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Psychological Bulletin

1974, Vol. 81, No. 12, 1096-1112


ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE:
A REVIEW OF THEORY AND RESEARCH *
LAWRENCE R. JAMES
2
AND ALLAN P. JONES
Institute of Behavioral Research
Texas Christian University
Previous organizational climate research, definitions, and measurement ap-
proaches are reviewed and differentiated into three categories, namely, a
multiple measurement-organizational attribute approach, a perceptual measure-
ment-organizational attribute approach, and a perceptual measurement-indi-
vidual attribute approach. Similarities and differences between these approaches
are discussed in an attempt to address a number of theoretical and psycho-
metric concerns. A major focus is the extent to which organizational climate
duplicates other organizational and individual domains. Recommendations
are made for future research which include a rationale for differentiating
between organizational climate and psychological or individual climate and an
emphasis upon the distinction between level of measurement and level of
explanation as related to future definitions of climate.
Organizational climate research occupies a
popular position in current industrial and
organizational psychology. However, concep-
tual and operational definitions, measurement
techniques, and ensuing results are highly di-
verse and even contradictory. Such diversity
and contradiction recently prompted Guion
(1973) to conclude that organizational cli-
mate represents a "fuzzy" concept. In fact,
it would appear that the concept is even more
diffuse now than it was when Forehand and
1
Support for this project was provided under
Office of Naval Research Contract N00014-72-A-
0179-0001, Office of Naval Research Project RR042-
08-01 NR170-743, and by the Bureau of Medicine
and Surgery, Department of the Navy, under Re-
search Work Unit SI 524 002-501SDX5F. Opinions
expressed are those of the authors and are not to
be construed as necessarily reflecting the official
view or endorsement of the Department of the
Navy.
Senior authorship was assigned randomly since
thought, work, and writing responsibility were
equally divided. During a portion of the time spent
on preparation of the manuscript, the first author
was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Re-
search Fellow at the Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric
Research Unit, San Diego, California.
The authors wish to thank S. B. Sells, E. K.
Gunderson, William S. Maynard, Robert L. Ellison,
Lee B. Murdy, and Blair McDonald for their help-
ful suggestions and advice.
2
Requests for reprints should be sent to Lawrence
R. James, Institute of Behavioral Research, Texas
Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas 76129.
Gilmer (1964) reviewed the organizational
climate literature approximately 10 years ago.
In an attempt to gain order and direction
from such diversity, this article reviews
the major conceptualizations, definitions, and
measurement approaches regarding organiza-
tional climate, considers the implications of
some of the research, and provides recom-
mendations for future climate research.
The goal of this article is to review the major
theoretical concerns and relevant research re-
lated to organizational climate. Rather than
attempting to present an exhaustive review of
the organizational climate literature, this re-
view focuses on articles which appear to pin-
point most clearly the major theoretical issues
and which deal predominantly with organiza-
tional climate in industrial or business orga-
nizations. Even though the review is focused,
it is felt to be representative of major areas
of concern to researchers in organizational
climate.
The following review is organized in terms
of what initially appeared to be three separate
but not mutually exclusive approaches to
defining and measuring organizational cli-
mate. The authors have designated these ap-
proaches as the "multiple measurement-orga-
nizational attribute approach" which regards
organizational climate exclusively as a set of
organizational attributes or main effects mea-
surable by a variety of methods; the "percep-
1096
ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE
1097
tual measurement-organizational attribute ap-
proach" which views organizational climate
as a set of perceptual variables which are still
seen as organizational main effects; and the
"perceptual measurement-individual attribute
approach" which views organizational climate
as perceptual and as an individual attribute.
Each of these approaches is reviewed, fol-
lowed by conclusions and recommendations
for future research.
MULTIPLE MEASUREMENT-ORGANIZATIONAL
ATTRIBUTE APPROACH
Representative of the multiple measurement-
organizational attribute approach is the defini-
nition of organizational climate as a
set of characteristics that describe an organization
and that (a) distinguish the organization from other
organizations, (6) are relatively enduring over time,
and (c) influence the behavior of people in the orga-
nization [Forehand & Gilmer, 1964, p. 362].
Forehand and Gilmer postulated that the ef-
fect of organizational climate on individual
behavior could be seen in terms of the defini-
tion of stimuli presented to individual mem-
bers, the constraints placed upon the individ-
ual's freedom of choice regarding behavior,
and the reward or punishment process. Di-
mensions of organizational variation which
were included in organizational climate were:
size, structure, systems complexity, leadership
style, and goal directions. Suggested designs
for investigating organizational climate in-
cluded field studies and experimental studies.
Acceptable measurement procedures included
individual perception and objective indices
such as structure. Forehand and Gilmer stated
that the measurement of organizational cli-
mate at the organizational level rests on the
assumption that an internally consistent and
homogeneous set of measurements for orga-
nizational climate exists for at least organiza-
tional subunits and that these measurements
are relatively permanent over time.
The definition of organizational climate
presented by Forehand and Gilmer (1964) is
so encompassing that it is difficult to see how
their description of organizational climate is
other than a rather broad-spectrum approach
to those organizational attributes which other
authors (Hall, Haas, & Johnson, 1967; Pugh,
Hickson, Hinings, & Turner, 1968) have re-
ferred to as components of situational vari-
ance or structure. This concern becomes much
more apparent if one refers to the presenta-
tion of some of those situational variance
components contained in Figure 1. Interrela-
tionships are not specified in this figure since
it is presented within the context of an open
system model (Katz & Kahn, 1966). The
components were derived from numerous at-
tempts to identify important components for
an organizational model or to construct such
an organizational model (Burns & Stalker,
1961; Campbell, Dunnette, Lawler, & Weick,
1970; Hall et al., 1967; House & Rizzo,
1972a; Indik, 1968; James, 1973; Katz &
Kahn, 1966; Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Pugh,
Hickson, Hinings, & Turner, 1969; Sells,
1968).
