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Journal of Applied Psychology 2006, Vol. 91, No.

1, 211–220

Copyright 2006 by the American Psychological Association 0021-9010/06/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.91.1.211

Placing Perceptions of Politics in the Context of the Feedback Environment, Employee Attitudes, and Job Performance
Christopher C. Rosen, Paul E. Levy, and Rosalie J. Hall
University of Akron
The authors proposed a model suggesting that organizational environments supporting high levels of informal supervisor and coworker feedback are associated with lower employee perceptions of organizational politics. Furthermore, these lowered perceptions of politics were proposed to result in higher employee morale (as reflected in job satisfaction and affective commitment) and, through morale, to higher levels of task performance and organizational citizenship. The proposed mediational model was supported with empirical results from 150 subordinate–supervisor dyads sampled across a variety of organizations. Higher quality feedback environments were associated with lower perceptions of organizational politics, and morale mediated the relationships between organizational politics and various aspects of work performance. These findings suggest that when employees have greater access to information regarding behaviors that are acceptable and desired at work, perceptions of politics are reduced and work outcomes are enhanced. Keywords: perceptions of organizational politics, feedback, feedback environment, morale, performance

Employee perceptions of organizational politics have been linked to a variety of negative outcomes for organizations, including low levels of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, task performance, and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB; Cropanzano, Howes, Grandey, & Toth, 1997; Ferris et al., 1996). Yet, researchers’ knowledge of the antecedents and consequences of organizational politics remains incomplete (Kacmar, Bozeman, Carlson, & Anthony, 1999). Working within the frameworks of social marketplaces (Cropanzano et al., 1997; Randall, Cropanzano, Bormann, & Birjulin, 1999) and expectancy theory (Valle, Kacmar, & Zivnuska, 2003), we propose that a positive organizational feedback environment reduces employee perceptions that organizational decisions are politically driven (and thus potentially uncontrollable, threatening, or unfair). Furthermore, a substantial portion of the positive effects of a supportive feedback environment on employee morale and performance are mediated through these reduced perceptions of organizational politics.

Perceptions of Organizational Politics
Our definition of organizational politics derives from work by Ferris, Kacmar, and colleagues (Ferris, Adams, Kolodinsky, Hochwarter, & Ammeter, 2002; Ferris & Kacmar, 1992; Ferris, Russ, & Fandt, 1989). It converges on aspects of political behavior in organizations that are self-serving, not officially sanctioned by the organization, and often have detrimental effects (Ferris et al., 1996; Ferris & Kacmar, 1992; Randall et al., 1999). Ferris et al. (1989) suggested the importance of considering employee percep-

tions of politics; thus, the network of variables expected to be associated with politics typically includes individual-level beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Ferris et al. (1989) developed an influential model that detailed the antecedents and consequences of such employee perceptions. This model described organizational (e.g., centralization, formalization), personal (e.g., age, gender), and environmental (e.g., feedback, interactions with others) influences on organizational politics and detailed how perceptions of politics influence work outcomes such as job involvement, organizational withdrawal, and job satisfaction. Although the model has been informative and has led to numerous empirical studies (for integrative reviews, see Ferris et al., 2002; Kacmar & Baron, 1999), Kacmar et al. (1999) suggested that organizational politics research has been limited by an almost exclusive focus on variables included in the original Ferris et al. (1989) model. Thus, we propose a model (see Figure 1) of relationships among the feedback environment, organizational politics, employee attitudes, and performance, including two sets of mediated effects. First, employee perceptions of politics are proposed to mediate the relationship between the feedback environment and the general level of morale (as reflected by job satisfaction and organizational commitment). Second, we also propose that morale mediates the relationships between politics and various aspects of work performance, incorporating both discretionary OCBs and task performance. Thus, perceptions of politics and their resulting effects on morale are proposed to play key intervening roles in the feedback environment–performance relationship.

