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Lagged harm of work restructuring and work alienation to work commitment.

Given that alienation in the workplace is debilitating and detrimental to the worker's performance (Gallie et al. 1998; Jex 1998), it is tempting to examine if restructuring in the workplace creates similarly adverse impacts. This examination is in response to the controversy about the noxious impacts of work restructuring as alienating, disempowering, proletarianizing, and demoralizing (Beardwood et al. 1999; Gallie 1996; Kim 2003) and the favorable impacts due to the improvement of work conditions and work commitment because of technological advancement and high-quality management (Cappelli and Neumark 2001; Glenday 1995; McManus 2000). As such, the adverse impact of work restructuring is likely to hinge on its alienating effect. It is likely that work restructuring does not impair work commitment if it is not alienating. The study thereby aims to demonstrate the relationship between work alienation and work restructuring and their joint impact on working people's work commitment and thus the impact of work restructuring under the condition of work alienation. Furthermore, the study investigates if the alienating effect of work restructuring is stronger on the lower, working class worker than on the higher or middle class worker. This investigation serves to verify the theory about work alienation that alienation is detrimental to workers who are powerless or deficient in resources. Findings from the investigation would resolve the controversy about the impact of work restructuring by identifying work alienation as the condition for the adverse impact, especially for lower class people. The study's data is drawn from repeated surveys of working people in Hong Kong, China.

Work Restructuring, Work Alienation and Their Impacts on Work Commitment

Work restructuring and work alienation serve as predictors of work commitment. Work restructuring consists of changes in employment, work processes, and products in the work organization. Work alienation refers to work conditions that separate the working person from the enjoyment of work products, work processes, social interaction, and realization of talents. Work commitment registers the working person's desire to work (efficiently, creatively, and diligently) and enjoy work. It is worth promotion and research because it is relevant to career success and advancement personally (Buckingham 1999; McBrier and Wilson 2004), job performance (Pang and Watkins 2000), organizational commitment (Buckingham 1999) and conducive to organizational success (Farr et al. 1998). For this reason, research has identified work alienation as an impediment to working people's work commitment (Vallas 1988). This knowledge is a basis for examining whether work restructuring impairs work commitment due to the association of work restructuring with work alienation. Such an examination is necessary because of the controversy about the impact of work restructuring on work commitment, in a positive (Gallie et al. 1998) or negative way (Grunberg et al. 2000).

Work restructuring refers to changes in the workplace that upgrade work processes, products, and the workforce by streamlining, downsizing, and task enrichment (Bailey and Bernhardt 1997; Cigno 1997). It primarily serves to advance the efficiency of work by reducing redundant inputs (Armstrong-Stassen 2002; Campbell-Jamison et al. 2001), especially in view of keen competition and even economic crisis (Lee and Teo 2005). In the arena of workforce management, work restructuring manifests itself as subcontracting (Uzzi and Barsness 1998), pay reduction or polarization (McManus 2000), training (Chiu et al. 1997; Cigno 1997), and job enrichment (Farr et al. 1998). Work restructuring alters work processes through automation (Chiu et al. 1997), client-orientation (Cigno 1997), and self-management (Cappelli and Neumark 2001). With respect to products, work restructuring emphasizes product design (Kwong 1997) and service and information provision (Elman and O'Rand 2002; Farr et al. 1998). As such, work restructuring is in line with the trend of deindustrialization (Elman and O'Rand 2002) or postindustrialization (Clement and Myles 1994), which treasures services and technologies. In its original aim, work restructuring aims to improve work conditions and outcomes, by better management of work quality (Bailey and Bernhardt 1997; Cappelli and Neumark 2001; Osterman 2000). However, work restructuring turns out to be demoralizing (Appelbaum et al. 1999; Cheung 2005a, 2005b; Worts et al. 2007), debilitating (Amabile and Conti 1999), and detrimental to work commitment due to downsizing (Armstrong-Stassen 2002). These adverse impacts of work restructuring resemble those of work alienation through proletarianization or control over the workers (Gallie 1996).

