Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Impact of Exercised Responsibility, Experience, Autonomy, and Role Ambiguity on Job Performance in Public Accounting

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Impact of Exercised Responsibility, Experience, Autonomy, and Role Ambiguity on Job Performance in Public Accounting

Article excerpt

The major investment for accounting firms is in human capital. The personal attributes of the professionals employed and the conditions under which they work lead to important consequences for the accounting firms, for the professionals themselves, and for those who rely on their work. Certain attributes and work conditions may lead to different levels of performance and various psychological states, which also may influence whether employees choose to stay with the organization. Research on job performance in public accounting has been selective in scope. Subsets of variables such as experience, autonomy, role ambiguity, and job performance have been studied, but there have been few studies integrating the variables into comprehensive models, and even fewer that have done so in a public accounting setting.

This study develops and tests a comprehensive model that integrates the traditional variables listed above, and also introduces an additional exogenous variable. The additional variable, exercised responsibility, is one of four factors in the Ascription of Responsibility Questionnaire (ARQ) (Hakstian et al., 1986). The ARQ, which includes biographical and attitudinal variables, was developed to capture people's willingness to ascribe responsibility in specific and diffuse ways. The exercised responsibility scale uses biographical items to measure the extent to which a person has exercised authority. In this study, the scale is shown to be important in terms of model specification and has a strong positive relationship with auditor job performance. The introduction of exercised responsibility into an integrated model of exogenous and endogenous variables contributes to the understanding of job performance in a professional setting.

Below, we first review the literature and develop hypotheses for the variables of interest. The study's sample, measures, and data analysis methods are then described. This is followed by a presentation and discussion of the results, including implications for management practice and future re search.


For purposes of this study, exercised responsibility, experience, autonomy, and role ambiguity are considered important personal attributes and work conditions for auditors. Job performance is the work outcome of interest. This section discusses each concept and develops related hypotheses.

Job Performance

For any occupational group, performance on the job is an important work outcome. In the case of auditors, job performance relates to the quality of audits. Poor performance may create the potential for errors, legal liability, and loss of credibility (Fisher, 2001). Recent accounting and auditing scandals, such as Enron, have heightened the need for quality audit performance at the individual and firm level. Therefore, for accounting firms, individual job performance has significant aggregate consequences for audit quality, revenues, legal exposure, and even continued existence. For individual auditors, evaluation of job performance has importance for raises, promotion, and job tenure. Thus, job performance is considered a key outcome in this study.

Exercised Responsibility and Personality Traits

Research in social psychology has examined a host of personality traits and their relationship to important outcomes and behaviors. Barrick and Mount (1991) examined job performance and its relationship to extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness experience. They found that conscientiousness and its positive relationship to job performance to be the most prominent across studies and occupations. In a separate study, Barrick and Mount (1993) found conscientiousness and extraversion significantly associated with job performance for a sample of managers. Judge and Bono's (2001) meta-analysis found a moderately strong association between job performance and core self-evaluations traits (self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, and internal locus of control). …

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