The Feedback Environment
Christopher C. Rosen, Paul E. Levy, and Rosalie J. Hall, Department of Psychology, University of Akron. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Paul E. Levy, Department of Psychology, University of Akron, Arts & Sciences Building, 3rd Floor, Akron, OH 44325-4301. E-mail: 211

Feedback is a subset of the available information in the work environment that indicates how well an individual is meeting his or her goals. It conveys which behaviors are desired by the organization and includes an evaluation of the quality of relevant work behaviors (London, 2003; Steelman, Levy, & Snell, 2004). In



Figure 1. Proposed theoretical model: Relationships among the feedback environment, politics, morale, and performance. Dim’l dimensional.

general, feedback relates to important work outcomes such as employee learning and development, motivation, and work performance (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996; Murphy & Cleveland, 1995). Much of the feedback literature has focused on feedback as measured or manipulated in a relatively narrow context. However, London (2003) recently suggested that organizations may create more global psychological settings—feedback-oriented cultures— by enhancing the quality of feedback given in the organization, emphasizing its importance, and supporting its use by employees. In such cultures, feedback is easily accessible, salient, and thus likely to influence employee beliefs and behaviors on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, expectancy theory suggests feedback will increase employees’ performance-to-outcome expectancy beliefs by clarifying which behaviors must be performed to be rewarded. Employees who receive more feedback will be more likely to know the standards of good performance, to believe that performing well will lead to desired rewards, and be more likely to use feedback to improve their own performance. Levy and his colleagues have begun to examine in detail the extent to which the workplace encourages and supports the use of feedback for the purposes of improving work performance (Levy, Albright, Cawley, & Williams, 1995; Steelman et al., 2004; J. R. Williams, Miller, Steelman, & Levy, 1999). Steelman et al. (2004) made a theoretical argument for the utility of informal, day-to-day provision of feedback in the work context. The underlying concept—the feedback environment— closely relates to London’s (2003) idea of a feedback culture but also explicitly integrates a wealth of empirical findings on the characteristics of feedback that increase its acceptability and effectiveness. In addition to the theoretical work, an extensive measure of the feedback environment was developed and validated (Steelman et al., 2004). It identifies seven facets of feedback processes: source credibility, feedback quality, feedback delivery, frequency of favorable feedback, frequency of unfavorable feedback, feedback availability, and the support of feedback seeking. Each of these

facets relies on supervisors and coworkers as sources. Empirical tests of the measures demonstrate that when higher levels of the feedback environment facets are present, they are associated with increased affective commitment, job satisfaction, and OCBs, as well as decreased absenteeism (Norris-Watts & Levy, 2004; Steelman & Levy, 2001).

Relating the Feedback Environment to Perceptions of Organizational Politics
Politics tend to flourish in ambiguous and uncertain work environments (Ferris & Kacmar, 1992; Ferris et al., 1989). Lack of clarity regarding performance standards and reward structures can create a system that favors politics as a means of acquiring desired employee outcomes (Ferris et al., 1989; Randall et al., 1999). In contrast, when standards and reward structures are clear, employees better understand the reward system, view the organization as less political, and engage in less politicking. Because environments high in feedback tend to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity by guiding, motivating, and reinforcing effective behaviors while reducing ineffective behaviors (Ashford, 1986; Ashford & Cummings, 1983; London, 2003), we suggest that they will also tend to be associated with lowered levels—and thus lowered perceptions— of organizational politics. Our proposed model extends understanding of the relationship between feedback and politics by specifically focusing on the role played by the feedback environment. Organizations that have more favorable feedback environments are also likely to have more effective feedback processes (London, 2003) and to communicate more information to employees that helps guide their behavior at work. Indeed, Steelman et al. (2004) found that the feedback environment positively relates to satisfaction with feedback, the frequency with which feedback is sought, and motivation to improve job performance based on feedback. Thus, on the basis of an assumption that more favorable feedback environments reduce



ambiguity, we hypothesize that feedback environment favorability is negatively related to perceptions of organizational politics. Because the favorability of the feedback environment is determined both by information from supervisors and from coworkers, an interesting and previously unaddressed question arises. Does one of these two feedback sources have more influence on employee perceptions of politics? We suggest that the supervisor feedback environment would be expected to have a stronger influence on politics perceptions than the coworker feedback environment, on the basis of the specialized role that supervisors have with respect to their subordinates (e.g., Gerstner & Day, 1997). Supervisors have a primary responsibility for making and communicating organizational decisions to their subordinates. Thus, they exert greater influence and power, especially in the arena of dispensing organizational rewards and punishments. This question of unequal influence can be empirically investigated within the context of our model.