The major components of situational vari-
ance in an organizational model could include
the organizational context, structure, system
values and norms, process, and physical envi-
ronment as well as the various subsystem
(e.g., department) and subgroup (e.g., work-
group) contexts, structures, system values
and norms, processes, and physical environ-
ments. In this presentation, the components
of the total organization, the subsystem, and
the subgroup were combined for brevity. In
a more complete presentation, the components
and variables within the components would be
viewed as independent variables which addi-
tively interact to produce the dependent mea-
sures or criteria at the individual, group, sub-
system, and organizational levels. Finally, a
full organizational model would also include
the sociocultural environment and individual
characteristics.
The criticism that a definition of organiza-
tional climate focusing on a global inclusion
of organizational characteristics makes no
new contribution to organizational theory
does not apply only to Forehand and Gilmer
(1964). For example, Frederiksen
3
con-
ducted a laboratory experiment on middle
3
N. Frederiksen. Administrative Performance in
Relation to Organizational Climate. Paper presented
at a symposium on "Measuring managerial effective-
ness." American Psychological Association, San
Francisco, September 1968.
1098
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
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ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE 1099
management in which the proposed climate
variables of "closeness of supervision" and
"rules and regulations" were varied. Results
of the study demonstrated that: (a) perform-
ance (e.g., an In-Basket test) was more pre-
dictable for subjects in an innovative climate;
(b) performance was higher for subjects in
consistent climates (e.g., innovation and au-
tonomy or rules and close supervision);
and (c) subjects in different climates used
different methods to solve problems.
A second experimental study (Litwin &
Stringer,' 1968) separated 45 students into
three simulated business firms with different
climates, namely, (a) an authoritarian-
structured business, (b) a democratic-friendly
business, and (c) an achieving business. A re-
search staff member acted as president of
each firm and was responsible for establish-
ing a climate by employing the appropriate
"leadership style." Subjects in the achieving
business had superior performance on busi-
ness games, while subjects in the democratic-
friendly business were more satisfied with
their jobs. Second, the subjects' perceptions
of their experimental climate were in agree-
ment with the actual conditions (Campbell
et al., 1970).
Neither of these efforts appeared to gain by
including the concept of organizational cli-
mate. In the Frederiksen study, both treat-
ment factors are more appropriately and
simply considered under other concepts. The
rules and regulations treatment can be con-
sidered as formalization of structure (exist-
ence of rules) and control process (enforce-
ment of rules), while closeness of supervision
is a leadership process variable. In the Litwin
and Stringer study, the assumed variable
under study was leadership style which again
is a leadership process. Therefore, although
perceptions of the experimental situation
agreed with the actual situation, the inclu-
sion of perception added little but an alter-
native measurement of the experimentally
manipulated situational variables.
From a more general standpoint, studies
which may be included under the multiple
measurement-organizational at t r i but e ap-
proach are determined simply by one's defini-
tion of organizational climate. Using Fore-
hand and Gilmer's broad definition, the fol-
lowing areas of study would be appropriate:
studies of organizational models and taxono-
mies (e.g., Hall et al., 1967; Indik, 1968;
Katz & Kahn, 1966; Sells, 1963, 1968),
organizational context (e.g., Lawrence &
Lorsch, 1967; Pugh et al., 1969; Woodward,
196S), and organizational structure (e.g.,
Porter & Lawler, 1965; Pugh et al., 1968;
Thomas & Fink, 1963). In addition, this
broad definition would encompass system
values and norms (Katz & Kahn, 1966) as
well as studies on the different facets of orga-
nizational and subgroup processes such as
leadership, conflict, reward, communication,
and control. In fact, almost any study focus-
ing on organizational or group characteristics
would be included in the general area of orga-
nizational climate. In this respect, organiza-
tional climate appears synonymous with orga-
nizational situation and seems to offer little
more than a semantically appealing but
"catch-all" term. In a field already replete
with broad, complex, and frequently mis-
understood definitions, the need for yet an-
other sweepingly defined term is questionable.
However, as shown below, there exist sev-
eral other definitions of and approaches to
organizational climate.
PERCEPTUAL MEASUREMENTS
ORGANIZATIONAL ATTRIBUTE
APPROACH
Campbell et al. (1970) identified four gen-
eral categories of the organizational situation,
which are (a) structural properties, (b) en-
vironmental characteristics, (c) organizational
climate, and (d) formal role characteristics.
Organizational climate was defined as:
a set of attributes specific to a particular organiza-
tion that may be induced from the way the orga-
nization deals with its members and its environment.
For the individual member within an organization,
climate takes the form of a set of attitudes and
expectancies which describe the organization in terms
of both static characteristics (such as degree of au-
tonomy) and behavior-outcome and outcome-outcome
contingencies [p. 390].
Of particular interest in the Campbell et al.
(1970) review was that while the authors
stated that the critical elements of organiza-
1100
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
tional climate were individual perceptions of
the organization and that it was these percep-
tions which governed his behavior, climate
itself was viewed as a situational variable or
organizational main effect. In a. later paper,
Campbell and Beaty
4
stressed that organiza-
tional climate was a description of the orga-
nizational situation and as such must contain
a significant portion of the between-group
variance.
Campbell et al. (1970), in a review and
synthesis of four studies (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn,
Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964; Litwin & Stringer,
1968; Schneider & Bartlett, 1968),
5
identi-
fied the following dimensions of organizational
climate and the factors or variables on which
they were based:
1. Individual autonomy based on the fac-
tors of individual responsibility, agent inde-
pendence, rules orientation, and opportunities
for exercising individual initiative.
2. The degree of structure imposed upon
the position based on the factors of struc-
ture, managerial structure, and closeness of
supervision.
3. Reward orientation based on the fac-
tors of reward, general satisfaction, promotion-
achievement orientation, and being profit
minded and sales oriented.
4. Consideration, warmth, and support
based on the factors of managerial support,
nurturance of subordinates, and warmth and
support.
As pointed out by the authors, the similar-
ity of items in the studies and the resulting
few factors probably indicated that the list
of dimensions was still incomplete, with many
factors of organizational climate still to be
determined.
The emphasis on the perceptual nature of
organizational climate raised several questions
which Campbell et al. (1970) considered rele-
vant. A major issue concerned the importance
*J. P. Campbell and E. E. Beaty. Organizational
Climate: Its Measurement and Relationship to Work
Group Performance. Paper presented at the annual
meeting of the American Psychological Association,
Washington, D. C., September 1971.
