Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Always Getting the Short End of the Stick: The Effects of Negative Affectivity on Perceptions of Equity

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Always Getting the Short End of the Stick: The Effects of Negative Affectivity on Perceptions of Equity

Article excerpt

Recently, much research has found it worthwhile to use dispositional variables as predictors of attitudes and behaviors (Ball et al., 1994; Graves, 1993; Judge, 1993; Staw and Ross, 1985). One variable, negative affectivity (NA), has received a considerable amount of this research attention. Negative affectivity refers to an individual's nature to experience distress and anxiety across time and situations (Watson and Clark, 1984). Recent studies have examined the relationship between negative affectivity and such variables as punishment (Ball et al., 1994), job insecurity (Roskies et al., 1993; Latack, 1996), risk taking (Mano, 1994), and stressors and strains (Brief et al., 1988, 1995; Moyle, 1995; Spector and O'Connell, 1994). However, researchers have not adequately explored the relationship between negative affectivity and work motivation. Given the importance of motivation to organizations, it would be of both theoretical and practical significance to examine the effects of dispositions (e.g., negative affectivity) on work motivation.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and salient theories of work motivation is equity theory (e.g., Berkowitz et al., 1987; Fok, 1996; Scholl et al., 1987; Summers and Hendrix, 1991; Walster et al., 1976). Unfortunately, as Berkowitz et al. (1987) have argued, equity theory research has not advanced much beyond the verification of its initial tenets presented by Adams (1963, 1965). Moreover, Summers and Hendrix (1991) noted that an overreliance on laboratory studies has hindered research in this domain. A notable reason for this lack of advancement has been the absence of dispositional variables in traditional equity theory research (Brockner et al., 1987; Hatfield and Sprecher, 1983; Major and Deaux, 1982; Walster et al., 1976). Walster et al. posit "... it is clear that personality variables will affect how participants evaluate both their own and their partner's inputs and outcomes .... " (1976: 23). However, the recent attention given to situational variables in predicting worker attitudes and behaviors in organizations has led researchers to almost totally disregard the impact that personality variables may have on perceptions of equity (Schneider, 1983).

The present study was designed to address the two theoretical issues noted above as well as issues concerning the practicing manager. Dispositional research in general, and negative affectivity research more specifically, would be enhanced by expanding the scope of its research activities. Furthermore, equity theory research would also benefit from a more expansive view of its precursors. More discussion pertaining to the increased use of dispositional factors will be provided in subsequent sections of this article. With respect to managerial implications, results from this study may assist those who are responsible for designing and implementing organizational development programs. Specifically, it may be that some individuals are going to react more negatively to these programs than others. This negativism may not be caused by the program, it may be caused by the inherent disposition of the individual.

Dispositions As Predictors of Attitudes and Behaviors

At one time, the dispositional approach to understanding employee attitudes and behavior was the focus of those conducting organizational behavior research (e.g., Allport, 1937; Fleishman, 1953; McClelland, 1961). Since this time, however, some have criticized this line of inquiry (e.g., Weiss and Adler, 1984; Cronbach, 1957; Davis-Blake and Pfeffer, 1989). For example, Mischel (1968) asserted that dispositional variables have accounted for very little variance in behavior across studies. Weiss and Adler (1984) maintained that dispositional variables were often included in research studies as afterthoughts, serving solely as moderating variables without theoretical justification for their inclusion. These problems were heightened by the relative ease of collecting self-report individual difference data. …

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