction (Chordiya et al., 2018), life satisfaction (Latrofa et al., 2009), self-
esteem (Outten et al., 2009), emotional control (Bizumic et al., 2009), and so on.

Even though the role of OID in employees’ well-being was recognized, the research
on the impact of OID on constructs like stress and well-being gained momentum dur-
ing the last decade. Identification was termed as a “social cure” following the seminal

76 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

works of Haslam et al. (2009) and Jetten et al. (2012). It is argued that an individual
with positive self-concept (i.e., positive personal and social identity) is predicted to
experience better psychological well-being. According to Knight and Haslam (2010),
employees’ well-being can be enhanced by increasing their sense of value and self-
worth. Research in academic settings found that students’ social identification leads to
higher study satisfaction and work engagement and negatively related to anxiety and
depression (van Dick et al., 2017). Employees,’ who identify themselves with a par-
ticular group/organization, experience higher levels of satisfaction and support (Jetten
et al., 2017).

A person’s sense of self can be defined at multiple levels such as personal, social,
or superordinate (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). At the personal level, individuals will iden-
tify with the salient aspect of their identity (Ellemers et al., 2004). While at the orga-
nizational level, employees expect the organizational goals to be met (Haslam and van
Dick., 2011). Thus, unrealized organizational goals cause shared identification to be
undermined, reducing the psychological well-being of individuals in an organization.
In a similar vein, Avanzi et al. (2018) reported inverse relationship between OID and
burnout. Individuals showing identification with a particular group show greater level
of basic need satisfaction (Greenaway et al., 2016), and are less likely to report depres-
sive symptoms (Cruwys et al., 2015). Thus, based on the above arguments, we hypoth-
esize that

Hypothesis 1 (H1): Organizational identification is positively related to individu-
al’s psychological well-being.

HR Environment and OID

Guest (2017) analyzed existing approaches toward employee well-being and proposed
an alternative approach to HRM that prioritizes enhancing well-being. The author out-
lined five sets of provisional HR practices as predictors of employee well-being, sub-
ject to empirical evidence. Those five sets of practices are labeled: (a) investing in
employees, (b) providing engaging work, (c) positive social and physical environ-
ment, (d) voice, and (e) organizational support. Relying on existing evidence, we
selected one practice from each of these proposed sets (except for organizational sup-
port). Specifically, job autonomy (Agosti et al., 2017; Felstead et al., 2015) is part of
“providing engaging work,” sense of progress and attractive future (i.e., opportunities
for advancement in our research). In addition, “investing in employees,” involvement
and communication (i.e., involved communication in current research) (Franco-Santos
and Dohetry, 2017) includes “voice,” and bullying (i.e., decisive action in current
research) (Woodrow & Guest, 2014) encompasses “positive social and physical
environment.”

Empirical studies have found that HR environment is a vital precursor in defining
the attitude of employees. For example, Edwards (2009) found that characteristics of
HR environment (such as involved communication, decisive action, job autonomy,
opportunities for advancement etc.) were positively associated with OID. Similarly,

Hameed et al. 77

Frenkel et al. (2012) found support for positive impact of employees’ perceptions of
HR policies and practices on employees’ OID. These HR practices make employees
feel that their organization values them, which further fosters their identification with
their organization.

Involved communication and OID—Shared communication has a strong impact on
employees’ attitudes which may further influence their identification with their orga-
nization (Wiesenfeld et al., 1999). Organizational members involved in the communi-
cation process, share their subjective perceptions about organizational values, norms
and culture, and thus strengthen their identification (Bartels et al., 2010; Hameed
et al., 2017). Active participation provides a sense of higher organizational control
(Huff et al., 1989) and a feeling of shared ownership (Wiesenfeld et al., 1999).
Understanding the central characteristic of an organization is a pre-condition for OID
(Dutton et al., 1994). Moreover, Atouba et al. (2016) illustrated that giving employees’
a voice and enabling their participation in organizational decisions is likely to bring
out a sense of belongingness with that organization. Kowalski and Loretto (2017) sug-
gested that higher level of staff involvement and communication generates positive
perception among employees.

