What's in a name? : Job categorisation, relationship building, and work motivation in aid organisations : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Aid organisations operating in lower-income regions around the world are often staffed by local and international employees working together toward the common goal of poverty reduction. These employees tend to come from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds, and may be positioned at work by themselves and their colleagues into categories which reflect salient characteristics of these backgrounds. Such positioning may create barriers between workers, and thus adversely affect aid projects, including attempts to build capacity. The aims of this research are threefold: 1) to explore the way local and international aid workers are categorised by themselves and others within the context of aid organisations in lower-income settings; 2) to identify links between job categories and indicators of work motivation; and 3) to test if a job categorisation-work motivation linkage is mediated by workplace relationships. To this end two studies were conceptualised and undertaken, the first qualitatively exploring job categorisation and work relationships from the perspectives of aid workers themselves, and the second quantitatively testing the hypothesised linkages.
Study I undertook a thematic analysis of interviews with a cross-section of 17 local and international aid workers in Cambodia. Content analyses indicated that local and international workers are positioned by themselves and each other within a hierarchy of job categories: „expatriate‟, „consultant‟, „volunteer‟ and „local‟. These categories are in turn underpinned by power and status, and reflective of relative pay and benefits. Using the interview data as a basis, the Aid Relationships Quality Scale (ARQS) was developed and checked for reliability and validity. The ARQS factor analysed into three reliable factors: 1) „relationships with expatriates‟, 2) „relationships with locals‟, and 3) „learning from expatriates and locals‟.
In Study II a total of N = 1290 workers from 202 aid organisations in six different countries were administered the ARQS (factors 1-3 above) alongside seven additional indicators of work motivation: 4) pay comparison, 5) self-assessed ability, 6) pay justice, 7) de-motivation due to pay, 8) turnover cognitions, 9) thinking about international mobility, and 10) job satisfaction/work engagement. In line with MacLachlan & Carr‟s (2005) Model of Double De-motivation, in comparison with their „expatriate‟ counterparts, „local‟ workers compared their pay and benefits significantly more (p≤.001), experienced significantly more feelings of pay injustice (p≤.001) and de-motivation (p≤.001), and thought more about turning over (p≤.001).
A key finding of Study II is the central role played by relationships in work motivation. Multilevel regression modelling found that „relationships with expatriates‟ partially mediated the links between job categorisation and 1) pay justice, 2) de-motivation, and 3) turnover. Further, „relationships with locals‟ partially mediated a link between job categorisation and pay comparison. A combination of both „relationships with expatriates‟ and „relationships with locals‟ fully mediated the links between job categorisation and 1) job satisfaction/work engagement, and 2) learning. A revision and extension of the Model of Double De-motivation is proposed based on these findings.
Ultimately the results of this thesis provide the first systematic evidence for the vital role of relationships between both local and expatriate workers in tempering the negative impact of inequity between workers, and ultimately perhaps in the success of aid initiatives, including capacity development. A crucial moderating role was found for organisations, suggesting a key role for organisational policies, culture and climate which encourage relationships and challenge existing social hierarchies. Finally and critically, this research listens to the voice of the local worker, and in doing so provides critical insights into the environment in which aid is delivered, and ultimately facilitates alignment with the needs of lower-income nations themselves.