|Volume 1, Issue 1, 2007|
|Men, Women, and Perceptions of Work Environments, Organizational Commitment, and Turnover Intentions.|
Susan M. Stewart, University of
Puget Sound, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the participation rate of women in the workforce has increased, there has been an emphasis in organizational research on gender issues. One overlooked area pertains to how men and women perceive their work environments and how different climate dimensions affect dedication to organizations. This study utilized 553 (285 women, 268 men) employees to investigate gender differences in (1) affective and continuance commitment, (2) turnover intentions, (3) psychological climate perceptions (i.e., autonomy, cohesion, trust, pressure, support, recognition, fairness, innovation), as well as (4) the moderating influence of gender on the relationship between psychological climate and affective commitment, continuance commitment, and turnover intentions. We controlled for critical covariates of gender, including education, age, job tenure, job level, and organizational membership. Results show that female employees had higher levels of continuance commitment than men. There were no gender differences found for the climate dimensions when examining direct relationships. However, the task-oriented climate dimension of organizational support was a significant predictor of affective commitment and turnover intentions for men, whereas the relationship-oriented climate dimension of workplace recognition was a significant predictor of affective commitment and turnover intentions for women. Limitations, future research ideas, and the practical implications of these findings are provided.
It is well known that there has been an increase in the presence of women in the workplace over the last few decades and this growth pattern is projected to continue. In the United States, women’s participation in the labor force increased from 40% in 1970 to 56% in 2002 while men’s participation rates decreased from 76% in 1970 to 69% in 2002 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). The percentage of women holding positions in managerial and professional specialty areas has risen from 22% in 1983 to 34% in 2002, while the percentage of men working in these areas rose only slightly from 25% in 1983 to 29% in 2002 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). It is estimated that by the year 2008, females will represent 48% of the labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). With this increase in participation rates of women in the workforce, there has been an emphasis in organizational research on examining whether gender differences exist in the workplace attitudes and behaviors of men and women (Aven, Parker, & McEvoy, 1993; Wahn, 1998).
The range of workplace variables in which gender differences have been examined is quite broad and include job satisfaction (deVaus & McAllister, 1991; Mason, 1995), job burnout (Maslach & Jackson, 1985; Pretty, McCarthy, & Catano, 1992); leadership style (Eagley & Johnson, 1990; Hutchison, Valentino, & Kirkner, 1998), ethical behavior (Barnett & Karson, 1989; Kelley, Ferrell, & Skinner, 1990), and political tactics (Schilit & Locke, 1982; Tannen, 1995). Furthermore, important outcome variables measured in terms of absenteeism (Hackett, 1989, 1990; Martocchio, 1989), turnover (Carston & Spector, 1987; Weisberg & Kirschenbaum, 1993), organizational commitment (Aven, et al., 1993; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990), and intentions to leave (Miller & Wheeler, 1992; Rosin & Korabik, 1995; Stroh, Brett, & Reilly, 1996; Weisberg & Kirschenbaum, 1993) has been a focus of gender research. The concentration on these workplace attitudes and behaviors is not surprising in light of the costs of absenteeism and turnover to organizations (Cascio, 1991).
Although gender does not consistently have a direct impact on outcome variables such as organizational commitment (Aven, et al., 1993; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Porter & Steers, 1973), the factors that influence one to become a committed employee may vary across gender. It has been suggested that studies that focus solely on individual subjective reactions are, at best, incomplete if they do not include an examination of the contextual factors that shape those perceptions (Carless, 2004; Ostroff, 1993). An overlooked area in gender research pertains to how men and women perceive their work environments and how different dimensions of psychological climate affect dedication to organizations. For example, some studies have shown that females often view themselves as treated worse than males in the workplace (Graddick & Farr, 1983; Stokes, Riger, & Sullivan, 1995). Because females often attach more importance to certain work conditions than males (Manhardt, 1972; Reitz & Jewell, 1979), dimensions of psychological climate related to those conditions may have an especially strong impact on female commitment (Chusmir, 1988). Conversely, other dimensions of psychological climate may be more related to the organizational commitment of males.
