Work and workplace attitudes on social workers: Do they predict organizational reputation?

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Welfare services have been perceived for a long time as providing “poor service for poor people.” This kind of thinking reflects the common perceptions and attitudes of social workers, clients, and society toward social services (Boehm, 2002). The above statement means that social services are politically, economically, and socially weak, and that the designated population is also weak. Nevertheless, social services are manned by professional social workers who have had extensive professional training, both academic and nonacademic, and who possess a unified professional identity and ethics. The organization's reputation is significant to these professional workers, and therefore it is interesting to consider their perception of it. This factor has a significant impact on their functioning in terms of their ability to provide useful and professional welfare services to clients (Kumar, 2004).

In the last several years, welfare organizations have shifted from traditional management and a secure feeling of overall immunity, to a competitive environment. This change has obviated job security: personal contracts have begun replacing tenured positions, and social workers tend to shift between organizations. At the same time, the demands of the job are increasing; thus, social workers are more frequently required to take an active part in fund-raising, to help balance or even augment their organization's budget. This rapid change in the organizational environment has left social service workers confronting increasingly complex professional challenges, to which they must find adequate responses if they are to remain successful in their field. Within the context of this altered work environment, organizational reputation plays an important role.

Considerable research has been devoted to the subject of organizational reputation as well as to work and workplace attitudes. Theoreticians as well as practitioners dedicate considerable exploratory efforts to identify the factors that promote a positive organizational reputation and to investigate its implications. According to Fombrun (1996: 57), “corporate reputations are held by people inside and outside a company.” Companies consistently compete to be better regarded, a status that reflects a competitive advantage and, more likely, superior performance. Fombrun (1996: 9) argued that the better-regarded companies build their reputation by developing both economic and social practices. Although it is not entirely clear whether organizational reputation is the predictor or the outcome of high-level performance, a review of the literature indicates that much effort has been devoted to study organizational reputation as a predictor of a firm's financial performance and stock market value (Hammond and Slocum, Jr., 1996; McGuire, Sundgren and Schneewiess, 1988; Mcmillan and Joshi, 1997; Roberts and Dowling, 1997; Srivastava, McInish, Wood and Capraro, 1997; Vergin and Qoronfleh, 1998).

Our study, compared to those conducted to date, extends the research on this subject in two main ways. First, while previous studies addressed organizational reputation as a predictor of a firm's financial performance and stock market value, in the context of our research, which focuses specifically on welfare service organizations, the fiscal value of the organization is less pertinent. However, we explore the possibility that organizational reputation can serve as a measure to assess quality performance in welfare organizations. A second change introduced in our study relates to how the term organizational reputation is applied. Previous studies engaged the term organizational reputation to refer to outsiders’ beliefs about an organization's distinctive attributes, whereas in this study we employ the term organizational reputation to explore how social workers, i.e., people inside the organization, view their organization's reputation. We believe that by using organizational reputation to reflect the workers’ image of the organization, the concept can be harnessed as a tool for assessing (and later addressing) employees’ work-related attitudes. To date, relatively few research efforts have been allocated to explore work and workplace attitudes and their empirical association with organizational reputation in social welfare organizations. In an exception, a study conducted by Jones (1996) examined the determinants of reputation as perceived by the employees of ten science-based firms. The results indicated that an innovative climate and job satisfaction were the major determinants of reputation. However, while the study of Jones (1996) focused on organizational reputation as perceived only by human resource workers in industrial firms, our study examines organizational reputation as perceived by social workers in welfare organizations.

The subject of organizational reputation in welfare organizations from one side and work attitudes within social workers and welfare organizations from the other side is a subject that is researched in Israel as well as in the rest of the western world, like England, for example. Work attitudes of welfare workers with the elders (Boots, Bilson, and Fowell, 1990), satisfaction and service quality (Redfern, Hannan, Norman, and Martin, 2002), or effectiveness of welfare organizations (Cropanzano, James, and Konovsky, 1993) were all investigated and raised interest. This research meant to relight the point of organizational reputation in order to offer another perspective to look at those organizations.

The goal of this paper is to present the findings in relation to existing theoretical and empirical research. The paper concludes with suggestions for further investigation of the relationship between social workers’ work and workplace attitudes and their perception of the organizational reputation of their workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-87
Number of pages21
JournalBusiness and Society Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


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