Job Autonomy and OID—OID research posits that members’ self-representation
can be enhanced by giving them value and respect, which ultimately strengthens their
identification with the organization (George & Chattopadhyay, 2005). Autonomy at
work enhances an employees’ self-image, which leads them to feel oneness with their
organization (Slattery et al., 2010). Locus of control, one’s belief that members of
organization have control over their outcomes, is positively linked with psychological
identification with the organization (Chen et al., 2004). Control at work leads to “bet-
ter odds” for favorable experiences at work (Kowalski & Loretto, 2017). Indeed, if an
employee enjoys a certain degree of autonomy and trust, he or she will be more likely
to take on organizational concerns as their own.

Opportunities for Advancement and OID—Opportunities for advancement may be
termed as discretionary organizational investments in providing employees with
opportunities for training and development (Wayne et al., 1997). These actions on the
part of organizations send signals to the employees that they are valued members of
the organization (Edwards, 2009). The perception of being a valuable member of the
organization leads to OID (Mael & Ashforth, 1992) because employees feel pride in
associating with the organization. Therefore, we expect a positive relationship between
opportunities for advancement and OID.

Decisive Actions and OID—Decisive actions are perceptions related to organiza-
tional practices and procedures in response to grievances like bullying, discrimination,
harassment etc. (Edwards, 2009). No workplace is free from grievances. If organiza-
tional HR policies are clear and consistent on grievance handling, it will enhance the
perceptions of procedural fairness among employees (Meyer & Allen, 1997; Tremblay
et al., 2010). According to the work engagement model, people’s intention to engage
in an organization will depend upon the information members’ gain from how the
organization treats them. When an organization treats its employees fairly and with
respect, employees feel valued. This feeling of being valued leads toward generating a

78 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

sense of self-worth; boosting members’ self-worth is a key driving mechanism of iden-
tification according to social identity theory (Abrams & Hogg, 2006; Tajfel & Turner,
1986). Hence, we expect that decisive organizational action is positively related to
OID. Thus, based on aforementioned discussion, we can hypothesize that

Hypothesis 2 (H2): HR environment (involved communication, job autonomy,
opportunities for development, decisive actions) is positively associated with OID.

HR Environment and Employees’ Psychological Well-
Being

Analyzing the impact of HR environment on the psychological well-being of employ-
ees is one of the primary topics of interest in organizational psychology (Kossek et al.,
2014). Focusing on the approaches used to enhance employees’ health, Cartwright and
Cooper (2014) posit that previous research has mainly focused on understanding the
factors which reduce employee well-being and increase stress, rather than understand-
ing the factors that promote positive health and well-being. According to the American
Psychological Association (Quick et al., 2007), a healthy workplace is the one which
allows employees involvement in decision making, gives them job autonomy and
offers opportunities for growth and development. In line with this study, Wilson et al.
(2004) suggested that encouraging employees’ communication and offering high job
control promotes healthy work environment resulting in higher psychological well-
being of employees. Positive organizational climate, including encouraging participa-
tion and providing an open and communicative environment results in better mental
health of employees (Bronkhorst et al., 2015).

Scholars from positive psychology underscore that work settings must allow people
to flourish and perform effectively to attain happiness and well-being (Cartwright &
Cooper, 2014). Organizational workers can enhance their psychological well-being if
they experience greater autonomy, participation, decisive actions, and opportunities
for advancement. Jeurissen and Nyklicek (2001) proposed job demands and autonomy
as primary factors of eliciting employee wellness. Applying the Hackman and Oldham
(1976) job characteristics model, Slattery et al. (2010) proposed that job characteris-
tics are directly linked with employee’s job satisfaction, an indicator of well-being.
Wheatley (2017) indicated that higher level of both job control and control over one’s
schedule have positive impact on an employee’s job, leisure, and life satisfaction.
Jenkins et al. (2008) that learning new skills and knowledge enhances individual hap-
piness. Thus, the jobs with the element of “opportunities for advancement” have the
potential to enhance employee’s well-being. Similarly, Vermeeren et al. (2011) found
that Dutch municipality employees’ who experience a positive working environment,
experience greater satisfaction with their jobs.