Relationship of Feedback Environment and Politics to Morale and Performance
Theoretical rationale. Expectancy theory-based interpretations of the relationship of perceptions of politics to the general positivity or negativity of employees’ work attitudes suggest that in highly political organizations, rewards are perceived as being distributed on the basis of factors other than merit. This results in a high degree of ambiguity and uncertainty—which is likely to have a detrimental effect on employee morale, as reflected in lower satisfaction and commitment (e.g., Valle et al., 2003). Similarly, Cropanzano’s work (Cropanzano et al., 1997; Randall et al., 1999) argued that work settings can be viewed as social marketplaces in which individuals seek a favorable return on their investment. From this viewpoint, very political organizations are likely to have employees with less favorable work attitudes because their confidence that the reward system will meet their needs has been undermined by that system’s arbitrariness and apparent unfairness. Indeed, empirical research clearly demonstrates a negative relationship between perceptions of organizational politics and job attitudes such as affective commitment and job satisfaction (Bozeman, Perrewe, Hochwarter, & Brymer, 2001; Kacmar et al., 1999; ´ Randall et al., 1999). Employees holding negative attitudes are likely to reduce the time and effort put into meeting organizational objectives, and they may instead engage in political behaviors that advance their own careers but create little of value for the organization, thus resulting in lower levels both of in-role performance and organizational citizenship behavior. The current study extends the politics literature in two important ways. First, we suggest perceptions of politics are most likely to influence employee attitudes when conceptualized at the broad level of morale rather than at a more specific level such as would be indicated by satisfaction facets or narrow commitment constructs. Second, we propose perceptions of politics play an important mediating role in translating external events into employee attitudes and behaviors. A substantial portion of the feedback environment’s positive effects on employee work attitudes and performance may be mediated through reduced perceptions of politics. Thus, our model incorporates an extended mediational chain: Feedback environment is expected to relate negatively to perceptions of politics; politics, in turn, is expected to have a

negative effect on performance through its adverse influence on morale. Supportive empirical evidence. There is substantial evidence that more negative work attitudes are associated with lower performance. For example, the empirical, theoretical, and metaanalytic work of John Meyer and his colleagues clearly demonstrates affective commitment relates both to task performance and OCBs (Meyer & Allen, 1997; Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Riketta, 2002). Similarly, a recent review of the job satisfaction–job performance relationship (Judge, Bono, Thoreson, & Patton, 2001) estimated the correlation to be .30 between overall job satisfaction and job performance. Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, and Bachrach (2000) suggested that employee satisfaction and organizational commitment are among the strongest determinants of OCBs, with relationships that range from .23 to .31. In addition, they proposed that affective commitment and job satisfaction operate as part of a general morale factor that positively relates to OCBs. Thus, our initial model incorporates proposed positive relationships of morale to a performance construct that captures both in-role and extra-role performance, negative relationships of perceptions of politics with performance (mediated through morale), and positive relationships of feedback environment to performance by a threepath mediational chain through politics and work attitudes (see Figure 1).

Method Participants
Two hundred sixty-seven employed undergraduate students at an urban, midwestern university provided the subordinate responses. The participants were all working at least part time and gave us permission to contact their supervisors. One hundred fifty supervisors from a wide variety of organizations returned the survey, for a supervisor response rate of 56%. The average age of the subordinates was 24 years. Women made up 67.5% of the sample. Approximately 77.3% were Caucasian. Their average job tenure was 30.1 months, with an average of 30 hr worked per week. Approximately 42% of the subordinate participants worked at least 35 hr per week. Subordinate jobs included both nonmanagerial and managerial positions that spanned multiple U.S. Department of Labor occupational categories. The average age of supervisors was 38.3 years. Approximately 55% of the supervisors were female, and 79.9% were Caucasian. They had supervised the target employee for an average of 29.3 months, whereas the average tenure in their own current managerial position was about 8.6 years.

Subordinate participants, who received extra credit for taking part in the research project, completed measures designed to assess their perceptions of the feedback environment at work, their perceptions of politics in their organizations, and their work attitudes (affective commitment and job satisfaction). After completing the surveys, participants completed a consent form allowing their supervisors to be contacted regarding their work performance, and they then gave a survey to their supervisors. The supervisor survey assessed employee performance as well as supervisor demographic information. Supervisors mailed completed surveys directly to the researchers.

The paper-and-pencil measures used a 7-point Likert-type response scale with anchors ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).



