About the Author(s)

Eugene A. Ohu Email symbol
Department of Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management, Lagos Business School, Lagos, Nigeria


Ohu, E.A. (2023). Too much information: When work-family conflict empowers senior managers to stay. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology/SA Tydskrif vir Bedryfsielkunde, 49(0), a2033. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v49i0.2033

Original Research

Too much information: When work-family conflict empowers senior managers to stay

Eugene A. Ohu

Received: 22 June 2023; Accepted: 11 Oct. 2023; Published: 27 Nov. 2023

Copyright: © 2023. The Author Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Orientation: Employees’ intention to leave the organisation they work for can have various debilitating effects on the organisation. Thus, it is imperative to examine factors that can lead to turnover intentions. This empirical study considered the impact of information processing cognitive load on engagement and hence on turnover intention.

Research purpose: This study investigated the correlates of turnover intention, to determine whether, why and how the quantity of information processed by managers in the course of their work predicts their intention to quit.

Motivation for the study: Because of globalisation, its effect and the proliferation and adoption of information and communication technology, new ways are sought to explain employee engagement. This study aimed to better understand what both motivates and encourages employee commitment and increases retention.

Research approach/design and method: The study employed a cross-sectional survey of some senior managers in a West African country. A total of 49 participants completed an online questionnaire (Turnover intention, Work Design Questionnaire, Work-family conflict [WFC] and facilitation scale) administered as part of an organisational behaviour course.

Main findings: Results indicated a positive relationship between the amount of information processed at work and turnover intention, one of the first studies to introduce this predictor of turnover intention among senior managers. In the search for potential organisational levers for intervention, a moderated-mediated analysis showed that workplace decision autonomy matters for turnover intention only when WFC is high.

Practical/managerial implications: Avenues for potential organisational intervention to improve retention of senior managers are suggested.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the literature of Industrial/Organisational Psychology research in the context of turnover intentions by showing how information overload can affect turnover intentions.

Keywords: turnover intention; amount of information processed; engagement; workplace decision autonomy; work-family conflict.


Senior managers need information for decision making and effectiveness. However, in recent times there has been an unparalleled increase in the amount and depth of information available, due primarily to information and communication technologies, such as the internet and social media. Big data (a reference to the volume, variety and velocity of digital information) improves activities in various domains such as business, healthcare and academic (Chen & Zhang, 2014). Such data need to be properly managed by the senior managers who generate, have access to and use them, in order to avoid negative outcomes such as cognitive overload, stress and turnover.

Turnover intention, which refers to the ‘conscious and deliberate willingness to leave an organisation’ (Tett & Meyer, 1993, p. 262 cited in Ribeiro et al., 2023) is of great concern to organisations. The huge cost of repeated hiring and training talents makes organisations hope to keep benefitting from the expertise and contribution of their employees for many years (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013; Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006). Should employees quit abruptly, organisations will have to expend scarce resources to replace them and then train new ones (Collins & Smith, 2006). Because customer follow-up and loyalty are often linked to specific employees, high turnover may through a lack of continuity in relationships affect the quality of products and services that the organisation offers its clients (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013). Organisations, therefore, want to keep voluntary turnover as low as possible.

Motivated and engaged employees are usually happy to remain in the same organisations. Some positive psychological states of employees are predictive of organisationally desirable behaviours such as reduced turnover intention (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). These include experienced meaningfulness of work, experienced responsibility for work outcomes and knowledge of work results (Chang et al., 2013). According to the Job Characteristics Model (JCM: Hackman & Oldham, 1976), these psychological states are directly predicted by certain characteristics of the job such as skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and task feedback. Therefore, job autonomy, fair reward, social support and employee commitment are inversely related to turnover intention. Some of the findings regarding antecedents of turnover intention have been inconsistent. For example, although predicted to have a negative relationship to turnover intention (Humphrey et al., 2007), studies (such as Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013) have found perceived job autonomy to be unrelated to turnover intention.

There have been several attempts to explain why turnover happens. Allen et al. (2005), in responding to Hom and Kinicki’s (2001) invitation to further investigate the mechanism of the desire to quit, suggested that cases of weak or inconsistent relationships (as found between turnover and many organisational variables) are a good reason to search for other explanations, moderators or boundary conditions under which certain things happen. Role stress has also been linked to turnover intention (Harun et al., 2022). Although turnover intention is a direct precursor of actual turnover behaviour, it does not explain all the variances in the behaviour itself. Sometimes people who have turnover intention do not actually leave, and people leave without overt or covert manifestations of the intention to leave. In other words, turnover intention alone does not fully explain why people actually leave. Thus, Griffeth et al. (2000) suggest that the link between the intention to quit and actual turnover may be better explained by considering circumstances and population (Allen et al., 2005).