5
R. Taguiri. Comments on Organizational Cli-
mate. Paper presented at a conference on organiza-
tional climate. Foundation for Research on Human
Behavior, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1966.
of the actual situation versus the perceived
situation in determining behavior and atti-
tudes in organizations. A second question con-
cerned relationships between objective and
perceptual factors, especially in terms of the
determinants and accuracy of such percep-
tions. In an attempt to answer, these ques-
tions, Campbell et al. (1970) postulated that
different levels of situational and individual
variation operated at different levels of expla-
nation. This notion was based on Indik's
(196S) linkage model which stated that the
linkage between an objective, independent
organizational variable (size) and a depen-
dent variable (participation in an organiza-
tion) is mediated by two sets of processes,
namely, the organizational processes related
to size (amount of communication, task
specialization) and the psychological processes
of the members (felt attraction, satisfaction
with performance). Organizational climate
was viewed as a situationally determined psy-
chological process in which organizational
climate variables were considered to be either
causative or moderator factors for perform-
ance and attitudes. The point of moderation
was either between objective situational char-
acteristics or processes and behavior, or be-
tween individual characteristics and behavior.
Campbell and Beaty (see Footnote 4) de-
fined organizational climate as "a summary
variable intended to represent . . . percep-
tual filtering, structuring, and description of
numerous stimuli impinging on him from the
domain we so casually refer to as 'the situa-
tion' [p. 1 ]." Organizational climate was con-
sidered a perceptual measure that described
the organization and was different from atti-
tudinal, evaluative, and need satisfaction vari-
ables. Moreover, perceptions of organiza-
tional climate were thought, as "an article
of faith," to influence the valences attached
to certain outcomes, the instrumentalities for
these outcomes, and expectations for various
strategies to achieve these outcomes. An orga-
nizational climate study of salaried personnel
in a manufacturing plant indicated that (a)
subjects had more finely differentiated percep-
tions of their job climate than of their total
organization's climate, (b) a significant por-
tion of climate variance was attributable to
subunit differences (rather than individual
ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE
1101
differences in perceptions), and (c) climate
perceptions were significantly, but not highly,
related to measures of work group perform-
ance. Seven dimensions of organizational cli-
mate that were common to both overall
organization and the work group were: task
structure, reward/performance relationship,
decision centralization, achievement emphasis,
training and development emphasis, security
versus risk, and openness versus defensiveness.
Pritchard and Karasick (1973) also re-
defined organizational climate based upon a
number of previous definitions (Gellerman,
1959; Georgopoules, 1965; Gilmer, 1966;
Litwin & Stringer, 1968; Taguiri, 1968)
6
:
Organizational climate is a relatively enduring quality
of an organization's internal environment distin-
guishing it from other organizations; (a) which re-
sults from the behavior and policies of members of
organizations, especially top management; (&) which
is perceived by members of the organization; (c)
which serves as a basis for interpreting the situation;
and (d) acts as a source of pressure for directing
activity [p. 126].
Pritchard and Karasick used a portion of
Campbell's organizational climate question-
naire to study the climate perceptions of 76
managers from two organizations. Results
demonstrated that perceptions of organiza-
tional climate were influenced by both the
overall organization and its subunits, that cli-
mate scores correlated with individual satis-
faction and subunit performance (but not
individual performance), and that some di-
mensions of organizational climate moderated
the individual characteristics performance
and satisfaction relationships.
The reviews and studies discussed in this
section have stipulated that organizational cli-
mate should be measured perceptually. How-
ever, while the need for differentiating be-
tween different levels of explanation for a
structural variable such as span of control
and an organizational climate dimension such
as perceived autonomy is somewhat evident,
many of the dimensions cited as organiza-
tional climate are not clearly distinct from
6
H. Meyer. Differences in Organizational Climate
in Outstanding and Average Sales Offices: A Sum-
mary Report. ' Behavioral Research Service and
Public Relations Personnel Service, General Electric
Company, 1967.
other variables which fit into categories such
as organizational structure, process, and sys-
tem values and norms. For example, if one
disregards the constraints of perceptual mea-
surement in the four factors of organizational
climate presented by Campbell et al. (1970),
it would appear that the degree of "individual
autonomy" and the degree of "structure im-
posed upon position" could be measured
equally well by objective variables for formali-
zation, standardization, and specialization of
structure, and by observable measures of
leadership, control, and decision-making proc-
esses. The dimension of "consideration,
warmth, and support" appears to be a func-
tion of leadership and group process which
are also amenable to outside measurement.
The "reward orientation" dimension appears
to be confounded by including both situa-
tional components (organizational promotion-
achievement orientation and being profit- or
sales-minded) measurable by procedures other
than perception and measures such as satis-
faction, typically viewed as individual not
situational properties.
The same general criticism could be applied
to the Campbell and Beaty (see Footnote 4)
and Pritchard and Karasick (1973) studies.
Dimensions such as "task structure," "deci-
sion centralization," and "training develop-
ment emphasis" have obvious corollaries on
the objective side of measurement. Dimen-
sions such as "achievement emphasis," "secu-
rity versus risk," and "openness versus defen-
siveness" also appear to be amenable to both
objective and observational measurement. A
factor such as "perceived reward/performance
relationships" is questionable as an organiza-
tional attribute because it refers directly to
expectancy theory in motivation and thus is
attitudinal rather than situational.
Observations such as the above led Guion
(1973) to conclude that the stipulation of
perceptual measurement of organizational cli-
mate appeared to be "more a function of
methodological convenience than a deliberate
intention to move to a new construct . . .
[p. 121]." However, although the terminol-
ogy and definitions of the perceptual measure-
ment-organizational attribute approach have
emphasized organizational climate as an
organizational attribute and situational des-
1102
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
cription, in each case organizational climate
has also been considered as something above
and beyond a measurement of the organiza-
tional situation. Campbell et al. regarded
organizational climate at the individual level
as including individual differences in percep-
tions and attitudes; Campbell and Beaty re-
garded it as a perceptual filtering; and
Pritchard and Karasick described it as a set
of organizational expectations.
