Unfolding Turnover: The Turnover Decision-Making Process of Social Workers in China

Yaojian Wu, Anna Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Previous studies have investigated why social workers leave their jobs in social work service organizations. However, they do not fully explain the reasons and way they leave. Informed by the unfolding model, this research explores the turnover decision-making process of social workers (n = 17) from Beijing and Guangzhou, China. A qualitative in-depth interview analysis shows that the process of social worker turnover is conceptualized by four decision paths, including belief-awakened decision, push decision, pull decision, and affect initiated decision; each decision path involves distinctive psychological process in the form of different permutations and combinations of shocks, beliefs, image violation, reduced job satisfaction, job alternatives, and image fit. The findings reveal how beliefs, shock and images, particularly workplace shocks and profession-related images, serve to activate and determine the turnover process with the subjectivity of social workers. Further, practical implications for developing retention programs according to the turnover process are discussed. Future research needs to enlarge the sample size, and consider different process models and turnover destinations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)187-199
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Social Service Research
    Issue number2
    Early online date12 Oct 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Social Sciences(all)

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Unfolding model
    • turnover process
    • social worker
    • decision-making
    • China


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