Doctor of Philosophy
Kia J. Bentley
This study investigated the relationship between favorable employability ratings of hypothetical job applicants with a severe disability and two aspects of employers' perceived organizational context: organizational climate and negotiation latitude, using a cross-sectional, correlational design. A survey including a hypothetical job applicant vignette in one of three conditions: non-disabled, severe physical disability (acquired brain injury), severe psychiatric disability (schizophrenia) was mailed out to a random sample of 1,000 employers selected from a national human resource membership list. Responses were received from 248 employers. The chief purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between employers' perceived organizational context and their impressions of job applicant employability. A secondary purpose was to explore the hierarchy of job applicant disability condition (non-disabled, acquired brain injury, schizophrenia) by employability rating. The concept of perceived organizational context was operationalized using two related constructs: organizational climate and negotiation latitude. Organizational climate was measured using a proxy instrument, the 10-item Knowledge and Acceptance of the ADA Scale. Negotiation latitude was measured using the eight-item Information Exchange Scale. The concept of employability impressions was measured using the 22-item Employment Characteristics Scale. Data analyses were conducted using a variety of univariate and bivariate statistical procedures. Logistical regression was used as the single multivariate procedure.
The first study hypothesis predicted that the odds of obtaining a favorable employability impression for the hypothetical job applicant would increase when the organizational climate for hiring disabled workers was favorable and employer negotiation latitude was high. This prediction was partially supported inasmuch as the odds of obtaining a favorable employability impression did increase slightly when the hiring climate was also favorable. Although the odds of obtaining a favorable employability impression also increased slightly when negotiation latitude was high, that relationship failed to achieve statistical significance. A possible explanation for the failure of high negotiation to obtain significance as a predictor in logit may lie in the lack of empirical evidence for the predicted role of risk-taking in the context of hiring, and calls for further refinement of the construct in that context.
The second study hypothesis was that non-disabled applicants would be viewed as most employable, followed by applicants with a physical disability and, ultimately, applicants with a psychiatric disability. This hypothesis also received partial support. As predicted, non-disabled job applicants received mean employability ratings that were higher than applicants in either disabled condition, and this difference obtained statistical significance. However, contrary to predictions, applicants with a psychiatric disability received substantially the same employability ratings as applicants with a physical disability. This unexpected finding may be due to: (1) lack of employer familiarity with both severe disabilities in the workplace, (2) more positive views of psychiatric disabilities due to recent positive changes in societal views on mental illness, or (3) because the acquired brain injury was viewed in light of the cognitive deficits that sometimes accompany it, rendering the individual multiply disabled.
The implications of this study for social work practice include a new focus on employment interventions at the organizational level and relationship building between employers, consumers and practitioners to help create a favorable organizational context for the employment of workers with a disability. Implications for theory and research include a new focus on how hiring manager's evaluative and decision-making processes are influenced by the shared expectations of organizational members and leaders. Future studies may refine the concept of negotiation latitude in the hiring context and investigate the link between organizational context and the employment decision-making process.
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