The article review presents a summary ad critical review of the article Perceived Organizational Support: Reducing the Negative Influence of Coworker Withdrawal Behavior by Paul Eder and Robert Eisenberger published in the Journal of Management in 2008. The article discusses the withdrawal from work behavior of employees at the workplace.
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This behavior is costly to the organizations that look for ways and means to reduce such behaviors. The symptoms of such behavior evident in workplaces are absenteeism, taking long breaks, coming to work late, etc.
The article by Eder and Eisenberger conducts two studies to understand the relationship between a high degree of perceived organization support (POS) by the employees to workgroup relation and individual tardiness, and effect of POS in reducing the relation between working teams and withdrawal behavior of an individual employee.
The introduction of the article discusses and develops the argument for POS of employees and its positive effect on employee behavior. The researchers’ points out that employee usually has a general belief regarding the value that the organizations give them for their work and contribution.
They, with reference to previous research, indicate that employees with a high level of POS have a more favorable outlook towards their job and are more dedicated to work. They use the support of the organizational support theory that posits that the employees develop POS to meet their socioemotional needs. According to this theory, there is a positive relation between employees’ organizational outcomes.
Therefore, when POS is high employees are believed to increase attendance of employees, punctuality, and positive output. The introduction also discussed previous works on negative relationship between POS and withdrawal behavior. Given this background of the POS and its positive relation with employment outcome and negative impact on employee withdrawal behavior, the researchers stated the purpose of the paper.
The aim of the paper is clearly stated to “investigate the possibility that POS may have an especially strong influence when employees are members of workgroups that engage in high levels of withdrawal behavior, allowing the individual employee’s own high level of withdrawal behavior to go unnoticed”.
The main reason for such withdrawal behavior is thought to be social loafing. In other words, they argue that whatever the reason for withdrawal, employees engaged in a group tends to withdraw from work when they observe other group members withdrawing from work.
Then the research article subdivides into two subcategories – effect of working groups on individual employee withdrawal behavior and the effect of POS on withdrawal behavior of employees. These two sections provide the literature review related to the respective subjects and posits the hypothesis for the study.
The first section of the literature review presented previous researches dealing with the effect of workgroups on employees’ withdrawal behavior. The review of the literature presented reports of earlier researches and the conclusions that had been drawn from them. The researcher uses 10 to 12 scholarly researches on working behavior withdrawal studies in employees from a period from 1950 to 2004.
Most of the literature reviewed belonged to the 1990s and 2000s. The articles review presents the methodology and aim of the previous researches and their outcomes.
The review of the literature shows that previous literature does point out at the strong influence of workgroup on individual employee behavior and her withdrawal behavior. However, previous research also shows that even due to prevalent influence of the workgroup on employee behavior, some employees resist the temptation of withdrawal behavior and work loafing.
Given the literature review, the researchers suggest, “resistance may be due in part to employees’ reciprocal exchange relationships with their organization” . In other words, individuals will consider their relation and rewards gained from the organization in deciding upon their work withdrawal behavior when in a workgroup.
The next section of the literature review is based on POS and workgroup influence. The researchers believe that even for employees with high POS may show negative behavior when in presence of a workgroup. POS indicates the positive impact of the organization’s behavior towards its employees. This is considered to be a “valued resource” as it affects the employees’ perception of her work, work environment, and organization.
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Therefore, the authors utilize the “reciprocity norm” that makes the employees return the same kind of behavior towards the organization, which is done using 4 references ranging from 1982 to 2001.
From a previous, study of Eisenberg et al. (2001, cited in Eder and Eisenberger 57) the researchers point out the following: “meeting the obligations to one’s organization incurred by the norm of reciprocity serves three functions: (a) one maintains positive self-image, (b) one avoids violating the reciprocity norm, and (c) one continues to benefit from favorable organizational treatment.” (57)
This indicates that when the organization shows a positive response towards the employees for their work, the employees in return should reciprocate with a positive response. From this arguemnt the researchers drew the hypothesis of their study. They drew threee hypotheses:
- Hypothesis 1: The withdrawal behavior of other members of employees’ workgroups will be positively related to employees’ own levels of withdrawal behavior.
- Hypothesis 2: POS will be negatively related to employee withdrawal behavior.
