Bacharach and Bamberger’s Study Case of New York City Firemen

Introduction

Bacharach and Bamberger (2007) have conducted a study to determine the relationship that exists between organizational behavior, and the functional relationship in the organization. It’s a study of New York City firemen in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. It’s interesting and important in its own right, and also provides excellent examples of variable operationalization and hypothesis formulation. Based on the 9/11 incident, the study explores the impact that involvement has in events of crisis, catastrophe, or emergency. The research aimed to determine the role played by stress or situation on the behavior of humans and how they work.

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The model presented in the research is based on the revelations of the traumatic stress literature and depicts that “there is likely to be systematic variation in individual stressor-strain relationships over work units, variation likely to be at least partially explained by variation in the current (i.e., postevent) support and control climates of the work units.” (Bacharach and Bamberger, 2007). The research provides that post-traumatic stress is directly linked with the involvement of a person in a critical situation and the emotional well-being of the person at the time. The basis was formed as it was discovered that in most cases the severe mental health issues that occurred were due to the negative emotional state of the person and would develop as long after the traumatic incident as up to 7 months. Moreover, as the nature of the mental health deficiencies can be highly volatile and variable in terms of the behavior of the person, the research concludes by recommending learned facts on how to control and manage the behavior to make it less distressing and more normal.

Variables analysis

The variables that were employed in the study were either level 1 variables or level 2 variables, with the level 2 variables restricted to control climate and current support. The following table shows the classification of the variables identified and used for the study.

S.N Code Type Level Authors Label
1 Dep DV Level 1 Depression
2 Anx DV Level 1 Anxiety
3 Str DV Level 1 Stress
4 Icv IV Level 1 Intensity of Critical Incident Involvement
5 Iei Intensity of Employee Involvement
6 Ptd IV Level 1 Posttraumatic Distress
7 Pus MV Level 2 Postevent Unit-level Supervisory Support Climate
8 Puc MV Level 2 Postincident Unit Control
9 Puec CV Level 1 Postincident Unit Employee Control Climate
10 Age CV Level 1 Age
11 Mst CV Level 1 Marital Status
12 Edl CV Level 1 Education Level
15 Sdb CV Level 1 Social Desirability Bias
16 Rpr CV Level 1 Respondent Presence

The dependent variables (DV) in the study pertained to depression, anxiety, and stress. These variables were assessed using the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale. The independent variables (IV) in the research were the intensity of critical incident involvement and posttraumatic distress. The critical incident involvement variable was assessed in the study using the critical incident inventory method while the variable of posttraumatic distress was assessed using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. The moderating variables (MV) in the study were the current unit control climate and the current supervisory support climate. The current unit control climate was assessed through the Bacharach, Bamberger, Conley, and Bauer’s instrument, while the posttraumatic distress was assessed on a 1 to 4 scale of ‘not at all’ and ‘very often. The control variables (CV) in the study were age, marital status, education level, social desirability bias, and respondent bias. The level-based scale was used to gather the information, while the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding scale was used to assess the social desirability bias variable.

Hypothesis Summary

The research undertaken by Bacharach and Bamberger (2007) had four main hypotheses. These hypotheses pertained to the following.

  • The first set hypothesis states that Icv is linked with negative psychological states (Dep, Anx, and Str) and the Ptd as the Icv can directly influence and condition the Ptd, however, the relationship can vary in intensity depending on the work units.
  • The second hypothesis states that the Pus and Puc support the direct association that exists between the Iei and the Icv and the impact that it has on the negative emotional state (Dep, Anx, Str) of the employees at the post-event stage.
  • The third hypothesis is divided into two sections as depicted:
  1. The first part of the third hypothesis states that the Puc determines the strength and the weakness of the relationship between Icv and Ptd. The stronger Puc depicts that the relationship between the Icv and the Ptd is weak; while the weaker Puc depicts that the relationship between the Icv and the Ptd is strong.
  2. The second part of the third hypothesis states that the Pus determines the strength and the weakness of the relationship between Icv and Ptd. The stronger Pus depicts that the relationship between the Icv and the Ptd is weak; while the weaker Pus depicts that the relationship between the Icv and the Ptd is strong.
  • The fourth hypothesis is also divided into two sections as depicted below:
  1. The first part of the fourth hypothesis states that the Puec and controls the relationship strength between the Ptd and the negative emotional states (Dep, Anx, and Str) such that the stronger Puec results in a weaker association between the Ptd and the negative emotional states (Dep, Anx and Str) while a weaker Puec results in a stronger link Ptd and the negative emotional states (Dep, Anx and Str).
  2. The second part of the fourth hypothesis states The Pus and controls that relationship strength between the Ptd and the negative emotional states (Dep, Anx, and Str) such that the stronger Pus results in a weaker association between the Ptd and the negative emotional states (Dep, Anx and Str) while a weaker Pus results in a stronger link Ptd and the negative emotional states (Dep, Anx and Str).

Quality of the Research

Bacharach and Bamberger (2007) have conducted a detailed study for their research both through secondary sources as well as through primary research based on observations and tests on the data collected through a questionnaire-based survey. This renders a comprehensive collection of data resources for the research enabling the context of the research to be explorative as well as exhaustive. The reliability of the responses was also ensured by limiting the respondent inclusion to only those firefighters who belonged to only 101 companies.

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Findings

The findings of the research provide that post-traumatic distress does affect the relationship between the involvement intensity of the situation and the resultant negative emotional states about stress and anxiety. This effect however can be varied and different over the different work units. Similarly, it was also discovered through the research that the support environment after the traumatic incident and the control environment after the traumatic incident both influenced the intensity of the involvement of the firefighter in the present states of depression, anxiety, and stress. Another significant finding which was made pertained to the discovery that the control environment for the employee has a salient role in influencing the relationship between the post-event distress and the highlighted negative emotional states. On the other hand, the employee support environment plays a minor role in attenuating the relationship between the post-event distress and the negative emotional states.

Implications for Management Practice

The research undertaken and presented by Bacharach and Bamberger (2007) depicts significant implications for management. It provides that job level and the individual buffers which need to be set to ensure the well-being of the employees. Moreover, the study also shows that the support available to the firefighters at their place of employment along with their experience in the field can significantly affect the distress level that they can work on and the negative emotions including stress, anxiety, and depression. Another implication that is presented by the research is for the researchers and states that exploration of a similar study on the micro-level and the macro level is needed in the form of future research to identify the discrepancies between the two contexts as identified through the research undertaken by Bacharach and Bamberger.

References

Bacharach, S.B., Bamberger, P.A., (2007), 9/11 and New York City Firefighters’ Post Hoc Unit Support and Control Climates: A Context Theory of the Consequences of Involvement in Traumatic Work-Related Events, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 849–868.

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