Author's School

Olin Business School

Author's Department

Organizational Behavior


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

J. Stuart J. Bunderson

Committee Members

William W. Bottom, Markus M. Baer, Hillary H. Elfenbein, Patrick P. Hill,


Although furloughs have been used by organizations for some time, their use increased sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. They differ from layoffs in the uncertainty they involve around the employment relationship. However, the phenomenon has received little attention from research on involuntary job loss, and the impact of the employment uncertainty it involves is largely unknown. Furthermore, the moderating factors that differentiate the impacts across employee populations are also unclear. In this dissertation I report a mixed-method field study examining the impact of employment uncertainty on furloughed workers and the moderating role by their work orientation. To guide the development of hypotheses, I conduct a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with 28 furloughed employees. I then test my predictions with furloughed workers from various industries. Results suggest that employment uncertainty increases furloughed workers’ negative emotions while decreasing their occupational commitment. The behavioral impacts of uncertainty include hedging and “live like working,” mediated by occupational commitment. Furthermore, one’s work orientation moderates the adverse impacts of uncertainty such that the effects are alleviated for someone with a stronger sense of calling orientation but worsened for someone with a stronger sense of job orientation. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.