Academic journal article Communication Studies

Workplace Relationship Quality and Employee Information Experiences

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Workplace Relationship Quality and Employee Information Experiences

Article excerpt

A great deal of research indicates the importance of employees being adequately informed (e.g., Miller, 1996; Miller & Jablin, 1991). This body of work demonstrates that the better informed employees are, the less uncertain they are, the more satisfied they are with their jobs, and the better their perceived performance (Brown & Mitchell, 1993). Informed employees also tend to make better decisions and enhance organizational knowledge development and distribution (Sharda, Frankwick, & Turetken, 1999). Scholars increasingly note that, in the current U.S. service and knowledge-based economy, information has "replaced tangible resources as a measure of power" (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2004, p. 16), and is the "fundamental ingredient" in today's organizations (Wheatley, 1994, 2001). With more than half of the U.S. labor force involved in the processing of information, individuals with the best access to information, and organizations with the most well-informed employees, are the most likely to succeed (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2004; Wheatley, 2001).

Certainly, some employees are better informed than others. This variance is associated with a variety of factors including the extent to which they actively seek out information (e.g., Kramer, 1994; Morrison, 1993) and the amount of information others (e.g., a supervisor) have available to provide the employee (e.g., Lee, 1998; Pelz, 1952). Another potential influence on an employee's information experiences is the quality of that employee's relationships with his/her supervisor and peer co-workers. This is particularly relevant to veteran employees (relative to new employees) whose workplace relationships have had time to develop and likely vary with respect to quality. To address this possibility, the present study examined the association between workplace relationship quality and the extent to which employees receive adequate amounts of quality information.

Review of Prior Scholarship

Much research attention has been given to employee information seeking and information receiving. This body of research generally focuses on why, how, and from whom, employees obtain information (e.g., Kramer, Callister, & Turban, 1995; Miller & lablin, 1991; Morrison, 1993). Studies consistently demonstrate that employees rely primarily on their immediate supervisors and departmental co-workers for job- and organization-related information. It is important to note that this body of work focuses primarily on the experiences of new employees (e.g., Kramer, 1994; Miller, 1996; Miller & Jablin, 1991). Veteran employees, however, also depend upon, and seek, information from their co-workers. Unfortunately, the information experiences of these employees are largely ignored in research. This oversight likely explains why no research has examined how an employee's information experiences may be associated with the quality of his/her various workplace relationships. Newcomer research assumes new employees suffer large amounts of uncertainty and seek information upon beginning their jobs to reduce that uncertainty. This information reduces employee uncertainty and, after a length of time, the newcomers become informed veteran employees. At the beginning stages of employment, newcomers' relationships with supervisors and peer co-workers have had little time to develop and, therefore, vary little with respect to quality. Consequently, relationship quality is unlikely to be a major influence on newcomer information experiences.

Veteran employees also experience work-related uncertainty, however. Sias and Wyers (2001), for example, found in a longitudinal study that while many factors (e.g., social cost perceptions) changed over time as expected, employee levels of uncertainty and information seeking (regarding task, appraisal, and relational issues) remained stable. They explained this result by suggesting that while information may reduce an employee's uncertainty regarding a specific issue, subsequent events may cause that employee to feel uncertain regarding another issue. …

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