The Relationship between Organizational Climate and Employee Perceptions of Personnel Management Practices

By Toulson, Paul; Smith, Mike | Public Personnel Management, Fall 1994 | Go to article overview

The Relationship between Organizational Climate and Employee Perceptions of Personnel Management Practices


Toulson, Paul, Smith, Mike, Public Personnel Management


The management process in an organization can be described as the application o certain principles and techniques to achieve organizational objectives. The tas of management can therefore be conceptualised as the achievement of specified objectives by utilising the three basic resources of money, capital and people. While these resources are to an extent interdependent, it is people that are th prime concern of the personnel management function. Personnel management is therefore that part of general management which focuses on the management of people, and involves the recruitment, selection, maintenance, development, utilization of, and accommodation to human resources by the organization (French, 1987).

In every work setting there are dozens of organizing forces operating simultaneously on the behaviour of employees (Landy, 1989). While industrial/organizational psychology is concerned specifically with the behaviour of individuals in their jobs, the understanding, prediction, and control of occupational behaviour can only be achieved through the context of the organization. It follows that any research about personnel management practice must be must be considered in the context of the organization and the effect it has on those working in that organization. One of the better known ways of studying enterprises has been to measure organizational climate.

Organizational climate is a concept that enables the industrial/organizational psychologist to identify how the organization is a psychologically meaningful environment for individual organization members (Payne and Pugh, 1976). Descriptively, it represents the individual member's perceptions of the conditions, factors, and events that occur in the organization (Ekvall, 1987). The concept is useful in attempting to diagnose problems in organizational settings. Just as the perceptions of the individual are at the centre of any clinical intervention in clinical psychology, so are the perceptions of the characteristics of the organization, by the members of the organization, centra to the diagnosis of organization's problems and dysfunctions.

Organizational climate can be viewed as that which is represented by the employees' perceptions of the objective characteristics of an organization (Landy, 1989). For example the number of managers employed by an organization i objective, but employees' feelings about those managers is subjective. Climate differs from the structure of an organization. Structure is the anatomy of the organization, the bare bones or the skeleton. Climate, on the other hand, is th way the employees view the personality of the organization. Muchinsky (1987) debates whether the components of climate are actual attributes of organization or merely the perceptions of the employees working in the organization. That most researchers concur that organizations differ by climate, implies that it could be seen as an organizational attribute. Yet such a view contradicts the idea expressed by Landy (1989) above, that climate is a representation of employees' perceptions.

Dimensions such as structure, standards and reward policies can be conceived as being made up of attribute sets that may be generated from the way organization deal with their members and environments (Hellriegal and Slocum, 1974), and are identified through the responses of employees to questionnaires (Litwin and Stringer, 1968). There is nothing inherently good or bad about an organization' climate, rather it assumes value only when it is related to certain outcomes (Muchinsky 1987). This is similar to when a wet day is "bad" for a day at the beach, but "good" for the growing of crops.

There is evidence to suggest that organizational climate can influence both job performance and employee satisfaction (Lawler, Hall, and Oldham, 1974). Unlike the weather, which is unable to be controlled, some organizational climates can be promoted to facilitate the achievement of organizational goals (Muchinsky, 1987). …

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