Organizational Behavior


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Organizational Behavior

  1. 1. Internationaljournal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 193 Does Perceived Threat to Organizational Status Moderate the Relation hetween Organizational Commitment and Work Behavior? Michael Riketta University of Tubingen, Germany Angela Landerer Catholic University of Eichstatt, Germany. Drawing on research on social identity, the authors postulated that perceived threat to organizational reputation moderates the relationship between attitudinal organizational commitment (AOC) on the one hand and in-role performance and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) on the other. This hypothesis was tested with self-report data from 63 employees of a German health-service organization that had been involved in a public scandal shortly before the investigation. As postulated, higher perceived severity ofthe scandal was associated with a more positive relationship between AOC and OCB. The hypothesis was not supported for in-role performance. Attitudinal (or affective) organizational commitment (AOC) is usually defined as quot;the relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organizationquot; (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982, p. 27). Thus, in essence, AOC denotes the emotional attachment of an employee to his or her organization (Allen & Meyer, 1990; Mowday et al., 1982, p. 28). This construct has attracted considerable research interest over the last three decades (for reviews, see Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer & Allen, 1997; Mowday et al., 1982). Research has focused on the plausible hypothesis that AOC predicts behaviors that are in accordance with organizational norms and thus are beneficial to the organization. In fact, research revealed positive relations of AOC with a number of such behaviors, such as performance, attendance, and staying with the organization (for meta-analyses, see Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Riketta, 2002). However, especially the correlations with performance variables were weak on average. According to the mentioned meta- analyses, the AOC—in-role performance correlation is around .20, and the AOC— organizational citizenship behavior correlation is in the range of .20 to .30. In the light of these generally weak correlations, some researchers explored moderators of the AOC—work behavior relationship in order to identify conditions under which AOC had a stronger impact (e.g., Brett et al., 2002; Schaubroeck & Ganster, 1991; Riketta & Landerer, 2002). The present research was designed to continue these efforts. It focuses on a moderator variable that has not yet been addressed in research on AOC before: threat to organizational reputation. Our hypothesis concerning this variable is derived from recent research on social identity. Tajfel (1978) defined social identity as quot;that part of an individual's self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (or groups) together
  2. 2. 194 Internationaljournal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 with the value and emotional significance attached to that membershipquot; (p. 63). Since the 1970s, a large number of social psychological studies have dealt with the antecedents, consequences, and structure of social identity defmed as defined by Tajfei (for a recent review, see Brown, 2001). Further, over the last ten years, applications of this research to organizational settings have increased (e.g., Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Haslam, 2001; Ouwerkerk, Ellemers, & de Gilder, 1999; van Knippenberg, 2000). One feature of the social identity approach that makes it particularly attractive for organizational behavior researchers is that it allows for a theoretical justification of why AOC should relate to (especially influence) work behavior. Specifically, one of the most influential theories within this approach, social identity theory (SIT; Tajfei, 1978; Tajfei & Turner, 1986), assumes that persons have a striving for a positive social identity. According to SIT, this striving is a derivative from the universal human need for high self-esteem. Thus, once having identified with a group (called ingroup in the following), a person strives to achieve or maintain a positive image of that group. The hypothesis follows that the stronger a person's identification with a group, the stronger that person's efforts at improving the group's standing relative to other groups. In an organizational context, this means that, for example, the stronger an employee's identification with the organizadon, the stronger the employee's motivation to make the organization superior to competitors or, more generally, to improve the organization's status. This motivation should translate into better work performance (see van Knippenberg, 2000, for a more detailed theoretical analysis of the effects of organizational identification on work motivation). Because identification with the organization is a key component of AOC as commonly defined and operatiohalized (cf. Allen & Meyer, 1990; Mowday et al., 1982), this