Hypothesis 3 (H3): HR environment (involved communication, job autonomy,
opportunities for advancement, decisive actions) is positively related to psycho-
logical well-being of public personnel.

Hameed et al. 79

Mediating Role of OID

According to Pratt (1998), there are fundamentally two motives behind an employees’
identification with their organization. The first is self-enhancement, which is the feel-
ing of pride by perceiving attachment with a particular organization. The second is
self-categorization, which indicates a unique status and different identification from
rest of the society members. Involving employees in decision making, giving them
autonomy, offering opportunity for advancement, and welcoming their decisive
actions may improve the psychological well-being by promoting employees’ sense of
purpose, feeling of belongingness, and perception of control (Steffens et al., 2017).
Employees’ identification with their organizations lead them to exert more effort,
spend extra time on work, leading to longer organizational tenures (van Dick, 2001).
Extant research also indicates a positive association between OID and employees’ job
satisfaction (Knight & Haslam, 2010).

Employees determine their identity by synchronizing their personal characteristics,
that is, their values, norms, goals, self-concept, and so on (Ashforth et al., 2008;
Ashforth & Mael, 1996) with organizational features, that is, management/leadership
styles, culture, values/norms, mission, and so on (Albert & Whetten, 1985; Elsbach,
2004). The alignment of these characteristics reinforces the self-concept of employees
and consequently their identification with the organization gets stronger (Dukerich
et al., 2002). In other words, process of OID is the interplay between an individual and
the organization (Ashforth et al., 2008). Employees perceive job autonomy and open
communication as a form of organizational support and view it as an investment in
their development (Edwards, 2009). This perceived respect and support enhances an
employees’ self-representation, which reinforces their identity with the organization
(Brewer & Gardner, 1996; George & Chattopadhyay, 2005) leading to their psycho-
logical well-being. Figure 1 highlights the theoretical model employed in this study.
On the basis of above arguments, we hypothesize that

Hypothesis 4 (H4): OID mediates the relationship between HR environment and
employees’ psychological well-being.

Figure 1. Theoretical model.

80 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

Data and Methodology

Data

Three public sector research and development (R&D) organizations in Pakistan are
selected as the study population. Rationale for selecting public sector R&D organiza-
tions is based on the following three motives. First, the dynamic working environment
of these public sector R&D organizations includes scientific endeavor, sensitive nature
of job assignments, dealing with strategic and intellectual property, innovative techno-
logical transformation, and continuously changing international standards demand
switching employees’ job from being more bureaucratic to more flexible and autono-
mous. Second, being a part of these organizations is perceived as highly prestigious
and meaningful because of the esteemed mission of these organizations. These special
characteristics of public sector R&D organizations are more likely to generate high
levels of OID in civil servants. Finally, the intellectual nature of the job assignment
requires greater employee involvement, decisive actions and high autonomy, thus
making these organizations a suitable study site.

Data were collected using self-administered questionnaires in English. English lan-
guage is used as a medium of instruction in all academic settings (after matriculation)
in Pakistan. Furthermore, all the official affairs and communications are done in
English. Therefore, employees working in managerial levels with a university educa-
tion have no problem responding to the questionnaire in English. Administering the
survey questionnaires in English language was also supported in previous studies
(Hameed et al., 2017). The survey was administered to employees working at different
hierarchical level (i.e., top managers, middle managers, and lower managers) to ensure
valid responses through non-probability purposive sampling (Saunders, 2011).
Questionnaires were disseminated to particular individuals (lower, middle, and top
managers). Following Podsakoff et al. (2003), anonymity of the respondents was
assured and therefore, the HRM department officials have no influence over the
respondents in administering the survey. However, prior consent was taken from HRM
department. Delivery and collection questionnaire method was used to collect the data
in which the researchers personally visited and met with the respondents to complete
the whole process of data collection.

