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Employee well-being attribution and job change intentions: The moderating effect of task idiosyncratic deals

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Abstract

We developed and tested a research model in which employee well-being human resource (HR) attribution differentially influences the intention to change jobs across organizations (i.e., external job change intention) versus that within the same organization (i.e., internal job change intention), which then influences job performance. Furthermore, we posited task idiosyncratic deals (I-deals) as having a moderating effect on the relationships between employee well-being HR attribution and external and internal job change intentions. We collected multi-source and time-lagged data from 944 employees and their 305 direct supervisors from one company. Results indicated that employee well-being HR attribution was negatively related to external job change intention, but positively related to internal job change intention. Further, as task I-deals increased, the negative relationship between employee well-being HR attribution and external job change intention was weakened. By contrast, the positive relationship between employee well-being HR attribution and internal job change intention was strengthened. Our study extends the career literature by differentiating the impact of employee well-being HR attribution on job change intentions within an organization compared with that across organizations and its subsequent impact on job performance. Results also revealed the important role of supervisors in enhancing or mitigating these effects.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Employee well-being attribution and job change intentions:
The moderating effect of task idiosyncratic deals
Byron Y. Lee
1
| Tae-Yeol Kim
1
| Yaping Gong
2
| Xiaoming Zheng
3
| Xin Liu
4
1
China Europe International Business School
(CEIBS), Shanghai, China
2
Department of Management, School of
Business and Management, The Hong Kong
University of Science & Technology, Clear
Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
3
Department of Leadership and Organization
Management, School of Economics and
Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing,
China
4
Department of Organization and Human
Resources, Renmin Business School, Renmin
University of China, Beijing, China
Correspondence
Xiaoming Zheng, Department of Leadership
and Organization Management, School of
Economics and Management, Tsinghua
University, Beijing, 100084, China.
Email: zhengxm@sem.tsinghua.edu.cn
Funding information
National Natural Science Foundation of China,
Grant/Award Numbers: 71728005, 71771133;
Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council of Canada, Grant/Award Number:
Insight Grant 435-2019-0271
Abstract
We developed and tested a research model in which employee well-being human
resource (HR) attribution differentially influences the intention to change jobs across
organizations (i.e., external job change intention) versus that within the same organi-
zation (i.e., internal job change intention). Furthermore, we posited that task idiosyn-
cratic deals (I-deals) moderated the relationships between employee well-being HR
attribution and external and internal job change intentions. Results indicated that
employee well-being HR attribution was negatively related to external job change
intention, but positively related to internal job change intention. Further, task I-deals
significantly moderated the relationships between employee well-being HR attribu-
tion and external and internal job change intention. Specifically, employee well-being
HR attribution played a less important role in reducing external job change intention
when task I-deals were high rather than low. On the other hand, high task I-deals sig-
nificantly strengthened the positive relationship between employee well-being HR
attribution and internal job change intention. Our study extends the careers literature
by differentiating the impact of employee well-being HR attribution on job change
intentions within an organization compared with that across organizations and the
important role of supervisors in enhancing or mitigating these effects.
KEYWORDS
employee well-being HR attribution, external job change intention, internal job change
intention, task idiosyncratic deals
1|INTRODUCTION
Jobs are at the heart of the employment relationship and are consid-
ered the building blocks of careers (Baruch & Rosenstein, 1992).
Careers research has evolved from focusing on traditional organiza-
tional careers (i.e., job movements inside an organization) to a model
characterized by increased job mobility across and within organiza-
tional boundaries (Lyons, Schweitzer, & Ng, 2015; Sullivan & Baruch,
2009). However, external job changes (i.e., changes in jobs across orga-
nizational boundaries) and internal job changes (i.e., changes in jobs
within an organization) may have different implications for the organi-
zation and the employee (Inkson, Gunz, Ganesh, & Roper, 2012). For
example, research on job changes (e.g., Bidwell & Keller, 2014;
Bidwell & Mollick, 2015; DeVaro & Morita, 2013) have shown the dif-
ferent effects of external and internal job changes on the career out-
comes of employees and their ultimate impact on firm performance.
Despite these advances, existing studies have yet to examine the
differences between external and internal job change intentions.
External job change intention is defined as the intention to change
jobs by moving to a different organization. Internal job change
DOI: 10.1002/hrm.21998
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2019 The Authors Human Resource Management Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Hum Resour Manage. 2019;112. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/hrm 1
intention refers to the desire to make any substantial changes in
work responsibilities, hierarchical levels, or titles within an organiza-
tion(Feldman & Ng, 2007: p. 352), including upward and lateral job
change intentions. Examining job change intentions is important
because job change intentions affect employee career development
(Feldman & Ng, 2007; Sullivan & Baruch, 2009) including actual job
changes in one's career (Hom, Mitchell, Lee, & Griffeth, 2012). In the
present study, we aimed to extend careers research by examining the
impact of different stakeholders (e.g., organizations and supervisors)
on employee external and internal job change intentions. Multiple
stakeholders, such as organizations and direct supervisors can play an
important role in employee careers (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996) despite
the shifting of career development responsibility to individual
employees (Gubler, Arnold, & Coombs, 2014). Specifically, we focused
on employee well-being HR attribution (i.e., employee perceptions
that HR practices exist for enhancing employee well-being, Nishii,
Lepak, & Schneider, 2008) to represent organizational practices, and
task I-deals (i.e., personalized agreements on job contents and work
responsibilities between employees and their supervisor, Rousseau,
Ho, & Greenberg, 2006) as supervisory practices promoting employee
career development. Both represent coherent organizational and
supervisory practices in the eyes of employees that aim to promote
their career development. Taking this multi-stakeholder perspective,
we proposed a framework that connects employee perceptions of or
experiences with organizational and supervisory practices to different
job change intentions.