idea can explain why AOC relates positively to performance. This explanation is crucial for the present research. We hasten to add that AOC may be positively associated with performance for other reasons as well. For example, identification with the organization should lead to the internalization of the organization's work-related norms. Because performing well is probably a norm of most organizations, jthat internalization process should generally increase intrinsic performance motivation and therefore lead to better performance. However, this process is not relevant to the hypothesis tested herein. According to SIT, a condition under which social identification is particularly likely to transform into behavior on behalf of the ingroup is when another group (called outgroup in the following) threatens the ingroup's status (Tajfei & Turner, 1986). This occurs, for example,, when an outgroup (e.g., another sports team) becomes increasingly successful on dimensions defining the ingroup (e.g., number of matches won). Such a threat to the ingroup's status is in confiict with the group member's desire for a positive self-view and thus motivates him or her to defend, restore, or improve the ingroup's standing relative to the outgroup. Results from two laboratory experiment by Ouwerkerk, de Gilder, and de Vries (2000) support this hypothesis. These experiments showed that social identification (a) correlated posidvely with performance improvement on behalf of the ingroup when the ingroup had an inferior (experimentally manipulated) status
  3. 3. International Journal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 195 than the outgroup but (b) did not correlate with such performance improvement when the ingroup had a superior status. The goal of the present research was to conceptually replicate this finding in an organizational context. However, in contrast to the former study, we looked at status threat that was independent of an outgroup. Specifically, our data came from an organization that had been involved in a corruption scandal. We operationalized status threat as the extent to which employees perceived the scandal to be detrimental the organization's public reputation. This variable is called scandal severity in the following. Extending SIT, we assumed that threats to absolute status (of which public reputation is an indicator) are functionally equivalent to threats to relative status in that both types of status threat may activate employees' desire to have a positive social identity and hence may motivate employees to restore their organization's (absolute or relative) status. This should occur especially if their identification is high, as suggested by the fmdings of Ouwerkerk et al. (2000). Thus, on the basis of SIT and the results of Ouwerkerk et al. (2000), we postulated that the relationship between AOC and performance should be more positive among employees who reported high versus low scandal severity, that is, who perceived a strong versus weak threat to the organization's status in form of threat to public reputation. We tested this hypothesis separately for the two most often studied types of performance: in-role performance and organizational citizenship behavior. The former is defined as fulfillment of one's formal job duties whereas the latter is defmed as behavior that beneficial to the organization but not formally required by the job (Organ, 1988). Method Organization and Sample The study was conducted in a large German health service organization. About one year before the investigation, a scandal broke when members of the organization were accused (and later convicted) of accepting bribes. This was reported in the mass media all across the country. The persons immediately involved in the scandal had been passed sentence on only a few weeks before our investigation. Again, this was reported widely in the mass media. Hence, at the time of our investigation, employees could be assumed to be well aware of the scandal and its possible detrimental effects to the organization's reputation. Until the scandal broke, the organization had had an unchallenged and exceptionally positive public image for decades. We sent a questionnaire via internal mail to 260 employees from multiple sites of the organization. Sixty-five questionnaires were returned (25% response rate). Sixty-three of them were usable and provided the data for the following analyses. The analyzed sample is the same as in the study by Riketta and Landerer (2002). Questionnaire All data were collected with a self-report questionnaire. On the first page, participants were told that the survey was for scientific purposes only and that participation was
