24794002 the Islamic Work Ethic

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  • 7/31/2019 24794002 the Islamic Work Ethic


    A study in aIslamic countr



    Journal of Managerial Psychol

    Vol. 15 No. 4, 2000, pp. 283-3

    # MCB University Press, 0268-3

    Received December 19Revised April 19Accepted July 19

    The Islamic work ethic as amediator of the relationship

    between locus of control, roleconflict and role ambiguity

    A study in an Islamic country settingDarwish A. Yousef

    United Arab Emirates University, Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates

    Keywords Control, Role conflict, Work ethic, Mediation, Islam, United Arab Emirates

    Abstract The article examines the potential mediating role of the Islamic work ethic betweenlocus of control, role conflict and role ambiguity. The study uses a sample of 397 employees in avariety of manufacturing and service organizations in an Islamic country, the United Arab

    Emirates. The results of correlational analysis and regression models suggest that the Islamicwork ethic is related to locus of control. Furthermore, the results of a series of regression modelsindicate that the Islamic work ethic mediates the relationship between locus of control and roleambiguity. On the other hand, the results point out that the Islamic work ethic does not mediatethe relationship between locus of control and role conflict. Results further point out that there is a

    significant correlation between the Islamic work ethic and role ambiguity. Limitations, lines offuture research, implications and contributions are discussed.


    Individual control plays a significant role in human behavior. The extent towhich an individual believes he/she can directly affect the environment has asubstantial effect on perceptions of that environment and reactions to it(Spector, 1986). As a result, locus of control as well as its relationship with anumber of variables such as role stress, work ethic, job satisfaction,performance and the like have received considerable attention in the Westernliterature. Nonetheless, this area of research has received very little attention inthe Third World in general and in the Islamic World in particular. Furthermore,the role of work ethic in general and the Islamic work ethic in particular as amediator of the relationships between locus of control, role conflict, and roleambiguity has not received adequate attention in the Western literature nor in

    the non-Western literature. Therefore, the present study is designed toinvestigate the role of the Islamic work ethic in particular as a mediator of therelationships between locus of control, role conflict, and role ambiguity in amulticultural and Islamic environment.

    Islamic work ethicThe concept of the Islamic work ethic has its origin in the Quran, the sayings ofand practice of Prophet Muhammad, who preached that hard work caused sinsto be absolved and that ``no one eats better than that which he eats out of his

    The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at


  • 7/31/2019 24794002 the Islamic Work Ethic


    Journal ofManagerialPsychology



    work''. For instance, the Quran often speaks about honesty and justice in trade,and it calls for an equitable and fair distribution of wealth in the society. TheQuran encourages humans to acquire skills and technology, and praises highlythose who strive in order to earn a living. The Quran is against laziness andwaste of time by either remaining idle or engaging oneself in an unproductiveactivity. The ethics of Islam counsels against begging and against living as aparasite on the labors of others (Abeng, 1997). The Islamic work ethic viewsdedication to work as a virtue. Sufficient effort should go into one's work,which is seen as obligatory for a capable individual. The Islamic work ethicemphasizes cooperation in work, and consultation is seen as a way ofovercoming obstacles and avoiding mistakes. Social relations at work areencouraged in order to meet one's needs and establish equilibrium in one'sindividual and social life. In addition, work is considered to be a source ofindependence and a means of fostering personal growth, self-respect,satisfaction and self-fulfillment. The Islamic work ethic stresses creative workas a source of happiness and accomplishment. Hard work is seen as a virtue,and those who work hard are more likely to get ahead in life. Conversely, notworking hard is seen to cause failure in life (Ali, 1988). Also, according to Ali(1988) the value of work in the Islamic work ethic is derived from theaccompanying intentions rather than from the results of work. It emphasizesthat justice and generosity in the workplace are necessary conditions forsociety's welfare and that no one should be denied his full wage. Besidesconstant hard work to meet one's responsibilities, competition is encouraged inorder to improve quality. In brief, the Islamic work ethic argues that lifewithout work has no meaning and engagement in economic activities is an

    obligation.Nasr (1984) argued that the Islamic work ethic deserves a serious inquirybecause it is the ideal which Muslims seek to realize. Additionally, as Ali (1986)argued, Islam is one of the most influential factors which have shaped currentMuslims' value systems. Ahmad (1976) argued that the Islamic work ethicstands not for life denial but for life fulfillment and holds business motives inthe highest regard.

