Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award


Document Type



Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Richard Dool

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Karmyn Downs

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Peter Williams


Scholars and practitioners have studied employee engagement extensively since the late 1990s. Because engaged employees can create a competitive advantage for business enterprises, academics and practitioners have emphasized the need for further research into the relationship between leadership, context, and engagement. There is a gap between knowledge of employee engagement and leaders’ ability to directly engage employees through decisions, actions, and behaviors. Researchers have suggested that employees’ situational assessment also influences their engagement. The purpose of this study was to explore how leader-driven retrenchment strategies during a severe and protracted economic downturn interacted with business leaders’ ability to engage their workforce. The rationale of this study was to investigate how an economically challenging environment influenced employee engagement through business leaders’ substantive insights and perspectives and to add to the extant leadership and engagement literature. Data were gathered from senior leaders at organizations that had recently experienced a severe and protracted economic downturn. A qualitative phenomenological research approach with a central question was employed to understand how execution of retrenchment business strategies during a recession interacted with leaders’ ability to engage their workforce. Purposive sampling was employed. The main study sample consisted of 10 senior leaders at various oilfield services and equipment firms who were responsible for developing and implementing retrenchment business strategies to offset the significant reduction in activity, revenue, and profitability during the 2014–16 recession. The primary data source was the participants’ transcribed responses. Data analysis included manual analysis in Microsoft Excel and programmatic analysis in Dedoose 8.1.8. The phenomenological research findings indicated that senior leaders assessed and responded to an adverse economic climate and their employees’ reactions during the recession. The results illuminated the interactions between leading engagement practices and executing retrenchment business strategies during an economic downturn. The findings suggested that the economic contractions impacted business leaders and employees and that leaders adapted their leadership to encourage and sustain employee engagement.

Keywords: employee engagement, work engagement, disengagement, engagement leadership, leading engagement, retrenchment business strategies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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