The additions above to a purely descriptive
measurement of the organizational situation
demonstrated the emphasis placed on the
"psychological process" in the linkage model
(Indik, 1965) described earlier. Additions
such as these prompted Guion (1973) to con-
clude that climate researchers were confused
as to whether climate was an organizational
attribute or an individual attribute. If con-
sidered an organizational attribute but mea-
sured perceptually, then Guion concluded that
the accuracy of perception should be vali-
dated against objective, external measures of
the situation or at least validated against
consensus of perceptions.
In other words, if a situational variable is
to be used to describe climate and the vari-
able may be measured objectively as well as
perceptually; the use of an accumulated mea-
sure of individual perceptions (e.g., mean,
mode, etc. of the group) may be validated
by demonstrating a substantial relationship
between the objective and perceptual mea-
sures of that variable (i.e., accuracy of per-
ception). On the other hand, for situational
variables which are more amenable to subjec-
tive measurement, a demonstration of small
within-group variance (e.g., consensus of per-
ception) has been used to validate the use
of accumulated perception as a measure of
that variable. It should be noted that al-
though accuracy would imply consensus, the
obverse is not necessarily true since individ-
uals may share inaccurate perceptions of the
situation. However, the extent to which the
individual's perceptions (whether accurate or
inaccurate) are shared and supported by
others in the organization has been shown to
be an important situational influence (Blau,
1960; Davis, Spaeth, & Huson, 1961). There
is also considerable evidence that the individ-
ual tests the accuracy of his own perception
against the perceptions of others in the same
situation (Asch, 1958; Kelley & Thibaut,
1969; Shaw, 1971). For example, the situa-
tional influence on individual behavior and
performance may be somewhat different when
there is group consensus than when there is a
diversity of perception by others. In the latter
case, the individual is more likely to rely
upon himself for validation than to conform
to the group perceptions. However, a demon-
stration of consensus of perception should not
negate a concern for accuracy since objec-
tive measures of organizational attributes are
needed to determine the accuracy of percep-
tion, the antecedents of perception, and rela-
tionships between accuracy and future states
of behavior (Guion, 1973).
The above are, of course, empirical prob-
lems but would indicate the need to consider
relationships between perception and the ob-
jective situation as well as the appropriateness
of perceptual information to describe an or-
ganizational attribute. Perception has been
defined as "the meaningful interpretation of
sensations as representatives of external ob-
jects. . . . Perceptions are the sole internal
representatives of external objects the mind's
reflection of matter [Cohen, 1969, p. 6]."
However, perceptual responses may be af-
fected by such processes as: (a) selectivity of
stimuli, (b) organization of stimulus patterns,
(c) frequency of previous experience with
stimulus patterns and responses, (d) rein-
forcement history, (e) conditions prevalent at
the moments of perception, and (/) indicators
or measurement procedures of perception
(Secord & Backman, 1964). Thus, percep-
tion is an internal representation of external
objects and is subject to influence by several
individual differences.
It is interesting, also, to compare percep-
tion to attitude. Campbell and Beaty (see
Footnote 4) described attitude as an "affec-
tive evaluation of some object" (e.g., Money is
evil.), while perceived organizational climate
was defined as a "description of the current
organizational state vis-a-vis some facet of the
situation" (e.g., The general level of finan-
cial rewards in this organization is about the
same as for similar organizations.). Job satis-
faction was differentiated from both of the
above and was described as a "comparison of
ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE 1103
the degree of attainment of some job outcome
with the individual's need for it" (e.g., My
salary is inadequate.). Schneider
7
also dif-
ferentiated between organizational climate and
job satisfaction, seeing organizational climate
as the beliefs people hold about an organiza-
tion, while job satisfaction was conceived of
as an evaluative reaction to the organization
(e.g., satisfied/not satisfied, good/bad, just/
unjust) based upon an interaction between
the job environment and personal needs and
values. Unfortunately, the distinctions above
between organizational climate, attitudes, and
job satisfaction (often viewed as a job atti-
tude) are based on a somewhat questionable
static model. For example, current attitudinal
theory seems to agree upon a three-com-
ponent model (Fishbein, 1967; Katz, 1960;
Rosenberg & Abelson, 1960) including: (a)
a cognitive component or a person's beliefs or
disbeliefs about the properties of an object;
(b) an affective component which concerns
like/dislike, good/bad, etc., and that is capa-
ble of arousing affect; and (c) a behavioral
component because the attitude represents a
predisposition to respond in a particular way
toward a specified set of objects. It is possi-
ble for a belief, or perception, to exist with-
out the remaining two components of atti-
tudes (Rokeach, 1968); however, it is more
commonly assumed that beliefs are related to
at least affect (Johannesson, 1973; Robinson,
Athanasiou, & Head, 1969). Thus, a dynamic
model involving feedback from experiences,
rewards, etc., points out that perceptions are
affected by individual differences including,
but not limited to, the affective components
of attitudes.
Returning to the perceptual definition of
organizational climate, it would seem that the
reliance on perceptual measurement may be
interpreted as meaning that organizational
climate includes not only descriptions of situ-
ational characteristics, but also individual
differences in perception and attitudes. This is
somewhat confusing if one wishes to employ
organizational climate as an organizational
attribute or main effect, since the use of per-
ceptual measurement introduces variance
which is a function of differences between
individuals and is not necessarily descriptive
of organizations or situations. Therefore, the
accuracy and/or consensus of perception must
be verified if accumulated perceptual organi-
zational climate measures are used to describe
organizational attributes (Guion, 1973).
Johannesson (1973) recently addressed the
question of accuracy and/or consensus of per-
ception when he investigated relationships
between perceptually measured organizational
climate and variables from the job attitude
literature. This author examined the relation-
ships between organizational climate cluster
scores and cluster scores based upon the SRA
(Science Research Associates) Employee In-
ventory and the Job Description Index
(Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969). It was as-
sumed that the organizational climate clusters
would be related to the job attitude clusters
because of similarities in items and measure-
ment and because of the dynamic relationship
between perceptions and attitudes discussed
previously. Results of the study demonstrated
that "by and large, organizational climate as
measured in this study failed to add new or
different variance to commonly identified sat-
isfaction factors [p. 141]."
