Date of Award

Winter 1986

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


A quasi-experiment was conducted to explore the impact of a type of participative decision making on the quality of work life. Quality circles were developed for operating room (OR) nurses and technicians in three New England hospitals. These circles, each consisting of 8-12 OR staff members, met regularly over a seven month period with the goal of identifying and solving problems in the work environment of the OR. The OR staffs in three other New England hospitals served as the control group and did not participate in any quality circle activities.

Quality of work life was measured primarily with a questionnaire that was given to all participants at the beginning, middle, and end of the study. The questionnaire contained scales for job stress, job burnout, and four aspects of the work environment (perceived influence, peer cohesion, supervisor support, and involvement). Participants also provided demographic information and filled out two personality inventories.

Results found that by the end of the study, OR staff in the three quality circles improved significantly on measures of involvement, job stress, and burnout due to depersonalization. When compared to the quality circle group, OR staff in the control group had significantly poorer scores on several measures at the beginning of the study. These scores became generally worse for the control group over the next seven months. A comparison of the demographic data found that the quality circle participants tended to be older and more experienced than their control group counterparts. An ANCOVA analysis, designed to control for the initial questionnaire differences between the two groups, revealed that by the end of the study, the quality circle group scored significantly better on six of the ten dependent measures. However, absenteeism due to illness appeared to be unaffected by the quality circles and scores on the two personality inventories did not reliably predict who would benefit most from participating in a quality circle.

The results are discussed in terms of methodological issues which arise in a quasi-experiment involving nonequivalent groups. In addition, the results are related to recent quality circle research and areas for future research are outlined.