Subordinate measures. Kacmar and Carlson’s (1997) revised 15-item Perceptions of Organizational Politics Scale was used to measure the extent to which employees viewed their work environment as political (e.g., “Promotions around here are not valued much because how they are determined is so political”). This measure has three subscales: (a) General Political Behavior, (b) Going Along to Get Ahead, and (c) Pay and Promotion. The 63-item Feedback Environment Scale (FES; Steelman et al., 2004) was used to assess subordinates’ perceptions of their feedbackrelated interactions with supervisors and coworkers. The FES is divided into supervisor and coworker source factors, each of which has seven facets (see the Appendix). Organizational commitment of subordinates was measured using Allen and Meyer’s (1990) eight-item Affective Commitment Scale. A sample item is “This organization has a great deal of personal meaning to me.” Job satisfaction was measured using three items developed by Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, and Klesh (1979). A sample item is “All in all, I am satisfied with my job.” Demographic information including age, race, weekly hours worked, type of job, and job tenure was also collected at this time. Supervisor measures. Supervisors rated the in-role and extra-role (i.e., citizenship) performance of their employees using the Organizational Citizenship Behavior—Individual measure (OCBI; seven items) and Organizational Citizenship Behavior—Organization measure (OCBO; six items) developed by L. J. Williams and Anderson (1991). OCBIs tap those behaviors that benefit specific individuals in the organization (e.g., “Helps others who have been absent”), whereas OCBOs tap those behaviors that benefit the organization as a whole (e.g., “Adheres to informal rules devised to maintain order”). In-role performance data were collected using L. J. Williams and Anderson’s (1991) seven-item measure of in-role behavior, shown by them to be independent of the OCBs (e.g., “Meets formal performance requirements of the job”).

Analytic Procedures
Our focal analyses involved tests of the relationships among latent constructs, estimated using the structural equation modeling software Mplus (Muthen & Muthen, 1998 –2004). Maximum-likelihood estimation ´ ´ was used. We used Hu and Bentler’s (1999) fit criteria, which recommend the following cutoff values when evaluating model fit: .09 (or below) for the standardized root-mean-square residual (SRMR) and .95 (or above) for the comparative fit index (CFI). Additionally, the root-mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA) is ideally less than .06. As shown in Figure 2, we used multiple-item composites as indicators. Specifically, indicators for the supervisor and coworker feedback environment constructs consisted of the seven relevant FES subscale scores. Indicators for the politics construct consisted of the three relevant Perceptions of Organizational Politics subscale scores. The morale factor was modeled using the job satisfaction and affective commitment scales as indicators. Finally, the multidimensional performance construct had three indicators, consisting of the scale scores for in-role performance, OCBI, and OCBO.

tween the constructs and their indicators. The model also included a small number of covariances among FES subscale residuals, which were suggested by modification indices and also made conceptual sense.2 This model fit the data well, 2(193, N 150) 230.38, p .034, SRMR .051, CFI .980, RMSEA .036. All loadings of the measured variables on their respective constructs were statistically significant (see Figure 2). Table 1 presents the correlations among the latent constructs from the final measurement model. Although they do not alone provide a full test of the hypothesized relationships, they are generally consistent with the expected pattern of results (all are significant at p .05 unless otherwise noted). Politics showed the proposed significant, negative relationships with the feedback environment constructs (supervisor, r .61; coworker, r .30) and with morale (r .61). As expected, both of the feedback environment constructs related positively and significantly with morale (supervisor, r .46; coworker, r .34). The relationships of both feedback environment constructs to the multidimensional performance construct were also positive as expected. The supervisor feedback environment relationship with performance was statistically significant (r .19), however, the coworker feedback environment relationship with performance was not (r .13). These smaller relationships are not surprising given the extended mediational chain proposed to link feedback environment with performance. Shrout and Bolger (2002) discussed issues of proximal versus distal mediation and noted that it is not unusual to find small and nonsignificant relationships between the initial and final variables in an extended mediational chain such as that linking feedback environment with performance. The weak and nonsignificant correlation of politics with performance (r .02) shown in Table 1 might raise some concerns about the potential for finding mediation of this relationship by the morale factor—the Baron and Kenny (1986) guidelines for establishing mediation suggest that typically the independent and outcome variables will be significantly related. However, in some contexts not all of the Baron and Kenny criteria apply. For example, the observed correlation between the independent and outcome variables may be nonsignificant and close to zero in partial mediation contexts in which there are direct and indirect paths of similar magnitude but opposite signs (see Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger, 1998; Shrout & Bolger, 2002). Thus, it seemed reasonable to continue testing the proposed mediational model given the presence of longer mediational chains and the potential for partial mediation.
The raw score correlations are available from Christopher C. Rosen on request. 2 More specifically, three sets of covarying residuals were added for both the supervisor and the coworker subscales: (a) Feedback Quality with Source Credibility, (b) Support of Feedback Seeking with Feedback Availability, and (c) Frequency of Unfavorable Feedback with Feedback Delivery. Parallel covariances were constrained equal in the two feedback environment subscales (e.g., the covariance of Supervisor Feedback Quality with Supervisor Source Credibility was fixed equal to the covariance of Coworker Feedback Quality with Coworker Source Credibility). Also, three covariances between the residuals of parallel supervisor and coworker feedback environment scales were added: (a) Frequency of Unfavorable Feedback, (B) Feedback Quality, and (C) Availability of Feedback.