First, we examined how employee well-being HR attribution, a
special type of employee perceptions of organizational HR practices,
relates to external and internal job change intentions. Advances in the
HR literature have highlighted the importance of understanding
employees' attribution about why HR practices exist (Nishii, Lepak, &
Schneider, 2008; Ostroff & Bowen, 2016; Sanders, Shipton, & Gomes,
2014). By examining how employees' HR attribution affect job change
intentions, we extend the careers research because employees'
careers through different job movements can be affected by their
attributions on a firm's HR practices, such as selection, performance
appraisal, training and development, and career management. Concep-
tually, employee well-being HR attribution can engender perceptions
of support for their career development from the organization
(Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002), which enhances employees' intention
to pursue their careers within the firm (Guest, 2017). Scholars have
also shown that employee well-being HR attribution negatively relates
to external job change intention (Chen & Wang, 2014; Tandung,
2016) and increases job satisfaction and organizational commitment
(Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008; van de Voorde & Beijer, 2015). That
is, employee well-being HR attribution is clearly associated with
employees' career development, and thus has a great potential to
influence both external and internal job change intention.
In addition to organizational HR practices, supervisors can play a
central role in developing employee careers because they determine
the job characteristics of employees (Piccolo & Colquitt, 2006) by
offering flexibility and individualization of the job. Supervisor-level
practices are influential because supervisors directly interact with
employees and have the power to offer idiosyncratic deals that pro-
mote employee careers. Thus, we examine how supervisory agree-
ment on changes to job design can moderate the relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and external and internal job
change intentions. Specifically, we examine whether idiosyncratic
deals regarding tasks and work responsibility (task I-deals) moderate
the relationships between employee well-being HR attribution and
external and internal job change intentions. We expect that high task
I-deals would replace the effects of employee well-being HR attribu-
tion on external job change intention. That is, with high task I-deals,
employees would be satisfied with their jobs, and thus employee well-
being HR attribution can play a less important role in reducing external
job change intention. Moreover, high task I-deals can strengthen the
positive relationship between employee well-being attribution and
internal job change intention because employees feel support for their
career development from both their organization and supervisor and
thus are more likely to develop careers through internal job changes.
To sum up, we provide a framework that connects HR attribution
theory (Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008) and task I-deals (job design
based on the agreement between an employee and a supervisor) to
job mobility theory. Doing so renders several contributions. First, we
enhance our understanding of the differences between external and
internal job change intentions, as different mindsets of career devel-
opment (Ng, Sorensen, Eby, & Feldman, 2007; Sullivan & Baruch,
2009). Second, we extend job mobility literature by incorporating HR
attribution theory in examining the antecedents of job change inten-
tions. In doing so, we highlight the importance of employee attribu-
tions of a firm's HR practices in understanding their desire to develop
career inside or outside the firm. Third, we investigated the combined
effects of employee well-being HR attribution, employee perceptions
of organizational practices related to their career development, and
task I-deals, employee experiences with their supervisor related to
their career development, on external and internal job change inten-
tions. This multi-focus perspective extends the careers literature by
considering employee attributions of organizational HR practices and
supervisor-employee dyadic actions on different job change mindsets
(cf. Ng, Sorensen, Eby, & Feldman, 2007).
2|LITERATURE REVIEW AND
HYPOTHESES
2.1 |Job change intentions
Job mobility refers to intra and interorganizational changes over the
career of an employee (Sullivan, 1999). In advancing job mobility the-
ory, Ng, Sorensen, Eby, and Feldman (2007) examined different types
of mobility by developing a typology, which delineates mobility using
the dimensions of employer (external vs. internal to the organization)
and status of job movement (lateral, upward, or downward). However,
most existing careers research have focused on external job changes
(i.e., Eby, Butts, & Lockwood, 2003) without examining internal job
changes. Nevertheless, many job changes still occur within the same
organization (Rodrigues & Guest, 2010).
2LEE ET AL.
Job mobility scholars are interested in examining the different
mindsets of changing jobs on employee outcomes (Feldman & Ng,
2007) because not all desires to change jobs result in actual job
changes (Hom, Mitchell, Lee, & Griffeth, 2012). Following the existing
typology of job mobility (Ng, Sorensen, Eby, & Feldman, 2007),
Feldman and Ng (2007) proposed that structural, organizational, and
individual factors affect external and internal job change intentions dif-
ferently. For example, social support is related to internal job change
intention (De Janasz & Sullivan, 2004), whereas time demands and
work-life conflicts are related to external job change intention (Ng &
Sorensen, 2008). However, there is a need to understand how
employee perceptions of organizational HR practices (e.g., employee
HR attribution) may affect both external and internal job change inten-
tions (Feldman & Ng, 2007; Ng, Sorensen, Eby, & Feldman, 2007).
HR scholars have examined different types of employee HR attri-
butions (Hewett, Shantz, Mundy, & Alfes, 2018). For example, Nishii,
Lepak, and Schneider (2008) initially investigated five distinct attribu-
tions and combined these attributions into three dimensions, namely,
external attribution (e.g., union compliance), commitment-focused
(e.g., achieving the firm's strategic goal of service quality or enhancing
employee-well-being), and control-focused (e.g., cost reduction). In
this study, we did not examine achieving the firm's strategic goal of
service qualitybecause it is not directly related to employee well-
being including career development. We also did not expect the
control-focused dimension to directly impact such job change inten-
tions. Conceptually, cost reduction, the major focus of control-
focused attribution, can be achieved through low pay or low invest-
ment in employees. However, cost reduction can also be realized
through operational excellence or technological advancements (and
thus high productivity). Hence, control-focused attribution does not
necessarily lead to external job change intention. Indeed, empirical
studies have found such attribution to have mixed impacts with either
no direct impact (Chen & Wang, 2014) or a positive impact (Tandung,
2016) on external job change intention. Therefore, we focused on
employee well-being HR attribution that is most likely to influence an
employee's career through both internal and external job change
intention. In doing so, we remain consistent with our framework to
identify both organizational and supervisor level practices conducive
to career development and examine their joint effect. In the next sec-
tion, we discuss how employee well-being HR attribution relates to
internal and external job change intentions.