Work alienation refers to work conditions that deprive the worker of essential outcomes comprising access to the fruits of production, control over work processes, interacting with co-workers and customers, and realizing the worker's potentialities and talents (Kanungo 1992). The outcomes are universally desirable for human beings, according to the underlying humanist perspective (Furnham and Gunter 1993; Mele 2003), especially when people advance their desire for quality in life and work in postindustrial society (Kanungo 1992). Work alienation is thereby a work stress that encompasses work control, powerlessness, and demands that defy the working person's potentialities and talents. Research has succinctly demonstrated the adverse impacts of work alienation on such outcomes as job dissatisfaction (Seeman et al. 1988), life satisfaction (Cheung 1998), burnout (Powell 1994), work strain (Wallace 1989), and commodity fetishism (Bourdieu 1979). More specifically, the powerlessness dimension of work alienation has appeared to engender alcoholism (Seeman and Seeman 1992) and labour unrest (Blackburn and Mann 1979). Conversely, the reverse of powerlessness in terms of job autonomy has proven to diminish job dissatisfaction (Hodson 1996; Kelly and Kelly 1994), create role overload (Costigan et al. 2003), self-derogation (Schieman 2002), unsafe work behavior (Parker et al. 2001), disengagement from work (Mortimer and Lorence 1989), inadequate coping (Moen and Yu 2000; Ross and Mirowsky 1996), and inadequate job performance (Diefendorff et al. 2006; Schmid and Bar-Nir 2001).

The robust and pervasive impairment that work alienation makes in various work attitudes, including work commitment, is justifiable in view of Karl Marx's class or power theory (Kanungo 1992). The theory holds that workers with working class jobs suffer from work alienation because they are powerless, deficient in resources or productive means other than their labor, and controlled by employers, supervisors, and other agents of capitalist society such as police (Blackburn and Mann 1979). They have fewer choices but to stay and suffer under alienating work conditions (Siegrist 1998). Conversely, upper class people who experience work alienation have power and resources to relieve the detrimental impacts of work alienation. For instance, upper class working people can easily quit the alienating job (Cohen 1997; Gallie et al. 1998; Guterman and Bargal 1996). The fundamental factor, therefore, is power or resources that the working person maintains to tackle work alienation. According to Marx, the effective power or resources rest on the individual's class position, defined by control over productive means. Therefore, the class makes a difference in the individual's response to work alienation. In this connection, the class position relies on the possession of productive means. The upper or ownership class consists of people holding financial capital and managerial authority, whereas the upper middle class consists of people with managerial authority and expertise and the middle class consists of people holding managerial authority only (Kingston 2000; Wright 1997). In contrast, the lower or working class consists of people having none of these productive means.

Work restructuring may co-occur with work alienation as a work process, under the condition that both serve to control the labor force to advance its efficiency in the form of proletarianization and disempowering (Beardwood et al. 1999; Gallie 1996). However, work restructuring also includes favorable features such as flattened management, job enrichment, and training (Ashby and Miles 2002; Cigno 1997), which increases job autonomy (Kim 2003), which in turn tempers the alienating effect of work restructuring. As such, work restructuring is unlikely to be a replica of work alienation and work restructuring and work alienation can affect the working person's work commitment independently.

As a characteristic of the work organization, work restructuring tends to be transitional and its impacts on the working person are momentary. The effects of work restructuring are reminiscent of those of acute stressors, which are events that last for a limited time. The temporary effect of stress is that spurs work commitment until the stress accumulates to reach a high level (Jex 1998). Moreover, the working person can adapt to temporary stress with the passage of time and thus the stressful effect no longer holds over time (Wethington 2002). In the work setting, adaptation champions one's work commitment (Cheng 2001). Hence, just as the acute work stress exhibits detrimental impacts transitorily, work restructuring may not exert sustained impairment on work commitment.

Work restructuring is likely to wield prolonged detriment to work commitment when it coalesces with work alienation. As such, the work setting is both stressful due to work restructuring and alienating due to conditions related to work restructuring. This double jeopardy occurs because work restructuring can be alienating through increased control and demands (Uzzi and Barsness 1998; Mishra and Spreitzer 1998) even though it is not necessarily alienating. When work restructuring and work alienation co-occurs in a work setting, the alienating features of work restructuring are prominent and work restructuring in this case is alienating. Another possibility of the double jeopardy is the piling up of the acute stress of work restructuring and the chronic stress of work alienation, which is not due to work change (Florian and Dangoor 1994). The stress pile-up refers to a case that the accumulation of stress multiplies the stressful effect of each stressor. This possibility is consistent with class or power theory in that the stressful pile-up would exhaust the working person's coping resources and leave the person unprotected.

