This report describes a two-year longitudinal study examining the effects on employee turnover of the change in individual and unit levels of satisfaction. Analyses of data collected from 5,270 employees in 175 business units of a hospitality company demonstrate that changes in an individual’s level of satisfaction affect that person’s turnover decisions. More important, unit-level job satisfaction change and its dispersion jointly affect the individual’s satisfaction change and the overall turnover rate in a unit, in what can be termed a “contagion effect.” As the work environment becomes more positive (employees are satisfied) and overall satisfaction in the unit increases over time, for example, fewer individuals leave their jobs. Even unhappy employees are lifted by a coherently positive environment. We further find evidence of a multilevel three-way interactive effect of unit-level job satisfaction change and its dispersion, and individual job satisfaction change on individual turnover. When attitudes in a work unit vary substantially, a general increase in satisfaction has little effect on an individual’s satisfaction or turnover plans. Put differently, when an employee is out of step with prevailing trajectory in unit-level attitudes, the discrepancy of attitudes appears to alter the relationship between his or her job satisfaction trajectory and turnover propensity. The findings emphasize the importance of tracking changes in employee satisfaction and the impact of changes in group attitudes on individual attitude and behavior.
Hinkin, T. R., Holtom, B., & Liu, D. (2012). The contagion effect: Understanding the impact of changes in individual and work-unit satisfaction on hospitality industry turnover [Electronic article]. Cornell Hospitality Report, 12(9), 6-12.