The relationships between perceived or-
ganizational climate and job attitudes found
by Johannesson have been seen as indicating
that perceived organizational climate is more
a function of individual attributes than of
organizational attributes (Guion, 1973). How-
ever, it may also be the case that both per-
ceived organizational climate and job atti-
tudes covary because of similar differences in
situations, and that ascertaining only the
relationships between organizational climate
and job attitudes may lead to erroneous con-
clusions. For example, James and Hornick
8
demonstrated that perceived organizational
climate was significantly related to objective
7
B. Schneider. The Perceived Environment: Orga-
nizational Climate. Paper presented at a symposium
on "Redefining organizations by means of multi-
variate techniques." Midwestern Psychological Asso-
ciation, Chicago, May 1973.
8
L. R. James & C. W. Hornick. An Analysis of
Criteria, Situational Data, Organizational Climate
and Individual Characteristics: Results of a Pilot
Study. Paper presented at a symposium on "Orga-
nizational analysis: Models, methods and criteria."
American Psychological Association, Montreal, August
1973.
1104
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
situational measures (organizational size mea-
sures and job type), individual characteristic
measures (education, socioeconomic status,
intelligence, race, and time in service), and
job attitude measures including significant
multiple correlations with the Job Descrip-
tion Index. Jones,
9
using the same data,
demonstrated significant differences in organi-
zational climate between organizations (e.g.,
ships). Campbell and Beaty (see Footnote 4)
also demonstrated differences in perceived
organizational climate across subunits.
Finally, Herman and Hulin (1972) demon-
strated that differences in job attitude mea-
sures (satisfaction and some perceived envi-
ronment items) were more highly accounted
for by organizational structural groupings
than by individual characteristics, although
the number of individual characteristic varia-
bles was quite limited (e.g., age, tenure, and
education). These studies demonstrated that
the degree to which perceived climate is based
upon individual differences in job attitudes
(or vice versa) rather than differences in sit-
uations requires additional empirical valida-
tion of the accuracy and/or consensus or the
organizational climate data.
The uniqueness of the variables and/or
constructs underlying perceived organizational
climate has been questioned from another
standpoint. House and Rizzo (1972b) com-
pared 19 Organization Description Question-
naire climate scores with two role theory
scores (role ambiguity and role conflict), a
satisfaction score, and five leadership scores
(initiating structure, tolerance of freedom,
consideration, production emphasis, and pre-
dictive accuracy). Using an adaptation of the
multitrait-multimethod matrix (Campbell &
Fiske, 1959), these authors concluded that
many Organization Description Questionnaire
climate scores measured the same constructs
as the role, satisfaction, and leadership scores.
To summarize, the review of the percep-
tual measurement-organizational attribute ap-
proach has raised a number of conceptual and
9
A. P. Jones. Functioning of Organizational Units
Related to Differences in Perceived Climate and
HabitabiKty. Paper presented at a symposium on
"Organizational analysis: Models, methods and cri-
teria." American Psychological Association, Montreal,
August 1973.
empirical points. First, if perceived organiza-
tional climate is to be used to measure an
organizational attribute, the accuracy of the
perception should be considered. The question
of accuracy would appear to require multiple
sources of situational measurement for valida-
tion purposes. Moreover, the question of con-
sensus or agreement among perceivers is also
major. The requirement for purely perceptual
measurement does not permit a differentiation
between such diverse but importantly differ-
ent situations as: (a) inconsistent or capri-
cious leader behavior, (b) leader behavior
adapted to individual needs, (c) differences in
perception caused by perceivers having differ-
ent opportunities to observe leader behavior,
(d) differences in perception related only to
individual characteristics, and (e) instrument
error. Thus, it must again be stated that dif-
ferent sources of measurement of organiza-
tional climate are needed, thereby appearing
to negate the requirement or stipulation for
purely perceptual measurement.
A recommendation for dropping the stipu-
lation of perceptual measurement of organi-
zational climate has support from several
other standpoints. The authors reviewed in
this section regarded perceived organizational
climate as a psychological process intervening
between organizational processes and depen-
dent variables, and operating at a level of ex-
planation different from organizational proc-
esses such as "task specialization" or "amount
of communication," or such situational com-
ponents as organizational structure and "for-
mal role characteristics" (Campbell et al.,
1970). This conceptualization is rejected for
two reasons. First, as already discussed, there
is both rational and empirical evidence to
demonstrate that much of what is being mea-
sured by questions regarding perception are
variables related to different levels of expla-
nation such as the organizational, subsystem,
or group context (e.g., goals), certain aspects
of structure (e.g., formalization), system
values and norms (e.g., impersonality), proc-
ess (e.g., leadership), and role characteristics.
Within similar situations, individual differ-
ences in perceptions (e.g., lack of consensus)
regarding these variables would appear to rep-
resent not climate but other sources of vari-
ance which may not be situational in nature.
ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE 1105
Second, if organizational climate is seen as
encompassing some situational variables such
as leadership, autonomy, and formalization,
but not other situational variables such as
size, shape, and span of control, the criterion
for differentiation is not at all clear. Level of
explanation is not a viable criterion because
measures such as formalization are organiza-
tional in the same sense as size, shape, and
so on (Pugh et al., 1968).
Of additional concern is the possibility that
the perceptual measurement-organizational
attribute approach may inherently include a
logical inconsistency. On one hand it proposes
to measure organizational attributes which
have been shown to vary across levels of ex-
planation (e.g., total organization, subsystem
and group; or from a related standpoint,
causal and process variables), while on the
other hand it is considered a psychological
process which operates at a level of explana-
tion separate from objective organizational
characteristics and organizational processes.
This seems to confound stimulus properties
with response properties. Organizational at-
tributes represent stimulus conditions (Fore-
hand & Gilmer, 1964), while perceptually
measured organizational climate represents a
set of responses to the organizational char-
acteristics and processes. The psychological
process level of explanation places emphasis
on the characteristics of responses, namely
individual differences which may or may not
be congruent with stimulus conditions. Thus,
it appears inconsistent to require the same
set of organizational climate data to be ac-
curate measures of organizational stimuli and
simultaneously to be representative of the
response-oriented psychological process level
of explanation.
PERCEPTUAL MEASUREMENT
INDIVIDUAL ATTRIBUTE APPROACH
Many of the features identifying this third
approach to climate were presented in a series
of articles by Schneider and his associates
(Schneider, 1972, 1973; Schneider & Bartlett,
1968, 1970; Schneider & Hall, 1972).
