Friday, December 19, 2014

Are Satisfied Employees Less Willing to Help Others?

Organizations can be regarded as a system of relationships between individuals. Social exchange theory (e.g. Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005) provides a general framework to understand these relationships, arguing that positive interactions are likely to increase cooperation among individuals in organizations. While there is much information about how cooperative relationships evolve, far less is known about how these relationships affect each other. Now, taking into account that employees have multiple relationships as they are dealing with coworkers and with supervisors, the question is whether cooperation in one direction may affect cooperation in the other. 

From an organizational perspective, career systems may be viewed as a means to create cooperative relationships with employees. At the same time, however, they can reduce cooperation among coworkers as they will compete for higher positions. This mechanism was found in a study among Dutch organizations: the more satisfied employees were with their career opportunities, the less willing they were to help their colleagues (Koster, 2014). This suggests that the motivational effect of career systems may be at odds with the conditions that are needed to create positive work relations among employees. Organizations that are based around teamwork should be aware of this potential trade-off of between career incentives and cooperation among employees.

Cropanzano, R., & Mitchell, M. S. (2005). Social exchange theory: An interdisciplinary review. Journal of Management, 31, 874-900.

Koster, F. (2014). “When two worlds collide”. Career satisfaction and altruistic organizational citizenship behavior. International Journal of Business Science and Applied Management9(1), 1-12.

Dr. Ferry Koster is Associate Professor of Labor, Organization, and Management at the department of Sociology of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), the Netherlands. Besides that, he is a researcher at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His empirical research includes the cross national comparison of formal policies and individual attitudes, the comparative study of organizations, and organizational behavior. A general theme across these studies is the question to what extent and how social context relates to individual outcomes.

EUR profile of Ferry Koster

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