  4. 4. 196 Internationaljournal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 voluntary. Furthermore, on the same page, participants were assured of the confidentiality of their results and were asked to return the questionnaire directly to the researchers, with postage to be paid hy licensee. An envelope addressed to the researchers was attached to each questionnaire. The remainder of the questionnaire comprised the scales referring to AOC, scandal severity, in-role performance, and organizational citizenship hehavior alongside additional scales that were included for purposes independent of the present study (cf. Riketta & Landerer, 2002). In the following, the scales relevant to the present hypotheses are described in the same order in which they appeared on the questionnaire. Each item had to he answered on five-point scales anchored with not applicable at all and wholly applicable. Answers were coded from 1 to 5 and averaged across items. In-role performance was measured with four items beginning with quot;In the last six months...quot;: quot;My supervisor has been satisfied with mequot;, quot;I have been one of the best employees of [organization] in my districtquot;, quot;I have met the requirements of my jobquot;, and quot;My colleagues have been respecting me for my performancequot;. Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) was measured with eight items beginning with quot;In the last six months...quot;: quot;I have voluntarily done more work than requiredquot;, quot;I helped colleagues when they had much work to doquot;, quot;I have tried to recruit volunteers for [organization]quot;, quot;I have voluntarily helped my supervisor with his/her workquot;, quot;I have spontaneously made suggestions to improve work processesquot;, quot;I have talked favorably about [organization] to my acquaintancesquot;, quot;I have taken more or longer breaks during working hours than allowedquot; (reverse scored), quot;I have criticized [organization] in front of my acquaintancesquot; (reverse scored). The scale was a modification of the common OCB scale of Smith, Organ, and Near (1983). AOC was measured with five items adapted from the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (Mowday et al., 1982) and the Affective Commitment Scale (Allen & Meyer, 1990): quot;I am proud to tell others that I work for [organization]quot;, quot;If I could not work for [organization] any more, I would miss somethingquot;, quot;I have many things in common with other employees of [organization]quot;, quot;I am still satisfied with my decision to work for [organization]quot;, quot;I care about the problems of [organization] even if my workplace is not involved in themquot;. Scandal severity was measured with five items: quot;The recent scandal has impaired [organization's] reputationquot;, quot;I think many people currently have a negative opinion of [organization] due to the negative reports in the mediaquot;, quot;I think that most people's opinion of [organization] was not influenced by the scandalquot; (reverse scored), quot;I think that, despite the negative reports in the media, most people still hold [organization] in high regardquot; (reverse scored), quot;The negative media reports do harm only to particular employees or areas of [organization] but not to [organization] as a wholequot; (reverse scored).
  5. 5. International Journal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 197 Results All e values reported in the following are two-tailed. Results with p < .05 and p < .10 are called significant and marginally significant, respectively. Table 1 shows descriptive statistics for all variables. To test whether the relationships of AOC with in-role performance and OCB depended on scandal severity, we first z standardized AOC, scandal severity, and the performance variables. Then we regressed each performance type on AOC, scandal severity, and the interaction term AOC x Scandal Severity (computed from the standardized variables). Table 2 displays the results. For OCB as criterion, a strongly positive and significant beta coefficient for AOC emerged (beta = •64, g < .001). Thus, like in many previous studies, AOC and OCB were positively related (see Meyer et al., 2002; Riketta, 2002). Further, scandal severity was unrelated to AOC (beta = -.06, £=.60). Most important, the interaction was marginally significant (beta = . 18, E = 09). Figure 1 visualizes this interaction by displaying the AOC—OCB relationship (simple slopes) for two levels of scandal severity (M + SD and M - SD; cf. Cohen & Cohen, 1983). As predicted, the relationship was stronger and more positive Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, Reliability Coefficients, and Correlations Variable M SD 1. 2. 3. 4. l.AOC 3.47 1.00 (.84) 2. In-role performance 3.85 0.75 .30* (.69) 3. OCB 3.56 0.71 .63*** .43*** (.71) 4. Scandal severity 4.13 0.64 -.18 .07 -.21 (.69) Note. N varies between 61 and 63 due to missing data. Scale range is 1-5. Cronbach alphas are given in parentheses. AOC: attitudinal organizational commitment. OCB: organizational citizenship behavior. * p < . 0 5 . ***gs.OOl. Table 2. Regression-Analytic Tests for Moderating Effects of Scandal Severity Criterion R^ Predictors B SEB P In-role performance .13* AOC 0.28 0.13 .28* Scandal Severity 0.08 0.13 .08 AOC X Scandal Severity -0.14 0.11 -.17 OCB .43*** AOC 0.64 0.10 Scandal Severity -0.06 0.10 -.06 AOC X Scandal Severity 0.15 0.09 .18* Note. N = 62 for each analysis. The criteria, AOC, and Scandal Severity are z standardized. AOC: attitudinal organizational commitment. OCB: organizational citizenship behavior. * e < . 10. * E < . 0 5 . ***e<.001.