The study yielded 338 useable questionnaires out of total 425 disseminated, dem-
onstrating a response rate of 79.5 %. Almost three-fourth (75.7%) of the respondents
were male and one-fourth (24.3%) were females. Respondents with less than 5 years
of current organizational work experience were close to half (48.5%), while 38% of
the respondents had 5 to 10 years of experience. The average age of the respondents
was 32.8 years. Majority of the respondents held a master’s degree (69.5%), while 8%
were PhDs.

Measures

All the variables (excluding employee’s psychological well-being and control vari-
ables) were measured on a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from “strongly

Hameed et al. 81

disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (5). The scales are reliable based on the Cronbach’s
alpha scores, which are all above .75. Detailed items of all measurement scales are
provided in Appendix A.

HR Environment was measured using four different scales. Opportunities for
advancement was measured using two items reported by Price et al. (1992). The sam-
ple item is “There is an opportunity for me to further my career at this organization.”
Job autonomy was measured using three-item scale reported by Peccei and Rosenthal
(1997). The sample item is “I can use my personal judgment to decide what I do in my
job.” A four-item scale developed by Edwards (2009) was used to measure Involved
Communication. The sample item is “I feel involved in decisions about my own area
of work.” The measure used for decisive action was based on previous NHS employee
attitude scales, which involved three items. The sample item was “The organization
would act decisively if employees experienced harassment at work.”

Organizational identification (OID) was measured using five items based on Mael
and Ashforth (1992). The sample item is “when someone praises the accomplishments
of my organization, it feels like a personal compliment to me.”

Employees’ psychological well-being in this study was measured using a 5-item
scale of world health organization (Group, 1998). The respondents were asked to indi-
cate for each of the five statements how they felt over the past few months. A higher
score on scale represents better psychological well-being. The sample item of the scale
is “I have felt cheerful and in good spirits.”

In addition to the main study variables, control variables like age, gender, and
experience are also measured to avoid additional possible explanations for the studied
relationships.

Results

Summary Statistics and Zero Order Correlations

Summary statistics for the study sample are presented in Table 1. Mean values of all
study variables (i.e., HR environment, OID, and psychological well-being) are higher
than average. In particular, mean values for OID and psychological well-being are
3.80 and 3.72, respectively. These values indicate positive identification of public per-
sonnel with their organization and also indicate psychological well-being. Furthermore,
the HR environment perception of these government employees is more than average.
To assess data normality, Kolmogorov-Smirnov test were applied. Kolmogorov-
Smirnov test of normality show that our data set is not normally distributed (p<.05).
Following Pallant (2007), skewness and kurtosis values were tested to confirm quasi-
normality. All skewness and kurtosis values fall within the threshold limit of ±3 and
thus supporting quasi-normality of the data.

The bivariate correlations among all study variables are presented in Table 1.
Results of correlation analysis show that our independent variables (i.e., HR environ-
ment), are significantly correlated with our dependent variable, psychological well-
being in the same direction as hypothesized. Similarly, the HR environment also

82 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

shows significant correlation with OID, the mediating variable, in the hypothesized
direction. Likewise, a significant positive correlation between OID and psychologi-
cal well-being is observed. These statistics provide initial support for our proposed
hypotheses.

Experience and age have significant correlations with employees’ OID. This shows
that employees develop a strong sense of oneness with their organization with increas-
ing age and experience. It is worth mentioning that other control variables have no
significant correlation with the dependent variable of the study.