2.2 |Employee well-being HR attribution and job
change intentions
We propose that employee well-being attribution significantly relate
to external and internal job change intention. According to attribution
theory (Heider, 1958; Weiner, 2008), individuals make causal infer-
ences about specific events or target objects, which can impact their
attitudinal or behavioral response toward them. Applied to the HR
context, employees can make casual inferences about why certain HR
practices exist (Koys, 1988) which in turn affect employee attitudes
toward their organizations and jobs such as an intention to develop
their career with the firm or outside firm. For example, employee
well-being HR attribution implies that employees perceive that HR
practices are in place due to an underlying employee-oriented man-
agement philosophy and that their firm's HR practices intend to bring
positive consequences for employees (e.g., Osterman, 1994). As a
result, employees high on well-being HR attribution may respond to
such attribution with positive attitudes toward the organization, and
are more likely to feel obligated to reciprocate the favors of the orga-
nization (Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008). For example, when
employees interpret HR practices as valuing them or promoting their
well-being, employees feel obligated to reciprocate (Takeuchi, Chen, &
Lepak, 2009). Employees tend to respond to these perceived favor-
able practices from the organization through positive attitudes and
behaviors toward the organization (Kooij et al., 2013). To support for
this, previous studies have shown that employees with a high well-
being HR attribution tend to have strong organizational commitment
(Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008; Van de Voorde & Beijer, 2015).
Extrapolating from this, we expect employee well-being HR attribu-
tion to reduce employees' intention to leave the organization.
On the other hand, we expect a positive relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and internal job change intention
for several reasons. First, employee well-being HR attribution stem-
ming from an underlying perception of a well-being management phi-
losophy of the organization connotes positive implications for
employees (Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008). Such HR attribution
may encourage employees to enhance their own well-being that are
consistent with such perceived management philosophy. Specifically,
employees may consider enhancing their own well-being through the
use of career development and career opportunities (Guest, 2017). In
addition, employees with high well-being HR attribution can interpret
that existing HR practices, ranging from hiring, pay and benefits, per-
formance appraisal, training and development, and career develop-
ment (e.g., job rotation), are implemented by the organization for their
own well-being (van de Voorde & Beijer, 2015). With such attribution,
employees are motivated to advance their career through seeking out
interesting jobs within the firm. Relatedly, employee well-being HR
attribution can engender a sense of support from their organization
for employees to develop their careers inside the organization
(cf. Chen & Wang, 2014), which helps employees find other jobs or
positions within the organization as a way to enhance their careers
(Armstrong-Stassen & Ursel, 2009; Ng & Feldman, 2014; Sullivan,
2011). Taken together, we hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 1 Employee well-being HR attribution is (a) negatively
related to external job change intention, but (b) positively related to inter-
nal job change intention.
2.3 |Moderating role of task-idiosyncratic deals
We have discussed how employee well-being HR attribution may neg-
atively relate to external job change intention but positively relate to
internal job change intention. In this section, we discuss a potential
LEE ET AL.3
contextual variable that could moderate the relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and the two different types of
job change intentions. While an organization has its own practices,
supervisors often have discretion in the task arrangement for individ-
ual employees who can also negotiate their specific employment con-
ditions with their supervisor (Rousseau, Ho, & Greenberg, 2006). The
ways that supervisors organize specific employment conditions in the
job for each employee can influence the relationship of employee
well-being HR attribution with employee attitudes and intentions
(cf. Rosen, Slater, Chang, & Johnson, 2013). Among the supervisory
practices that can affect employees' job experiences, task I-deals are
essential in managing careers (i.e., job change) in organizations
(De Vos & Cambré, 2017). Initial predefined tasks and job responsibili-
ties can be adjusted based on a mutual agreement between the
employee and his/her supervisor. For example, an employee may be
assigned additional roles or tasks that help him/her develop different
skills based on the negotiation with his or her supervisor (Rousseau,
Hornung, & Kim, 2009). Task I-deals result in positive employee atti-
tudes due to a favorable change in job characteristics (Hornung, Rous-
seau, Glaser, Angerer, & Weigel, 2010).
We focus on task I-deals for the following reasons. First, task I-
deals are one of the most commonly used components for job rede-
sign and are central in influencing employee attitudes (Hornung, Rous-
seau, Glaser, Angerer, & Weigel, 2010). Second, while HR practices
are general to an employee group, an establishment, or even a whole
organization, and can affect employee job change intention, actual job
content varies from one individual to another depending on the agree-
ment with one's supervisor. Task I-deals capture the idiosyncratic
between-individual variation in job content, which can affect an
employee's desire to leave the organization for another job or change
his or her current job within the organization. Prior research on HR
practices and employee attribution missed this important supervisor
employee dyadic level contingency.
From a social exchange perspective, task I-deals can enhance
employees' feeling of obligation of reciprocity (Ng & Feldman, 2015),
affective commitment (Ng & Feldman, 2010), and commitment to
the supervisor (Rosen, Slater, Chang, & Johnson, 2013), thereby
highlighting its importance. We expect that task I-deals work
together with employee well-being HR attribution to influence exter-
nal job change intention. Employees with high task I-deals are more
likely satisfied with their supervisor and subsequently commit to the
organization because their supervisor allowed them to change their
job contents according to their demands (Hornung, Rousseau, Glaser,
Angerer, & Weigel, 2010). Thus, with high task I-deals, employees
may be less likely to intend to leave the organization, which makes
the role of employee well-being in external job change intention less
important. However, when task I-deals are low (i.e., a supervisor
does not provide employees with specific arrangements to change
aspects of their jobs), the well-being HR attribution stemming from
the generic organizational HR practices become more important
in affecting external job change intention. For example, when
employees do not enjoy I-deals in their jobs (i.e., low task I-deals),
their attribution that organizational HR practices are in place for
their well-being can play a more prominent role in reducing their
desires to leave the organization for a new job. To sum up, we pre-
sent the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2 Task I-deals moderate the negative relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and external job change intention,
such that the relationship becomes weaker as task I-deals increase.
