Critical Incidents of Financial Hardship and Worker Health: A Mixed-Methods Retrospective Study

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Rooted in Social Cognitive Career theory, we present a mixed-methods analysis of the perceived impacts of a financial hardship on workers’ job outcomes, the work-family interface, and physical and emotional health. We used the Critical Incidents Technique to gather worker perceptions (n = 571) of the most challenging financial hardship they had recently experienced, as well as the effects of this hardship on work, family, and health. Workers’ qualitative responses overwhelmingly indicate health as an outcome of the financial hardship as well as, to a lesser extent, a cause of a financial hardship, suggesting a damaging reciprocal effect among financial hardships and health. Family was often noted in responses as both impacted by and as a source of the hardship, as were negative effects of financial hardships on employment-related outcomes (i.e., underemployment, difficulty finding a new job, job insecurity). Quantitative results suggest a process whereby financial insecurity affects stress and WFB satisfaction which, in turn, negatively relates to health outcomes (sleep disturbances, musculoskeletal pain, and general health perceptions) as well as organizational outcomes (job satisfaction, organizational commitment, organizational justice). Given the potential cost to organizations when worker health and job attitudes are negatively impacted, our results suggest organizations should be mindful of workers’ experiences of financial hardships.



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