The reason for the adverse effect of work restructuring, as coupled with work alienation, is likely to be the lack of power or resources to cope with work stress. According to Marx's class theory, the relevant coping resources stem from the working person's class position or control over productive means. This theory posits that the alienating effect of work restructuring is detrimental to the working person of a lower class position. Conversely, the alienating effect of work restructuring would be less detrimental to people of a higher position in class.


The above suggests the viability of the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Work alienation has a negative effect on work commitment.

Hypothesis 2: Work restructuring, coupled with work alienation, engenders a negative joint effect on work commitment.

Hypothesis 3: Work restructuring and work alienation produces a more negative joint effect on the work commitment of the working person of a lower class position.

Despite their joint effect as hypothesized, work restructuring and work alienation tend to be independent. They do not have a correlation and they tend to stem from different sources. Notably, whereas past research has found that the younger person experiences more work restructuring (Baron 2001) and downsizing (De Jong and Madamba 2001), the older person experiences more work alienation in terms of underemployment (De Jong and Madamba 2001) and social isolation (Bendrick et al. 1999). Additionally, work alienation is more common among working people with lower education (Neal and Groat 1974) and lower class (Stevenson et al. 2003). In contrast, work structuring is more predictable by the characteristics of the work organization than personal characteristics (Uzzi and Barsness 1998). Notably, the industrial sector has a tendency to change to the service sector (Elman and O'Rand 2002; Farr et al. 1998).

Nevertheless, as the worker person's age (Jex 1998; Schmitt and Chan 1998), sex (Gallie et al. 1998; Voker and Flap 2004), education (Cheng 2001), and class (Griffith 2001) make a difference in work commitment, these factors might also determine work alienation and work restructuring. Controlling for these factors in data analysis is therefore necessary to minimize the confounding of results due to common factors.

Studying in the Hong Kong Context

The study of Chinese working people in Hong Kong offers important findings of international interest because of both the similarity and uniqueness of Hong Kong, compared with other advanced societies. More prominently, the Westernization and globalization of Hong Kong makes it a case comparable to other international cities and developed societies (Forrest et al. 2004). Globalization (Elman and O'Rand 2002; McManus 2000), postindustrialization (Clement and Myles 1994), and involvement in the Asian financial crisis (Lee and Teo 2005) are common determinants shared with other countries that precipitate meteoric work restructuring in Hong Kong (Ng and Poon 2004). For instance, the international division of labor incurred by globalization is a cause of work restructuring found in Hong Kong. The division also propels the emphasis on service and design work in Hong Kong and thus reinforces deindustrialization in Hong Kong. Furthermore, work restructuring is a response to the economic crisis that tightens capital available for work organizations in Hong Kong. Adding to these global trends is the flexible or docile labor force of Hong Kong that tolerates or cooperates with work restructuring (Lang et al. 2001; Ng and Poon 2004). The deindustrialization is especially viable with the supply of cheap labor available in the Mainland of China. The unique setting of Hong Kong calls for a local study to verify knowledge developed from advanced societies.

The present study taps work restructuring and work alienation in a baseline survey and work commitment in a follow-up study. As such, work restructuring and work alienation were experiences about one to two years before the intended work commitment. Such a design is appropriate for assessing the impacts of work experiences on work commitment over time, after adaptation has taken place. While previous studies have tapped the contemporaneous impacts of work restructuring and downsizing (Allen et al. 2001; Cheung 2005a, 2005b; Jalajas and Bommer 1999), the present study makes a unique contribution concerning the lagged impacts, together with work restructuring.


The study drew on data from 1,016 working people responding to a baseline telephone survey conducted between September 21 and November 21, 2000 and 281 of these respondents who also responded to a follow-up telephone survey conducted between December 17, 2001 and January 25, 2002. The surveys randomly selected households based on the telephone number database of Hong Kong and interviewed working people residing in the households. Of those who admitted that they were in employment at the time of the baseline survey, 81.7% responded. During the follow-up survey, only 27.7% of the original respondents participated again in the study. Despite the dropping out from the study, the data collected did not show substantial differences between the 281 repeated respondents and the other 735 baseline survey respondents (see Table 1). Moreover, the study estimated the self-selection tendency for responding to the follow-up survey and employed it to adjust for bias due to sample attrition.