We expect task I-deals to moderate the relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and internal job change intention.
When task I-deals are high (i.e., when the supervisor and employee
agree to extra responsibilities, skill development, and responsibilities
outside of formal job requirements in a negotiated agreement),
employees can develop new skills based on negotiated changes to
their job (Rosen, Slater, Chang, & Johnson, 2013). One reason that
employees seek task I-deals is to increase their personal development
by developing new skills (Hornung, Rousseau, Weigl, Mueller, & Gla-
ser, 2014). As high task I-deals occur due to a strong support from
their supervisor (Hornung, Rousseau, Glaser, Angerer, & Weigel,
2010), employees may perceive high task I-deals as encouraging their
future development and well-being, further enhancing their desire to
find a new job within the organization, which is more aligned with
their newly developed skills resulting from a high employee well-being
HR attribution. High task I-deals synergize with employee well-being
HR attribution to reinforce each other in shaping internal job change
intention. By contrast, when task I-deals are low, supervisors do not
agree to idiosyncratic changes to the tasks in the jobs and discourage
employees from seeking new tasks and responsibilities. This supervi-
sory practice is sending a contrasting message from organizational HR
practices associated with employee well-being HR attribution, attenu-
ating the positive effect of employee well-being HR attribution on
internal job change intention. We thus present the following
hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3 Task I-deals moderate the positive relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and internal job change intention,
such that the relationship becomes stronger as task I-deals increase.
3|METHOD
3.1 |Sample and procedures
We collected data from a company located in Northern China. This
company operates 4S (sales, spare parts, service, and survey) automo-
bile sales service shops. The top management team agreed to allow
their employees from 18 automobile 4S stores to participate in our
study on the condition that we provide a consulting report. Before the
survey, the HR Department helped us inform all eligible participants
about this research project and to invite them to participate in the sur-
veys. A total of 1,286 employees were invited to participate in our
survey. We asked employees to assess employee well-being HR attri-
bution, task I-deals, and external and internal job change intentions.
4LEE ET AL.
The HR Department in each store helped us conduct the survey with
all eligible participants in a conference room. After giving an introduc-
tion on the survey and ensuring them of the confidentiality of the sur-
vey results, we distributed the pencil-and-paper-based questionnaires
to the interested participants and collected the completed question-
naires on site. They were informed that their involvement was
completely voluntary and that they could drop out of the research at
any time.
The final sample included 944 employees working in 18 automo-
bile 4S stores, rendering valid response rates of 73.4% from
employees. We also obtained archival data of participants' demo-
graphic information (e.g., age, sex, and organizational tenure) and a
unique ID grouping the employees with their supervisor from the
company's HR Department. In our sample, 66% were male with an
average age of 27.4 years, 46% were married, and their average ten-
ure in the organization was 3.83 years.
3.2 |Measures
The survey items were originally in English and translated to Chinese
following the standard back-translation procedure (Brislin, 1986). All
variables in this study were assessed using a 7-point Likert-type scale
(1 = Strongly disagreeand 7 = Strongly agree).
3.2.1 |Employee well-being HR attribution
We measured the employee well-being HR attribution of various HR
management functions using the five-item measure proposed by Nishii,
Lepak, and Schneider (2008). Employees were asked to assess the
extent to which they agreed that specific HR practices in the organiza-
tion (hiring, pay and benefits, performance appraisal, training and devel-
opment, career development, scheduling, etc.) were implemented to
enhance employee well-being.
3.2.2 |External job change intention
To assess external job change intention, we adopted Wayne, Shore,
and Liden's (1997) scale measuring turnover intention. From the origi-
nal five-item scale, we deleted two items that did not clearly specify
whether an employee intended to leave the organization to find
another job in a different company (I am seriously thinking about
quitting my job at this organizationand I often think about quitting
my job at this organization). Hence, we used the following three
items, which we deemed best for assessing an employee's intention to
leave the organization for another job: As soon as I can find a better
job, I'll leave this organization,”“I think I will be working at another
organization in the future,and I am actively looking for a job outside
this organization.The factor loadings of these three items were 0.57,
0.88, and 0.87, respectively.
3.2.3 |Internal job change intention
To measure internal job change intention, we adopted the job change
intention scale developed by Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, and Klesh
(1983) and Van Veldhoven and Meijman (1994). We revised the origi-
nal items to specify job change intention within the same organization
to distinguish from external job change intention. Respondents were
asked to indicate their agreement with the following statements: I
would prefer to do a different type of work within the same
organization,”“I might search for a different type of job within the
same organization,and I would like to become trained to do a differ-
ent type of job within the same organization.The factor loadings of
these three items were 0.82, 0.86, and 0.81, respectively.
3.2.4 |Task I-deals
We measured task I-deals using Rosen, Slater, Chang, and Johnson's
(2013) six-item measure of I-deals for task and work responsibility.
Sample items include the following: At my request, my supervisor has
assigned me tasks that better develop my skillsand I have negoti-
ated with my supervisor for tasks that better fit my personality, skills,
and abilities.
3.2.5 |Control variables
We included several control variables that may affect our model
results. First, we controlled for employees' demographic information,
including age, sex, education level, team tenure, and organizational
tenure. We further controlled for the job alternatives within the orga-
nization as because this factor may affect employees' internal and
external job change intentions. For instance, high internal job alterna-
tives may encourage high internal job change intention while simulta-
neously discouraging external job change intention. We adopted the
four-item measure proposed by Lee and Mowday (1987) and Steel
and Griffeth (1989). A sample item for this scale is, I can find an
acceptable alternative to my current job in my organization.