We believe that making a connection between gender and psychological climate will offer insights unlike those provided in the literature to date, specifically with regards to how psychological appraisals of environmental workplace factors may have a gender specific impact on organizational commitment and turnover intentions. Hence, the current study will begin by investigating gender differences in (1) affective and continuance commitment, (2) turnover intentions, (3) psychological climate perceptions (including autonomy, cohesion, trust, pressure, support, recognition, fairness, and innovation), and will then examine (4) the moderating influence of gender on the relationship between psychological climate and affective commitment, continuance commitment, and turnover intentions. Two criticisms of prior research on gender-related differences has been the lack of statistical control for the effects of demographic variables (Lefkowitz, 1994) as well as few comparisons made across male and female workers in essentially similar jobs (Mannheim, 1983). We agree with these noted limitations and therefore controlled for critical covariates of gender, including education, age, job tenure, job level, and organizational membership when testing all of the research questions posed in the current study. Overall, we believe that the identification and maintenance of factors that promote organizational commitment and decrease turnover intentions may be essential in promoting short- and long-term organizational success (Dodd-McCue & Wright, 1996), and therefore hope that this review of the literature and empirical investigation will be of interest to academicians and practitioners alike. Furthermore, men and women should know more about what is happening to them in organizations, so that they can better understand the terms of their differences (Fine, Johnson, & Ryan, 1990).
Gender and Organizational Commitment
The concept of organizational commitment has attracted considerable attention as an attempt to understand the intensity and stability of employee dedication to work organizations. Two quite different definitions of commitment have been popular in the empirical literature; one provided by Porter and his associates (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, 1974), and the other by Becker (1960). According to Porter et al. (1974), commitment is the “strength of an individual’s identification with and involvement in a particular organization” (p. 604). Becker, on the other hand, described commitment as the tendency to engage in “consistent lines of activity” (p. 33) because of the perceived cost of doing otherwise (i.e., leaving). Meyer and Allen (1984; Allen & Meyer, 1990) used the terms affective and continuance commitment, respectively, to characterize Porter and Becker’s discrepant views of the construct. Employees with a strong affective commitment remain with the organization because they want to; these individuals identify with the organization and, therefore, are committed to maintaining membership in order to pursue organizational goals. Those individuals with strong continuance commitment remain because they need to do so; they are bound to the organization through extraneous interests such as pensions, benefits, seniority, and the cost of leaving, rather than through a favorable affective connection with the organization.
Despite the substantial number of studies that have investigated the antecedents of organizational commitment, the literature on the relationship between gender and organizational commitment has had mixed results. For example, there are some authors who suggest that women are less committed to their work than men (Karrasch, 2003; Schwartz, 1989; Yammarino & Dubinsky, 1988). Much of these contentions have as their roots the idea that women, as a result of their socialization, place a greater emphasis on family roles than men (Dodd-McCue & Wright, 1996; Jensen, Christensen, & Wilson, 1985; Kinnier, Katz, & Berry, 1991; Loscocco, 1990; Steffy & Jones, 1988), which in turn may result in women placing less importance on their work roles. This assertion also posits that women establish their identity through their interdependent, nurturing relations with others, whereas men’s socialization process leads them to identify themselves as independent, assertive, and goal-directed (Cook, 1993). Supportive of this assertion is the evidence that in the accounting profession (Aranya, Kushnir, & Valency, 1986), and in professional associations (Graddick & Farr, 1983), women are less affectively committed than men.
However, researchers who appear to be focused on the continuance component of commitment have often argued that women are more committed to organizations than men (Grusky, 1966; Hrebiniak & Alutto, 1972), because they must overcome more obstacles in order to gain employment (Grusky, 1966) and have less interorganizational mobility than males (Angle & Perry, 1981). This perspective is complemented by studies showing that workers who perceive limited employment options (Angle & Perry, 1981; McGee & Ford, 1987; O’Reilly & Caldwell, 1981) and higher costs associated with establishing their organizational membership (Grusky, 1966) display greater organizational commitment, perhaps specifically continuance commitment (Aven et al., 1993). An example of empirical support for this theoretical perspective regarding gender differences in continuance commitment is a study by Wahn (1998), which found women to be higher in continuance commitment than men (although the difference between the two groups was somewhat modest).
Several meta-analyses on organizational commitment have helped to elucidate the aforementioned theoretical and empirical controversy. Mathieu and Zajac’s (1990) meta-analysis of the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment revealed that women are more organizationally committed than men, although the difference was small. Additionally, they did not find a difference in the strength of the gender-commitment relationship across commitment type (i.e., affective and continuance commitment). Aven et al. (1993) concluded from a separate meta-analysis that there were no gender differences in affective commitment. They also stated that they were unable to address the effect of gender on continuance commitment because the published research focused almost exclusively on affective commitment. However, their meta-analysis included six studies that used the Hrebiniak and Alutto (1972) commitment instrument, which purportedly measures an employee's calculative (i.e., continuance) involvement with an organization.
