The Role of Dispositions in Politics Perception Formation: The Predictive Capacity of Negative and Positive Affectivity, Equity Sensitivity, and Self-Efficacy
Adams, Garry L., Treadway, Darren C., Stepina, Lee P., Journal of Managerial Issues
Theoretical frameworks have suggested that a combination of individual influences, job/work environment influences, and organizational influences combine to contribute to the formation of individuals' perceptions of organizational politics (Ferris et al., 2002; Ferris et al., 1989). However, empirical investigations of the individual-level antecedents of politics perceptions have focused on demographic factors such as age, sex, race, organizational tenure, and organizational level (e.g., Ferris, Frink, Bhawuk et al., 1996; Ferris, Frink, Galang et al., 1996; Ferris et al., 1994; Ferris and Kacmar, 1992). With the notable exception of O'Connor and Morrison (2001) and Valle and Perrewe (2000), research has neglected the potential influence of personality characteristics on the formation of politics perceptions.
Valle and Perrewe (2000) initiated the exploration of the personality--politics perception relationship by examining the mediating role of politics perceptions between dispositions such as need for power, Machiavellianism, self-monitoring, and locus of control, with outcomes such as job satisfaction, job anxiety, and intent to turnover. The study found that Machiavellianism and external locus of control serve as significant predictors of politics perceptions. In addition, O'Connor and Morrison (2001) explored the relationship between situational and dispositional antecedents and politics perceptions. Consistent with the findings of Valle and Perrewe (2000), O'Connor and Morrison also found significant relationships between work locus of control and Machiavellianism with politics perceptions.
The present study extends Valle and Perrewe's (2000) and O'Connor and Morrison's (2001) personality-based perspective by proposing that an individual's dispositional traits directly affect their perceptions of politics in work environments. However, the present study extends the previous research by exploring dispositions such as negative affect, positive affect, self-efficacy, and equity sensitivity that have not been examined as antecedents in prior politics perceptions research. The following sections explore previous research examining politics perceptions formation and offers theoretical justification as to why additional dispositions should be studied as integral predictors in the Ferris et al. (1989) perceptions of politics model.
Perceptions of Organizational Politics (POPS)
Organizational politics is defined as "individual or group behavior that is informal, ostensibly parochial, typically divisive, and above all in a technical sense, illegitimate--sanctioned neither by formal authority, accepted ideology, nor certified expertise (although it may exploit any one of these)" (Mintzberg, 1983: 172). A key point to be developed from this definition is that, because political activities are not formally sanctioned by the organization, such activities tend to create divisive effects. Organizational politics places individuals and groups with conflicting ideologies against one another in a dynamic struggle for scarce organizational resources. The inherent conflict created by this struggle for scarce resources might generate attitudes and behavior divergent from the goals and needs of the organization (Ferris et al., 1994; Rosen et al., 2006).
Theorists have argued that the precursors of these attitudes and behaviors are the individuals' perceptions of organizational politics (Gandz and Murray, 1980; Ferris et al., 1989). Advocates of the perceptual view of politics in organizations argue that even if individuals' perceptions of the impact of political influence on organizational activities and decision-making process is a misrepresentation of actual events, this perception is part of individuals' view of reality and, therefore, will drive their associated cognitive and behavioral responses (Lewin, 1936). As a result, these perceptions may tend to develop more from subjective than objective views of reality. In fact, Ferris, Harrell-Cook, and Dulebohn proposed that perceptions of organizational politics "involves an individual's attribution of behaviors of self-serving intent, and is defined as an individual's subjective evaluation about the extent to which the work environment is characterized by co-workers and supervisors who demonstrate such self-serving behavior" (2000: 90).
Empirical evidence suggests that decreased promotional opportunities (Ferris and Kacmar, 1992; Kacmar and Baron, 1999; Valle and Perrewe, 2000), formalization (Fedor et al., 1998; Ferris, Frink, Galang et al., 1996), and interactions with co-workers and supervisors (Ferris and Kacmar, 1992; Kacmar and Baron, 1999; Parker et at, 1995) are relatively consistent predictors of perceived politics formation. Absent from the literature is research consistently supporting the importance of individual difference variables in predicting the formation of politics perceptions. Indeed, only minority status (Ferris, Frink, Bhawuk et al., 1996; Parker et al., 1995) has been shown to influence perceived politics in multiple studies. Given the inconsistency of findings in past research, we propose that there is a theoretical evidence and need for examining the roles of dispositions such as positive affect, negative affect, self-efficacy, and equity sensitivity as predictors of political perceptions.
Dispositions in Organizations
There has been an ongoing debate in the organizational behavior literature regarding the nature of the contribution that dispositional research makes to organizational study. Some scholars (Davis-Blake and Pfeffer, 1989, 1996; Mischel, 1968) have maintained that situational factors serve as the primary determinants of individual behavior within organizations, whereas others (House et al., 1996; Staw and Ross, 1985; Shane et al., 1996) have argued that dispositions can influence and predict the formation and development of attitudes and behaviors within organizations. As previously discussed, Ferris et al.'s (1989) original conceptualization of the perceptions of politics construct accounted for both the situational and dispositional perspective of organizational action. While a relative abundance of research has assessed the impact of situational factors on the formation of politics perceptions, little research has been conducted assessing the role of dispositional traits in the formation of politics perceptions.
House et al. defined dispositions as "psychological (as opposed to physical or other objectively assessed characteristics of individuals) personality characteristics, need states, attitudes, preferences, and motives. Dispositions generally are viewed as tendencies to respond to situations, or classes of situations in a particular, predetermined manner" (1996: 205). This study focuses on personality traits, which are considered the most stable individual dispositions over time and context (House et al., 1996; Weiss and Adler, 1984).
Positive and Negative Affectivity. Positive affectivity is defined as a stable tendency to experience positive emotional states across time and context, and display positive emotional states through behaviors that are enthusiastic, active, joyful, alert, and socially responsive (Larsen and Ketelaar, 1991; Watson and Clark, 1984). Negative affectivity refers to "a stable tendency to experience negative emotions across situations and time" (Spector et al., 1999: 206). As a result, high negative affect individuals might be viewed as reflecting a depressive orientation towards life (George, 1992). It is …
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Publication information: Article title: The Role of Dispositions in Politics Perception Formation: The Predictive Capacity of Negative and Positive Affectivity, Equity Sensitivity, and Self-Efficacy. Contributors: Adams, Garry L. - Author, Treadway, Darren C. - Author, Stepina, Lee P. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Managerial Issues. Volume: 20. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 2008. Page number: 545+. © 1999 Pittsburg State University - Department of Economics. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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