Measurement Model

The measurement model assessment involved running confirmatory factor analysis
using AMOS 24. Model goodness of fit was assessed using four statistical indices as
recommended by Byrne (2001). These indices are the Tucker–Lewis index (TLI), the
comparative fit index (CFI), CMIN/df, and the root-mean square error of approxima-
tion (RMSEA). According to Kline (2010), for a good model fit, the CFI and TLI
values should be above 0.90, RMSEA score should fall between 0.05 and 0.08 and
CMIN/df should be less than 2. The results of Model 1 (applied to all items of vari-
ables) show acceptable fit statistics (CMIN/df = 1.85, CFI = 0.94, TLI = 0.93,
RMSEA = 0.05). To assess the appropriateness of our suggested measurement model,
two alternative models proposed by Bentler and Bonett (1980) were also tested. In our
first alternative model (Model 2), all four HR practices were converged on a single
factor which resulted in poor fit indices (CMIN/df = 4.97, CFI = 0.69, TLI = 0.65,
RMSEA = 0.11). The second alternative model (Model 3) was run by combining OID
and well-being into a single factor (Table 2). The model fit indices for this Model 3
also showed poor fit to the data (CMIN/df = 2.92, CFI = 0.86, TLI = 0.83, RMSEA
= 0.08). Thus, the results of our proposed model (six-factor model) clearly indicate a
superior fit1 in comparison with alternative models.

Table 1. Descriptive Statistics and Zero-Order Correlations.

Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

1. Gender 1.24 0.43 — — — — — — — —
2. Age 32.77 7.44 −.09 — — — — — — —
3. Experience 6.18 5.26 .03 .72*** — — — — — —
4. OID 3.80 0.56 .06 .11* .20*** — — — — —
5. OA 3.67 0.89 .05 .00 .01 .31*** — — — —
6. JA 3.54 0.79 −.01 .01 −.01 .31*** .30*** — — —
7. DA 3.36 0.83 .11* .05 .07 .18** .22*** .22*** — —
8. IC 3.42 0.67 .09 .06 −.00 .33*** .36*** .36*** .34*** —
9. PWB 3.72 0.67 .10 .07 .08 .41*** .46*** .37*** .24*** .39***

Note. OID = organizational identification; OA = opportunities for advancement; JA = job autonomy;
DA = decisive action; IC = involved communication; PWB = psychological well-being.
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001

Hameed et al. 83

The common latent factor test is conducted using a structural equation modeling
(SEM) to gauge the common method variance of the data. SEM is more robust than
the commonly used Harman’s single-factor test. The results reveal a shared variance
of 19% among all items, implying that the data have no major common method vari-
ance bias.

Hypotheses Testing

The structural regression (SR) model in AMOS 21 is used for hypotheses testing. We
tested first SR model (Model 4) including all hypotheses and two control variables
(age and experience with OID). The results of the model showed poor data fit (CMIN/
df = 2.74, CFI = 0.86, TLI = 0.83, RMSEA = 0.07) additionally, the control variable
“experience” did show significant effect on OID. Then we tested our second SR model
(Model 5) after removing age and including experience as control variable (see Table 2).
This model showed good fit with the data (CMIN/df = 1.76, CFI = 0.94, TLI = 0.93,
RMSEA = 0.05). Thus, all the hypotheses are tested using Model 5.

Hypothesis 1 states the positive effect of OID on employees’ psychological well-
being. The outcome of structural regression (model 5) show that OID has a positive
relationship with employees’ psychological well-being (unstandardized estimate =
0.34, SE = 0.11, p < .01), thus supporting Hypothesis 1. On examining the direct
positive effect of HR environment on employees’ OID, the results show that except,
decisive action, all other HR practices have a significant positive impact on OID. Job
autonomy (unstandardized estimate = .12, SE = .05, p < .05), involved communica-
tion (unstandardized estimate = .16, SE = .06, p < .01), decisive action (unstandard-
ized estimate = -0.00, SE = .04, p > .05), and opportunities for advancement
(unstandardized estimate = .10, SE = .04, p < .05). Experience had significant posi-
tive impact on OID as well (unstandardized estimate = .02, SE = .01, p < .001). Thus,
Hypothesis 2 was partially verified. Hypothesis 3 tests the direct positive effect of HR

Table 2. Structural Equation Model Fit Indices.