Purpose of the study

This study is an attempt to extend and continue the search for explanations for the turnover intention in unique circumstances and environments as is found in present-day Africa. Globalisation, the rise in cross-cultural businesses, the growing adoption of information and communication technology in the workplace, the global extension of new markets into sub-Saharan Africa and the growing dominance of the so-called millennials in the workplace, all suggest that old models of employee engagement and commitment may not always hold. There is therefore the need to better understand what both motivates and encourages employee commitment and increases retention.

I organise the rest of the article as follows: I consider some discussions in the literature and previous works on turnover and its antecedents. I then propose information processing, decision-making autonomy and work-family conflict (WFC) as variables of interest in the present circumstances, with proposals of how they might be related to and explain turnover intention in the African context. I proceed to empirically test the proposed hypotheses and detail the methods used for the study, the variables and controls, followed by a presentation and discussion of the results. I then propose some implications of the findings for theory and practice. The article ends with discussion of some limitations of the study and makes recommendations for future work.

Literature review
Information, power and freedom

The higher a person rises in an organisation, the greater the number of direct and indirect reports they have and hence the number of information sources at their disposal or people for whom they are responsible (Walsh, 1988). This is the case with senior managers, for whom information thus becomes a powerful and invaluable tool, because of how essential it is for effective decision making, controlling resources and managing people.

The invention of paper, the industrial revolution and lately, the growth in information and communication technology developments (with attendant increases in information collation, storage and processing) have multiplied the amount of information available. The result is more information being processed by individuals at any time. More information can thus be at the same time a sign and a consequence of greater responsibilities: one may be welcome and needed to make decisions, and the other may imply a burden and a drain on cognitive and psychological resources (Grisé & Gallupe, 1999; Misra & Stokols, 2012).

In the face of competing demands for attention, monitoring, analysing and keeping track of a lot of information may be overwhelming to the point that it is difficult to establish and mention priorities in the accomplishment of one’s tasks. The result may be filtering out of potentially useful information, withdrawal, increased work pressure, dissatisfaction and finally questioning the meaningfulness of one’s work (Savolainen, 2007). I thus hypothesise:

H1. Dealing with and processing a large amount of information will be positively related to turnover intention.

The quantity of information processed in the workplace is not usually proposed as a predictor of turnover intentions, and yet being a reality in today’s work environment of information overload, there is a need to better understand the mechanism of the interaction and ascertain how, why and under what conditions dealing with more information may lead to increased turnover intention. One approach would be to consider an immediate outcome of having more information – the greater freedom and flexibility information brings to the decision-making process and ultimately the increased sense of ownership of the work process experienced by the one with more information.

Job autonomy is ‘the extent to which a job allows freedom, independence, and discretion to schedule work, make decisions, and choose the methods used to perform tasks’ (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013, p. 563; Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006). The more information a person has at their disposal, the greater flexibility and ability they should have to make decisions especially that related to how they prefer to work. The more and varied the information at one’s disposal, the greater the potential for faster decision-making (Benjaafar et al., 1995; Mandelbaum & Buzacott, 1990).

As the team lead, the senior manager, with many sources of information at his or her disposal, can, while benefiting from the diversity of high-quality contributions and alternatives, choose the best option. The final judgment, although an individual action (of the senior manager) thus benefits from the input of many. For the individual manager, access to more information may also result in an increased sense of the meaningfulness of work, as it capacitates an employee to use complex high-level skills to carry out their jobs. This may produce a satisfactory outcome similar to that induced by management training and development. Thus, access to more information sources strengthens the decision-making process, making the manager more autonomous. I thus hypothesise that:

H2. Dealing with and processing a large amount of information will be positively related to workplace decision-making autonomy.

More delegation at the senior management level comes with greater autonomy. According to the JCM, this autonomy ought to lead to increased positive outcomes in the employee such as greater satisfaction, commitment, increased meaningfulness of their work and hence positive behaviours that will reduce turnover intention (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). Furthermore, Mcknight et al. (2001, p. 473) state that ‘autonomy can promote employee morale by communicating that workers perform well enough in their work that they can make work decisions on their own’.

However, decision-making autonomy can be a double-edged sword. It may result in unwanted latitude or a desire for even more freedom, both of which may result in increased turnover intention.

Sometimes people are promoted to managerial positions purely as a reward for technical achievements, and in tasks where they had little or no interaction with other people. The new role will require them to lead other people and projects, using managerial and people skills that they do not have (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013).

