Abstract: Examining the Relationships Among Trauma-Informed Climate Factors, Organizational Withdrawal, and Turnover Intention in a Department of Social Services (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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503P Examining the Relationships Among Trauma-Informed Climate Factors, Organizational Withdrawal, and Turnover Intention in a Department of Social Services

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Travis Hales, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Thomas Nochajski, PhD, Research Professor, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Camilla Luppi, MSW, Social Worker, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Background and Purpose

Previous research has demonstrated that the creation of trauma-informed organizational environments is associated with reduced staff burnout, increased organizational commitment, and improvement in client outcomes. The current study examines the association between trauma-informed environments with organizational withdrawal behaviors. The primary hypothesis is that trauma-informed climate factors will be negatively associated with organizational withdrawal and turnover intention.


A department of social services agency was administered the Trauma-Informed Climate Scale (TICS) and Organizational Withdrawal Scale via an online survey. The TICS is a measure of staff perceptions of the service environment, and includes staff experiences of safety, trust, choice, collaboration, and empowerment within the organization. The Organizational Withdrawal Scale measures lateness and absenteeism, and turnover intention was assessed by asking staff how often they think about resigning, and how likely they will resign in the next several months. These measures have been validated in previous research, and current study Cronbach Alphas were .93 for the TICS, and .67 for Organizational Withdrawal. To measure associations among the constructs, Pearson correlation coefficients were computed; to examine if trauma-informed climate factors reduced organizational withdrawal and turnover intention, path analyses were conducted using the mean scale scores.


There were 71 total respondents, that were representative of direct-care staff, supervisors, support staff, and administrators. The correlation analysis revealed that each of the five trauma-informed climate factors were negatively correlated with organizational withdrawal and turnover intention, all with p < .01. The Pearson correlation coefficients between the climate factors and organizational withdrawal ranged from -.37 to -.54, and from -.37 to -.57 for turnover intention. While the path analyses resulted in excellent fit indices, the construct of choice was the only significant predictor in organizational withdrawal (b = -.27, p < .01) and turnover intention (b = -.63, p < .001), after controlling for the other climate factors. Together, the climate factors accounted for 32.2% of the variance in organizational withdrawal, and 34.4% in turnover intention. Additional path models were computed that regressed both outcomes on choice, and choice on the remaining climate factors to assess if choice potentially played a mediational role between the other climate factors and outcomes. In each of the models, collaboration and empowerment accounted for unique variance in autonomy.

Conclusion and Implications

Turnover intention and organizational withdrawal are critical factors in the health and utility of social service agencies. The current study identified staff member autonomy and experiences with choice as significant factors in organizational withdrawal and turnover intention. Autonomy, in turn, was influenced by collaboration and empowerment. Staff member participation in decision-making processes and feeling that they are making a difference in their work experienced greater degrees of autonomy. These heightened degrees of autonomy reduced turnover intention and improved their overall engagement with the agency. Social service agencies that are facing high degrees of withdrawal and turnover may consider creating environments that prioritize staff member flexibility, autonomy, and participation in both the work and organizational decision-making processes.