Model Description CMIN/df TLI CFI RMSEA

Model 1 CFA of all variables 1.85 .93 .94 .05
Model 2 Alternative Model 1

(combining HR practices)
4.97 .65 .69 .11

Model 3 Alternative Model 2
(combining OID and PWB)

2.92 .86 .83 .08

Model 4 SR Model 1 (including age
and experience as controls)

2.74 .86 .83 .07

Model 5 SR Model 2 (with experience
as control)

1.76 .93 .94 .05

TLI = Tucker–Lewis index; CFI = comparative fit index; RMSEA = root-mean square error of
approximation; CFA = confirmatory factor analysis; OID = organizational identification; PWB =
psychological well-being; SR = structural regression.

84 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

environment on employees’ psychological well-being. Results of structural regression
model show partial support for the study hypothesis—opportunities for advancement
(unstandardized estimate = 0.22, SE = 0.07, p < .001) was significant, while Job
autonomy (unstandardized estimate = .11, SE = .06, p > .05), involved communica-
tion (unstandardized estimate = .14, SE = .08, p > .05) and decisive action (unstan-
dardized estimate = .05, SE = .06, p > .05) did not show a significant effect on
psychological well-being.

Hypothesis 4 suggests the mediating mechanism of OID between HR environment
and employees’ psychological well-being. Using SR Model 5 with 5000 bootstrap
samples at 95% bias corrected confidence interval (Table 3), the results of structural
regression model show that HR environment has a significant indirect effect on
employee psychological well-being except for decisive action (unstandardized esti-
mate = -0.00, SE = 0.02, p > .05) where confidence interval contains both positive
and negative values (-.04, .03).

Discussion

This study explores the impact of HR environment on public employee’s psychologi-
cal well-being with OID as a mediating variable. We particularly focused on the asso-
ciation of four components of HR environment—job autonomy, opportunities for
advancement, involved communication, and decisive action with OID and its impact
on psychological well-being. We highlighted the role of OID as a mediator between
the four specific components of HR environment and psychological well-being given

Table 3. Mediation Hypotheses Results.

Psychological well-being (PWB)

Point of
estimate S.E

BC 95% CI

PHR Environment Lower Upper

Total effect of job autonomy (JA) .12 .07 .03 .30 .017
Direct effect of JA .11 .06 −.00 .25 .056
Indirect effect .04 .02 .01 .11 .012
Total effect of involved
communication (IC)

.20 .08 .03 .37 .017

Direct effect of IC .14 .08 −.01 .31 .068
Indirect effect .06 .03 .01 .13 .006
Total effect of decisive action (DA) .05 .07 −.09 .17 .505
Direct effect of DA .05 .06 −.08 .09 .439
Indirect effect −.00 .02 −.04 .03 .860
Total effect of opportunities for
advancement (OA)

.25 .07 .12 .41 .000

Direct effect of OA .22 .07 .09 .37 .000
Indirect effect .03 .02 .01 .08 .010

Hameed et al. 85

that OID is identified as an important psychological resource (Greenaway et al., 2016;
Jetten et al., 2017) for several organizational and individual outcomes. Organizational
identity has garnered attention in recent times, while there is some overlap with orga-
nizational commitment, these two are distinct concepts (van Dick 2001). Organizational
identity is intertwined with the social identity of the individual and their membership
in the organization (Mael & Ashforth, 1992), while organizational commitment is a
more general attitude that signifies exchange of resources between the individual and
the organization. Organizational identity is recognized as a “social cure” in the recent
literature with implications for individuals’ health and well-being (Greenaway et al.,
2016; Haslam et al., 2009; Jetten et al., 2017). Furthermore, a growing body of litera-
ture indicates that human resources management techniques and the way individuals
are treated are helpful in generating OID. Specifically, HR practices that ensure orga-
nizations value its employees are more likely to foster OID (Edwards, 2009).

The findings of the current study propose that Job autonomy, Opportunities for
Advancement, and Involved Communication are significant components of HR envi-
ronment that shape the attitudes and behaviors of employees in the public sector. The
direct relationship between involved communication and OID illustrates that providing
employees the opportunity to actively participate in the process of organizational com-
munication is important in eliciting OID. The role of employees’ involved communica-
tion in fostering OID is logical as it creates feelings of oneness with the organization
(Pratt, 1998). Similarly, the positive association between job autonomy and OID reveals
that freedom at work also enhances public sector employees OID with their organiza-
tion. Indeed, employees perceive both involved communication and job autonomy as
discretionary investment and thus take organizational concerns as their own.