  6. 6. 198 International Journal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 for high versus low scandal severity. For in-role performance as criterion, a moderate and significant beta weight for identification emerged (beta = .28, Q. = .03). This, too, confirms the finding of many previous studies of a positive relationship between AOC and performance (see Meyer et al., 2002; Riketta, 2002). Scandal severity was unrelated to the criterion (beta = .08, E = .53). The beta interaction term was also nonsignificant, with the direction of the interaction contrary of the hypothesis (beta = -.17, p = .19). Thus, our hypothesis was confirmed for OCB but not for in-role performance. Discussion This study was the first one to explore the role of threat to organizational reputation on the AOC—performance relationship. Threat was operationalized as the perceived severity of a scandal in which the organization under study had been involved. We postulated that the more severe the scandal from employees' perspective, the stronger the AOC—work engagement correlation. This hypothesis was marginally confirmed for OCB but was disconfirmed for in-role performance. The reasons why the hypothesis was confirmed only for one performance type are unclear. The arguably most plausible explanation is that participants considered OCB Figure 1. Regression of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) on attitudinal organizational commitment (AOC) for low (M - SD) versus high (M + SD) scandal severity (all variables z standardized). 1- S o . . • • • • / -1 - • • •Low scandal severity / High scandal severity -2 1 1 1 -2 - 1 0 1 AOC
  7. 7. Internationaljournal of Management Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2005 199 as more instrumental for restoring the organization's image than in-role performance. However, in this case, the correlation between AOC and OCB should have been particularly strong for employees who believed that their work behavior was visible to the public. Using the same sample, Riketta and Landerer (2002) tested exactly this hypothesis and found that the AOC—OCB relationship was clearly unrelated to public visibility of work behavior. Yet, they found a moderator effect of this variable on the AOC—in-role performance relationship. Thus, the above explanation, albeit plausible, does not seem to apply to the present sample. Hence, finding an explanation for this unexpected pattern of results remains a challenge for future research. In any case, however, because the difference between the performance types was unpredicted, one should await replications before interpreting it further. Several limitations of our study must be mentioned. First, our correlational data do not permit causal conclusions. Specifically, our results do not demonstrate that AOC causes performance and that status threat causes changes in the AOC—performance relationship, although the theory (SIT) and findings (Ouwerkerk et al., 2000) that underlied our research do suggest these directions of the causal paths. Second, we used only self- reported indicators of performance. Self-report measures of work behavior likely lead to an overestimation of actual work behavior (Harris & Schaubroeck, 1988) and may lead to inflated correlations due to halo error and mono-method bias. Thus, one should be cautious with interpreting the means of the analyzed variables and the absolute size of the correlations obtained herein. However, these effects do not necessarily distort observed interactions between variables and hence do not necessarily impair the conclusiveness of our moderator analysis. Third, the present data came from one particular organization (a German health-service organization) and referred to a particular type of status threat (a public scandal). The generalizability of our results across organizations and instances of status threat remain to be explored. Given these limitations, our results are preliminary. Nevertheless, they (a) do suggest that employees' concern for the organization's reputation is among the moderators of the AOC—performance relationship and (b) add to the evidence for the usefulness of the social identity approach for explaining organizational behavior. References Allen, N. J., & Meyer, J. P. (1990). The measurement and antecedents of affective, continuance and normative commitment to the organization. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 63, 1-18. Ashforth B. E., & Mael, F. (1989). Social identity and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14,20-39. Brett, J. F., Cron, W. L., & Slocum, J. W. (1995). Economic dependency on work. Academy of Management Journal, 95, 261-271. Brown, R. (2000). Social identity theory: Past achievenients, current problems, and future challenges. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30, 745-778.
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