More recent research (over twenty studies; e.g., Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Riketta, 2005; Thorsteinson, 2003) found that there were no gender differences in organizational commitment. Seven additional studies found that even when there was a mean difference in organizational commitment between men and women, there was no gender effect when predicting organizational commitment (i.e., via multiple regression) when control variables such as age, job level, educational, job and organizational tenure were included in the analyses (e.g., Abdulla & Shaw, 1999; VanderVelde, Bossink, & Jansen, 2003; Ngo & Tsang, 1998). This suggests that certain characteristics that might be correlated with gender (e.g., job level as women are more likely to have lower level jobs) may explain the difference in organizational commitment more so than gender itself.
Hence, since the literature includes mixed findings and does not always carefully separate findings for different types of organizational commitment (affective or continuance), we propose the following:
Research Question 1: Will women and men differ in terms of affective and continuance
commitment to their organizations?
Gender and Turnover Intentions
Intentions to leave the organization, or turnover intentions, have not received as much attention as organizational commitment, yet they remain an important component of employee dedication given the powerful and proximal impact that intentions have on workplace behaviors (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Not only have turnover intentions been linked with actual turnover (Shore & Martin, 1989), but some researchers have recommended its use in place of actual turnover because of the numerous external factors that determine turnover behavior (Bluedorn, 1982; Price & Mueller, 1981). Additionally, when measured appropriately, turnover intentions can be placed on a quantitative, or near continuous scale, whereas actual turnover is dichotomous and subject to a base rate deflation in its relationship with other variables when the proportions in the dichotomy are values other than .50 and .50 (Cohen & Cohen, 1983, pp. 66-67).
A review of the research related to gender differences in turnover intentions and turnover rates showed mixed results. Some studies suggest that women report higher levels of turnover intentions (e.g., Miller & Wheeler, 1992; Moncrief, Babakus, Cravens, & Johnson, 2000; Schul & Wren, 1992) and actual turnover (Mano-Negrin, 2003; Stroh, et al., 1996), than men. Research has suggested these findings may be due to job dissatisfaction on the part of women (which could be related to the lower level positions commonly held by women) or because women have lower earnings and fewer opportunities for advancement (e.g., Blau & Kahn, 1981). Some may speculate that these findings are related to statistical discrimination theory which suggests that employers’ experiences may cause them to expect women to leave an organization sooner than men (see Konrad & Cannings, 1997). Others have found that women experience a greater number of “shocks” or events that force them to decide whether to leave the organization (e.g., a pregnancy and birth of a child) (Donnelly & Quirin, 2006). However, a study of textile workers found that while women had a higher turnover rate than men, no gender differences were found in intentions to leave the organization (Weisberg & Kirschenbaum, 1993). Still other studies of managerial and professional positions have found no gender difference in turnover intentions (Rosin & Korabik, 1995; Xu, Veloski, Hojat, & Fields, 1995). Some studies even found that men had higher turnover intention (Smith & Calasanti, 2005). Clearly, the results for the relationship between gender and intentions to turnover are discrepant, and we plan to reexamine this relationship by including turnover intentions in the current study as well as demographic controls.
Research Question 2: Will women and men differ in their intentions to leave their organization?
Gender and Psychological Climate
Psychological climate can be defined as sets of perceptually-based descriptions of relevant organizational features, events, and processes (James & Jones, 1974; Jones & James, 1979). These perceptions represent cognitive interpretations of the organizational context or situation, and summarize an individual’s description of their work experiences (Schneider, 1975). The appraisal is a reflection of the organizational characteristics that are important to the individual and his or her personal and organizational well-being (James, James, & Ashe, 1990). Although description cannot be completely divorced from affective evaluation (Ashford, 1985), the distinction between descriptive and evaluative reactions to organizational experiences distinguishes climate from job satisfaction (Glick, 1985; Koys & DeCotiis, 1991). The construct of psychological climate is useful in organizational research because it aids in the prediction of work outcomes such as organizational commitment and job satisfaction, psychological well-being, motivation, and performance (Carr, Schmidt, Ford, & DeShon, 2003; Parker, Baltes, Young, Huff, Altmann, Lacost, & Roberts, 2003).
