Should Psychosocial Safety Climate Theory Be Extended to Include Climate Strength?

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Abstract

Psychosocial safety climate (PSC; climate for psychological health) is an organizational antecedent to work conditions articulated in the job demands–resources model. We responded to calls for broader consideration of organizational climate in terms of both climate level and strength. We tested PSC level and strength as main and interactive predictors of work conditions, psychological health, and engagement. Using multilevel analysis and cross-sectional data, the effects of unit-level PSC constructs were investigated in 21 hospital work units (n = 249 employees) in Australia. The correlation between PSC levels (measured at the unit mean) and PSC strength (measured as unit −1 × SD) was moderate and positive, suggesting that ceiling effects of PSC scores were not problematic. PSC level was a better predictor than PSC strength or their interactions for job demands (psychological and emotional demands), job resources (e.g., skill discretion and organizational support), and health (emotional exhaustion). For engagement, the interaction was significant—improving engagement, therefore, benefits from high levels of PSC and PSC strength within the work units. So, in answer to the research question regarding PSC theory extension, “it depends on the outcome.” Research limitations are acknowledged, and the potential of the PSC model to guide the reduction of workplace psychosocial risk factors and the negative consequences is discussed.

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