Schneider and Hall (1972) described organi-
zational climate as a set of summary or global
perceptions held by individuals about their
organizational environment. These summary
perceptions reflected an interaction between
personal and organizational characteristics, in
which the individual by forming climate per-
ceptions, "acts as an information processor,
using inputs from (a) the objective events in
and characteristics of the organization and
(b) characteristics (e.g., values, needs) of
the perceiver [p. 447]." Climate took the
"form of situation specific values" which
reflected "those aspects of the situation
to which individuals attach importance
[Schneider, 1973, p. 248]." The value or im-
portance of organizational characteristics was
reflected by the selected events perceived and
the climate perceptions formed from such per-
ceived events. Thus, organizational climate
was viewed as a summary evaluation of
events based upon the interaction between
actual events and the perception of those
events. In a later paper, Schneider (see Foot-
note 7) described climate perceptions as the
results of a process of concept formation, not
unlike instrumentality perceptions, based upon
macro-observations of the organization.
Climate was further conceptualized as an
"intervening variable" because it was caused
by discrete experiences (both organizational
and individual) and in turn caused later be-
haviors. Because of its intervening and per-
ceptual nature, organizational climate was
regarded as neither an independent variable
subject to manipulation nor an outcome cri-
terion. Second, and of major importance, or-
ganizational climate was seen as an individual
attribute. For example:
The concept of climate in the present research must
be described as personalistic; climate is an individual
perception. There was no attempt to restrict the
climate definition to perceptions shared by members
of a workgroup or organization. As stated elsewhere
[Schneider & Bartlett, 1970], "what is psychologi-
cally important to the individual must be how he
perceives his work environment, not how others
might choose to describe it [p. 510] [Schneider,
1973, p. 254]".
Schneider stated further (1973) that the
data collected should be appropriate for the
level of explanation and that shared percep-
tions of climate may be important for pre-
dicting the behavior of many individuals.
Such a conceptualization of organizational
climate bears many similarities to that pro^
1106
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
vided in the previous approach. In both
schools of thought, organizational climate is
seen as a summary perception or intervening
variable based upon the interaction between
the individual and the environment and is
very similar to the Indik (1965) or Campbell
et al. (1970) concept of psychological proc-
ess. The major point of differentiation be-
tween the two schools, however, is the present
approach's focus on organizational climate as
an individual rather than an organizational
attribute. This is partly a function both of
the level of explanation employed (e.g., pre-
dicting individual behavior) and of the focus
of measurement.
Schneider and Bartlett (1968, 1970) con-
structed the Agency Climate Questionnaire
for assessing the organizational climate in life
insurance agencies. Factor analysis of 80 ques-
tionnaire items provided the following six
factors: managerial support, managerial struc-
ture, concern for new employees, intra-agency
conflict, agent independence, and general sat-
isfaction. Results of analyses on 228 agencies
from two companies demonstrated a lack of
agreement on agency climate among employees
in different hierarchical levels in the agencies
(e.g., manager, assistant manager, and
agents). A later study (Schneider, 1972) dem-
onstrated that new agent expectations of
agency climate had low but significant corre-
lations with the climate described by different
levels of agency personnel, while new agent
preferences for climate were not significantly
related to the agency climate as described by
different levels of personnel. Schneider and
Hall (1972), in a study of the relationships
between job climate, specific work activities,
and perceived importance of work activities
for Roman Catholic diocesan priests, found
that perceptions of work climate were signifi-
cantly related to reported task activities al-
though not necessarily to the importance of
the task activities. The relationships between
work climate and task activities were mod-
erated by position. The authors concluded
that climate represented a "summary evalu-
ation" based on specific job behaviors. Fi-
nally, Schneider (1973) investigated how
customer perceptions of bank climate influ-
enced customer behavior (switching accounts
to another bank). Climate was again visual-
ized as a summary variable, intervening be-
tween perceptions of "specific service-related
events" and account switching. Results dem-
onstrated that the two items representing
summary perceptions (e.g., atmosphere is
warm and friendly, employees bend over back-
wards) were more highly related to switch
"intentions" than were perceptions of specific
service-related events (e.g., tellers do not help
each other, high caliber people, employees
seem happy, employees treat all as equals).
Second, the perceptions of specific events
were more highly related to climate than to
switch intentions. Schneider (1972, p. 251)
interpreted these results as providing "tenta-
tive support for the hypothesis that sum-
mary perceptions may be based on more spe-
cific perceptions and that customer behavior
may be based more on summary perceptions
than on less abstract perceptions."
Friedlander and Margulis (1969), employ-
ing reasoning similar to Schneider, viewed the
relationships between situational variables
and individual variables as dependent on the
intervening variables of perceived organiza-
tional climate. However, an important de-
parture from Schneider was the theoretical
differentiation of organizational climate as a
situational variable that exists and is assumed
to affect the individual versus perceived or-
ganizational climate, which is a function of
individual characteristics as well as situational
characteristics. These authors used an adapta-
tion of the Organizational Climate Descrip-
tion Questionnaire (Halpin, 1966; Halpin &
Croft, 1963) to measure perceived organiza-
tional climate. The adapted questionnaire con-
sisted of 64 descriptive statements comprising
eight dimensions. Four of the dimensions
described member behaviors (disengagement,
hindrance, esprit, and intimacy) while the
other four described leadership behaviors
(aloofness, production emphasis, thrust, and
consideration). Results demonstrated that dif-
ferent sets of organizational climate compo-
nents were related to different aspects of
satisfaction, although such relationships were
moderated by the work values held by the
employees. A later study (Friedlander &
Greenberg, 1971) found that perceived or-
ganizational climate measures of supportive-
ness (new worker treatment, support from
ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE
1107
peers, and support from supervisors) corre-
lated significantly with work effectiveness and
behavior for a sample of the hard-core unem-
ployed.
The review above of the perceptual mea-
surement-individual attribute approach is not
exhaustive, but appears sufficiently represent-
ative of the approach to serve as a basis for
the following critique. Although this school
of thought assumes that situational and indi-
vidual characteristics interact to produce a
third set of perceptual, intervening variables,
such an assumption does not mean that per-
ceived climate is different from an individual
attribute. Rather, the intervening variables
are individual attributes which provide a
bridge between the situation and behavior.