- Hypothesis 3: The positive relation between the withdrawal behavior of other workgroup members and employees’ own withdrawal behavior will be lessened by perceived organizational support.
The first hypothesis is drawn from the work group’s influence on individual employees’ withdrawal behavior, which is assumed to have a positive influence on the latter. The second hypothesis is drawn from the POS literature that hypothesizes that POS will have a negative relation with withdrawal behavior. In other words, higher POS will have a low withdrawal behavior and vice versa. The third hypothesis is that the withdrawal behavior shown by the employees due to the withdrawal behavior of the employees dampens or reduces due to POS.
Once this hypothesis is taken, the researchers move on to describe the methodology they adopted to conduct the research. They present a brief description of the research design in the next paragraph. They conduct two studies – one in a manufacturing company and the other in a retail chain for electronic appliances stores.
The study 1 is designed to examine “the influence of POS on the relation between workgroup tardiness and individual employees’ tardiness”. Therefore, the first study aimed at understanding the effect POS had on the tardiness of a working group and that of the individual employees.
The second study aimed at understanding “the influence of POS on the association of several workgroup withdrawal behaviors (taking undeserved work breaks, spending time in idle conversation, and neglecting one’s job—rated by the supervisor) with individuals’ withdrawal behaviors.”
In the second study, the researchers wanted to understand the effect POS has on the withdrawal of workgroups and consequently on that of the individual’s withdrawal behavior. The methodology also described the way the calculation for the two studies has been done.
In this regard, they calculated the withdrawal behavior of the workgroup by taking the aggregate of the each employee’s withdrawal behavior within the workgroup following a previous study that had used this method. The researchers have cited the previous research on employee withdrawal behavior in the paper.
The study 1 is then described in detail in the article. They conducted a survey on 219 employees of a manufacturing plant in the US. They received 85 percent completed response to the survey sent across to the employees. These employees voluntarily undertook the survey after issuance of confidentiality letter to them by the researchers.
From these 187 employees who sent completed surveys, 25 were omitted as information regarding one or more employees in their workgroup was unavailable. The final sample for study 1 done by the researchers was “162 employees, 67% were machine operators, 17% were warehouse employees, 11% were office staff, and 6% were maintenance/quality assurance workers”.
These employees worked in the organizations for an average period of 8.5 years and of them 60 percent were men. The sample had 23 workgroups with average number of 7 employees in each group with least being 3 and maximum being 18.
After this, the researchers described the different variables used for the study and how they were measured. POS was studied using the Survey of Perceived Organizational Support tool used in previous researches. They used six items from SPOS for the study. The responses were taken in 7-point Likert scale.
The paper provided a sample of the question that had been used to exemplify the nature and tone of the questions used in the survey. The scale used was tested for reliability. Tardiness was calculated from the company records on the employees where the measure set by the company for tardiness was used.
The research justified its use of company records for employee attendance due to the finding of previous meta-analysis that employees with lower tenure tend to come to office late. The employees for the research were located in two different plants. The researchers provided details of the working system of the plants giving details regarding their employee rotation system and schedules.
The next section of the paper discussed the results of the study. In order to assess the workgroup tardiness’ effect on individual’s tardiness, the researchers calculated the average of each member of the workgroups’ tardiness over the period, not including the tardiness of the employee.
They then used regression to see the effect of work group’s tardiness on individual tardiness, POS, and interaction between the first two. The analysis takes the assumption that there is difference of tardiness on group level. Therefore, they run the test for analysis of variance (ANOVA) in order to understand the difference in the tardiness of the different work groups.
ANOVA is used to understand the difference in group-level behavior. For this, the researchers cited two previous researches one from 1998 and the other from 2004. The researchers also calculated intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) in order to understand the “proportion of variation accounted for by workgroup” . The researchers next presented the results of the ANOVA:
The results of the ANOVA indicated that there were significant between-group differences for tardiness, F(22, 139) = 2.39, p <.01, suggesting systematic differences in work group tardiness. In addition, ICC(1) =.06, suggesting that 6% of the variance in tardiness occurs between workgroups.
The researchers used hierarchical regression analysis to understand the effect of POS on individual tardiness and workgroup tardiness. The results of the analysis demonstrated in a table.