Even in cases where they are believed to be competent and ready, some employees may not be interested in managerial roles. According to Weightman (1996, p. 11) ‘most professional people do not choose to become managers’, desiring neither the position nor the consequent greater autonomy. In such cases, the increased autonomy may become undesirable, and evidence of the discrepancy between what the employee wants and what the organisation thinks will suit or satisfy them. Such employees may become unhappy in those positions and jobs and may wish to quit.

Each repeated experience conditions a person to much easier repetitions and preference for the same. Thus, a senior manager accustomed to the freedom to make decisions about his or her work will be desirous of job types that afford the same or a greater amount of autonomy and flexibility. There would be a preference for more knowledge and intellectual types of work, which lend themselves to flexible arrangements such as telecommuting. If the person’s current job is not flexible, the new habit of autonomy would likely force the preference for a job change. Decision-making autonomy could be a double-edged sword for turnover intention. I, however, hypothesise that:

H3. Decision-making autonomy will be negatively related to turnover intentions.

Previous studies suggest that the relationship between job autonomy and turnover intention has given variable and inconsistent results. While job autonomy is generally found to be a predictor of turnover intention, studies (such as Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013) found that this relationship only holds in the presence of boundary conditions such as perceived supervisor support. This finding by Dysvik and Kuvaas (2013) is supported by the Social Exchange Theory (Blau, 1964) because employees thus handled by their supervisors will feel obliged to reciprocate the positive treatment by remaining loyal to the organisation. Boundary conditions find a clear expression in the consideration of domains and the multiple roles individuals can play within and across them. Work-family studies explore these relationships.

There has been an increase in dual-earner couples, as well as single parents (Masterson & Hoobler, 2015). The labour market has also experienced a drastic demographic change with more women, leading to some incompatibilities between the family and work domains (Ribeiro et al., 2023). More people are concerned about being able to satisfactorily play other roles outside the work domain. While perceived supervisor support contributes to finding a balance between role functions, it is only one of many variables whose absence can result in work versus non-work conflict. There is a need to consider broader factors beyond the workplace to discover possible foci of intervention and thus more levers, which organisations can take advantage of to reduce turnover intentions. Employees have been known to leave the best of jobs when these have been found to conflict with their family obligations, thus I hypothesise:

H4: Work family conflict will moderate the relationship between decision-making autonomy and turnover intention in such a way that the relationship will be weaker at lower levels of work family conflict and stronger at higher levels of work family conflict.

Research method

Participants and procedure

Our sample was senior-level managers attending executive training at a business school in West Africa. At the end of 2019, online survey questionnaires were administered as part of an organisational behaviour course. As a reward for their participation, the executives were promised personalised reports about the work and life implications of the findings from the study. Informed consent was obtained from all the 60 participants involved in the study. A total of 49 participants completed responses, giving a response rate of 81%. Of the 49, 31 were men and 18 were women. I discarded one incomplete result. The average age of respondents was 35, and the majority (46 participants) had graduate degrees and were working full time (93%).

Dependent variable

Considering that turnover intention is the last in a sequence of other withdrawal symptoms experienced by the disengaged employee, it is measured at specific intervals. Thus, the dependent variable, turnover intention (intentions to quit based on Crossley et al., 2002) was measured with the question ‘Considering your current employer, please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements using the choices below’, and which had three items as follows: ‘I will quit this company as soon as possible’, ‘I plan on leaving this company soon’ and ‘I may leave this organisation in the next 12 months’.

Independent variables

All scales used had been validated in previously published studies, and in this study, all measures had a reliability coefficient of more than 0.7. The job characteristic measures were taken from the Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ) of Morgeson and Humphrey (2006). Under ‘Autonomy’, the three-item Decision-Making version was chosen, a sample question of which read: ‘The job gives me a chance to use my personal initiative or judgement in carrying out the work’. Others were the four-item ‘Task Variety’ scale with a sample question as ‘The job involves a great deal of task variety’; ‘Task Identity’ (The job is arranged so that I can do an entire piece of work from beginning to end.) and ‘Job Complexity’ (The job requires that I only does one task or activity at a time). All four items of the ‘Information Processing’ scale were used. They are: (1) the job requires me to monitor a great deal of information; (2) the job requires that I engages in a large amount of thinking; (3) the job requires me to keep track of more than one thing at a time and (4) the job requires me to analyse a lot of information. The WFC and Facilitation scale of Wayne et al. (2004) was used and included four items of the WFC, four items of the Work-family facilitation, four items of the family-work conflict and four items of the family-work facilitation were used. The WFC items were, respectively: ‘Your job reduces the effort you can give to activities at home’; ‘The things you do at work help you deal with personal and practical issues at home’; ‘Responsibilities at home reduce the effort you can devote to your job’ and ‘Talking with someone at home helps you deal with problems at work’. I used all 20 items of the Mini-IPIP personality scale of Donnellan et al. (2006) to measure personality traits based on the Goldberg (1999) Five-Factor Model, whose ‘extraversion’ subscale has a sample question that says ‘I feel comfortable around people’. I measured trait and state mindfulness with all items on the scale developed by Brown and Ryan (2003) with a sample question as ‘I find myself doing things without paying attention.’ All test instruments were measured on a 5-point Likert scale, except personality that was a 6-point scale. Age and Highest Education Level were included as control variables, considering that previous studies showed them to predict turnover intention. Age was included as intervals, fixed to a 5-point Likert scale with 1 = ‘under 18’, 2 = ‘18 – 24’, 3 = ‘25 – 34’, 4 = ‘35 – 54’ and 5 = ‘55+’. The highest Education Level was on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = ‘Primary School’ to 4 = ‘post-graduate’ and 5 = ‘Other’. I also controlled for sex, rendered as male or female.

