Locked at the job: Examining antecedents, consequences and its process.

M.T. Feenstra-Verschure*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The concept of 'locked at the job' is a relatively unknown phenomenon, both in science and in practice. Nevertheless, between 13 - 20% of employees remain dissatisfied in their jobs because they see limited job opportunities. When employees remain in such an undesirable work situation, it has negative effects not only for the employee, but also for the organization.

Several concepts currently exist in science that measure job immobility just like ‘locked at the job’. However, these concepts are not well integrated and only limited use has been made of the existing concepts. As a result, it cannot be determined whether someone is locked at the job, what causes and effects this has, and what kind of process people go through. The research question in this dissertation is, "What is experiencing locked at the job, what are the antecedents and consequences, and how does it evolve over time?"

To study this research question, a thorough literature review was first conducted so that a clear definition could be formulated. Then, based on theoretical reasoning, a conceptual model of locked at the job was introduced. This conceptual model reveals, among other things, that the individual experiences multiple misfits in the work situation to reach a locked at the job situation. The employee has a lack of control over his or her thoughts and behavior. With a validation study, it could be confirmed that the developed questionnaire to measure locked at the job does measure the experience of being locked at the job. The results of this study also show that locked at the job leads to more job insecurity, more frustration and anger and causes a decrease in productivity. In addition, through a quantitative study it became clear that older people, less educated people and employees with more years of service score higher on locked at the job and that this can be countered by support for development from the organization. Finally, an interview study provided insights into the process that people go through when they are locked at the job. They go through three phases: becoming-, being- and ending locked at the job. Causes for becoming locked at the job that people indicate include favorable employment conditions, higher age, lower education level, more job tenure, but also a lack of courage or direction. How people experience this situation can be categorized into three levels from few negative feelings and thoughts to eventually going through burnout. Three ways of sustaining the situation are further indicated. People adjust their current perspective, shift their attention and/or avoid the unpleasant situation, individual or environment.

When employees are locked at their job they are reluctant to share their feelings, at work, but also in their private situations. There needs to be greater awareness of this phenomenon through good education. It is also important that the taboo on this phenomenon is broken. An open dialogue must be established between all those involved and finally, it is important to identify the groups concerned more quickly by means of a quick scan.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Kooij, Dorien, Promotor
  • Freese, Charissa, Promotor
  • van Veldhoven, Marc, Member PhD commission
  • Borghouts, Irmgard, Member PhD commission
  • de Vos, Ans, Member PhD commission, External person
  • Verbruggen, M., Member PhD commission, External person
Award date30 Sept 2022
Place of Publications.l.
Print ISBNs978-94-6458-335-9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022


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