Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Argumentative Men: Expectations of Success

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Argumentative Men: Expectations of Success

Article excerpt

Nancy M. Schullery

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo

A manager may spend as much as 90% of work time communicating Schnake, Dumler, Cochran, & Barnett, 1990). Therefore, the question of what communication behaviors are most successful in organizations is of ongoing interest. One likely candidate for successful communication is the assertive behavior known as argumentativeness, which involves more than skill in constructing an argument. Business communication texts and teachers urge students to be specific in supporting their claims, to be knowledgeable about their facts, and to justify their case with reasons (Ewald & Burnett, 1997, p. 190; Locker, 1997, p. 253), all of which are skills an argumentative person would be likely to use. However, argumentativeness is the tendency to argue, regardless of skill, and itself has been shown to have significant beneficial outcomes in group and workplace settings. As arguing is a largely dyad-based communication that might occur in either written or oral forms and within or across organizational boundaries, an intervention-motivated analysis (Shelby, 1993) of its role is clearly an appropriate concern for those interested in business communication.

Individuals with the personality predisposition of high argumentativeness are more inclined to argue and believe themselves skilled at making arguments. The predisposition has been linked with positive outcomes in the workplace for several years. For example, argumentative persons are reported to be more effective upward communicators (Infante & Gorden, 1985b, 1987), more decisive (Infante, 1989), and more often chosen as group leaders (Schultz, 1982). However, there is little evidence from objective criteria that benefits accrue to argumentative individuals in the workplace, and some evidence to the contrary has recently been reported for women (Schullery, 1998). Women who are either exceptionally high or low in argumentativeness appear to be excluded from higher supervisory positions. Once women are past the first supervisory level, there is a linear increase in argumentativeness moderation with increasing supervisory level, corresponding to the low argumentatives either increasing their argumentativeness or being excluded and the high argumentatives either decreasing their argumentativeness or being excluded. The present study examines the relationship between workplace success and argumentativeness for full-time employed men. Two research questions are posed.

RQ 1: Does the predicted positive relationship between argumentativeness and workplace success exist among men?

RQ 2: Is the same relationship between moderation in argumentativeness and workplace success found for women also true for men?

Argumentativeness is measured using Infante and Rancer's twenty-question scale (1982); an objective criterion, supervisory level, is used to operationalize workplace success.

Literature Review

Argumentativeness is conceptualized as a constructive aspect of assertiveness, an aggressive communicative behavior (Infante & Rancer, 1982). Aggression includes both positive (assertiveness) and negative (hostility) traits (Infante, Rancer, & Womack, 1993, p. 162). Only the positive behaviors will be discussed here. Assertiveness is defined as a "person's general tendency to be interpersonally dominant, ascendant, and forceful" (Infante, 1995, p. 52). By definition, both assertiveness and argumentativeness are constructively aggressive behaviors. Aggressiveness, however, is often associated with only negative connotations (Kraus, 1997, p. 123), which discourages the practice of most aggressive behaviors. Assertiveness is more favorably viewed, and, in the United States, is generally encouraged. Argumentativeness is one type of assertiveness but is not characteristic of all assertive individuals.

An argumentative person is defined as one who enjoys advocating a controversial position while refuting the position of others in an issue-oriented and constructive manner (Infante & Rancer, 1982). …

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