The explanation of the analysis was presented in the article that demonstrated the procedure through which the analysis was done as well as the results achieved. In order to reduce collinearity effect in the results, all the component variables were converted to Z-scores. They presented a detailed description of the steps taken before the analysis:
Employees’ tenure with the organization, plant location, average workgroup tardiness, and POS were entered in the first step of the analysis. Consistent with Hypothesis 1 and previous findings… there was a positive relationship between group and individual tardiness. (59)
Then they went on to explain the results of the research. The research findings showed that there was a negative relation between POS and tardiness, however, the relation was not found to be significant. In step 2 of the analysis the researchers “added the multiplicative composite of POS and average workgroup tardiness” (59) to understand the correlation between the two variables.
There was a significant effect that POS had on tardiness that supported hypothesis 2. However, this significant effect of POS on tardiness was contingent to a significant correlation between POS and workgroup tardiness. Therefore, this analysis provided support to hypothesis 3, “this interaction suggests that the positive relationship between group and individual tardiness was reduced with high POS.” (59)
In order to understand this relation better, the researchers plotted regression lines connoting average group tardiness and individual tardiness with low and high levels of POS. the understanding through the regression graph analysis ahs been presented as follows:
Simple slope analyses showed that, as predicted, for employees with low POS, there was a significant positive relationship between group tardiness and individual tardiness, β =.40, t(156) = 4.16, p <.05. In contrast, among employees with high POS, there was a non-significant relationship between group tardiness and individual tardiness, β =.04, t(156) = 0.35, p = ns.
Therefore, the pattern of the results demonstrated that hypothesis 3 taken by the researchers i.e. the influence of the workgroup tardiness on individual tardiness reduces as the employees demonstrates higher degree of POS. Their analysis showed that there was a strong effect of POS on the interaction between work group tardiness and individual tardiness.
In employees with low level of POS, there was a greater increase in individual tardiness with higher group tardiness. On the other hand, individual employees with a high level of POS showed lower increase in tardiness with a high level of group tardiness. Therefore, study 1 concluded that high POS had a dampening effect on the individual tardiness even when group tardiness was high.
The second study was conducted in a retail setting that aimed at understanding if the findings of study 1 could be generalized as the researchers believed “A replication of the results of Study 1 in a different work environment with a different means of assessing withdrawal would provide additional support for our hypotheses” .
First, the researchers presented the research design for study 2, which essentially was a replication of study 1 in terms of procedure and process, with just an alteration in the organizational setting. Study 2, therefore, was designed to “examine the effects of workgroup withdrawal behavior on individual withdrawal behavior in a very different work environment (a retail organization) using a measure of an array of withdrawal behaviors” (60).
In this study, instead of company records for individual tardiness, supervisory evaluation of taking breaks as measures of tardiness was used. The measures included “undeserved work breaks, spending time in idle conversation, and neglecting one’s job” (60).
Then the researchers demonstrated the sample taken for the study and the measures taken. The study 2 was sent to 714 employees who voluntarily completed the survey during regular scheduled work hours.
Then the researchers obtained the name of direct supervisor of the employee from company records and the supervisors’ rating for each employee in terms of withdrawal. 94 supervisors provided the ratings. The final sample for the research showed the following:
45% were hourly salespeople, 34% were hourly paid sales support employees (e.g., cashiers, stockers), 15% were salaried support employees, and 6% were salaried salespeople. The mean tenure of these employees was 3.9 years (SD = 4.0), and 73% were men.
Then the researchers described the measures for the study that were taken in form of POS, tardiness, and withdrawal behavior. They used 10 items for POS evaluation in the second study.
They derived reliability of the scale from previous studies. Withdrawal behavior was measured using 3 items based on intra and extra-role performance – “taking undeserved work breaks, spending time in idle conversation, and neglecting aspects of the job one is obligated to perform”.
The supervisors rated the employees individually based on a 5-point Likert scale. The researchers mentions that the reliability of the scale was not high, but it was taken as the scale for the study due to its “objective nature and conceptual importance” (62). The covariate i.e., organizational tenure of the employees was derived from company records.
Then the researchers went on to describe the findings or results of the study. The researchers first described the process of analysis of the second study. The researchers used supervisor rated scale to derive the measure of average workgroup withdrawal.
In order to do so, the researchers a “value was assigned to each employee that reflected an average of the withdrawal levels reported by the supervisor for all employees in his or her workgroup, excluding the employee’s own level of withdrawal”.
