Title: High performance work systems and workers' well-being: a sceptical view

Authors: Edoardo Della Torre

Addresses: Department of Business Administration, University of Bergamo, Via dei Caniana 2, 24127 Bergamo, Italy

Abstract: The mainstream approach to new work systems - so-called high performance work systems - views workers' commitment, satisfaction and well-being as the main mediators between the introduction of new organisational practices and business performance. However, the effects of such practices on workers are highly controversial. By means of a survey of existing theoretical and empirical studies on the topic, this paper analyses the traditional opposition between supporters of the 'empowerment thesis' and supporters of the 'intensification thesis'. The results show that internal tensions relative to the application of the new work practices and methodological difficulties encountered by researchers explain the uncertainty of the results obtained in the literature. The principal implications for future research in this field concern closer attention to the context in which the practices are introduced and to the characteristics of individuals, the use of more detailed indicators, and the devising of multi-approach and multi-method research designs.

Keywords: high performance work systems; HPWS; new work forms; work organisation; well-being; job satisfaction; employee empowerment; intensification; control; discretion; job stress; wages; job security; work innovation; worker commitment.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWI.2012.047974

International Journal of Work Innovation, 2012 Vol.1 No.1, pp.7 - 23

Published online: 17 Sep 2014 *

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