Considerable proportions of the respondents were working class, skilled and non-skilled workers of various trades (39.6%), middle class people with supervisory, clerical, or disciplinary jobs (30.0%), upper middle class professionals or managers (20.9%), and ownership class members who were employers or self-employed (9.7%). According to class theory (Kingston 2000; Wright 1997), ownership class people was at the top of the class position because they held financial capital and managerial authority, whereas working class workers was at the bottom of the class position because they had no productive means other than their labor. The majority (61.3%) of the working people held service jobs, rather than productive, operative, or construction jobs. A substantial proportion (43.8%) of the repeated respondents was female.


The measures of work commitment, restructuring, and alienation were composites of a number of rating items about their intensity (see Table 2). Based on a five-point rating scale, the items generated scores between 0 and 100. The scoring rule was to assign a score of 0 to the lowest point ("very little"), a score of 25 to the next lowest point ("rather little"), a score of 50 to the mid-point ("average"), a score of 75 to the fourth point ("rather a lot") and a score of 100 to the highest point ("very much"). Adapting items from various sources (Fontenot 1993), the eight-item measure of work commitment expected in the year ahead of the follow-up survey had a reliability alpha of .716. Based on various indigenous sources (Chiu et al., 1997; Gallie et al., 1998; Kwong, 1997), six-item measure of work restructuring in the year before the baseline survey had a reliability alpha of .560. The reliability alpha of the five-item measure of work alienation in the year before the baseline survey was .597, which adapted items from some previous studies (Seeman 1991). The lower internal consistency reliability of work restructuring and work alienation was reasonable because they reflected organizational and work environments that were out of the individual respondent's control (Armstrong-Stassen 2001; Greenglass and Burke 2002). Common in the measurement of stress, items of work restructuring and alienation better represented situational conditions than internally consistent personal traits (Broman et al. 1995).

A confirmatory factor analysis (via maximum likelihood estimation in LISREL) of 19 items identifying three factors of work commitment, restructuring, and alienation attained an adequate fit to the data ([L.sup.2](132) = 741, RMSEA = .049, RMR = .050, GFI = .961, AGFI = .944). Notably, the low levels of root-mean-square error approximation (RMSEA) and root-mean-square of residuals (RMR) indicated a good fit (Hu and Bentler 1999). Importantly, the factor model specified items to load only on their respective factors and the results endorsed convergent and discriminant validity of the measures (see Table 3). The validity reflected that case that items converged exclusively to identify their respective factors (Cole 1987).

Analytic Procedure

With the validation of the key measures, analyses proceeded to predict responding to the follow-up survey, work commitment, working restructuring and work alienation in turn. Firstly, a logistic regression analysis estimated the propensity of responding to the follow-up survey based on baseline data. This propensity then identified the hazard of self-selection, which referred to the probability of responding to the follow-up survey given the cumulative probability of not responding (Stolzenberg and Relles 1997). The hazard functioned to capture the influence of unmeasured variables (in the follow-up survey) on responding to the follow-up survey (Winship and Morgan 1999). This self-selection hazard served as a control variable in the prediction of work commitment. The prediction of work commitment involved a linear regression analysis in four steps with a focus on the prediction by (1) background characteristics, (2) work restructuring and work alienation, (3) two-way interactions, and (4) the three-way interaction successively. The interaction terms were products of standard scores of constituent variables to minimize the problem of collinearity in the introduction of interactions into the linear regression model (Aiken and West 1991). On the other hand, the prediction of work restructuring and work alienation took a single step, which examined the impacts of background characteristics. One objective of predicting work restructuring and work alienation was to examine if the two working conditions originated from different factors and they were not merely epiphenomena of background factors.


On average, work commitment among Chinese Hong Kong working people were moderately high (M = 62.4, see Table 1) whereas work restructuring was rather low (M = 27.9). Meanwhile the average level of work alienation was modest (M = 42.8). While the correlation between work commitment and work alienation was strongly negative (r = -.628, see Table 2), the correlation between work restructuring and work alienation (r = .025) and the correlation between work restructuring and work commitment (r = .050) were almost negligible. Hence, work restructuring and work alienation were independent conditions and the lagged relationship between work restructuring and work commitment was extremely weak.

Predicting the Response to the Follow-up Survey

Among baseline predictors used to predict the response to the follow-up study, only the duration of residence in Hong Kong exhibited a significantly positive effect, according to the logistic regression analysis. Notably, work restructuring and alienation contributed little to the response to the follow-up survey. This suggests that there would be little confounding among the effects of responding to the follow-up survey, work restructuring, on work alienation on work commitment measured in the follow-up survey.

