Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Cynicism across Levels in the Organization

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Cynicism across Levels in the Organization

Article excerpt

Organizational cynicism is rampant throughout the modern workplace (Dean et al, 1998; Neves, 2012; Chiaburu et al., 2013). Prior research (Dean et al., 1998) has described cynicism as negative work attitude that develops as a result of perceived malfeasance of the perceived agent or entity that can be targeted at individuals in the organization or the company as a whole. Causes of cynicism include prevalent characteristics of the work environment such as high levels of executive compensation, poor organizational performance, and harsh layoffs (Andersson and Bateman, 1997; Brandes et al, 2008). The consequences of cynicism should not be understated. Kim et al. (2009) found that cynicism was negatively associated with self-assessed job performance. Andersson and Bateman (1997) showed that cynicism relates negatively to intentions to perform organizational citizenship behaviors. Furthermore, meta-analytic results confirm that such attitudes lead to important workplace outcomes such as decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment and increased turnover intentions (Chiaburu et ai, 2013). Cynical attitudes also have negative effects for the attitude holder. For example, Johnson and O'Leary-Kelly (2003) found that those individuals who expressed the strongest cynicism also reported the highest levels of emotional exhaustion. Despite these findings, there is still a lack of a more comprehensive understanding of cynicism.

The purpose of the present study is to address this gap in the current knowledge base. First, although a great deal of research has linked cynicism to various antecedents (see Chiaburu et al, 2013), scholars have devoted little attention to the effect of politics perceptions on cynicism. However, one study predicted and tested the positive relationship between perceptions of politics and cynicism (see Bashir and Nasir, 2013). Given that organizational politics is prevalent in virtually all work environments, it is critically important for organizations to attend to factors, such as perceptions of politics that contribute to the development of cynicism.

Second, it would be informative to expand the scope of cynicism research to include the direction of its target. Much of the previous research conceptualized cynicism as an affective state that encompasses perceptions of all organizational activities and agents (Chrobot-Mason, 2003). However, it is conceivable that employees hold more (or less) cynical attitudes toward particular targets (proximal supervisors versus distal executives). Scholars have devoted limited attention to the target specificity of cynicism (for exceptions see Lipset and Schnieder, 1983; Ranter and Mirvis, 1989; Andersson and Bateman, 1997). Yet this is an important issue to understand because perceived cynicism can have serious organizational implications. More studies are needed to further explore this issue.

Lastly, this paper explores the impact of psychological contract violation on existing relationships within organizations. Each employee works within an organization with a certain set of expectations referred to as a psychological contract (Robinson and Rousseau, 1994). When these expectations are not met, a psychological contract violation occurs (Robinson and Rousseau, 1994) resulting in a negative emotional response (Tomprou etal., 2015). Moreover, following a psychological contract violation, employees engage in considerable cognitive effort to scrutinize the environment (Parzefall and Coyle-Shapiro, 2011; Tomprou et al., 2015). Specifically, employees are attentive to current levels of organizational politics because it functions as a technique that employees use to make attributions for the way in which they are treated by the organization (Kiewitz et al., 2009). That is, employees that perceive high levels of politicking in their workplace are more likely to assume that the psychological contract violation signals that the organization does not care for their well-being or value their contributions. …

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