The study of climates in organizations has been difficult because it is a complex phenomenon (Glick, 1985; Joyce & Slocum, 1984; James, 1982; Johannesson, 1973). While there is a general consensus on the concept of psychological climate, there appears to be little agreement on its dimensionality, and thus its measurement (Parker et al., 2003). Koys and DeCotiis (1991) reviewed the literature in this area and assembled a list of over 80 separately labeled dimensions of climate. They established a set of criteria by which a reduction of these dimensions could take place. After the reduction process, forty-five of the original dimensions were retained and categorized into eight concepts viewed as the “universe of psychological climate” (p. 268). This categorization of climate perceptions is of interest in the current study because these dimensions are conceptually distinct, provide a means for the theoretically-meaningful and analytically-practical classification of employee perceptions of the work environment, and resemble similar types of dimensions examined in previous gender research.
These eight psychological climate dimensions include (1) autonomy: perception of self-determination with respect to work procedures, goals, and priorities, (2) cohesion: perception of togetherness or sharing within the organization setting, including the willingness of members to provide material aid, (3) trust: perception of freedom to communicate openly with members at higher organizational levels about sensitive or personal issues with the expectation that the integrity of such communications will not be violated, (4) pressure: perception of time demands with respect to task completion and performance standards, (5) support: perception of the tolerance of member behavior by superiors, including the willingness to let members learn from their mistakes without fear of reprisal, (6) recognition: perception that member contributions to the organization are acknowledged, (7) fairness: perception that organizational practices are equitable and nonarbitrary or capricious, and (8) innovation: perception that change and creativity are encouraged, including risk-taking into new areas or areas where the member has little or no prior experience.
Research that specifically addresses the issue of gender differences in psychological climate perceptions is sparse even though there appears to be a growing concern with the experiential aspects of organizational life (Mills, 1988). Studies that address climate-related variables in organizational research indicate that women’s work experiences are different than men’s work experiences (Gewertz, 1994; Repetti, Matthews, & Waldron, 1989; Rodriguez, 1993), and that men and women employees perceive and react differently to organizational components of the work environment (Brookes & Kaplan, 1972; Campbell, 1979; Kirschenbaum, 1991; Mehrabian & Russell, 1974; Nicholson & West, 1988; Peterson, Wekerle, & Morley, 1978; Sundstrom, Town, Brown, Forman, & McGee, 1982).
One study along this line of research by Pines, Aronson, and Kafry (1980) found that professional women perceive less autonomy, less freedom, less influence, less variety in their work assignments, fewer challenges, and a less positive work environment compared to professional men. Additional research has found that men assign greater importance to rewards such as self-direction or autonomy, pay, security, and promotions, while women assign greater value to social rewards such as interesting work, good relations with coworkers, and a friendly work atmosphere (Bartol, 1976a, 1976b; Chernick & Phelan, 1974; Hofstede, 1980; Manhardt, 1972; Schuler, 1975). These findings suggest that men perceive themselves to have more control over the work environment in comparison to women, which could be explained by the extant earnings gap between men and women (Gerhart, 1990), as well as by the importance assigned by men to salary (Bigoness, 1988), autonomy, and self-direction (Hochwarter, Perrewe, & Dawkins, 1995). Bigoness (1988) also found that female MBA candidates place less emphasis on salary in comparison to their male counterparts, but did not find gender differences with respect to the emphasis placed on characteristics of the work environment, such as working facilities and training programs. The above research indicates that not only are certain components of the work environment perceived differently by men and women, but it also suggests that specific components of the work environment are differentially salient to men and women. We intend to add to this body of research by examining gender differences in perceptions of the work environment, after having controlled for important demographics, with the use of Koys and DeCotiis' (1991) eight-part taxonomy of psychological climate.
Research Question 3: Will women and men differ in their perceptions of the work environment, namely the psychological climate dimensions of autonomy, cohesion, trust, pressure, support, recognition, fairness, and innovation?
Gender as a Moderator of the Relationship Between Psychological Climate and Employee Dedication
Despite the large body of evidence elucidating the role that gender plays in various organizational outcomes (Barnett & Karson, 1989; deVaus & McAllister, 1991; Kelley et al., 1990; Mason, 1995; Rosin & Korabik, 1995; Schilit & Locke, 1982; Tannen, 1995), there is still a need to investigate its role as a potential moderator of the relationship between perceptions of the work environment and organizational outcomes. As noted above, various aspects of the work environment may be differentially salient to men and women. Therefore, the perceptions of the work environment, or dimensions of psychological climate, that influence an employee to increase or decrease his or her voluntary attachment to the organization may change depending upon employee gender. Voluntary attitudes and actions are not directly controlled by the organization in comparison to overt job behaviors (Drory, 1993). Such volitional attitudes are therefore expected to change easily in response to satisfaction or disappointment with the organization. An employee's dedication to the organization, in the forms of organizational commitment and turnover intentions, are perhaps the constructs most likely to reflect this effect (Drory, 1993, Mathieu & Zajac, 1990).