Ethical considerations

Ethical clearance to conduct this study was obtained from the Lagos Business School (Pan-Atlantic University) (No. LBS-RSH- ETHAPP-06-22).


The means, standard deviations and correlations among the study variables are reported in Table 1. Quantity of information process, decision autonomy and WFC and age are correlated with turnover intention. Sex and the highest level of education were not significantly correlated with turnover intention.

TABLE 1: Descriptive statistics and correlation matrix (N = 48).

Table 2 summarises the results of moderated mediation analysis. The conditional process analysis, an ordinary least squares path analysis, was estimated with the PROCESS macro (Hayes, 2013) in SPSS 23. The author used model 14 to examine the direct and indirect relationship between the quantity of information processed, autonomy in decision making, WFC and turnover intention.

TABLE 2a: Moderated mediation model of independent variables predicting turnover intention†.
TABLE 2b: Moderated mediation model of independent variables predicting turnover intention†.

Hypothesis 1 proposes that dealing with and processing a large amount of information will be positively related to turnover intention. The results are shown in Table 2. The hypothesis is supported. Thus, for a one-unit increase in the amount of information processed, the turnover intention will increase by 0.83 units.

Hypothesis 2 proposes that dealing with and processing a large amount of information will be positively related to workplace decision-making autonomy. This is supported in such a way that a one-unit increase in the amount of information processed will result in a 0.44 increase in workplace decision-making autonomy.

Hypothesis 3 proposes that decision-making autonomy will be positively related to turnover intentions. This hypothesis was not supported as the relationship was not significant.

Hypothesis 4 proposes that WFC will moderate the relationship between decision-making autonomy and turnover intention in such a way that the relationship will be weaker at lower levels of WFC and stronger at higher levels of WFC.

The direct effect of the amount of information processed and turnover intention remained significant and positive. This interaction is shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1: Moderated mediation model with path results for turnover intention.

The moderation effect was significant as predicted. The index of moderated mediation was significant (β = −0.219, 95% CI [−0.716, −0.219]), indicating that the indirect effect of the quantity of information processed was moderated. Any two conditional indirect effects estimated at different levels of WFC were significantly different from each other. When WFC was at a higher level, the conditional indirect effect of the quantity of information processed on turnover intention through the decision-making autonomy was significant in a negative direction reaching its highest level (coeff = −1.1, 95% CI [−1.66, −0.54]. The effect was also significant when WFC was at a moderate level (β = −0.68, 95% CI [−1.147, −0.220]. When, however, WFC is at a low level, the effect was non-significant (coeff = −0.27, 95% CI [−0.86, 0.34].

The controlled variables of sex, age and highest educational level did not affect the results.


Predictors of turnover have received a lot of attention in workplace studies and organisational behaviour literature (Allen et al., 2005; Cohen et al., 2016). One of the most popular correlates of the quitting behaviour remains turnover intention, but as found by some studies, this intention does not always translate to actual turnover behaviour (Allen et al., 2005). When the intention to quit actually leads to an employee leaving, it suggests that there are factors influencing this decision beyond the ones initially predicted (Cohen et al., 2016). Thus, relationships between correlates of turnover have not been consistent (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2013). Taking into account the present age of abundant information availability and processing, this study is the first to consider the implication of the burden of information processing on turnover intention. Beyond establishing whether this relationship exists, it goes further to understand the mechanism of this interaction, seeking to know how and under what boundary conditions the amount of information processed will predict turnover intention.

