Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Cassidy, William P. (William Patrick), 1960-

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Adult education; Management; Employee motivation--Economic aspects--Research; Employee motivation--Management--Research; Supervision of employees--Economic aspects--Research; Communication in management--Economic aspects--Research; Organizational effectiveness--Research


This study explored how the country's recession and road back to normalcy affected employee engagement at the micro or work-results level of the organization. It investigated how employee engagement manifests itself in the workplace, the role of the first-line supervisor in fostering employee engagement, and how tough economic times influenced employee engagement. In the study, supervisors shared examples and provided descriptions of the engaged and disengaged employees within their work settings. They also described changes in their work environments that they attributed to recessionary times.;A qualitative inquiry approach was used to address meaning-making about engagement from the perspectives of supervisors. Research participants provided descriptions of engaged and disengaged employees and described changes in their work environments that they attributed to business realities in recessionary times.;The purpose of this study was to explore the engagement phenomenon in its real world practice through the lenses of the supervisors who have workforce personnel reporting directly to them. They shared examples and stories of the engaged and disengaged employees in their work environments during the Great Recession and the years following. This dialogue provided a better understanding of the uncertainty of the times and the challenges with which participants were presented.;Participants were selected using a snow-ball technique. Thirty-four supervisors from private, non-profit, and quasi-government organizations completed an on-line survey instrument regarding their views about employee engagement. Twenty-nine of the supervisors opted to continue with the process, by participating in a face-to-face or telephone interview. The interview protocol used a semi-structured format with twenty-one open-ended questions; each interview was audio-taped, transcribed, and returned to the interviewee for review.;Six key themes emerged from the interview process: (1) the critical role supervisors play engaging employees during a down economy, (2) indicators supervisors use to determine who is engaged, (3) internal and external factors affecting engagement, (4) supervisors' strategies for engaging employees in a down economy, (5) engagement at the company level, and (6) the integral nature of communication in the engagement process.;Results suggest that communication is a vital function in each of the emergent themes and that the role of the supervisor is crucial. Implications of these findings for practice and future research are discussed.


Advisors: William P. Cassidy; Gene L. Roth.||Committee members: Debra A. Pender.


329 pages




Northern Illinois University

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