An extensive literature search revealed only three studies that examined gender as a potential moderator of the relationship between climate-related and dedication-related variables. A study by Pittman and Orthner (1988) found, for both genders, that the more positively an individual views his or her sense of fit with the organization, the higher the level of job commitment, and the more likely it is that the job will be viewed as a positive contributor to a high quality of life. When career decisions have to be made, “a commitment to the organization could be seen as an exchange for the quality of life the job is believed to make possible” (p. 242). In this study, path analyses were performed separately for males and females because the relations among the study variables were expected to vary enough between the genders to justify separate models (Pittman & Orthner, 1988). The structure of the two models was not identical, which suggests gender could have interacted with the antecedents of job commitment. Therefore, Pittman and Orthner's (1988) separate path analyses serve to indirectly implicate gender as a moderator of the antecedents of job commitment. The antecedents included in their models were perceptions of organizational supportiveness of families as well as background variables, such as job tenure and marital satisfaction. Although the power of several of these antecedent variables to predict job commitment changed across gender, the focus of this study was on work-to-family interface, and it did not examine the psychological climate variables of the current study, which may differentially predict job commitment for men and women once important demographics are controlled for. Furthermore, their study does not directly test for the moderation of the relationship between job commitment and its precursors by gender. A direct test is needed.
In a second study, Weisberg and Kirschenbaum (1993) proposed that men and women perceive, evaluate, and react to their work environment differently, and that these reactions affect their turnover intentions and actual turnover. They tested this hypothesis by examining gender, turnover intentions, and actual turnover of Israeli textile industry workers. They found that gender was not significant in explaining intentions to leave the organization, while it did prove significant in explaining actual turnover. Of central importance to the current study was their finding that perceptions of the social aspects of the work environment predicted actual turnover for females, whereas they were unrelated to actual turnover for males. In contrast, perceptions of task or job-oriented aspects of the work environment, such as perceptions of the repetitiveness of work and promotion opportunity, predicted turnover intentions for males but not for females. The current study intends to replicate and extend their findings by examining turnover intentions as well as the affective and continuance components of organizational commitment.
In the third study, Witt (1989) examined gender differences in the relationships between organizational commitment and two of its antecedents, job satisfaction and psychological climate. Witt (1989) found several of the relationships between psychological climate and organizational commitment to change across gender. For instance, the relationship between organizational support and Hrebiniak and Alutto's (1972) measurement of commitment was stronger for men than for women, with the relationship being positive in both cases. Although other gender differences were found in climate-to-commitment relationships, Witt's (1989) results must be interpreted with caution for several reasons. First, when controlling for the effects of age, job tenure, and other important demographic variables, Witt (1989) included only 20 males and 71 females in his sample. This small sample size, especially for men, is of concern given the spurious effect sizes that can occur due to the use of small sample sizes (Cohen & Cohen, 1983; Keppel, 1991). Additionally, to test for the moderating effect of gender when controlling for demographics, Witt (1989) performed 32 significance tests for independent partial correlations. Even when using Cohen and Cohens' (1983) recommended alpha value of .10, one finds no significant differences between the genders in climate-to-commitment relationships when controlling for pyramiding alpha level (i.e., Bonferroni correction with .10 ¸ 32 = .003). Witt (1989) made note of this limitation in his study. Nonetheless, given the aforementioned limitations, we believe the potential moderation of climate-to-commitment relationships by gender requires further examination.
Research Question 4: Will gender moderate the relationship between psychological climate and employee dedication?
Procedure and Participants
Prepared questionnaire packets were delivered in bulk to a contact person at each of three office supply organizations located in the Midwestern United States. The contact person in each organization was either the owner or reported directly to the owner or senior manager. These persons distributed the questionnaire packets to organizational members and emphasized that anonymity was guaranteed. Each questionnaire packet consisted of an outer envelope, a cover letter from the investigators, a questionnaire, and a preaddressed and stamped return envelope to return the questionnaire by mail after completion.
A total of 774 questionnaires were returned, which yielded an overall response rate of 24.9%. This response rate is in line with other published research that utilized the mail survey method of data collection (Dillman, 2000). After missing data were taken into account, 553 cases remained in the data set. Therefore, participants were 553 (285 women, 268 men) employees holding a variety of job positions within the office supply organizations. The average female respondent was between 30 and 39 years of age, had completed some college, had worked with her current employer for 4.57 years, and supervised 1.94 people. The average male respondent was between the ages of 30 and 39, with some college education, 5.74 years of tenure with his current employer, and supervised 10.81 people.