    Protestant work ethic (PWE) vs. Islamic work ethic (IWE)The concept of the PWE was advanced by Weber (1958) who proposed a causalrelationship between the Protestant work ethic and the development of

    capitalism in Western society. Weber's theory related success in business toreligious belief. He proposed that the Protestant-Calvinistic faith had a spiritualthrust towards capitalism and was based on the assumption that work andfinancial success were means to achieve not only personal goals but religiousgoals as well (Kidron, 1978). Weber's theory was introduced into psychology byMcClelland (1961), who offered a social-psychological explanation for the linkbetween Protestantism and capitalism. He subsumed the PWE concept into theneed for achievement, a concept which he saw as a basic dimension ofpersonality (Furnham, 1990).

  • 7/31/2019 24794002 the Islamic Work Ethic


    A study in aIslamic countr



    Both the Islamic work ethic (IWE) and the Protestant work ethic (PWE)place considerable emphasis on hard work, commitment and dedication towork, work creativity, avoidance of unethical methods of wealth accumulation,cooperation and competitiveness at the workplace. However, unlike the PWE,

    the IWE places more emphasis on intention than on results. For instance,Prophet Muhammad stated ``actions are recorded according to intention, andman will be rewarded or punished accordingly''. It also stresses social aspectsin the workplace and duties toward society. Furthermore, the IWE emphasizes

    justice and generosity in the workplace, and it views engagement in economicactivities as an obligation.

    Background of the work settingThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) depends heavily on multicultural expatriateworkers because of an acute shortage of domestic manpower. According to the1995 census, 75 per cent (1,718,000) of the UAE population are expatriates, ofwhom 61 per cent (1,435,000) are Asian expatriates, 12 per cent (292,000) areArab expatriates and 2 per cent (53,000) are of other nationalities. Of theworking expatriates, 85 per cent are Asians, 13 per cent are Arabs, 1.5 percentare Europeans and 0.5 per cent are of other nationalities (The GCC Economic

    Data Book, 1996). Moreover, 96 percent of the UAE population are Muslims(Famighetti, 1997). Multiculturalism is a dominant feature of the workforce inthe UAE. For instance, in the UAE a single organization often comprises manydifferent nationalities, each with his own role perception, attitudes toward othernationalities, cultural orientations, and educational background. Such a diverseworkforce environment results in diverse values, attitudes and behavior. For

    example, researchers have observed that individuals from different culturesexhibit fairly dissimilar levels of organizational commitment (e.g. Near, 1989;Al-Meer, 1989, 1995) and job satisfaction (e.g. Jain et al., 1979; Kanungo et al.,1976; Azumi and McMillan, 1979; Lincoln and Kalleberg, 1985; Griffeth andHom, 1987; Yavas et al., 1990). Researchers have also found that expatriateemployees experience a variety of challenges in the host environment and havedifficulties in adjusting to the work environment and new organizationaldemands (Adler, 1986; Black, 1992; Boyacigiller, 1990). Moreover, expatriates'national cultures influence how individuals perceive and react to theirenvironment (e.g. Adler, 1990; Ali, 1989; Lincoln et al., 1981). The UAE settingis characterized as having large power distance, low individualism

    (collectivism), strong uncertainty avoidance and average masculine (Hofstede,1984). In conclusion, one would expect that such a work setting might influenceindividuals' perception of role conflict, ambiguity, the Islamic work ethic andlocus of control.

    Locusof control, role conflict and role ambiguityThe most popular and most frequently cited definition oflocus of control is thatof Rotter (1966). According to this definition, locus of control reflects anindividual's belief about the relationship between his or her behavior and the

  • 7/31/2019 24794002 the Islamic Work Ethic


    Journal ofManagerialPsychology



    consequences of that behavior. People who believe that they are in control oftheir own destiny have an internal locus of control, while those who believe thatwhat happens to them is the result of fate or the behavior of other people aresaid to have an external locus of control. On the other hand, role conflict isviewed as incompatibility in communicated expectations that impinge onperceived role performance (Rizzo et al., 1970). Role ambiguity has beendescribed as the situation where an individual does not have clear directionabout the expectations of his/her role in the job or organization (Rizzo et al.,1970).