Likewise, our results demonstrate that providing employees the opportunity for
advancement can foster employees’ identification as employees consider such HR
environment as a discretionary investment in them. Employees’ respond to such
actions by showing strong attachment with organizations as they boost their self-
esteem. The more employees identify with the organization, it improves their connect-
edness, reduces stress, and promotes overall health and wellness (Haslam & van Dick,
2011). The results support the assertion that Job autonomy, Opportunities for
Advancement, and Involved Communication are key factors in improving employees’
well-being. However, we did not find support for the argument that employees per-
ceive organizational decisive actions as a fairness tool that subsequently plays a sig-
nificant role in generating OID.

We also explored the mechanism through which HR environment influences
employees’ well-being. The results show that OID mediates the relationship between
HR environment- Job autonomy, Opportunities for Advancement, and Involved
Communication,—and psychological well-being. Positive HR environment signals to
employees that their organization is concerned about their well-being (Quick et al.,
2007). Giving freedom to employees and involving them in decision making contrib-
utes to their well-being only if they feel oneness with the organization. Ashforth (2000)
suggested that employees need to take such HR practices positively to identify with
their organization.

86 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

Theoretical and Managerial Implications

Studies on work satisfaction of public employees are plenty (e.g., Boyd et al., 2018;
Kjeldsen & Hansen, 2018; Lee & Sabharwal, 2016). Most of the existing studies have
indicated that work satisfaction, a part of psychological well-being, is a key to impor-
tant work outcomes like individual performance, organizational citizenship behavior,
openness to innovation, and so on (Cantarelli et al., 2016). Hence, it is essential for
managers to foster their well-being for improving organizational performance.
However, little effort has been invested in understanding the factors which effect pub-
lic employees’ well-being and the psychological mechanisms which help improve
wellness of these employees (Ryu, 2016). This research suggests that HR environ-
ment, more specifically involved communication, opportunities for advancement and
job autonomy are critical to an employee’s psychological well-being. These results
have important implications.

First, managers should know the critical role of HR environment to enhance an
employees’ well-being. Managers and leaders should encourage two-way communica-
tion process that allows inputs from employees in organizational matters. The two-
way communication is not merely hearing employee complaints but it’s a management
style that promotes employees’ participation in organizational decisions. This partici-
pative management approach enhances employee sense of attachment and satisfaction
because employees perceive that their opinions matter. Managers need to exert greater
effort to convince their employees that their inputs matter (Detert & Burris, 2007).

Second, offering significant autonomy at work can serve as great recruitment and
retention tool. Organizational locus of control, one’s belief that members of organiza-
tions have control over their outcomes, is positively linked with psychological well-
being of employees. Therefore, managers could foster a sense of meaningfulness in
employees by designing a job that offers their employees liberty at work.

Finally, our study introduced an important mediating mechanism (i.e., OID)
between HR environment and psychological well-being of employees. To achieve
employee psychological well-being, managers/supervisors need to ensure that HR
environment must be designed to develop employees’ identification with the organi-
zation. The results of this study show that involved communication and job autonomy
are important precursors to elicit OID. While human resource policies and practices
can foster job satisfaction, this research has shown that organizations must create a
sense of belongingness among their employees to further enhance satisfaction and
well-being.

