Psychological ownership is a cognitive–affective construct based on individuals’
feelings of possessiveness towards and of being psychologically tied/attached to
objects that are material (e.g. tools or work) and immaterial (e.g. ideas or workspace) in
nature. Research suggests that psychological ownership could be influenced by various
individual, organisational and contextual factors. The South African Employment Equity
Act, which was implemented to grant equitable opportunities to previously disadvantaged
employees, could be a significant contextual factor affecting psychological ownership, due
to perceptions associated with inequality. Ethnicity may also act as a moderator for the
relationship between perceptions of employment equity and psychological ownership. The
objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between employment equity
perceptions and psychological ownership and to explore whether ethnicity plays a moderating
role in the relationship. A cross-sectional survey design was employed with a
purposeful sample of 202 respondents employed in a large South African mining house.
Pearson product–moment correlations and structural equation modelling confirmed that
employment equity perceptions could predict the five components of psychological ownership.
However, the results revealed that ethnicity has no moderating effect on the relationship
between perceptions of employment equity and the emergence of psychological
ownership. By implication, organisations that seek to retain employees targeted through
equity initiatives need to find ways to enhance and develop the psychological ownership of
these employees. The research contributes new insights into and knowledge of how contextual
factors could influence employees’ psychological ownership.