    A number of researchers have investigated the relationships between locusof control, role conflict and role ambiguity. For example, several previousstudies have demonstrated that externality is positively correlated with stress(Evans and Coman, 1991; Jennings, 1990), and that internal locus of control hasbeen shown to be positively related to lower perceived stress (Schafer andMckenna, 1991). Moreover, Bernardi (1997) believes that internal locus ofcontrol individuals should experience less stress than external locus of controlindividuals. Spector (1986) in a meta-analysis study found that perceivedcontrol by employees has a strong relationship with role conflict and roleambiguity. Batlis (1980) found that externality was associated with roleambiguity.

    Work ethic, locusof control, role conflict and role ambiguityNumerous Western scholars have examined the relationships between workethic, based on Protestant ideas, locus of control, role conflict and roleambiguity. However, the results were somewhat inconsistent. For instance,

    Kleiber and Crandall (1981) reported that locus of control is negatively relatedto work ethic. Dubinsky and Ingram (1984) found no relationship between bothrole conflict and ambiguity, and ethical beliefs. Hegarty and Sims (1978, 1979)concluded that locus of control is related to unethical decision behavior, whileStead et al. (1987) found locus of control to be unrelated to unethical decisionbehavior. Terpstra et al. (1993) found that locus of control has an importantinfluence on individuals' level of ethicality. McCuddy and Peery (1996)proposed that internal locus of control individuals will have higher personalethical standards than external locus of control individuals. Jones (1997)reported that empirical research has found correlations between Protestantethical values and internal locus of control. Similarly, a number of Western

    scholars (e.g. Furnham, 1987; Lied and Pritchard, 1976; MacDonald, 1972;Mirels and Garrett, 1971; Waters et al., 1975) found that people who believe inthe PWE tend to have higher locus of control beliefs. Many researchers (e.g.Lefcourt and Wine, 1969; Seeman, 1963) noted that externals are more likely toengage in unethical behavior. Jones and Kavanagh (1996) found thatindividuals with an external locus of control will report higher unethicalbehavior intentions than those with an internal locus of control. Ho et al. (1997)noted that there are statistically significant relationships between cognitivemoral development (CMD), role conflict and ambiguity.

  • 7/31/2019 24794002 the Islamic Work Ethic


    A study in aIslamic countr



    Owing to the fact that the IWE emphasizes hard work, dedication to work,

    creative work, cooperation and competitiveness in the workplace, meeting

    deadlines at work, and justice and generosity in the workplace, one could argue

    that those who strongly support the IWE would perceive less role conflict andambiguity.


    Based on the review of prior research, this study attempts to test the following


    H1: There is a significant correlation between the Islamic work ethic and

    both role conflict and role ambiguity.

    H2: Employees with internal locus of control will have stronger support for

    the Islamic work ethic than employees with external locus of control.

    H3a: The Islamic work ethic mediates the relationship between locus ofcontrol and role conflict.

    H3b: The Islamic work ethic mediates the relationship between locus of

    control and role ambiguity.

    MethodSample and data collection

    From a list of organizations compiled by the author and with the assistance of

    some experts, five manufacturing and four service organizations were

    randomly selected. Then using a list of employees' names in these

    organizations, a random sample was drawn. The total sample of this study was700 employees. The author distributed 700 questionnaires over a three-month

    period using drop-off and pick-up methods. After three callbacks, 430

    questionnaires were retrieved, resulting in a 61 per cent response rate. Of the

    retrieved questionnaires, 397 questionnaires were usable. The questionnaire

    was administered in both Arabic and English. Since a large number of

    respondents in this study speak only Arabic, the questionnaire was translated

    from English into Arabic, and was validated by translation-back-translation to

    ensure that both versions were equivalent. It should be pointed out that,

    because the majority of the UAE population is Muslim, there was no question

    in the questionnaire asking participants to indicate their religion.Of the subjects, 74 per cent are aged 45 years or less, and 74 per cent have 20

    years' or less experience in the present job. Of the subjects, about 82 per cent

    are married, and about 68 per cent hold graduate or postgraduate degrees; 71

    per cent have 15 years' or less tenure in the present organization. About 54 per

    cent are Arabs and 44 per cent are Asia...