The point is that the interaction, intervention,
and perception, while perhaps distinct in a
conceptual model, take place in the individual
and therefore are individual attributes. This
is clearly -seen both in Schneider's description
of organizational climate perception as a
process of concept formation and in the pre-
vious discussion on the dynamic relationships
between perception and attitudes. Accuracy
and/or consensus are not a question when
climate is treated as an individual attribute
because it is the individual's perceptions that
are important, not the objective situation
(Guion, 1973).
Many of the criticisms of organizational
climate as a perceived organizational attri-
bute are equally appropriate for climate as a
perceived individual attribute. The House
and Rizzo (1972b) demonstration that many
organizational climate dimensions measure the
same constructs as well-known role and lead-
ership factors is an example. Schneider's
(1972) factors for managerial support and
managerial structure are leadership factors,
as are four of the organizational climate mea-
sures in the Friedlander and Margulis (1969)
study and at least one of the organizational
climate measures in the Friedlander and
Greenberg (1971) study. Moreover, Schneider
and Hall's (1972) work or job challenge fac-
tor was certainly not new to the organiza-
tional literature. It may also be the case that
some of the organizational climate measures
could be measured objectively (e.g., agent
independence), although the relationships be-
tween the objective situation and the per-
ceived situation were not investigated in the
studies above. Investigations of relationships
between objective situational measures and
perceived organizational climate would be a
beneficial and a necessary addition to such
studies since a major assumption made by the
individual attribute theorists is that the per-
ceived situation is more important than the
objective situation in determining individual
behaviors. This may not always be the case.
For example, Hackman and Lawler (1971)
found that perceptions of job characteristics
were largely determined by objective job char-
acteristics. In any event, the nature of the
interaction between the objective situation
and the perceived situation needs a substan-
tial amount of clarification.
The perceptual measurement-individual at-
tribute approach to organizational climate has
been forcefully criticized by Johannesson
(1973), who concluded that "assessing cli-
mate via perceptual self-report measures may
result in the replication of the work attitude
literature [p. 1181" and by Guion (1973),
who stated that the conceptualization of or-
ganizational climate as an individual attribute
amounted to a "rediscovery of the wheel."
This should not be construed to mean that
the idea of perceptual intervening variables is
in question, but rather that the perceived
intervening variables have already been iden-
tified and a new term such as climate is not
needed. However, as noted previously job
satisfaction and perceived climate may be
dynamically related and still provide some-
what different sources of related information;
for example, climate provides descriptive in-
formation, often contaminated by satisfaction,
while satisfaction provides actual evaluations
and reactions.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Three approaches to conceptualizing and
measuring organizational climate have been
reviewed. These approaches are: (a) the mul-
tiple measurement-organizational attribute ap-
proach, () the perceptual measurement-
organizational attribute approach, and (c) the
perceptual measurement-individual attribute
approach. With respect to these approaches,
1108
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
a major concern is that many climate re-
searchers appear to be more concerned with
measurement techniques than with under-
standing and explicating the underlying con-
cepts or constructs they were attempting to
measure. Only after the conceptual bound-
aries of organizational climate are spelled out
should the measurement and operationaliza-
tion become matters of major concern. In
other words, the definition should guide mea-
surement rather than available tools and psy-
chometric limitations serving to delimit the
definition. As was made apparent by the
previous review, organizational climate re-
searchers have adopted the latter approach
far more frequently than the former.
As a first step in reconceptualization, it is
recommended that a differentiation be made
between climate regarded as an organizational
attribute and climate regarded as an individual
attribute. When regarded as an organizational
attribute, the term organizational climate ap-
pears appropriate. When regarded as an indi-
vidual attribute, it is recommended that a
new designation such as "psychological cli-
mate" be employed. With respect to the three
approaches, the term organizational climate
would include the multiple measurement-or-
ganizational attribute approach under which
the perceptual measurement-organizational
attribute approach would be subsumed since
it was recommended that the stipulation of
only perceptual measurement be dropped. The
term psychological climate would be applied
to the perceptual measurement-individual at-
tribute approach. The term psychological cli-
mate was selected because of the emphasis
placed on the intervening psychological proc-
esses in the individual attribute approach.
A major advantage to differentiating be-
tween organizational climate and psychologi-
cal climate is the additional clarity permitted
in both the definition and measurement of
climate. This does not detract, however, from
the fact that both organizational climate and
psychological climate are subject to serious
theoretical and methodological questions. The
remainder of this article focuses upon these
questions and upon recommendations for
future conceptualizations and research. Ques-
tions and recommendations are presented
separately for organizational climate and
psychological climate.
With respect to organizational climate, the
present authors feel that a definitive concep-
tual statement of the nature of organizational
climate is not possible at the current stage
of research. One of the strongest recommenda-
tions made by the present authors is that
considerable energy be directed toward the
systematic and thoughtful investigation of
conceptual bounds of organizational climate,
so that researchers may ascertain the specific
variables, dimensions, and constructs to be in-
cluded in the organizational climate domain
and, more importantly, the ways such dimen-
sions supersede or differ from other variables,
dimensions, and constructs previously used to
study situational characteristics. It is recom-
mended that psychologists abandon the naive
and seemingly empty dichotomies of "organi-
zational structure versus organizational cli-
mate" and attempt to develop realistic and
integrative models of organizations. .Some in-
sight into potential roads of development of
such models was provided by the Indik
(1968) or Sells (1963) typologies of organi-
zations which separated situational variables
into a number of domains or components and
addressed several levels of explanation.
Of additional concern is the use of percep-
tual measurement of organizational climate.
As pointed out earlier, if perceptual measure-
ment is to be used, variance in scores must be
shown to be related to differences in situa-
tions rather than differences in individuals.