Limitations and Future Directions

Although this study provides some important insights and contributes to the existing
literature, there are a few limitations, which must be acknowledged. First, the cross-
sectional design limits the confidence in the results as cause and effect relationships
cannot be fully tested. Second, the self-reporting measures of HR environment and
OID also raise concern of common-method bias. However, we have followed the

Hameed et al. 87

recommendations of Podsakoff et al. (2003) while collecitng data and also statistically
testing for Common Source Bias (CSB) in our data. The tests indicate no major con-
cern regarding common method bias. To counter the issue of common method bias,
future research can employ longitudnal designs of supervisor or peer ratings related to
OID and job characteristics. However, the nature of the HR variables under study are
psychological and often measured by the perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs of employ-
ees, which are best determined by conducting a survey of individuals in the workplace
(George & Pandey, 2017). The “self-reported nature of these variables cannot be the
basis of prima facie conclusions that CSB makes such data unusable—especially if the
authors followed a reasonable set of procedural remedies to minimize CSB (George &
Pandey, 2017, p. 260).”

Data collected from specific research and development government organizations
is another limitation of this study, which can limit the generalizability of results. Future
studies can broaden this model to include other agencies in the public sector. Another
probable limitation of the current study is non-inclusion of constructs like Affective
Organizational Commitment (AOC), which is considered an important predictor of
employee well-being. Future studies can develop models with competing mediating
mechanism or can use AOC as a control. Future studies should explore potential
boundary conditions (such as personality, dispositions, and orientations toward orga-
nization and life) of the proposed relationships to gain more insights into other factors
which can be used to further enhance our understanding of employee well-being.

Appendix A: Measurement Scales

Organizational Identification (Cronbach’s alpha = .76)
1. Working at my organization is important to the way that I think of myself as a

person.
2. When someone praises the accomplishments of my organization, it feels like a

personal compliment to me.
3. When someone from outside criticizes my organization, it feels like a personal

insult.
4. The place I work says a lot about who I am as a person.
5. I think I am similar to the people who work at my organization.

Job Autonomy (Cronbach’s alpha = .76)
1. I can use my personal judgment to decide what I do in my job.
2. I have the opportunity to decide how and what I do in my job.
3. I can make my own decisions in carrying out my job.

Opportunities for Advancement (Cronbach’s alpha = .86)
1. There is the opportunity for me to further my career at this organization.
2. I have the opportunity for advancement at this organization.

88 Public Personnel Management 51(1)

Involved Communication (Cronbach’s alpha = .70)
1. I do not bother to put forward my ideas because management is not really

interested (R).
2. Employees’ views are listened to by those who make decisions.
3. I feel involved in decisions about my own area of work.
4. I feel able to voice opinions and influence changes.

Decisive Action (Cronbach’s alpha = .82)
1. The organization would act decisively if employees experienced

discrimination.
2. The organization would act decisively if employees experienced bullying at

work.
3. The organization would act decisively if employees experienced harassment at

work.

Employees’ Psychological Well-being (Cronbach’s alpha = .81)
1. I have felt cheerful and in good spirits.
2. I have felt calm and relaxed.
3. I have felt active and vigorous.
4. I woke up feeling fresh and rested.
5. My daily life has been filled with things that interest me.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.

Funding

The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of
this article.

ORCID iD

Meghna Sabharwal https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1294-559X

Note

1. The chi-square test of difference was not applied because the model’s superiority was evi-
dent from the fit indices.

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Author Biographies

Imran Hameed is an associate professor in faculty of business administration at Lahore
School of Economics, Lahore, Pakistan. He holds a PhD degree in management sciences from
Aix Marseille University, France. His research interests include organizational identification,
organizational change, psychological well-being, and knowledge hiding. He can be reached at
[email protected]

Muhammad Umer Ijaz is a PhD student in the department of management in Deakin business
school, Deakin University, Australia. He has been awarded with Deakin University Postgraduate
Research Scholarship (DUPR) by the Australian Government. He conducts research in the areas
of human resource management, organizational behavior and public administration with par-
ticular focus on feedback, employee wellbeing, creativity and innovation. He can be reached at
[email protected]

Meghna Sabharwal is a professor and program head in the public and nonprofit management
program at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her research interests are focused on public human
resources management, specifically workforce diversity, job performance, job satisfaction, and
high-skilled migration. She is widely published in public administration journals. She also has
two book publications: Public Personnel Administration (6th Ed.) and Public Administration in
South Asia: India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

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