Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Perceived Organizational Support: Evidence for a Mediated Association with Work Performance

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Perceived Organizational Support: Evidence for a Mediated Association with Work Performance

Article excerpt

The Human Relations school of managerial thought (e.g., Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1967), which basically argues that employee performance will improve as the employment relationship improves, has resulted in a wide variety of theories attempting to explain why this change occurs. One of the most prominent of those theories is social exchange theory (e.g., Blau, 1964), which is supplemented by the norm of reciprocity (e.g., Gouldner, 1960). The explanation provided by social exchange argues that the employee may perform at a higher level because s/he perceives an obligation to reciprocate for social "gifts" granted by the employer (e.g., raises, promotions, top project assignments, positive feedback (Organ, 1977)).

Social exchange, as studied through research on perceived organizational support (POS), has been used to explain positive impacts on both work attitudes (job satisfaction, e.g., Eisenberger et al., 1997; affective commitment, e.g., Rhoades et al., 2001; Wayne et al., 1997) and behaviors (e.g., attendance, Eisenberger et al., 1986; in-role performance, e.g., Eisenberger et al., 2001; Settoon et al., 1996; extra-role performance, e.g., Shore and Wayne, 1993; turnover intentions, e.g., Wayne et al., 1997; withdrawal behaviors, e.g., Eisenberger et al., 2001). Whereas social exchange theory has certainly been useful in helping identify positive outcomes associated with POS, it does not provide guidance to researchers on how to appropriately model these outcomes in order to understand the complete underlying mechanism of how perceptions of organizational support result in employee behavioral change. Specifically, social exchange does not direct researchers to consider that workplace attitudes and behaviors may be linked to each other, aside from their relationship to POS. Thus, there is the possibility that current research has not investigated the complete picture of the impact POS has on consequences that may be more appropriately modeled as distal outcomes versus those that are actually more proximal.

An alternative for how to model the associations between POS and both attitudinal and behavioral outcomes is found in the work of Fishbein and Ajzen (1975), who developed the theory of reasoned action and the subsequent theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991). In this body of work, they argue that individual perceptions, which are thought to be nonaffective belief statements (i.e., I believe my organization is supportive of me), need to be distinguished from attitudes which incorporate emotional, judgmental components (i.e., I like that my organization is supportive of me). It is these emotional attitudes that result in subsequent behavioral intentions and outcomes. They posit that it is the affective reaction toward the attitude object that triggers behavioral change, not the perception of the object.

Whereas attitudinal mediation has been supported between POS and other behavioral outcomes (e.g., intent to quit, Wayne et al., 1997), to our knowledge there is only one study that has specifically examined mediation for the POS-performance relationship. Recently, Chen et al. (2005) found evidence that trust and organizational-based self-esteem fully mediated the relationship between POS and in-role (task) performance. Therefore, this study is designed to clarify the POS-performance association. We compare two theoretical models for the outcomes of POS by selecting two work attitudes that have been strongly linked to both POS and performance: job satisfaction and affective commitment. The first model relies on social exchange theory and reflects the results of Rhoades and Eisenberger's (2002) recent meta-analysis. The second model uses the theory of reasoned action to investigate whether work attitudes should be antecedent to work performance, thus mediating the POS-performance relation. A literature review of the POS, performance and work attitudes research is presented first, followed by a description of the method and results of this study. …

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