Predicting work outcomes from religiosity and perceived calling.

Author:Horvath, Michael

Research suggests that individuals who perceive their work as a calling experience a variety of positive outcomes, such as occupational identification, career decidedness, and job satisfaction. The present study examined how calling and religiosity interact to influence workplace cognition and behavior. Using a self-regulatory, multiple-goals perspective, the author proposed that individuals with greater religiosity would report lower job involvement and work fewer hours. However, this relationship would attenuate or reverse if individuals perceived a transcendent summons calling them to their jobs. In the present study, 233 employed adults reported perceptions of calling, religiosity, job involvement, and hours worked. Calling and religiosity interacted in the hypothesized manner when predicting both job involvement, [DELTA][R.sup.2] = .02, and hours worked, [DELTA][R.sup.2] = .02, although job involvement did not mediate the relationship between calling, religiosity, and hours worked. The results suggest that career counselors and researchers pay particular attention to the role of calling among religious individuals.

Keywords: calling, religiosity, job involvement


Calling has emerged as a promising construct for use in career counseling. Individuals who perceive a calling, or a belief that they were meant to engage in a particular profession, are more likely to experience positive outcomes, such as greater life satisfaction, occupational identification, job satisfaction, and lower stress and depression (e.g., Bunderson & Thompson, 2009; Duffy, Allan, Autin, & Bott, 2013; Duffy, Bott, Allan, Torrey, & Dik, 2012; Treadgold, 1999). Therefore, researchers have begun to provide recommendations for incorporating calling into counseling practice (e.g., Dik, Duffy, & Eldridge, 2009). The specificity of such recommendations can be enhanced through a more thorough understanding of calling and its effects. For example, although calling has been recognized as multidimensional (e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2009), little research has explored calling's subdimensions. Furthermore, we know little about the types of people for whom calling would be more strongly related to outcomes. This present study extended the calling literature on both fronts. Using a self-regulatory, multiple-goals perspective (e.g., Schmidt & DeShon, 2007), I hypothesized that one aspect of calling (i.e., a transcendent summons) will have stronger effects on workplace cognition and behavior for individuals with greater religiosity.


Dik and Duffy (2009) defined calling as

a transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness and that holds other-oriented values and goals as primary sources of motivation, (p. 427) Similarly, Elangovan, Pinder, and McLean (2010) discussed calling as "a course of action in pursuit of pro-social intentions embodying the convergence of an individual's sense of what he or she would like to do, should do, and does" (p. 430). Although these and other definitions differ in terms of specific boundaries (see discussion below), they both encompass a subjective impression that one is meant to engage in a particular activity such as a specific career.

Calling perceptions have been the focus of a great deal of research in the past decade. Calling has been related to career-specific concepts, such as occupational or vocational identity, occupational self-efficacy, and career commitment (e.g., Bunderson & Thompson, 2009; Duffy, Bott, et al., 2012; Duffy, Dik, & Steger, 2011; Galles & Lenz, 2013; Hirschi, 2012). Acknowledging that individuals may end up working in jobs to which they do not feel called, some research has related calling perceptions to outcomes such as job satisfaction, withdrawal, and turnover intentions (Cardador, Dane, & Pratt, 2011; Duffy, Bott, et ah, 2012; Duffy et al., 2011; Peterson, Park, Hall, & Seligman, 2009; Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997).

One potentially controversial aspect of calling is the extent to which it incorporates an external or transcendent summons. Although the original conceptualizations of calling included religious aspects (e.g., divine will), modern theorists have operationalized an external summons as being able to arise from nondivine sources such as the needs of society, or they have classified a perception of a divine calling as only one of many different types of callings (e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2009; Elangovan et al., 2010; Hall & Chandler, 2005).

Research on different types of callings has been rare. In line with Dik and Duffy's (2009) definition, Dik, Eldridge, Steger, and Duffy (2012) developed a three-dimensional measure of calling: (a) a transcendent summons, which involves an external force such as a deity; (b) a prosocial orientation, referring to a belief that one is helping others; and (c) a perception of purposeful work, a belief that one's job has meaning. However, there has been no systematic research exploring differential relationships between these dimensions and outcomes. Although the present study focuses mainly on the transcendent summons dimension, given its conceptual relatedness to religiosity, it also examines relationships with the other two calling dimensions.

Religiosity and Calling

Despite its ubiquity across time and cultures, religion has only relatively recently received scientific study and, even more recently, been studied in the workplace (Duffy, 2006; Duffy, Reid, & Dik, 2010; Hill & Dik, 2012). Religiosity and the related construct of spirituality have been notoriously difficult to define and differentiate (e.g., Hill et al., 2000; Zinnbauer & Pargament, 2005). Considering the current state of the literature, it may be appropriate to choose a definition that is congruent with the topic at hand (Oman, 2013). In this study, I consider religiosity to be a search for the sacred occurring within the realm of a traditional social structure, similar to Zinnbauer's definition of religiousness (Zinnbauer & Pargament, 2005). Furthermore, Allport and Ross (1967) differentiated between extrinsic religiosity, in which one's religion is instrumental to the achievement of one's goals (i.e., religion is a means to an end), and intrinsic religiosity, in which satisfaction and meaning are directly derived from religious participation (i.e., religion is the end). It is important to note that individuals with greater intrinsic religiosity may engage in similar outward activities (e.g., participation in worship) as those with high extrinsic religiosity, but the motivation behind the behaviors differ in the extent to which they are designed to fulfill extrinsic needs. The present study focuses on intrinsic religiosity, although some articles in the review below examined different aspects of religiosity.

In workplace research, religiosity has been tied to factors such as workplace ethics and values, career decision making, stress (Cummings & Pargament, 2012; Duffy, 2010; Duffy & Blustein, 2005; Vitell, 2010) and, more importantly, calling (Davidson & Caddell, 1994; Duffy & Sedlacek, 2010; Steger, Pickering, Shin, & Dik, 2010). Although previous research has found positive linear relationships between religiosity and calling, little research has explored other ways in which these constructs could be related, thus limiting their practical usefulness. Drawing from the literature on the self-regulation of multiple goals (e.g., Schmidt & DeShon, 2007), I propose that calling moderates the relationship between religiosity and work outcomes.

Self-regulatory theories of motivation (e.g., Austin & Vancouver, 1996; Bandura, 1997; Carver & Scheier, 1998) typically involve a dynamic feedback loop, wherein one compares one's state or rate of progress with a desired goal. Larger discrepancies between the current and desired states result in an increase in an effort toward that goal (e.g., Campion & Lord, 1982). Furthermore, motivation to attain a goal is thought to increase when performance on the task is seen as instrumental to one's ultimate overarching goals (e.g., Powers, 1973; Vroom, 1964).

Although some research has considered the self-regulation of goals in isolation, it has also recognized that individuals pursue multiple goals simultaneously, resulting in a potential conflict for resources, such as one's time. Schmidt and DeShon (2007) recently proposed and tested a model of multiple-goal pursuit. They found that individuals are more sensitive to discrepancies in goals with greater importance (operationalized as financial incentives). The present study considered intrinsic religiosity as an indicator of the importance placed on spiritual goals. Individuals with greater intrinsic religiosity may place more weight on extra-work goals, not necessarily to satisfy particular needs (cf. extrinsic religiosity), but as an outward manifestation of religious ideals (e.g., participation in worship, helping the poor). Consequently, they may have less time available for work...

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