Date of Award

5-1998

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Social Work

Major Professor

William Nugent

Committee Members

Catherine Faver, Schuyler Huck, Eric Sundstrom

Abstract

Public human service settings are highly bureaucratic organizations with tight centralization of policy decision-making. They can be inhospitable places for conducting professional work and most appropriate for performing routine tasks based on standardized procedures. Against this backdrop of control, human service workers are asked to respond to the unique and unpredictable problems of people struggling unsuccessfully in society. The inconsistency between work structure and professional responsibility can generate value conflict for public human service employees. There are conflicts of loyalty to employers, laws, clients, colleagues, funding sources, regulations, and the community at large. These conflicts can have profound implication for the well-being of public human service personnel and the effectiveness of service delivery.

The primary purpose of this study was to examine the relationship among the variables of value conflict, job satisfaction, quality of worklife (QWL), and desire to leave the job among direct service workers employed by county Department of Human Service (DHS) offices. The primary objective was to investigate the degree to which value conflict impacts quality of worklife, job satisfaction, and desire to leave the job. A significant part of this study, specifically the examination of value conflict factors, represents new research and adds a new dimension to the social work and organization literature.

The study was designed as a stratified random single state cluster sample of urban and rural county human service departments in the State of Ohio. Statistically significant relationships between value conflict, job satisfaction, quality of worklife and desire to leave the job were established from the sample of 967 county human service employees with direct client contact. The urban/rural location of the work setting and academic field study did not moderate the relationship between value conflict and quality of worklife or between value conflict and job satisfaction. Academic degree level significantly moderated the relationship between value conflict and quality of worklife, but did not moderate the relationship between value conflict and job satisfaction.

Understanding the value conflict factors experienced by public human service employees can provide useful insights into improving their work environment, enhancing work productivity, and improving client outcomes.

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