Structural determinants of psychological well-being for knowledge workers in South Korea

Baek Kyoo (Brian) Joo, Jong Gyu Park, Taejo Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Purpose – Employee well-being has been an under-researched area in the field of human resources (HR) and organizational behavior. The purpose of this paper is to investigate personal (learning goal orientation (LGO)), contextual (empowering leadership), and job-related (psychological empowerment) antecedents of psychological well-being (PWB). Design/methodology/approach – Individual perceptions of knowledge workers in nine Korean consulting firms in South Korea were obtained using a cross-sectional survey. HR managers distributed paper versions of a survey questionnaire to 400 employees, and 334 usable questionnaires were collected, giving the authors a final response rate of 83.5 percent. Findings – As a result of structural equation modeling analysis, the level of employees’ psychological empowerment turned out to partially mediate the relationship between LGO and PWB, while fully mediating the relationship between empowering leadership and PWB. LGO and perceived empowering leadership accounted for 54 percent of the variance in psychological empowerment and the three antecedents explained 47 percent of the variance in PWB. Research limitations/implications – This study relied on a cross-sectional survey method with potential common method bias. As a result of the single-factor test, however, it is unlikely to confound the interpretations of the results. Another limitation of this study is that the sample of this study was restricted to knowledge workers with relatively high cognitive ability since they were mostly junior male managers with four-year college or graduate degrees. Practical implications – To enhance perceived empowerment and PWB, HR, and OD practitioners can support employees and their managers by providing relevant HR practices and services including developing supportive empowering leaders with effective coaching skills, hiring, and developing employees with higher LGO, and redesigning jobs for employees so they feel more empowered. Originality/value – This study linked four emerging subjects in management and positive psychology: goal orientation, empowering leadership, psychological empowerment, and well-being research. The theoretical contribution of this study lies in that it is one of the first attempts to investigate the relationships among LGO, psychological empowerment, and PWB specifically for knowledge workers in South Korea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1069-1086
Number of pages18
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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