Applying Complexity Theory to Solve Hospitality Contrarian Case Conundrums: Illuminating Happy-Low and Unhappy-High Performing Frontline Service Employees
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Purpose: This paper aims to advance a configural asymmetric theory of the complex antecedents to hospitality employee happiness-at-work and managers’ assessments of employees’ quality of work performance. The study transcends variable and case-level analyses to go beyond prior statistical findings of small-to-medium effect sizes of happiness–performance relationships; the study here identifies antecedent paths involving high-versus-low happy employees associating with high-versus-low managers’ assessments of these employees’ performances. Design/methodology/approach: The study merges data from surveys of employees (n = 247) and surveys completed by their managers (n = 43) and by using qualitative comparative analysis via the software program, fsQCA.com. The study analyzes data from Janfusan Fancyworld, the largest (in revenues and number of employees) tourism business group in Taiwan; Janfusan Fancyworld includes tourist hotels, amusement parks, restaurants and additional firms in related service sectors. Findings: The findings support the four tenets of configural analysis and theory construction: recognize equifinality of different solutions for the same outcome, test for asymmetric solutions, test for causal asymmetric outcomes for very high versus very low happiness and work performance and embrace complexity.Research limitations/implications: Additional research in other firms and additional countries is necessary to confirm the usefulness of examining algorithms for predicting very high (low) happiness and very high (low) quality of work performance. The implications are substantial that configural theory and research will resolve perplexing happiness–performance conundrums. Practical implications: The study provides useful case-level algorithms involving employees’ demographic characteristics and their assessments of work facet-specifics which are useful for explaining very high happiness-at-work and high quality of work performance (as assessed by managers) – as well as algorithms explaining very low happiness and very low quality of work performance. Originality/value: The study is the first to propose and test the tenets of configural theory in the context of hospitality frontline service employees’ happiness-at-work and managers’ assessments of these employees’ quality of work performances.
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