Predicting Work Commitment

The linear regression analysis of data provided by repeated respondents demonstrated that work alienation made a significant negative effect on work commitment ([beta] = -.174 in Step 2, see Table 4), with the control for background characteristics. This finding supports Hypothesis 1. On the other hand, work restructuring did not offer a significant lagged effect on work commitment. The negative effect ([beta] = -.087 in Step 2), nevertheless, was in the expected direction consistent with previous studies (Cheung 2005a, 2005b). Importantly, the interaction effect involving work restructuring and work alienation was significantly negative ([beta] = -.116 in Step 3). This interaction effect was credible mostly because of the independence between work alienation and work restructuring. The independence suggests that the interaction effect was not due to either work restructuring or work alienation alone. This interaction effect is in line with Hypothesis 2.

Furthermore, the triple interaction involving work restructuring, work alienation, and the class position added a significant positive effect on work commitment ([beta] = .100 in Step 4). This positive effect means that the interaction effect of work restructuring and work alienation was less negative for the working person with a higher class position. Conversely, the triple interaction effect reveals that the negative effect of the joint effect of work restructuring and work alienation was stronger on the work commitment of the lower class worker. This finding endorses Hypothesis 3.

The regression analysis employing interactions of alternative terms showed that only two triple interactions among the 33 interactions were significant in predicting work commitment. These two significant interactions were the interaction of work restructuring, alienation, and holding a government job ([beta] = .082, see Table 5) and the interaction work restructuring, alienation, and the number of working family members ([beta] = .097).

This finding of positive interaction effects supports the view that government employment and working family members represent resources to buffer the stressful effect of work restructuring and alienation. Notably, the government job was a source of resources or power because of its reward, prestige, job security, and promotion potential in Hong Kong (Burns 1999) as well as other places (McBrier and Wilson 2004; Rosenbaum et al. 1999; Schomann and Becker 2002). Hence, the power theory underlying Hypothesis 3 attains additional support from the finding. On the other hand, because most alternative interaction effects were not significant, the significant findings involving work restructuring, work alienation, and the class position were unlikely coincidental. Included among the insignificant interactions were those involved education and income. They were unimportant because they did not directly represent productive means and bargaining power emphasized in class or power theory. The significant findings, as a whole, are congenial with the power explanation for work commitment.

Predicting Work Restructuring and Alienation Work restructuring and work alienation were significantly predictable differently by background factors. Notably, education and the duration of residence in Hong Kong exerted positive effects on work restructuring ([beta] = .120 & .076, see Table 6) but negative effects on work alienation ([beta] = -.098 & -.110). On the other hand, age showed a negative effect on work restructuring ([beta] = -.129) but a positive one on work alienation ([beta] = .082). Besides, work alienation was significantly predictable by work experience ([beta] = -.141), income ([beta] = -.107), and upper middle and middle classes ([beta] = -.101 & -.075). The latter findings affirm that middle class working people encountered less work alienation than working class workers. Nevertheless, work restructuring and work alienation were far from entirely accountable by the background factors. All these findings sustain the notion that work restructuring and work alienation are independent factors, whose impacts on work commitment are unlikely attributable to other factors.


Results primarily support the three hypotheses about the negative impacts of work alienation, the combination of work restructuring and alienation, and the triple combination of a low class position, work restructuring, and alienation. They in turn champion class or power theory underlying the hypotheses. In addition, findings about triple interaction effects involving work restructuring, alienation, holding a government job, and the number of working family members lend further support to the theory. According to the theory, (1) work restructuring is demoralizing because it is alienating, (2) alienation is demoralizing because the worker is powerless, (3) the worker is powerless because of the lack of productive means and bargaining power, and (4) such powerlessness is demoralizing because the worker has no viable alternative. As such, workers who are in a low class position are obliged to suffer from work alienation and restructuring over time. Conversely, working people in a position of high class, government employment, and/or with other working family members are able to leave the alienating conditions. Alternatively, they are powerful in bargaining with work organizations to relieve the alienating conditions (Asimakopulos 1991).

Findings about the insignificant effects of income and education are compatible with class theory because the resources do not directly contribute to productive means and bargaining power. Income only partly reflects productive means and it is largely a reward for production rather than a means to production. Furthermore, income aggravates rather than buffers the stress of work restructuring or downsizing because expensive workers are at risk of layoff (Baron et al. 1999). Instead, holding a position of high class protects one against the threat of work restructuring and alienation. Obviously, the one who exercises the power to lay off workers is unlikely to put oneself under a stressful condition. The class position is therefore more powerful than other resources, including education, which only prepares one to assume a position of high class.