Psychological Climate. Individual perceptions of psychological climate were assessed with a thirty-five item scale based on the eight global dimensions of Koys and DeCotiis' (1991) climate categories: cohesion (a = .86), trust (a = .74), pressure (a = .61), support (a = .82), autonomy (a = .66), recognition (a = .77), fairness (a = .80), and innovation (a = .69). Past research has confirmed the psychometric properties of this measure (Helford, 1995; Helford, Tindale, Dugoni, & Posavac, 1996). The psychological climate scale used a 5-point Likert response format (strongly agree to strongly disagree) to measure an individual's perceptions of the work environment at his or her current organization.
Affective Commitment. This fifteen-item measure was developed to assess commitment characterized by positive feelings of identification with, attachment to, and involvement in, the work organization (Helford, 1995; Helford et al., 1996). Responses were provided using a 5-point Likert response format (strongly agree to strongly disagree). High scores reflect greater affective commitment (a = .93).
Continuance Commitment. This seven-item measure was developed to assess the extent to which employees feel committed to their organizations by virtue of the costs that they believe are associated with leaving the organization, such as investments and/or lack of attractive alternatives (Helford, 1995; Helford et al., 1996). Responses were provided using a 5-point Likert format (strongly agree to strongly disagree). High scores reflect greater continuance commitment (a = .79).
Turnover Intentions. This six-item measure was developed to determine the extent to which a respondent planned to remain with his or her present organization given various time frames (“3 months from now” to “until retirement”). Items were rated on a 5-point Likert format (strongly agree to strongly disagree), and responses to all items were summed such that high scores reflect stronger turnover intentions (a = .90).
Demographics. Demographic information was also collected which included the respondent's gender, education, age, job tenure, job level (i.e., number of persons supervised), as well as the organizational membership of the respondents (these variables were represented by two unique effect codes; total number of organizations -1, or 3 - 1; see Cohen & Cohen, 1983, pp. 198-204). The number of people supervised provided a measure of job level because organizations often use it to assess the location of job positions within the organizational hierarchy, and to determine the importance of those positions (Lyness & Thompson, 1997; Reskin & Ross, 1995).
The items for the measures are shown in the Appendix. The means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations for all of the study variables are presented below in Table 1.
It has been suggested that gender differences are an artifact of exposure to different organizational situations (Kanter, 1977), or the result of methodological flaws where the confounding effects of factors like education, age, job tenure, job level, and occupational setting were not held constant (Aranya, et al., 1986; Lefkowitz, 1994; Schuler, 1975). We agree with this noted limitation of research on gender differences. Consequently, all of the major analyses controlled for these variables. Specifically, the variables of education, age, job tenure, job level, and organizational membership were partialled from the dependent variables of interest (i.e., specified as covariates) prior to examining the effects of gender and other study variables.
Test of Research Questions 1 and 2
A MANCOVA was used to determine whether men and women differed significantly in affective commitment, continuance commitment, and turnover intentions when these outcomes were considered in tandem and allowed to covary. Demographic variables were controlled for by specifying education, age, job tenure, job level, and organizational membership as covariates in the analysis. The results indicated that the mean centroids for men and women were significantly distal from each other, F(3, 503) = 6.55, p < .001. Univariate ANCOVAs revealed that the significant multivariate analysis was largely a result of differences in continuance commitment, F(1, 505) = 12.10, p = .001 (critical alpha of .0167 with Bonferroni correction), with women having the higher mean level of this type of organizational commitment. Men and women did not differ significantly in their affective commitment or turnover intentions.
Note. N = 553. Correlations between .09 and .11 are significant at p < .05. Correlations greater than .12 are significant at p < .01. Gender was coded as Female (0) and Male (1). Respondents reported their education level as Grade School (1); Junior High (2); High School (3); Some College, No Degree (4); Associates Degree (5); Bachelors Degree (6); Masters Degree (7); or Doctoral Degree (8). Respondents indicated their age as 10 to 19 (1); 20 to 29 (2); 30 to 39 (3); 40 to 49 (4); 50 to 59 (5); 60 to 69 (6); 70 to 79 (7); or 80 or more (8). Job tenure was measured as the number of years the respondents had worked for their current employer. Job level was the number of persons they supervised. Org. 1 and Org. 2 represent the effects coded variables indicating organizational membership.
