Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Social Effectiveness in Organizations: Construct Validity and Research Directions

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Social Effectiveness in Organizations: Construct Validity and Research Directions

Article excerpt

Social dynamics of interpersonal and group processes has been an active area of investigation in the organizational sciences for many years, as have the social effectiveness competencies that facilitate such process dynamics. In recent years, we have witnessed a proliferation of social effectiveness constructs in the field, which appear to reflect some convergence, but unique character as well. In this article, we examine the nature of these various social effectiveness constructs, their construct validity, and their relationships with important work outcomes. We conclude with a discussion of directions for future research and implications of the growth of interest in social effectiveness in organizations.


Social interaction is fundamental to getting through life, as well as effectiveness in work organizations. An interest in the nature of social understanding and competence dates back to Thorndike's (1920) articulation of the social intelligence construct, the popularity of the seminars and influential book by Dale Carnegie (1936), How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Goffman's (1959) characterization of life as a stage where people play out different roles in order to get what they want.

Furthermore, there has been a resurgence of interest in social effectiveness constructs within the past couple of decades under titles including practical intelligence, emotional intelligence, functional flexibility, and political skill, to mention but a few. Indeed, one could legitimately argue that we have witnessed a proliferation of constructs that all address aspects of effectiveness in social interactions at work. This renewed interest, in conjunction with changing conditions in work organizations, suggests that we need to develop a more informed understanding of social effectiveness, how these various social effectiveness constructs are similar and different, and how and why they are associated with performance and effectiveness in jobs, careers, and organizations.

The purpose of this article is to provide an integrative assessment of the social effectiveness construct category, the various forms it can take, the distinctiveness and convergence among these constructs, and the relationship of social effectiveness with important work outcomes in organizations. Finally, we discuss some potentially productive directions for future research on social effectiveness in organizations.



The ability to effectively read, understand, and control social interactions has been of interest to behavioral scientists for quite some time. The social effectiveness construct can be construed as a somewhat broad category including a number of specific operationalizations that carry different labels. These labels include social intelligence, emotional intelligence, practical intelligence, self-monitoring, social skill, social competence, political skill, ego resiliency, interpersonal intelligence, sociopolitical intelligence, interpersonal acumen, functional flexibility, and social self-efficacy. Even Factor N of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) reflected a type of social effectiveness whereby high scores indicated people who were insightful regarding others, socially polished, and skillful in social relations (Cattell, Eber, & Tatsuoka, 1970).

Despite the fact that these constructs may share some degree of domain space, we regard all of these as reflections of the broad category of social effectiveness, which is currently regarded as critically important to success in jobs and careers. Furthermore, most of these constructs share in common that they each possess a cognitive understanding or savvy component, as well as a behavioral action component that allows one to act on that understanding in flexible and adaptive ways. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.