Vertical Entitativity of Management and Perceived Organizational Support and Competence

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University of Alabama Libraries

How do employees form their perceptions of supportiveness and competence of their organization? These organizational perceptions could be formed, in part based on their experiences with organizational members (e.g., coworkers, supervisors) and their evaluations of the organization’s HR policies and strategic decisions. Among these sources, the supervisors may be especially influential in employee’s organizational perceptions given their role as a representative agent of the organization (Shanock & Eisenberger, 2006). This research question builds off work on the concept of the supervisor’s organizational embodiment (SOE), “the extent to which employees identify their supervisor with the organization” (Eisenberger et al., 2010, p. 1185). Currently, little is known about which organizational characteristics, as perceived by employees, influence the extent to which employees generalize experiences with the supervisor to management as a whole or the organization at large. This is an important research question because employees’ perceptions of organizational supportiveness and competence are known to be strong predictors of their attitudinal and behavioral outcomes at work (Kim et al., 2016; Kurtessis et al., 2017). To address this research question, I drew on the concept of group entitativity (Campbell, 1958; Lickel et al., 2000) to suggest that employees develop a perception of the degree to which their supervisors are similar or interdependent with the management as a whole and the degree to which employees perceive the supervisors and middle- and upper-management as a coherent unit (I refer this to as vertical entitativity). Furthermore, I hypothesize that employees’ perceptions of their supervisors’ relations-oriented, task-oriented and change-oriented behaviors are likely to generalize into their perceptions of the managements’ warmth and competence, which are further associated with employees’ perceptions of organizational supportiveness (POS; Eisenberger et al., 1986) and competence (POC; Kim et al., 2016) and subsequent attitudes and behaviors toward the organization. I also hypothesized that this generalization will be especially strong when there is a high level of vertical entitativity. To examine these research hypotheses, I performed three studies. Study 1 (a scale development study) was performed to develop and validate scales for the predictors of vertical entitativity (surface-level, deep-level similarity, and interdependence between the supervisor and management) as well as validate the vertical entitativity scale. Study 1 results indicated that vertical entitativity is perceived by employees as a distinct construct from its relevant constructs (e.g., supervisor’s organizational embodiment, organizational identification). Based on the scales developed in Study 1, Study 2 (a multi-wave survey study) was performed to test a) the relationships of the surface- and deep-level similarity and interdependence with vertical entitativity, b) the moderating role of vertical entitativity on the relationship between the supervisor’s behaviors and employees’ perceptions of the management’s warmth and competence, c) the relationships of the perceptions of the management’s warmth and competence with POS and POC, and d) the relationships of POS and POC with affective organizational commitment, task performance, organizational citizenship behavior toward the organization, and turnover intentions. Study 2 results showed some support for the research hypotheses. Finally, Study 3 (a supervisor-subordinate dyad survey study) was performed, but the results cannot be interpreted as strong evidence because of the small sample size. The program of research has theoretical and practical implications for POS and POC by clarifying how employees’ view of their organization develops as a result of their experiences with organizational agents (e.g., the supervisor) and how this view is related to employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward the organization.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Employee perception, Employee relations, Entitativity, Perceived organizational support