Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 09/04/2021

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Business Administration

First Advisor

Colbert, Amy

First Committee Member

Stewart, Greg L

Second Committee Member

Crawford, Eean R

Third Committee Member

Williams, Michele

Fourth Committee Member

Firth, Brady M


Contact with beneficiaries has been described as the most important job characteristic for increasing the salience of meaningful work. However, our understanding of beneficiary contact has primarily been limited to positive experiences with beneficiaries, despite the fact that many jobs are defined as much by the negative experiences with beneficiaries as they are by the positive. To increase understanding of negative beneficiary contact, I draw from identity theory to propose that negative experiences with beneficiaries have a dual effect on employees. Whereas negative contact may make employees feel unappreciated (low perceived social worth), it may also lead employees to believe they are engaging in self-sacrifice for worthy cause—a relatively positive interpretation of such experiences. In a study of 257 registered nurses from a large academic medical center, these hypotheses were supported. However, contrary to expectations, the effects of beneficiary contact on employee perceptions of social worth and self-sacrifice were not contingent upon their willingness to relate to beneficiaries (perspective taking and affective commitment to beneficiaries). Only perceived social worth was found to predict job satisfaction, and neither social worth nor self-sacrifice predicted job performance. Longitudinal analyses suggested that beneficiary contact is reciprocally related to employee’s work perceptions over time, but neither factor predicted changes in job satisfaction. Overall, findings suggest that negative beneficiary contact makes employees feel less appreciated, but also serves as a badge that signifies a willing sacrifice for a worthy cause. Moreover, perceived self-sacrifice may have a more complex relationship with employee outcomes than originally thought.


beneficiary contact, job design, meaningful work, self-sacrifice, social worth


x, 103 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 86-98).


Copyright © 2019 Jordan D. Nielsen

Available for download on Saturday, September 04, 2021