They followed a same process as followed in study 1 of doing an ANOVA analysis on the data. They also calculated the intra-class correlation coefficient in order to understand the proportion of the variation between the workgroups. Then they presented the results of the ANOVA:
The results of the ANOVA indicated that there were significant between-group differences for withdrawal, F(93, 545) = 4.90, p <.001, justifying its aggregation in the current study. In addition, ICC(1) =.04, indicating that 4% of the variance in withdrawal existed between groups. (63)
They conducted a hierarchical regression analysis following the procedure in study 1 in order to understand if POS dampened the effect of workgroup withdrawal on individual withdrawal. The results of this analysis are as follows:
To reduce potential collinearity between the interaction terms and their component variables, all component scales were converted to Z-scores prior to the calculation of the interaction term. Tenure with the organization, average group withdrawal, and POS were entered in the first step of the hierarchical regression analysis. Consistent with past research and Hypotheses 1 and 2, both average group withdrawal and POS showed significant relationships with individual withdrawal in the predicted directions.
The second step of the research was to add the multiplicative composite of POS and the average of workgroup withdrawal. Their study found an interactive effect of the two on individual withdrawal.
The relationship established between the interaction of the two was found to be positive: “The interaction suggested that the positive relationship between workgroup withdrawal and individual withdrawal was reduced among individuals with high POS.” (63) in order to examine the relation to a greater degree the researchers plotted the regression lines between average group of withdrawal with individual withdrawal with high and low levels of POS. the results thus shown was:
Simple slope analyses showed that for employees with low POS, there was a significant positive relationship between group withdrawal and individual withdrawal, β =.58, t(634) = 16.61, p <.001. Among individuals with high POS, there was still a significant relationship between group withdrawal and individual withdrawal, β =.43, t(634) = 12.40, p <.001. However, the relationship was significantly weaker among individuals with high POS than those with low POS, t(634) = –2.38, p <.05.
The study then presented a general discussion of the patterns of the results, which was found to be consistent with the third hypothesis taken. The comparison between the two was identified to be the result of the research.
The results showed that there was a definitively strong effect of POS on individual withdrawal and that group withdrawal had effect on individual withdrawal, but the degree of the effected on high or low level; of POS, wherein, a high level indicated lower tendency to withdrawal and vice versa.
Therefore, a combination of the findings of studies 1 and 2 indicated that “employees are less likely to withdraw from work activities in the presence of coworkers who withdraw if such behavior violates their positive exchange relationship with their organization”.
A general discussion of the findings done by the researchers demonstrated the relation and significance of their findings through the two studies. They mention in this discussion that in both the studies POS dampened the relationship between workgroup and individual withdrawal behavior. The discussion exemplified this finding:
When POS was low, the work group’s tardiness was strongly associated with the individual employee’s tardiness (Study 1); the work group’s combination of undeserved work breaks, spending time in idle conversation, and neglecting standard job responsibilities was strongly associated with similar neglect by the individual employee (Study 2).
In the first study, with high POS, the positive association between group tardiness and individual tardiness was eliminated. In the second study, weaker but nonetheless reliable effects were obtained.
The general discussion actually presented the relevance of the study towards organizational behavior literature. The consistency of the study’s findings with that of previous researches in the area confirms that the reciprocity theory also holds true, as “POS would lead employees to feel an obligation to repay favorable treatment” (64).
The result was consistent with the previous organizational theory that POS acts as a deterrent to the individual withdrawal behavior even during the presence of significant influence of group withdrawal behavior. Therefore with high POS, the research suggests, that withdrawal will decline and so would detection of it, which would consequently decrease punishment due to tardiness.
POS is the factor that increases a sense of responsibility among individual employees that makes them aware of the responsibilities they have towards the organization and they stop taking advantage of situations. A previous study has been cited that demonstrated the effect of the POS on employee absenteeism that was found to be strongest when employees believed in a reciprocal relation with their organization.
The research findings of both the studies supported previous findings; however, the pattern suggested through the graphical analysis is different. While studying tardiness, POS was found to dampen the relation between individual and group tardiness, but it did not reduce the strong relation between the group and individual behavior:
However, in Study 2, the relation between group and individual withdrawal was only reduced. This difference could be due to a number of factors. The kinds of employment (manufacturing vs. retail) differed, as did the measure of withdrawal behavior.