3.3 |Analytical strategy
Given that the respondents were nested within supervisors, we con-
ducted hierarchical liner modeling using STATA 14.2 (Rabe-Hesketh &
Skrondal, 2008) to test our hypotheses. Specifically, we included an
intercept for the supervisor level in all models (i.e., a fixed-slope
model) to control for any possible fixed effects stemming from
supervisor-level factors in the relationships that we tested.
4|RESULTS
We conducted confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) at the individual level
to test the distinctiveness of the key self-reported variables (i.e.,
employee well-being HR attribution, internal job change intention, exter-
nal job change intention, and task I-deals). The hypothesized five-factor
LEE ET AL.5
model (including the control for job alternatives) demonstrates good fit
to the data ((χ
2
(179) = 822.47, comparative fit index [CFI] = 0.95,
Tucker-Lewis index [TLI] = 0.94, root-mean square error of approxima-
tion [RMSEA] = 0.06, square root mean residuals [SRMR] = 0.05)). These
results are better than those of a four-factor model (i.e., combining job
change intention and external job change intention, χ
2
(183) = 1,356.71,
CFI = 0.91, TLI = 0.90, RMSEA = 0.08, SRMR = 0.07). In addition, we
tested whether external job change intention differed from internal job
change intention. The two-factor model demonstrates adequate fit to
the data based on the two-indexstrategy proposed by other scholars
(e.g., SRMR plus another index, such as CFI; Hu & Bentler, 1998)
although RMSEA is lower than commonly used criteria, such as 0.08
(χ
2
(8) = 140.27, CFI = 0.94, TLI = 0.88, RMSEA = 0.13, SRMR = 0.08),
andfitsbetterthantheone-factormodel(χ
2
(9) = 512.91, CFI = 0.76,
TLI = 0.61, RMSEA = 0.24, SRMR = 0.12). These results suggest that
external job change intention is distinct from internal job change inten-
tion. These results thus support the distinctiveness of the variables used
in this study.
The means, standard deviations, reliabilities, and correlations are
reported in Table 1. The reliabilities for all measures are acceptable
(i.e., α> .70). As expected, employee well-being HR attribution is neg-
atively and significantly correlated with external job change intention
(r=.17, p< .01) and is positively and significantly correlated with
internal job change intention (r= .11, p< .01). These correlations pro-
vide preliminary evidence to support the notion that employee well-
being HR attribution has differential impacts on external and internal
job change intentions.
Hypothesis proposed that employee well-being HR attribution is
negatively related to external job change intention, but positively
related to internal job change intention. The results of Model 2 in
Table 2 show that employee well-being HR attribution is significantly
and negatively related to external job change intention (γ=.17,
p< .01). However, Model 5 shows that the employee well-being HR
attribution is significantly and positively related to job change
intention within the organization (γ= .15,p< .01), thus providing sup-
port for our first hypothesis.
Hypothesis proposed that task I-deals would mitigate the nega-
tive effects of employee well-being HR attribution on external job
change intention such that the negative relationship becomes weaker
as task I-deals increase. Model 3 of Table 2 shows that the interaction
term of employee well-being HR attribution and task I-deals is signifi-
cantly related to external job change intention (γ= .05,p<.05). Spe-
cifically, a simple slope test shows that HR employee well-being
attribution is significantly and negatively related to external job
change intention when task I-deals are high (simple slope = 0.12,
p<.05). However, the negative relationship becomes stronger when
task I-deals are low (simple slope = 0.24, p<.01). These two slopes
are significantly different (difference = 0.11, p<.05), thus providing
support for Hypothesis . The simple slopes are shown in Figure 1a.
Hypothesis stated that task I-deals would moderate the positive
relationship between employee well-being HR attribution and internal
job change intention, such that the relationship strengthens as task I-
deals increase. As shown in Model 6 in Table 2, the interaction term
of employee well-being HR attribution and task-idiosyncratic deals is
significantly related to internal job change intention (γ= .06,p<.05).
A simple slope test shows that employee well-being HR attribution is
significantly and positively related to internal job change intention in
employees with relatively high task I-deals (simple slope = 0.17,
p<.01). However, for employees with low task I-deals, the simple
slope is not significant (simple slope = 0.05, n.s.). These two slopes are
significantly different (difference = 0.12, p<.05). Thus, Hypothesis
is supported with the simple slopes displayed in Figure 1b.
4.1 |Supplementary analysis
We ran additional sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of our
results. Specifically, after running our models without any control vari-
ables, we find that all significant results remained the same. Also,
TABLE 1 Individual-level means, standard deviations, and correlations
Variables Mean SD 1234567891011
1. Male 0.66 0.47
2. Age 27.36 6.11 0.15**
3. Education 4.20 1.31 0.30** 0.01
4. Married 0.46 0.50 0.11** 0.54** 0.13**
5. Organizational tenure 3.83 6.80 0.03 0.12** 0.02 0.05
6. Team tenure 27.04 24.9 0.02 0.23** 0.02 0.19** 0.25**
7. Job alternatives within org 3.87 1.30 0.11** 0.10** 0.02 0.09** 0.03 0.01 (0.90)
8. Employee well-being HR attribution 5.33 1.12 0.00 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.01 0.02 0.05 (0.92)
9. Internal job change intention 4.37 1.28 0.05 0.05 0.03 0.01 0.03 0.01 0.43** 0.11** (0.81)
10. External job change intention 3.70 1.34 0.10** 0.06 0.01 0.05 0.01 0.00 0.56** 0.17** 0.46** (0.88)
11. Task I-deals 4.91 1.11 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.04 0.02 0.05 0.09** 0.62** 0.17** 0.01 (0.91)
Note: N = 944; reliability coefficients on the diagonal (where applicable). All variables are at Time 1, except for supervisor-rated job performance, which is
at Time 2.
*p< .05; ** p< .01.
