Organizational Development

Work Redesign: Using Job Control and Psychological Flexibility to Make Change More Successful

Organizations are constantly changing. Whether it is a change in systems, positions or employees, these changes can affect the success of the organization if they are not executed properly. When a change, like work redesign, is taking place the amount job control and psychological flexibility an employee possesses can affect the overall success of the project.

What is Job Control?

“Job Control is one’s perceived ability to exert some influence over their work environment, in order to make it more rewarding and less threatening”. There are various negative outcomes associated with a decrease in job control, such as:
  • Mental and physical health problems
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Sickness
  • Absence
  • Poor job performance
Work redesign is the process of determining what is currently happening within the position, determining what should happen in the future, and implementing any necessary changes to bridge the gap. Work redesign is assumed to improve these variables (mental and physical health problems, job dissatisfaction, etc.)  if there is an increase the amount of control that employees have over their work environments.

What is Psychological Flexibility?

“Psychological Flexibility is the ability to focus on the present moment and depending upon what the situation affords, persist with or change one’s behavior in pursuit of goals and values” People who are psychologically flexible attend to what is occurring right now. How psychologically flexible an employee is can aid in determining their mental health and how effective the employee will be when faced with change because people who are psychologically flexible are:
  • Less emotionally disturbed
  • Have more attentional resources for observing and reacting to opportunities that relate to company goals
For example, when two positions or jobs are being combined into one; a type of work redesign is taking place. If the employee is not psychologically flexible, they may be hesitant to accept the change because they may be fearful that they will lose their job in the future. If the employee is psychologically flexible, they will be better able to see the goal at hand and not be as focused and apprehensive of what may happen in the future.

How Does Job Control Relate to Psychological Flexibility?

Employees who are psychologically flexible are thought to be more cognizant of the present situation and the goal at hand. If employees with greater flexibility are given more job control they could possess the ability to recognize where, when and the degree to which they are flexible. Consequently, they will be able to recognize more opportunities to pursue behaviors that are goal-oriented. This will, in turn, make their work more rewarding or at the least, less aversive because they are directing both their attention and behavior towards the goal at hand. The more psychological flexibility an employee possesses, the more they will benefit from increased job control.

Implications for Practice

Below are some steps an individual can take to improve employees’ mental health and decrease absence rates within their organization: 1. Increase job control. This can be particularly beneficial when employees are psychologically flexible. This can be done through an intervention that allows employees to participate directly in the work redesign. 2. Improve psychological flexibility. This can be done (preferably before the work redesign) through an intervention, such as ACT – Assessment, Crisis Intervention, and Trauma Treatment. This intervention involves allowing employees to asses their internal processes and experiences at the present moment, in a non-judgmental, non-controlling manner, and focus on the present goal or situation, therefore, increasing their psychological flexibility.

Interpretation by:

Elizabeth Allen

The DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Bond, F., Flaxman, P., Bunce, D. (2008). The Influence of Psychological Flexibility on Work Redesign: Mediated Moderation of a Work Reorganization Intervention. Journal of Applied Psychology. 93(3), 645-654.