Table 1 lists means, standard deviations, and coefficient alphas for the raw score variables as well as latent intercorrelations.1

Test of the Measurement Model
The measurement model included five latent constructs representing the supervisor and coworker feedback environments, perceptions of organizational politics, morale, and performance. These were all allowed to freely intercorrelate so that model fit indices reflected the adequacy of the proposed relationships be-



Figure 2. Measurement model showing factor loadings. All loadings are statistically significant at p .05. FB feedback; Freq Frequency; Favor Favorable; Unfavor Unfavorable; Dim’l dimensional; General General Political Behavior; Get Ahead Going Along to Get Ahead; Pay/Promo Pay and Promotion; JobSat job satisfaction; AffCom affective commitment; InRole in role; OCBI Organizational Citizenship Behavior—Individual measure; OCBO Organizational Citizenship Behavior—Organization measure.

Tests of Structural Models
We first tested a model that included not only the hypothesized mediating (i.e., indirect) paths but also all possible additional direct paths (going from left to right in the model). The purpose of this estimation was to determine whether additional direct paths should be included in our proposed model in order to capture possible partial mediation effects. However, all of these paths were nonsignificant and, therefore, none of them were retained in the model. There was still the puzzling issue of the essentially zero correlation between politics and performance but evidence of a potential mediational chain leading from politics to morale to performance. Thus, we turned to the literature on nonstandard mediation (see, e.g., James & Brett, 1984), which suggested to us the potential for a nonrecursive relationship. More specifically, it seemed both theoretically and empirically plausible that perceptions of politics not only indirectly affected by job performance but also that

remaining unexplained variability in the level of job performance might influence the extent of politics perceptions. Thus, we tested a nonrecursive form of a partial mediation model that included an additional direct path from performance to politics. This path was statistically significant and thus retained. (Additional analyses with an augmented data set and incorporating instrumental variables also supported the plausibility of this nonrecursive path; see Rosen, Levy, & Hall, 2004, for details.) The final structural model and its resulting standardized parameter estimates are shown in Figure 3. The path indicated with a dotted line is the nonrecursive direct effect described in the previous paragraph. Fit indices resulting for this model suggest that it fits the data quite well, 2(197, N 150) 233.05, p .040, SRMR .053, CFI .981, RMSEA .035. All hypothesized paths were statistically significant. Quality of the supervisor and coworker feedback environments were negatively related to per.65; coceptions of organizational politics (supervisor,



Table 1 Intercorrelations Among Latent Constructs in Measurement Model and Scale Score Descriptive Statistics
Scale score statistics Variable 1 2 3 4 5 M SD

From subordinate responses 1. 2. 3. 4. Supervisor FES Coworker FES Politics perceptions Morale Job satisfaction Affective commitment — .20* — .61* .30* — .46* .34* .61* — .19* .13 .02 .23* 5.33 4.77 3.47 5.44 4.14 From supervisor ratings 5. Performance OCBI OCBO In role — 5.63 5.93 6.21 0.98 0.95 0.72 .90 .81 .81 0.96 1.04 0.93 1.58 1.22 .95 .94 .76 .94 .84

Note. Latent and raw scores. N 150 subordinate and 150 supervisor responses. FES Feedback Environment Scale; OCBI Citizenship Behavior—Individual measure; OCBO Organizational Citizenship Behavior—Organization measure. * p .05.


worker, .26). Politics in turn was negatively related to morale ( .73). Morale was positively related to performance outcomes ( .45). The indirect effect of politics on performance had an opposite sign from the direct effect of the performance residual on politics, thus suggesting that politics need not show a significant bivariate relationship with performance in order to infer mediation. More specifically, there was a negative indirect effect of politics on performance (–.73 .45 .33) and a positive direct effect (.34). As would be expected if the model were consistent with the observed data, the sum of these two effects (.01) was very close to the observed correlation between politics

and performance (.02). Overall, the model explained slightly under half of the observed variance in the politics (R2 .45) and morale (R2 .41) and about one fifth of the variance in performance (R2 .22).