6LEE ET AL.
given that the data were nested within 18 4S stores, we checked the
variance across stores and supervisors for the key variables using a
three-level null model (Level 1-employees, Level 2-supervisor, and
Level 3-store). For internal job change intention as the dependent var-
iable, ICC1
supervisor
= 0.02, p< .05 and ICC1
store
= 9.53e-14, n.s.; for
external job change intention, ICC1
supervisor
= 0.08, p< .05 and
ICC1
store
= 0.003, p< .05. These results suggest that there is signifi-
cant between-supervisor variance but a very small between-store var-
iance, and thus it is more appropriate to use a two-level rather than
three-level model. However, as supplementary analyses, we ran a
three-level analyses with individuals at Level 1, supervisors at Level
2, and stores at Level 3. The results were very similar to those for
two-level analyses. Specifically, employee well-being HR attribution is
negatively related to external job change intention (γ=.17,p< .01),
but positively related to internal job change intention (γ= .15,p< .01)
in support of Hypothesis . The interaction between employee well-
being HR attribution and task I-deals is significant for both external
job change intention (γ= .05,p<.05) and internal job change inten-
tion (γ= .06,p<.05), providing support for Hypotheses 2 and 3. The
conclusions from the three-level analysis are consistent with our
results from the two-level analysis.
5|DISCUSSION
Our findings enhance our understanding of the different mindsets of
job change by examining the antecedent and consequence of both
internal and external job change intention. Supporting prior research,
we found that employee well-being HR attribution was negatively
related to external job change intention. Extending this research, we
found that employee well-being HR attribution was positively related
to internal job change intention. In addition, supervisor agreement in
the form of task I-deals played an important role in this relationship
by weakening the negative relationship between employee well-being
HR attribution and external job change intention, but strengthened
the positive relationship between employee well-being HR attribution
and internal job change intention.
5.1 |Implications for theory and research
Our findings expand the careers literature, which has highlighted dif-
ferences in job changes within and outside of organizations. For
example, the careers literature has proposed that employee's per-
ceived employability should be separated into within and outside of
the organization components (Rothwell & Arnold, 2007). Similarly, job
mobility can be delineated between external and internal jobs
(Feldman & Ng, 2007). While career studies emphasize the accumu-
lated experience from jobs within and across organizations (Baruch &
Rosenstein, 1992), most of the studies primarily examined career
development through external job changes (Wang & Wanberg, 2017).
We took a first step in rebalancing career research by differentiating
internal from external job change intentions based on their differential
relationships with the antecedent. Future research would benefit by
TABLE 2 HLM results for employee well-being HR attribution and task I-deals on internal and external job change intention
External job change intention Internal job change intention
Variable Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5 Model 6
Intercept 1.36** (0.26) 1.33** (0.26) 1.32** (0.26) 2.65** (0.27) 2.66** (0.27) 2.65** (0.27)
Control variables
Male 0.11 (0.08) 0.12 (0.08) 0.11 (0.08) 0.04 (0.09) 0.04 (0.08) 0.03 (0.08)
Age 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01)
Education 0.01 (0.03) 0.01 (0.03) 0.01 (0.03) 0.03 (0.03) 0.03 (0.03) 0.03 (0.03)
Married 0.01 (0.09) 0.01 (0.09) 0.01 (0.09) 0.13 (0.09) 0.13 (0.09) 0.12 (0.09)
Organizational tenure 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01)
Team tenure 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00)
Job alternatives 0.57** (0.03) 0.57** (0.03) 0.56** (0.03) 0.43** (0.03) 0.43** (0.03) 0.42** (0.03)
Employee well-being HR attribution (EHRA) 0.17** (0.03) 0.18** (0.04) 0.15** (0.03) 0.11*(0.04)
Task I-deals (TID) 0.04 (0.04) 0.07 (0.05)
EHRA ×TID 0.05*(0.03) 0.06*(0.03)
Within R
2
.299 .312 .321 .188 .200 .203
Between R
2
.349 .383 .382 .151 .168 .179
Pseudo R
2
.319 .338 .342 .191 .207 .215
Log-likelihood 1,432 1,418 1,414 1,475 1,466 1,461
ΔLog-like (χ
2
)14 (27)** 4 (7)*9 (19)** 5 (10)**
Note: N = 944 at employee level, N= 305 at supervisor level. Unstandardized coefficients are reported; values in parentheses are standard errors.
*p< .05; **p< .01; employee well-being HR attribution (EHRA), task I-deals (TID) are grand-mean centered.
LEE ET AL.7
examining the differential impacts of internal and external job change
intentions on employee outcomes such as job performance.
Our study also extends the careers literature by incorporating HR
attribution theory to show that employee well-being HR attribution
reduces external job change intention but increases the intention to
change jobs within the same firm. The careers literature has yet to jux-
tapose both internal and external job change intentions and examine
the role of HR attribution in both. Bringing in HR attribution theory,
we extend job mobility theory (e.g., Feldman & Ng, 2007; Ng,
Sorensen, Eby, & Feldman, 2007) by showing that employee well-
being HR attribution (an individual perception of organizational HR
practices) has a distinct impact on external and internal job change
intention. We also contribute to the HR attribution literature by
expanding the criterion domain of employee well-being HR attribution
by including internal job change intention as an outcome and show
that employee well-being HR attribution positively impacts on internal
job change intention.
In addition, by examining the moderating effect of the supervisory
practices, we extend the extant understanding of how employee HR
attribution of organizational HR practices and the proximal/immediate
supervisory practices in the form of task I-deals jointly shape different
mindsets pertaining to job change (within and across organizations).