The distinction may be difficult to interpret in
real situations, however, since in any group
or organization there are likely to be differ-
ences between individuals in terms of the ac-
tual situation in which their role places them
and therefore differences in their perceptions
of climate. Moreover, there is a great proba-
bility that the fact of consensus or diversity
of perception among the members of an or-
ganization is itself a potential situational in-
fluence capable of altering the climate ex-
perienced by the individual. Therefore, it is
recommended that considerable attention be
directed to the development of objective mea-
sures of organizational climate variables. If
perceived measures are to be used as organi-
ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE
1109
zational attributes, then it is strongly sug-
gested that the accuracy of perceptions of
organizational climate be ascertained by de-
termining their relationships to objective mea-
sures, so that variance attributed to individual
differences in perception can be separated
from variance attributed to the particular
role, task, or situation in which the individual
resides.
In sum, organizational climate appears to
have been used primarily as a global concept
or summary category which tends to be tauto-
logical in that it duplicates other situational
characteristics generally considered as con-
text, structure, process, and so forth. Second,
perceptual forms of measurement may also be
tautological with individual differences mea-
sures. Thus, in most usages organizational
climate would neither deserve a separate com-
ponent in an organizational model nor qualify
as a construct because even the rudiments of
a nomological net are unidentified. On the
other hand, there would appear to be other
types of situational influences which might be
appropriately considered organizational cli-
mate and which may go beyond known situ-
ational characteristics. One example of this
type of variable is the role of consensus of
perceptions of the environment and the influ-
ence of consensus or lack of it upon behavior.
Another example might be variables or di-
mensions which represent a separate state of
events stemming from interactions between
known situational characteristics but which
go beyond a summary or composite measure-
ment of these characteristics. Examples might
include organizational pressure on groups or
individuals or friendliness and warmth of the
group environment. All of the examples above
are amenable to multiple forms of measure-
ment. Presently, however, the nature and role
of such situational and potential climate varia-
bles remain to be discovered.
Many of the questions above and recom-
mendations also apply to psychological cli-
mate. However, psychological climate appears
to provide a step toward the formulation of
specific theoretical statements regarding the
nature of the intervening psychological proc-
ess between the organizational situation and
the attitudes and behavior of individual mem-
bers of the organization. It is expected that
many of the variables related to psychological
climate would be similar to organizational
climate variables, although there would prob-
ably be several differences in the operationali-
zation of such variables depending upon the
level of explanation (e.g., organization, sub-
group or subsystem, and individual). As with
organizational climate, the question must be
asked whether psychological climate is a
truly explanatory construct or merely a global
concept used for categorical purposes. First,
something resembling psychological climate
does appear to deserve a separate component
in an organizational model in order to en-
compass the concepts of psychological proc-
ess (Indik, 196S) or intervening variables
(Friedlander & Margulis, 1969; Schneider,
1972, 1973). Whether this intervening proc-
ess is designated psychological climate, job
attitude, job satisfaction, etc., is still open to
question. On the other hand, no attempts
have been made to develop a nomological net
for psychological climate and therefore this
term does not as yet justify the use of the
term construct or family of constructs.
Research related to psychological climate
needs to address a number of issues of which
two appear paramount. The first of these
requires a systematic investigation of rela-
tionships between psychological climate and
organizational climate, in which at least some
organizational climate variables are measured
nonperceptually. Such investigation would
greatly enhance efforts toward an empirical
isolation of variables which vary more as a
function of individual attributes than organi-
zational attributes. In other words, attention
must be paid to determining the interaction
between conditions of the organization and
various individual characteristics which lead
to a particular perceived or psychological cli-
mate. Second, the distinction between organi-
zational climate and psychological climate
permits the assessment of the differential im-
portance of these two sets of variables in
predicting both individual attitudes and be-
haviors and performance on an organizational
or group level. The second issue which psy-
chological climate research needs to address
concerns the relationship or differentiation
1110
LAWRENCE R. JAMES AND ALLAN P. JONES
between psychological climate and known job
attitude variables. Although it appears possi-
ble to distinguish conceptually between cogni-
tive or perceptual domains and satisfaction or
affective domains, the actual extent of co-
variance between these two domains within
and across organizational settings requires
further empirical research. In particular, re-
search designed to investigate the relationships
between psychological climate (or organiza-
tional climate) and job attitudes (e.g., Jo-
hannesson, 1973) needs the additional clari-
fication provided by including objective sit-
uational measures in the design,
In summary, the following recommenda-
tions have been proposed for future climate
research:
1. Theoretical and conceptual issues should
serve to guide measurement and not be de-
nned in terms of specific measurement tech-
niques.
2. Organizational climate should be differ-
entiated from psychological climate. Organi-
zational climate refers to organizational at-
tributes, main effects, or stimuli, while
psychological climate refers to individual
attributes, namely the intervening psycho-
logical process whereby the individual trans-
lates the interaction between perceived or-
ganizational attributes and individual char-
acteristics into a set of expectancies, attitudes,
behaviors, etc.
3. With respect to organizational climate,
the following recommendations appear needed:
(a) to determine the conceptual bounds,
variables, and dimensions relevant to the
organizational climate domain; (b) to inves-
tigate the relationships between multiple
sources of measurement of organizational cli-
mate variables, both objective and subjective;
(c) to determine the accuracy of perceptual
organizational climate measurements with
respect to objective organizational climate
variables; (d) to ascertain the role of con-
sensus versus diversity of perception as a
situational influence; (e) to develop realistic
organizational models for organizational analy-
sis and to determine the position of organiza-
tional climate in such models; (/) to ascertain
appropriate levels of explanation for each
level of analysis for the data (e.g., can per-
ceptual measures be accumulated to represent
group, subsystem, or organizational levels of
explanation); (g) to investigate relationships
between measures of organizational climate
and both individual behavior and attitudes
and organizational performance.
4. With respect to psychological climate,
the following recommendations appear
needed: (a) to determine the conceptual
bounds, variables, and dimensions relevant to
the psychological climate domain; (b) to
investigate the relationships between psycho-
logical climate and organizational climate,
particularly perceptually measured organiza-
tional climate; (c) to investigate more fully
the relationships between psychological cli-
mate and job attitude variables where dif-
ferences in situational contexts are taken into
account; (d) to ascertain whether the concept
of an intervening psychological process is
meaningful in more sophisticated organiza-
tional models; (e) to investigate the role of
psychological climate as both a predictor of
individual behaviors and attitudes and a
moderator of the relationship between the
situation and individual behaviors and atti-
tudes.
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(Received January 31, 1974)