Employee share ownership, psychological ownership, and work attitudes and behaviours: A phenomenological analysis
journal contributionposted on 21.03.2016, 11:11 by David McConville, John Arnold, Alison Smith
This study uses qualitative data to explore how employees perceive the relationships between employee share ownership (ESO) scheme participation, their attitudes and behaviours at work, and their feelings of psychological ownership (PO). We contribute to two areas of (largely quantitative) research literature. First, we advance understanding of PO by examining participants' explanations of how they feel their sense of PO is affected by participating in a company ESO scheme. Second, we examine the role of PO in employees' explanations of the attitudinal and behavioural changes they feel they have experienced as a consequence of participating in an ESO scheme. To explore the subjective meaning of ESO participation and its PO impact, 37 semi-structured interviews were conducted in nine companies with participants in three tax-advantaged ESO schemes in the United Kingdom: SIP, SAYE, and EMI. Data were coded and analysed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Participants perceived little effect of ESO schemes on PO or on the organizational features anticipated to give rise to these feelings. In turn, PO was found to play little or no part in employees' explanations of how share schemes had, or did not have, an attitudinal or behavioural impact. Practitioner points: Interviewees reflected on their experiences of joining employee share ownership (ESO) schemes, holding options, exercising options, and owning shares in the company. There was very little evidence that employees felt that any of these stages of ESO participation had any noticeable effect on their feelings of psychological ownership (PO). Other factors seemed to satisfy PO routes before, and possibly better than, ESO. Psychological ownership played little or no part in employees' explanations of how the ESO scheme impacted upon their attitudes or behaviours. The findings contrast with the conventional wisdom, that participating in an ESO scheme inevitably causes employees to feel a sense of ownership over the company. We find that ESO had very little to do with ownership in the minds of employees. Instead, it was much more about investment. ESO was not seen as a mechanism for employees to have a sense of ownership over the company and employees did not appear to regard ESO as providing experiences of the three ownership rights, or the routes to PO which parallel these.
The authors would like to acknowledge with thanks the financial support provided to the study by ifs Proshare, BT and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC).
- Business and Economics