Results also indicate the independence between work restructuring and work alienation, and the weak lagged effect of work restructuring on work commitment. The independence rests on the fact that work alienation is a chronic stress concomitant with a low class position, as shown in this study and work restructuring is only a transitory change occurring in an organization. Obviously, it is more difficult for the worker to escalate the class ladder than to move around organizations in Hong Kong (Lui and Wong 1994) as well as elsewhere (Morris and Villemez 1992). Because work restructuring tends to be transitory, its detrimental impact is unlikely enduring. Because of the working person's adaptation to the stress of work restructuring with time, the negative effect of lagged work restructuring on work commitment dwindles. Nevertheless, this study still witnesses some negative effect ([beta] = -.087) of work restructuring over one to two years. The effect was weaker than the one ([beta] = .153) of working restructuring within one year (Cheung 2005b). It was also weaker than the lagged effect ([beta] = .174) of work alienation, which thus reflects a chronic stress. These findings suggest that unless work restructuring co-occurs with work alienation, its detrimental effect would be temporary. Hence, the chronic feature of work alienation would prolong the stress of work restructuring.

Results, nevertheless, do not uphold significant class differentials in the impacts of work alienation and work restructuring that class theory expects. The interaction effects indicate that a working person with a higher class position suffered less from work alienation but more from work restructuring (see Table 4). The class differential in the impact of work alienation was weak, albeit in the expected direction. With respect to class or power theory, this finding suggests that the lower class worker still has adequate power to cope with the stress of work alienation. This power may stem from legal protection for workers' rights in Hong Kong (Lang et al. 2001; Sing 2004) as in many advanced societies (Western 1999). In contrast, when work alienation co-occurred with work restructuring, the lower class worker's disadvantage became significant, possibly because of contingent employment associated with work restructuring. In this case, work restructuring would weaken the worker's access to legal and unionized protection for labor rights (Clawson and Clawson 1999). On the other hand, the greater disadvantage of work restructuring to the higher-class working person agrees with some previous observations (Baron et al. 1999; Gallie 1996). One possibility is that managers would be at risk of layoff due to organizational flattening and another possibility is that higher-class people would suffer from the stress of designing and implementing work restructuring. Furthermore, when higher-class people experienced proletarianization due to work restructuring, their loss of power would be demoralizing. This would not be the case of lower-class workers, who had been proletarians even without work restructuring.

Further Research

The present findings provide the basis for substantiating the application of class or power theory to work restructuring by further research that tests the theory across diverse sociocultural settings. More than the class position, the theory essentially maintains the working person's power to cope with work stress as the determinant of the impact of stress. Explicit examination of the moderating effect of pertinent measures of power is thereby desirable. Such measures include bargaining power (Kellner 1989), labor rights (Gallaway et al. 1991), powerlessness, which is specifically a recognized reaction to work alienation (Neal and Groat 1974). These measures of power, and those of work restructuring, and work commitment can be available from multiple sources to minimize the risk of relying on a single source of informants. For instance, superiors, labor officials, and consultants can be informants about work restructuring at the organization level. Supervisors and coworkers can also be informants about working people's power and work commitment.

To ascertain the generality of the study, further research needs to involve working people of different sociocultural contexts. The context is likely to shape the working person's response to work alienation, work restructuring, its interaction, and the moderation by the class position. With respect to class or power theory, the working person with less power will suffer more from the work stresses. This power includes both the person's personal power and that provided by the sociocultural context, which also determines the personal power. Thus, the person can accrue power from the family (Hoogstia et al. 2001 and this study), union (Roscigno and Hodson 2004), and government or law (Leigh and Gifford 1999). Moreover, such external power would be more powerful if the family, union, and government are strong regarding protection for working people. For instance, a stronger union would make the worker's own power less important in resisting work stress (Roscigno and Hodson 2004). The sociocultural context also affects the importance of the class position as a moderator. In the context with low class inequality, the class position would not be salient and thereby influential (Myles and Turegan 1994).