Test of Research Question 3
A MANCOVA was used to determine whether men and women differed significantly in perceptions of workplace environment, specifically in the psychological climate dimensions of autonomy, cohesion, trust, pressure, support, recognition, fairness, and innovation. Once again, demographic variables were controlled for by specifying education, age, job tenure, job level, and organizational membership as covariates in the analysis. The results approached borderline significance, F(8, 501) = 1.71, p < .10,but univariate ANCOVAs did not reveal significant gender differences in psychological climate when using a critical alpha of .00625 from the Bonferroni correction. Thus, although the different pattern of mean vectors for climate perceptions of men and women approached statistical significance, there was no individual climate dimension on which they clearly differed using the more stringent alpha level.
Test of Research Question 4
Hierarchical multiple regression was used to test whether or not gender moderates the relationship between psychological climate and affective commitment, continuance commitment, and turnover intentions. The hierarchical procedure assessed whether a block of independent variables made a unique contribution to the explanation of the dependent variable (Cohen & Cohen, 1983). Three hierarchical multiple regression analyses were performed since there were three dependent variables. For each analysis, the following hierarchical steps were followed: in the first step, we entered the demographic variables as a block (Step 1); in the second step, gender was entered (Step 2); in the third step, the psychological climate dimensions were entered as a block (Step 3); and finally, in the fourth step, the interactions between gender and the psychological climate dimensions (i.e., cross-products) were added as a block (Step 4). Critical alpha was set at .0125 via Bonferroni correction (.10 ¸ 8 = .0125) for interaction terms to be deemed statistically significant.1 Otherwise, critical alpha was set at .05. Tables 2 and 3 below present the results of the hierarchical regression analyses.
In Step 1, the hierarchical procedure assessed the proportion of variance in the dependent variable explained by the demographic variables (i.e., the control variables). In Steps 2 and 3 the hierarchical procedure assessed the proportion of variance in the dependent variable explained by the main effects gender and climate, respectively, above and beyond that variance already accounted for by the main effects of demographics. In Step 4, a significant increase in R2 indicated that the set of interaction terms explained variance in the dependent variable above and beyond the main effects, thereby demonstrating the influence of the gender by climate interactions. The results of the final step were of central importance in this study because they provided evidence that the relationship of psychological climate to affective commitment, continuance commitment, and turnover intentions depended upon the gender of the employee.2
Prediction of Affective Commitment
As is shown in Table 2 below, Steps 1, 3, and 4 significantly increased the amount of variance explained in affective commitment. Interpreting the unstandardized beta coefficients of the final model, illustrated in Table 2, we found that as education increased affective commitment decreased (ß = -.11, t = -4.17, p < .01). As age (ß = .13, t = 4.12, p < .01) and job tenure (ß = .03, t = 5.25, p < .01) increased so did affective commitment. Gender was also found to be a significant predictor of affective commitment above and beyond the effects of demographics, with females having the higher level of this type of commitment (ß = -.14, t = -2.26, p < .05). Among the psychological climate variables, autonomy (ß = .10, t = 2.05, p < .05) and recognition were statistically significant (ß = .29, t = 4.07, p < .01). These standardized coefficients were positive, indicating that greater levels of autonomy and recognition were associated with higher levels of affective commitment.
More central to the current investigation was the finding that the R2 change for the fourth step was statistically significant (F(8, 492) = 3.19, p <.01), indicating that gender and psychological climate interacted in the prediction of affective commitment. Gender was found to moderate the relationship between perceived recognition and affective commitment (ß = -.30, t = -2.89, p < .01) and perceived support and affective commitment (ß = .48, t = 3.75, p < .01). Figure 1 below illustrates that as perceived recognition increases, so does affective commitment for women, whereas for men increases in perceived recognition did not result in a change in their level of affective commitment. Alternatively, a reversal in this pattern of results occurred for perceptions of workplace support. As perceptions of support increased among women there was little to no change in affective commitment, whereas for men as perceptions of support increased there was a corresponding increase in their level of affective commitment.
1 Cohen (1988, p. 375) has recommended a critical alpha of .10 for tests of interactions. Therefore, because there were eight interaction terms entered on Step 4, we divided .10 by eight to obtain the critical alpha of .0125 for individual interaction terms to be deemed statistically significant.