Further Assessment of the Evidence for Mediation
A variety of guidelines might be used to determine whether the data supported our proposed mediational chains. First, we note that all of the hypothesized paths making up the proposed mediational chains had significant coefficients ( p .05). Furthermore, all of

Figure 3. Partial mediation model including standardized path estimates. The dotted line indicates nonrecursive effect added on the basis of supplementary analyses. Dim’l dimensional.



these paths had the expected positive or negative sign. Second, all except one of the proposed mediator relationships met the guidelines suggested by Baron and Kenny (1986) or as amended by Kenny et al. (1998) for the case of partial mediation with opposing signs. The sole exception to this was the bivariate correlation of coworker feedback environment with performance. We suggest that this is likely an issue of statistical power, in which the indirect effect associated with an extended mediational chain is relatively low in magnitude and thus difficult to detect (see Shrout & Bolger, 2002). Third and finally, to supplement the structural equation modeling, we calculated Goodman I statistics to test the statistical significance of the hypothesized indirect effects on the morale and performance variables. In this procedure, the magnitude of the unstandardized indirect effect and its accompanying standard error are calculated, using procedures based on the work of Sobel (1982) and Goodman (1960). The ratio of the indirect effect over its standard error is compared with a z distribution to determine statistical significance. The interactive Web page developed by Preacher and Leonardelli (2001) was used for these calculations. Table 2 summarizes the results of these tests as well as the points made in the previous paragraph. All three of the shorter, three-variable mediational chains had a statistically significant result ( p .05) for this test of the indirect effects. (As far as we have been able to determine, there is no accepted analogous test available for the two more extended mediational chains in our model, which lead from the two feedback environment constructs to performance.) In sum, the pattern of results suggests strong evidence for four of our five hypothesized mediational relationships, with standardized indirect effect sizes ranging in magnitude from .19 to .47. In addition, there was suggestive evidence for a fifth indirect effect, from coworker feedback environment to performance, although this is likely a small magnitude effect.

The present study had dual objectives. First, we wished to replicate observed relationships between the feedback environment and both employee attitudinal and performance outcomes (e.g., Norris-Watts & Levy, 2004; Steelman & Levy, 2001) while also extending our understanding of the mechanisms of this influence. Second, we wanted to broaden our knowledge of the antecedents and consequences of organizational politics in response to a call by Kacmar et al. (1999). On the basis of arguments grounded Table 2 Summary of Empirical Evidence for Mediation
Description of indirect path Supervisor feedback environment 3 politics 3 morale Coworker feedback environment 3 politics 3 morale Supervisor feedback environment 3 politics 3 morale 3 multidimensional performance Coworker feedback environment 3 politics 3 morale 3 multidimensional performance Politics 3 morale 3 multidimensional performance Note. ** p is the standardized value of the indirect effect. .01. .47 .19 .21 .09 .33

in expectancy (Valle et al., 2003) and social marketplace (Cropanzano et al., 1997; Randall et al., 1999) theories, we proposed and tested an integrative mediational model. The tests of the key mediational paths in the model were all supported, and exploratory analysis identified a nonrecursive path that also helps to explain the relationships among these variables. The value of the newly developed FES was demonstrated in this study. We found that, consistent with Steelman et al. (2004), quality of the supervisor and coworker sources of feedback were positively related, but this relationship was not especially strong (r .22, p .05). This result suggests that employees do indeed discriminate between the coworker and supervisor dimensions of the feedback environment. The results also clearly support the idea of a negative relationship between the feedback environment and perceptions of organizational politics. Both the supervisor ( .20, p .05) feedback .69, p .05) and coworker ( environments contributed uniquely to perceptions of politics. As expected, supervisors appeared to have the more influential effect. This may reflect both the fact that supervisors have greater control over the allocation of rewards and also that their hierarchical role means that they are expected to resolve uncertain or ambiguous issues in the workplace. In other words, when one’s supervisor gives inadequate or unclear feedback about performance expectations and level, decisions may appear much more politically driven than when coworkers are reticent. Replicating previous work (Bozeman et al., 2001; Cropanzano et al., 1997; Kacmar et al., 1999; Randall et al., 1999), perceptions .69, of politics were negatively related to employee morale ( p .05), as indicated by lower levels of job satisfaction and affective commitment when perceptions of politics were high. Furthermore, our results are consistent with prior theoretical and empirical work arguing that political environments create ambiguity and uncertainty regarding reward structures, leading employees to view rewards as related more to politics than to effort and/or performance (Ferris & Kacmar, 1992; Ferris et al., 1989). However, more direct tests of these proposed relationships regarding uncertainty may be useful. An inspection of the mediated effects of feedback environment on morale suggests the following conclusions. The positive effects of coworker feedback environment on morale are substantially weaker than those of the supervisor feedback environment. However, both effects appear to be mediated through perceptions of politics. Although not measured directly in the current study, our