Work restructuring in such a Westernized metropolis of Hong Kong has only a weak demoralizing effect on work commitment one to two years later. However, its combination with work alienation would notably erode work commitment, especially among lower-class workers. The erosion of workers' work commitment contradicts a goal of work restructuring for promoting commitment (Gallie et al. 1998). It is therefore necessary to assuage the decline in work commitment by taking precautions against the coupling of work restructuring and work alienation. Such precautions, according to class or power theory, need to raise working people's power, which include their personal and collective power and that supplied externally. Whereas empowerment serves to increase the former (Kanungo 1992), government and union actions operate to introduce the latter (Rosner and Patterman 1991). Empowerment to reduce work stress is justifiable by the obligation to respect workers' contribution to production. It is further required to sustain work commitment to secure quality life and quality society characterized by social cohesion (Baugher 2003). Failure to bolster workers' work commitment would precipitate socioeconomic problems due to the erosion of productivity and purchasing power, and thereby the creation of idleness and poverty (Furnham 1997). In addition to empowerment, government and union actions can safeguard workers' rights and forbid exploitative practices to prevent the erosion of work commitment.

Managers or businesspeople can decouple work restructuring from work alienation in order to prevent the double jeopardy that impairs work commitment. They need to implement work restructuring, when required, in a non-alienating way. As such, work restructuring should not efface the worker's potentialities and connection with the fruit, process, and social milieu in the work setting. When these alienating features already occur, work restructuring is unsuitable. Alternatively, workers who are powerless or devoid of resources to cope with work restructuring should enjoy exemption from work restructuring. Furthermore, managers can accentuate the de-alienating features of work restructuring such as arrangements for training, delegation, participative management, job rotation, job enrichment, and profit sharing (Cappelli and Neumark 2001). As such, promoting job autonomy and reducing work alienation can be a consequence of work restructuring (Kim 2003).

Acknowledgments: The paper evolves from a project funded by a research grant of the City University of Hong Kong (#9030881).


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Chau-Kiu Cheung, Ph.D

City University of Hong Kong
Table 1. Means by response to the follow-up survey (N =

Predictor                          Not       Responding      All
N                                  735          281          1016

Work commitment                        --          62.4          --
Work restructuring                    25.0         27.9         25.8
Work alienation                       44.5         42.8         44.0
Monthly income (US$)                1803.6       1741.0       1786.3
Ownership class (%)                    --           9.7          --
Upper middle class (%)                 --          20.9          --
Middle class (%)                       --          30.0          --
Working class (%)                      --          39.6          --
Work experience (years)                9.6         11.1         10.0
Temporary job (%)                      --           9.4          --
Government job (%)                     --          10.5          --
Service job (%)                       59.4         61.3         59.9
Duration of residence in              28.9         32.5         29.9
  Hong Kong (years)
Education (years)                      8.5          8.8          8.6
Age (years)                           36.9         39.0         37.5
Female (%)                            46.6         43.8         45.8
Self-selection to the follow-          0.4          0.5          0.5
  up survey
Working family members                 1.2          1.2          1.2

Table 2. Factor loadings and inter-factor correlations
from the 3-factor model (N = 1,016)
                                     Commit      Restruct    Alienation
                                      ment        uring
Finding out new ways to solve         .552          --           --
  work problems
Enjoying work fun                     .487          --           --
Enhancing work efficiency             .530          --           --
Being creative at work                .538          --           --
Continuing to work for the            .298          --           --
Working overtime                      .431          --           --
Working hard to serve the             .357          --           --
Getting good performance for the      .572          --           --
Being required to learn new            --          .219          --
Employees laid off                     --          .298          --
Being required to do new tasks         --          .337          --
Changes in work environments           --          .588          --
Changes in work conditions             --          .426          --
  (salary, benefit)
Changes in work nature                 --          .584          --
Work being too simple                  --           --          .222
Work being monotonous                  --           --          .232
Not enjoying the fruit of work         --           --          .445
Not realizing strengths                --           --          .772
Not making decisions at work           --           --          .403
Inter-factor correlation
Restructuring                         .050          --
Alienation                           -.628        -.025          --

Table 3. Logistic regression coefficients for predicting
responding to the follow-up survey (N = 1,016)


Income                                 .000
Alienation                             .004
Restructuring                          .013
Service work                           .116
Work experience                        .012
Duration of residence in Hong Kong     .017 *
Education                             -.008
Age                                    .006
Female (vs. male)                     -.101
Acquiescence                          -.018
Cox's [R.sup.2]                        .035