Prior theory and research on the attribution of HR practices and their
impacts have left out the more proximal/immediate supervisory prac-
tices as contingencies. Our findings suggest that task I-deals
strengthen the positive relationship between employee well-being HR
attribution and internal job change intention, but weaken the negative
relationship between employee well-being HR attribution and exter-
nal job change intention. Therefore, we show the importance of con-
sidering the immediate supervisory level to enhance the precision of
the prediction of attribution of organizational HR practices. Future
research can further investigate how other supervisory practices such
as empowering leadership behaviors can affect employees' different
mindsets of job change interactively with employee attribution of
organizational HR practices. These results contribute to the emerging
research stream on task I-deals that have focused on the direct, posi-
tive effect of task I-deals on employee outcomes (Liao, Wayne, &
Rousseau, 2016). The results provide evidence that supervisor actions
in the form of task I-deals act as an important contingency influencing
the impact of employee well-being HR attribution, thus extending
studies that have primarily focused on task I-deals as a direct main
effect. The flipside of the coin is that theory and research on task I-
3.0
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
3.6
3.7
3.8
3.9
4.0
(a)
(b)
External Job Change Intention
Low Task I-deals
High Task I-deals
2.3
2.4
2.5
2.6
2.7
2.8
2.9
3.0
Internal Job Change Intention
Low Task I-deals
High Task I-deals
Low High
Low High
Employee Well-Bein
g
HR Attribution
Employee Well-Being HR Attribution
FIGURE 1 (a) Simple slopes of employee well-being HR attribution on external job change intention at levels of task I-deals. (b) Simple slopes
of employee well-being HR attribution on internal job change intention at levels of task I-deals
8LEE ET AL.
deals should consider employee attribution of organizational level HR
practices to better understand the impact of supervisoremployee
level I-deals.
Our findings also contribute to the strategic human resource man-
agement (SHRM) literature by examining employees' attribution of
the organization's intent in implementing HR practices for employee
well-being. Extending the SHRM literature, which has examined con-
tingent factors at the firm and team levels such as firm ownership (Liu,
Gong, Zhou, & Huang, 2017), team cohesion and team task complex-
ity (Chang, Jia, Takeuchi, & Cai, 2014) for the relationship between
HR practices and employee outcomes, we demonstrated that supervi-
sory practices also play an important role in facilitating the impact of
employee attribution of HR practices.
5.2 |Practical implications
Our study provides several practical implications for organizations
and managers. First, organizations should understand that employee
attribution of HR practices in the organization can significantly
influence employee mindsets toward internal and external job
changes. Employees' beliefs that HR practices exist for their well-
being have positive implications in reducing external job change
intention and can increase job change intention within the organiza-
tion. Thus, organizations who wish to make their HR practices effec-
tive should provide increased internal job opportunities to meet the
desire from employees to advance the career through finding
another job within the organization and to re-enforce employee
well-being HR attribution. Our study also shows that employees
have different perceptions on their HR practices even within the
same firm (e.g., SD for employee well-being HR attribution = 1.12),
suggesting that organizations should not only consider the content
of HR practices but also be cognizant of how HR practices are com-
municated to employees which can influence why employees per-
ceive HR practices exist.
In addition, our study highlights the notion that supervisors can
play an important role in enhancing or mitigating the relationship
between employee well-being attribution of HR practices and inter-
nal or external job change intention. Although supervisors often do
not have full control over HR practices offered within the firm, our
findings suggest that supervisors who extend idiosyncratic deals to
an employee can decrease the importance of employee attribution of
organizational HR practices in reducing external job change intention.
Moreover, allowing these negotiated deals on job tasks can
strengthen the relationship between employee well-being HR attribu-
tion and employee intention to find another job within the same
organization. Thus, we recommend that managers need to under-
stand the specific needs of each employee and utilize their authority
to adjust the nature of their job to motivate them. While managers
may not have full control over HR practices offered within the firm,
task I-deals can be used as a lever that combines with employee well-
being attribution to encourage internal job change intention among
employees.
5.3 |Limitations and future research directions
The findings and implications of this study should be interpreted with
its limitations in mind. First, we did not measure the actual provision
of HR practices. The content of HR practices can affect employee's
attitudes, behaviors, and well-being (Guest, 2017; Kooij et al., 2013).
Hence, future research should consider the actual content of HR prac-
tices and employee HR attribution to integrate HR content with pro-
cess (Sanders & Yang, 2016) and examine their independent and
interactive effects on external and internal job change intentions.
Second, while our study examined the relationship between
employee HR attribution and internal and external job change inten-
tions, we focused on one type of HR attribution (i.e., employee well-
being HR attribution). HR attribution categorization includes other
types of attribution, such as external and commitment- and control-
focused attributions (Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008; Shantz,
Arevshatian, Alfes, & Bailey, 2016; Van de Voorde & Beijer, 2015).
The categorization of these different types and dimensions of HR
attribution vary and have been inconsistently applied across the litera-
ture (Hewett, Shantz, Mundy, & Alfes, 2018). Therefore, although we
focused on examining employee well-being HR attribution and task I-
deals due to our focus on advancing the career through job change
intentions, future research can also benefit by examining the com-
bined impact of employees' transactional perceptions of the organiza-
tion and supervisor on their job change intentions. For instance,
future research can examine whether a control-focused attribution,
such as reducing costs, combined with financial incentive I-deals
(i.e., changes to compensation incentives negotiated with the supervi-
sor, Rosen, Slater, Chang, & Johnson, 2013) can impact employees'
internal and external job change intentions.
Third, our cross-sectional research design has a causality issue.
While our predictions are based on theory that employee well-being
HR attribution leads to the formation of internal and external job
change intentions, employees may first develop internal or external
job change intentions, which subsequently affect their perceptions of
HR practices. It is also possible that employees may have an overall
positive or negative impression of the organization which can affect
both job change intentions and employee well-being HR attribution.
Thus, we suggest future research to test the causal relationships
among the variables more rigorously by using a longitudinal or an
experimental study.