All component paths significant? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

All relevant Baron and Kenny (1986) criteria met? Yes Yes Yes No Yes

Goodman I statistic 4.30** 2.63**




results are consistent with a theoretical explanation that the favorability of the feedback environment relates to the effectiveness of feedback processes in organizations and that organizations with more effective feedback processes have reduced ambiguity (London, 2003; Steelman et al., 2004). Although the results of our study strongly support politics as a mediator of feedback environment effects on morale, we also suggest the usefulness of further exploration of the psychological mechanisms underlying the effects of the feedback environment on morale. The model also proposed that lower morale may result in employees decreasing the amount of time and effort that they put into their jobs, which prior research has suggested can result in lower levels of task performance and OCBs (Cropanzano et al., 1997; Randall et al., 1999). Indeed, our results are consistent with this prior research and further support the proposed mediational paths from politics and feedback environment to performance. This multidimensional performance construct showed both the proposed negative indirect effect of politics and an unexpected, nonrecursive positive direct effect from performance to politics. One possible explanation for this unexpected finding is that good performers are good, in part, because they recognize the politics inherent in their organization and work proactively within that context. Thus, they report higher levels of politics than do their low performing counterparts.

tics. However, the collection of data from subordinates from different organizations (and thus differing organizational feedback environments) does work to increase the generalizability of the findings. A second limitation is that we have captured a crosssectional snapshot of the relationships among these variables. Although the results are quite strong and consistent, there are certainly other variables beyond the feedback environment that may have as large or potentially a larger effect on perceptions of politics. Furthermore, the post hoc addition of the nonrecursive relationship from performance to politics perceptions especially needs replication. In fact, given our demonstration of potential mediating and nonrecursive effects in a cross-sectional design, the next step is a longitudinal study to strengthen researchers’ ability to make causal inferences. We will leave that for future research and can only conclude from this study that the evidence so far is that feedback environment plays an important part in predicting perceptions of politics.

The current study makes three specific contributions to the literature. First, empirical evidence was found supporting the importance of the feedback environment as an antecedent of perceptions of organizational politics, thus expanding the focus of both the feedback environment and antecedents of politics perceptions. Second, perceptions of organizational politics were both indirectly and directly linked to supervisor ratings of performance. It is important to note that performance was multidimensionally operationalized, using measures of OCBIs, OCBOs, and in-role performance. The results suggest the potential for politics to play a key role in critical organizational outcomes. Finally, employee morale, as indicated by measures of job satisfaction and affective commitment, was identified as a mediator of the relationship between perceptions of politics and performance, thus illuminating the underlying mechanisms relating organizational politics to work behaviors.

Implications, Limitations, and Future Directions
Our results provide an initial demonstration of important relationships among the feedback environment, politics, work attitudes, and behaviors. Our proposed model did not completely capture relationships with the performance variables, although it fit the data well. We modified the model with a nonrecursive path from the performance residual to politics and, thus, future studies should focus on replicating it, including designs that can explore additional potential mediating variables such as measures of subordinate experiences of ambiguity, uncertainty, and expectancies. The additional information provided by including these variables would also help to validate our proposed theoretical explanations in terms of social marketplace and expectancy theories. Our findings suggest organizations may be able to deliberately control ambiguity and thus lower perceptions of politics by creating environments in which employees have access to information regarding which behaviors are acceptable and desired at work. Future studies should explore the feedback environment as the target of organizational interventions. By integrating the feedback environment into coaching and training programs, the organization could create a feedback-oriented culture in which employees are encouraged to actively seek and utilize feedback to improve performance (London, 2003; Steelman et al., 2004). The results of the present study suggest that a by-product of creating a feedbackoriented culture may be to lower employees’ perceptions of politics, improve work attitudes, and raise performance. A limit of the present study was the relatively small sample size (although it was adequate to test model fit and determine significance of the path coefficients). The reliance on a younger sample of subordinates, of modest job tenure, may also place some boundary conditions on the generalizability of the study. Replication using a more varied sample of subordinates would further extend researchers’ knowledge of feedback environment effects on poli-