Table 4. Standardized regression coefficients for
predicting work commitment (N = 281)

Predictor                             Step         Step
                                      (1)          (2)

Income                                .056         .076
Ownership class (vs. working          .117 *       .083
Upper middle class (vs.               .018         .000
  working class)
Middle class (vs. working class)      .074         .078
Work experience                       .100         .078
Temporary job                         .046         .057
Government job                       -.066        -.071
Service job                           .082         .073
Duration of residence in Hong         .081         .020
Education                            -.055        -.068
Age                                   .015        -.019
Female (vs. male)                    -.028        -.042
Self-selection to the follow-up      -.088         .036
Working family members               -.047        -.032
Restructuring                                     -.087
Alienation                                        -.174 **

Restructuring x Alienation
Alienation x Class
Restructuring x Class
Restructuring x Alienation  x
[R.sup.2]                             .440         .468

Predictor                             Step         Step
                                      (3)          (4)

Income                                .086         .074
Ownership class (vs. working          .090         .083
Upper middle class (vs.               .007         .014
  working class)
Middle class (vs. working class)      .091         .087
Work experience                       .066         .064
Temporary job                         .062         .063
Government job                       -.061        -.058
Service job                           .082         .086
Duration of residence in Hong         .024         .022
Education                            -.081        -.093
Age                                  -.022        -.015
Female (vs. male)                    -.049        -.052
Self-selection to the follow-up       .031         .018
Working family members               -.017        -.024
Restructuring                        -.058        -.025
Alienation                            --            --
                                      .181 ***     .184 ***
Restructuring x Alienation           -.116 *      -.105 *
Alienation x Class                   -.041        -.026
Restructuring x Class                 .054         .061
Restructuring x Alienation  x                      .100 *
[R.sup.2]                             .486         .494

* : p < .05; ** : p < .01; *** : p < .001

Table 5. Standardized regression coefficients of alternative
interaction terms for predicting work commitment (N = 281)

Interactive predictor                                     Step (3)
                                                           / (4)

Restructuring x Income                                      .017
Restructuring x Work experience                             .000
Restructuring x Temporary job                              -.044
Restructuring x Government job                             -.027
Restructuring x Service job                                 .000
Restructuring x Duration of residence in Hong Kong          .012
Restructuring x Education                                   .010
Restructuring x Age                                        -.003
Restructuring x Female                                     -.003
Restructuring x Self-selection into follow-up response     -.031
Restructuring x Working family members                     -.021
Alienation x Income                                        -.015
Alienation x Work experience                                .015
Alienation x Temporary job                                 -.046
Alienation x Government job                                 .004
Alienation x Service job                                   -.021
Alienation x Duration of residence in Hong Kong            -.022
Alienation x Education                                      .021
Alienation x Age                                            .022
Alienation x Female                                         .014
Alienation x Self-selection into follow-up response        -.036
Alienation x Working family members                        -.021
Restructuring x Alienation x Income                         .003
Restructuring x Alienation x Work experience               -.011
Restructuring x Alienation x Temporary job                 -.003
Restructuring x Alienation x Government job                 .082 **
Restructuring x Alienation x Service job                    .015
Restructuring x Alienation x Duration of residence in      -.016
  Hong Kong
Restructuring x Alienation x Education                      .008
Restructuring x Alienation x Age                           -.029
Restructuring x Alienation x Female                         .026
Restructuring x Alienation x Self-selection into           -.008
  follow-up response
Restructuring x Alienation x Working family members         .097 **

*: p < .05; **: p < .01; ***: p < .001

Table 6. Standardized regression coefficients for
predicting restructuring and alienation (N = 1,016)

Predictor                             Restructuring   Alienation

Income                                   -.056          -.107 **

Ownership class (vs. working class)      -.023          -.054

Upper middle class (vs. working
class)                                   -.031          -.101 **

Middle class (vs. working class)          .008          -.075 *

Work experience                           .040          -.141 ***

Temporary job                            -.008           .008

Government job                            .019           .020

Service job                               .013           .027

Duration of residence in Hong Kong        .076 *        -.110 **

Education                                 .120 **       -.098 **

Age                                      -.129 **        .083 *

Female (vs. male)                        -.056           .018

Working family members                   -.021           .005

[R.sup.2]                                 .211           .108

*: p < .05; **: p < .01; ***: p < .001
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Publication:International Journal of Employment Studies
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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