The results indicate that the amount of information that managers have to deal with in the course of their work matters. It suggests that the higher the quantity, the greater the intention to quit. I argue that this is likely because of the cognitive and psychological pressure of processing a lot of information, as well as the disorder multiple sources of information would engender in prioritising tasks.

To explain this seemingly counterintuitive finding, because more information ought to imply more resources and freedom to act, I explored a job characteristic that might be related to this increased flexibility. I found that decision-making autonomy, which is the freedom to use one’s initiative or judgement in carrying out work, as well as making decisions about work, was predicted by having to process a lot of information. This finding was not surprising as it seemed to be common sense and intuitive. It was supported as predicted.

Although studies such as Albrecht (2006) found that job autonomy influences turnover intention, others such as Dysvik and Kuvaas (2013) found that this direct influence of job autonomy only works in the presence of high perceived supervisor support but is otherwise absent. This agrees with our findings as I found no significant relationship between decision-making autonomy and turnover intention among senior managers.

Following on the lead of Dysvik and Kuvaas (2013) and considering that perceived supervisor support is a correlate of the broader concept of WFC (O’Driscoll et al., 2003), I decided to explore the latter as a moderator. It was important to consider this variable also because with the rise in the number of dual-earner couples, and the permeability across domains, much of the information that employees process in the course of their work may be from other domains, such as their family life. I also reasoned that many people quit their jobs to cater to some other-than-work needs. Work-family conflict was an important outside-work concept, broader than the support of the supervisor.

I thus found that our hypothesis 4 was supported as proposed. Although the direct effect of the amount of information processed on turnover intention remained significant and positive, at low levels of WFC, there is no significant relationship between decision-making autonomy and turnover intention. However, at high levels of WFC, the relationship between decision-making autonomy and turnover intention becomes significant and negative.

This means that it is only when employees experience high WFC that their decision-making autonomy is linked to reduced turnover intention. In other words, they appreciate their decision-making autonomy better when they experience conflict between their work and family lives. Thus, this organisational resource (decision-making autonomy) is only deployed as needed, in the service of reduced turnover intention. Employees are more likely to remain in the company despite the WFC, so long as they enjoy high decision-making autonomy.

The interaction term between decision-making autonomy and WFC was also significant and negative. This was confirmed by the index of moderated mediation. Thus, although the direct effect of information processing on turnover intention is significant and positive, the indirect effect is negative. The indirect pathway thus provides levers that organisations can explore to reduce turnover, such as intervening to increase their decision-making autonomy, as well as to reduce the experience of employee WFC.

Limitations and directions for future research

I would like to point out several limitations of this study. Firstly, among the concerns are related to the sample. 48 participants are a very small number and not enough to either generalise or claim our findings to be conclusive. Secondly, there was also no randomisation as the participants were a convenience sample attending an executive program. Thirdly, I also cannot rule out the potential influence of culture on the responses and reactions of our sample, who were all from the same country and working in the same environmental and national climate. Lastly, the cross-sectional nature of the data collected should also be noticed, which means that I cannot draw inferences regarding causality.

I can neither rule out reverse causality (where the outcome might influence the predictor, rather than the other way around) in the relationship between the examined variables nor claim to have covered all the gamut of possible covariates. Just as I found interesting results using work-family conflict as a moderator of the decision-making autonomy and turnover relationship, I recommend that future studies should be conducted examining other moderators such as personality traits, other job characteristics, family work facilitation, organisational structure, leadership styles, on decision- making autonomy and turnover intention and psychological resources such as mindfulness, which might provide coping resources.

Despite these limitations, this study made an attempt to extend and continue the search for explanations for turnover intention in unique circumstances and environments such as present-day Africa.


Turnover intention remains a significant concern in the workplace as it negatively impacts organisational productivity, morale and continuity of business operations. The amount of information managers have to deal with at work matters. The greater the quantity, the more likely the resulting turnover intention. Organisations should priortise actions and policies that assist senior managers to effectively manage large amounts of information such as fostering their decision-making autonomy, reduce WFC, as well as provide information management tools and resources. This will hopefully contribute to reduced turnover intention and nurture a workplace culture that encourages retention. Investing in employee well-being and autonomy is not merely advantageous but absolutely essential.


I am grateful for the support I got from my research assistants: Fiyinfunjah Dosumu & Deborah Odumbo.

Competing interests

The author declared that they have no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Author’s contributions

E.A.O. is the sole author of this article.

Funding information

The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Data availability

The author confirms that the data supporting the findings of this study are accessible in the citations used in the article and in the references listed.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are the product of professional research. It does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated institution, funder, agency, or that of the publisher. The author is responsible for this article’s results, findings, and content.


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