Fourth, while our study examines the moderating impact of task
I-deals, we were unable to delve into the specific characteristics of
jobs that were shown related to job change intention (Chang, Jia,
Takeuchi, & Cai, 2014; De Vos & Cambré, 2017). For example, linking
different types of job redesign to the actual characteristics of the job
(i.e., how does job redesign result in task autonomy) may provide addi-
tional insights into job design theory. Therefore, examining what kinds
of job characteristics can enhance or mitigate the effects of employee
well-being HR attribution on external and internal job change inten-
tion can be a potential topic for future research. On a related note,
while we differentiated between internal and external job change
intentions, we were unable to identify the status of job movement
LEE ET AL.9
(i.e., lateral or upwards) desired by the employee. Specifically,
employees may have the intention to change to a higher-level job
(i.e., promotion), a same-level job, or completely switch occupations.
These differences in job change status may have different impacts on
external and internal job change intention (cf. Eby & Dematteo, 2000).
Therefore, future research must investigate job change intentions by
specifying the type of job movement intention related to the desired
job (Feldman & Ng, 2007; Ng, Sorensen, Eby, & Feldman, 2007).
Fifth, the nature of the item wordings used to measure external
job change intention (e.g., actively seeking an external job) captures a
more active form of intention to leave compared to the nature of the
item wordings used for internal job change intention (e.g., might sea-
rch for an internal job). Possibly, the more passive item wordings for
internal job change intention may result in stronger relationship
between employee well-being HR attribution and internal job change
intention as compared to external job change intention. Although we
used the existing scales to measure external and internal job change
intention, future research should validate our findings with the scales
that are similar in terms of the activeness of external and internal job
change intentions.
Sixth, we controlled for job alternatives within the organization,
but job alternatives outside of the organization may affect job change
intentions too. For example, perceived employability (Rothwell &
Arnold, 2007) consists of internal and external employability compo-
nents, which are important to internal career development and exter-
nal job change as well (Steel & Griffeth, 1989). Future research should
thus account for job alternatives outside the organization and exam-
ine the role of internal and external perceived employability in differ-
ent job change intentions.
Lastly, the characteristics of the data used in this study which are
derived from a single firm may limit the generalizability to other firms
or industries. Also, while our sample reflects the workforce in 4S auto-
mobile stores, most respondents are male and young. Given that pre-
vious research has found that maintenance HR practices are more
effective for old workers compared with developmental HR practices
(Jung & Takeuchi, 2018; Kooij et al., 2013), variation may exist for dif-
ferent age groups in terms of what specific HR practices
(e.g., performance appraisal and training and development) affect
overall employee well-being HR attribution. Our sample consisting pri-
marily of male employees may also impact the relationship between
employee well-being HR attribution and different job change inten-
tions, as previous research shows that workplace relationships are
more important for females (Jiang, Liu, McKay, Lee, & Mitchell, 2012).
Therefore, we suggest future research to validate our findings using
samples from multiple organizations and other industries for
employees with different demographics (e.g., old and female
employees).
6|CONCLUSION
Employees can advance their career by achieving job changes within
and across organizations. This study points to the importance of
examining the antecedent and outcome of different mindsets of job
change (i.e., intentions to change jobs within vs. across organizations).
Our findings suggest that the immediate supervisory practice in the
form of task I-ideals is an important boundary condition that modifies
the relationship between employee well-being HR attribution and job
change intentions. We hope that this study can stimulate future
research on how the organizational and immediate supervisory prac-
tices through the eyes of employees jointly shape different mindsets
of job change.
ORCID
Byron Y. Lee https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9222-7362
Xin Liu https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7600-4858
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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES
B. Y. Lee is an assistant professor at China Europe International
Business School. He received his PhD from the Center of Indus-
trial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto.
His current research interests include strategic human resource
management, compensation, and corporate social responsibility.
His work has appeared in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review,
Industrial Relations, and International Journal of Human Resource
Management, among others.
T.-Y. Kim is Philips Chair in Management and the Department
Chair in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Manage-
ment Department, China Europe International Business School.
He received his PhD from University of North Carolina-Chapel
Hill. He serves Human Relations as Associate Editor. His current
interests include creativity, leadership, proactivity, person-envi-
ronment fit, and cross-cultural management. His papers have
appeared in the Academy of Management Journal,Journal of
Applied Psychology,Journal of Management,Human Relations, Orga-
nizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Journal of
Organizational Behavior, among others.
Y. Gong is a chair professor of management at the Hong Kong
University of Science and Technology. His current research inter-
ests include creativity, innovation, goal orientation, strategic
human resource management, and international human resource
management. His work has appeared in the Academy of Manage-
ment Journal,Journal of Applied Psychology,Personnel Psychology,
Journal of International Business Studies,Journal of Management,
Journal of Organizational Behavior,Human Relations, and Strategic
Management Journal, among others.
X. Zheng is a full professor in the department of leadership and
organization management at the School of Economics and Man-
agement, Tsinghua University. He received his PhD from the Insti-
tute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. His
research focuses on work engagement, well-being, ethical leader-
ship, and creativity. His work has appeared in the Academy of
Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of
Organizational Behavior, Journal of Occupational and Organizational
Psychology, Journal of Business Ethics, among others.
X. Liu is an assistant professor in the organization and human
resources department at the Renmin Business School, Renmin
University of China. She received her PhD from the School of
Economics and Management, Tsinghua University. Her research
interests include leadership, proactivity, and ethics. Her work has
appeared in the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of
Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, Journal of Business
Ethics, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology,
among others.
How to cite this article: Lee BY, Kim T-Y, Gong Y, Zheng X,
Liu X. Employee well-being attribution and job change
intentions: The moderating effect of task idiosyncratic deals.
Hum Resour Manage. 2019;112. https://doi.org/10.1002/
hrm.21998
12 LEE ET AL.
... There are three studies (Chen and Wang 2014;Lee et al. 2019;Sanders, Yang and Li 2019) based on the Chinese context to elucidate the employees' HRM attributions. Nevertheless, they did not take a cross-cultural perspective, since the attribution categories together with measurement scales were similar to the western-based research. ...
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