Finally, tardiness was assessed objectively in the first study, whereas supervisors rated withdrawal behavior in the second study. Although the locus of the difference is unclear, the effect’s occurrence with different employees and different measures of withdrawal behavior suggest the generality of the findings.
The article then discussed the limitations of the research conducted by Eder and Eisenberger. The data being cross-section provided a generalized understanding of the POS and its effect on individual withdrawal, by extending the reciprocity theory, however, not being able to to provide any casualty of results.
The study, therefore, extends more in understanding that the “individual employee withdrawal might lead to the individual’s workgroup members withdrawing more frequently” (66) that would be based on the degree of social influence of the individual on the group. Further the results found in the study confirm to the longitudinal studies conducted previous, however, the researchers agree that the “longitudinal research, specifically invoking POS, would provide stronger evidence of the effects demonstrated in the current studies” (66).
The present study presented little variation in the outcome. The value of R2 is found to be very small. This is a limitation of the study, which the researches defended as being common in organizational behavior studies and also state that a small value of R2 does not indicate the findings are “unimportant”.
The researchers also present venues for further research on POS and withdrawal behavior of the employees – “In addition to tardiness, wasting time, and neglecting job responsibilities, the influence of POS on increasing resistance to other withdrawal behaviors might be examined.” (66)
Further they also state that POS may also help in reducing “the relationship between group and individual performance of active counterproductive behaviors that harm the organization, such as employee theft of organization property” (66). The discussion further provides support or the findings in previous research findings.
The researchers now go on to state that “POS is one of a number of psychological factors that might influence the relationship between workgroup and individual withdrawal behavior.” (66)
Using previous studies that have established a relation between workgroup and individual antisocial behavior and workgroup influence on self-reported absence, demonstrates that “positive attitudes toward the organization (e.g., POS, satisfaction) actually may inhibit the development of withdrawal norms in cohesive groups.” (66) the researcher goes on to state the present research supports the previous researches’ assertion that “antisocial groups encourage antisocial individual behavior” (66).
Further the article also provides ways how POS can be increased in organizations citing previous research: “Prior research suggests that POS is enhanced by fair treatment, supervisor support, and favorable rewards and job conditions” (66).
The research concludes with the note the an overall positive relationship between individual employees and organizations and through means of “favorable exchange” between employees and employer can decrease the negative influence of workgroups. Therefore, the study suggests that when employees feel that are well treated by the organization, their withdrawal behaviors are less affected by workgroup withdrawal, and vice versa.
The article is written in scholarly style with proper description being given of the previous literature reviewed, methodology, research design, and finings. The study presented the findings with great detail, with step by step explanation of the procedure followed for the analysis of the data collected through the survey. The article clearly explained the variables and the measures taken for measurement of the variables.
The limitation and areas of further research are also discussed in the final section of the paper. After the results of the two studies are presented, the study provides explanation and analysis of the results intuitively, through the section with the subheading general analysis.
The findings are discussed in relation with previous research and the similarity and dissimilarity with previous research on POS are also discussed. Then the article presented means of extending the result to understand other issues related to employee negative behavior and how it can be countered using POS.
The findings of the research are very important for organizations based in the UAE and in general for organizational behavior. Employee withdrawal is a huge problem for organizations today, costing a lot of money due to this. Companies try hard to keep their employees happy.
However, when organizations feel that they are not really valued by the organization for what they are doing, they become unhappy and tend to be more influenced by the negative behavior of the workgroups. This research presents understanding as to why employees withdraw from work, even when working in workgroups, and others may not.
Thus, the way to prevent withdrawal among employees is to increase POS. organization in context of UAE, as employee absenteeism is a recurring problem, and work loafing costing UAE companies a lot of money, it is important to understand that companies must try and increase POS of employees, that can prevent the negative effect of workgroups in committing negative behavior at workplace.
The article is moderately easy to understand, and is explained in such a manner that the research procedure is made very simple. The article is of importance to scholars as there are certain limitations to the study and certain areas untouched, which can be dealt with for further research. Further, for the practitioners, the article is a storehouse to manage employee behavior in organizations through increasing POS.
Eder, Paul and Robert Eisenberger. “Perceived Organizational Support: Reducing the Negative Influence of Coworker Withdrawal Behavior.” Journal of Management, 34(1) (2008): 55-68. Print.