Brawley: Unifying specific climate research with a molar climate measure: A Situational Affordances approach

“Unifying specific climate research with a molar climate measure: A Situational Affordances approach”

Thesis defense, Alice M. Brawley

Committee: Dr. Cynthia L. S. Pury (chair), Dr. D. DeWayne Moore, & Dr. Fred S. Switzer, III

Thursday, February 27th at 8:30 AM in Brackett 419

Abstract: Organizational climate – briefly, the shared perceptions of a workplace – was originally studied as a molar concept, but this approach generally lacked focus and thus resulted in unmanageable measures. Organizational climate research has been subdivided into many areas of specific climate research focusing on particular organizational factors or outcomes, such as safety or customer service (Schneider, Ehrhart, & Macey, 2013). While the study of specific climates has been and remains worthwhile, recent literature in the area has called for a return to the molar or global conceptualization of organizational climate (Kuenzi & Schminke, 2009; Schneider et al., 2013). In an answer this call, the present study develops and validates a self-report measure of molar organizational climate, the Situational Affordances at Work Scale (SAWS). This measure is based on a taxonomy of Situational Affordances (Pury et al., 2014) that conceptualizes the broad influences on behavior in a given situation as affordances, allowing or preventing particular behaviors. These seven Affordances – Change (Dynamic and Static), Ownership (Self and Other), Valence (Approach and Avoid), Timing (Wait and Act), Target (Object and Person), Privacy (Keep and Share), and Consideration (Self and Other) – are proposed as a holistic view of high-level situational characteristics that influence behavior.
In Study 1, undergraduate students with work experience (N = 217) responded to an initial version of SAWS. Results of this study were used to develop a preliminary version of SAWS. In Study 2, residents of the United States (N = 465) responded to the preliminary version of SAWS and to measures of safety climate, service climate, job characteristics, and social desirability. Results of this study show that the relationship between safety climate and service climate in a cross-section of jobs and industries is strongly positive, r = .652. Therefore, the two climates, in terms of molar climate dimensions, are largely similar. Both safety and service climates are positively related to molar climate Affordances for Change, Self-Ownership, Positive Valence, Acting, Focusing on both Persons and Objects, Sharing information, and Considering both one’s Self and Others. Both climates are negatively related to molar climate Affordances for not Changing, Other-Ownership, Negative Valence, Waiting, and Keeping information private. A few of these relationships with molar climate differ in magnitude across the two specific climates: service climate is more strongly positively related to Affordances for Self-Ownership and Positive Valence and more strongly negatively related to Affordances for not Changing, Other-Ownership, and Negative Valence than is safety climate. These results suggest molar climate dimensions where safety climate and service climate may differ in a cross-section of workplaces, but overall indicate that these two specific climates are more similar that previously hypothesized in the literature (cf. Paul, 2012). Results of this study also show statistical discrimination between SAWS and job characteristics, indicating that SAWS measures a construct distinct from job characteristics. Results of these studies support SAWS as potentially useful tool in understanding the broad portrait of an organization’s climate.

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