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(Appendix follows)



Appendix Feedback Environment Scale (FES)
Dimension Source Credibility Supervisor source 1. My supervisor is generally familiar with my performance on the job. 2. In general, I respect my supervisor’s opinions about my job performance. 3. With respect to job performance feedback, I usually do not trust my supervisor. 4. My supervisor is fair when evaluating my job performance. 5. I have confidence in the feedback my supervisor gives me. 1. My supervisor gives me useful feedback about my job performance. 2. The performance feedback I receive from my supervisor is helpful. 3. I value the feedback I receive from my supervisor. 4. The feedback I receive from my supervisor helps me do my job. 5. The performance information I receive from my supervisor is generally not very meaningful. 1. My supervisor is supportive when giving me feedback about my job performance. 2. When my supervisor gives me performance feedback, he or she is considerate of my feelings. 3. My supervisor generally provides feedback in a thoughtless manner. 4. My supervisor does not treat people very well when providing performance feedback. 5. My supervisor is tactful when giving me performance feedback. 1. When I do a good job at work my supervisor praises my performance. 2. I seldom receive praise from my supervisor. 3. My supervisor generally lets me know when I do a good job at work. 4. I frequently receive positive feedback from my supervisor. 1. When I don’t meet deadlines, my supervisor lets me know. 2. My supervisor tells me when my work performance does not meet organizational standards. 3. On those occasions when my job performance falls below what is expected, my supervisor lets me know. 4. On those occasions when I make a mistake at work, my supervisor tells me. 1. My supervisor is usually available when I want performance information. 2. My supervisor is too busy to give me feedback. 3. I have little contact with my supervisor. 4. I interact with my supervisor on a daily basis. 5. The only time I receive performance feedback from my supervisor is during my performance review. 1. My supervisor is often annoyed when I directly ask for performance feedback. 2. When I ask for performance feedback, my supervisor generally does not give me the information right away. 3. I feel comfortable asking my supervisor for feedback about my work performance. 4. My supervisor encourages me to ask for feedback whenever I am uncertain about my job performance. Coworker source 1. My co-workers are generally familiar with my performance on the job. 2. In general, I respect my co-workers’ opinions about my job performance. 3. With respect to job performance feedback, I usually do not trust my co-workers. 4. My co-workers are fair when evaluating my job performance. 5. I have confidence in the feedback my co-workers give me. 1. My co-workers give me useful feedback about my job performance. 2. The performance feedback I receive from my co-workers is helpful. 3. I value the feedback I receive from my co-workers. 4. The feedback I receive from my co-workers helps me do my job. 5. The performance information I receive from my coworkers is generally not very meaningful. 1. My co-workers are supportive when giving me feedback about my job performance. 2. When my co-workers give me performance feedback, they are usually considerate of my feelings. 3. My co-workers generally provide feedback in a thoughtless manner. 4. In general, my co-workers do not treat people very well when providing performance feedback. 5. In general, my co-workers are tactful when giving me performance feedback. 1. When I do a good job at work my co-workers praise my performance. 2. I seldom receive praise from my co-workers. 3. My co-workers generally let me know when I do a good job at work. 4. I frequently receive positive feedback from my co-workers. 1. When I don’t meet deadlines, my co-workers let me know. 2. My co-workers tell me when my work performance does not meet organizational standards. 3. On those occasions when my job performance falls below what is expected, my co-workers let me know. 4. On those occasions when I make a mistake at work, my co-workers tell me. 1. My co-workers are usually available when I want performance information. 2. My co-workers are too busy to give me feedback. 3. I have little contact with my co-workers. 4. I interact with my co-workers on a daily basis. 1. My co-workers are often annoyed when I directly ask them for performance feedback. 2. When I ask for performance feedback, my co-workers generally do not give me the information right away. 3. I feel comfortable asking my co-workers for feedback about my work performance. 4. My co-workers encourage me to ask for feedback whenever I am uncertain about my job performance.

Feedback Quality

Feedback Delivery

Favorable Feedback

Unfavorable Feedback

Feedback Availability

Promotes Feedback Seeking

Note. From “The Feedback Environment Scale (FES): Construct Definition, Measurement and Validation,” by L. A. Steelman, P. E. Levy, and A. F. Snell, 2004, Educational and Psychological Measurement, 64, pp. 165–184. Copyright 2004 by Sage. Reprinted with permission.

Received August 20, 2003 Revision received October 7, 2004 Accepted October 14, 2004