Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Australian Journal of Public Administration




School of Business and Law




New Zealand Public Service Association. Grant Number: E2736


Plimmer, G., Kuntz, J., Berman, E., Malinen, S., Näswall, K., & Franken, E. (2023). The negative relationships between employee resilience and ambiguity, complexity, and inter‐agency collaboration. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 82(2), 248-270.


Employee resilience (ER) is often needed to face demands inherent in public sector work. Some types of demands, however, may hinder its development, rather than provide the type of challenging adversity from which resilience can develop. Public sector job demands have been a long-standing issue for public workplaces and employees but are also growing in salience as organisations face an increasingly variable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. Drawing on the Job Demands–Resources model and the challenge/hindrance stress literature, this multi-level study of Aotearoa New Zealand civil servants (n = 11,533) in 65 public sector organisations shows that ER is negatively affected by demands such as job insecurity, unclear job and organisational goals, and inter-agency collaboration. However, organisational resource constraints are positively associated with ER. This study identifies core PA job and organisational demands that hinder ER and offers practical implications and suggestions for further research. Points for practitioners: Job role ambiguity, job insecurity, unclear organisational goals, and inter-agency collaboration are common job and organisational demands in public sector workplaces. For employees, these demands are stressors that employees do not feel they control, and may therefore hinder employee resilience: the ability to learn, adapt, and leverage networks in the face of challenges. Surprisingly, resource constraints, where employees have to ‘do more with less’, might help employees develop ER. While inter-agency collaboration has potentially many benefits, it appears to have negative spillover effects on employees unaware of it or not involved in it. To encourage ER, agencies should clarify both organisational and job goals, and assure job security, control, competency development, and supervisor support.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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