2 It should be noted that we also controlled for the potential moderating effects of job tenure and job level on the relationship between climate and the dependent variables by entering the relevant demographic by climate crossproducts into the 4th step, and the gender by climate crossproducts into the 5th step, in three separate hierarchical regression analyses for the three dependent variables. In all three analyses the demographic by climate steps were not statistically significant, and their inclusion on the 4th step did not alter the interactions found between gender and climate. Specifically, the interactions between gender and climate in these 5-step models were unaltered from those found in the 4-step models Therefore, the interpretation of the results did not change, and only the 4-step models are reported.
Note. ^ p < .10. *p < .05. **p < .01. a The unstandardized beta coefficients shown are for the final estimated models (for continuance commitment, Step 4 was not significant, and thus Step 3 results are presented to avoid nonsignificant cross-products from capturing the variance due to the main effects in Steps 1, 2, and 3).
Prediction of Continuance Commitment
Table 2 also indicates that the first, second, and
third steps significantly increased the amount of
variance explained in continuance commitment.
Because Step 4 was not significant, gender and
psychological climate did not appear to interact in
the prediction of continuance commitment. Therefore,
because only main effects were found to be
significant, Step 3 formed the interpretable model
(see Table 2). An examination of the unstandardized
beta coefficients in the final model revealed that
as the level of education increased continuance
commitment decreased (ß = -.19, t = -6.34,
p < .01). As both age (ß = .10, t = 2.70,
p < .01) and job tenure (ß = .05, t =
6.73, p < .01) increased so did continuance
commitment. As was demonstrated in the MANCOVA
analysis (see above), gender was a significant
predictor of continuance commitment above and beyond
the demographic variables, due to the higher mean
level of continuance commitment in women (ß = -.31,
t = -4.24, p < .01). Among the
psychological climate variables, both support (ß =
.15, t = 2.00, p < .05) and autonomy
(ß = .11, t = 2.70, p < .01) were
found to be statistically significant, indicating
that greater levels of perceived support and
autonomy were associated with greater levels of
continuance commitment. Gender was not found to
moderate the psychological climate-to-continuance
Figure 1. The relationships between perceptions of workplace recognition and support with affective commitment for women and for men.
Prediction of Turnover Intentions
As can be seen in Table 3 below, the first, third, and fourth steps significantly increased the amount of variance explained in turnover intentions. Interpreting the unstandardized beta coefficients of the final model (Step 4) illustrated in Table 3, we found that as education level increased there was a corresponding increase in turnover intentions (ß = .18, t = 5.48, p < .01). As both age (ß = -.19, t = -4.63, p < .01) and job tenure (ß = -.03, t = -3.91, p < .01) increased, turnover intentions decreased. Among the psychological climate variables, recognition (ß = -.25, t = -2.61, p < .01) and cohesion (ß = -.24, t = -2.16, p < .05) were statistically significant. These standardized coefficients were negative, indicating that greater levels of perceived recognition and cohesion were associated with lower levels of turnover intentions.
The finding that the R2 change for the fourth step was statistically significant (F(8, 489) = 2.91, p <.01) indicated that gender and psychological climate interacted in the prediction of turnover intentions. Significant gender by climate interaction terms occurred for perceived recognition (ß = .45, t = 3.24, p < .01) and support (ß = -.47, t = -2.80, p < .01). An examination of Figure 2 below reveals that as perceptions of workplace recognition increased there was a corresponding decrease in turnover intentions for women, whereas for men increases in recognition were associated with increases in turnover intentions. Alternatively, as perceptions of workplace support increased there was little to no change in turnover intentions for women, whereas for men as support increased there was a corresponding decrease in turnover intentions.
*p < .05. **p < .01. a
The unstandardized beta coefficients shown are for
the final estimated models.
Figure 2. The relationships between perceptions of workplace recognition and support with turnover intentions for women and for men.
The current study has extended past research by elucidating the work environment characteristics that have a differential impact on the dedication of men and women to their place of work. Unlike much of the past research conducted in this area, we have provided a direct test of this differential impact, with employees from the same industry closely distributed by gender, and our findings cannot be attributed to demographics as they were controlled for in all of the analyses. As will be described below, our results are consistent with those of past research, and therefore provide some evidence that past research findings in this area may not be artifacts of the demographic differences often found between men and women.
Our finding that women, as a group, have a higher mean level of continuance commitment in comparison to men is consistent with the empirical research of Wahn (1998) and the theoretical perspective of Grusky (1966). In addition, this finding is also consistent with the meta-analytic work of Aven et al. (1993) when considering the six studies included in their analysis that used the Hrebiniak and Alutto (1972) measurement. Inconsistent with their findings, as well as those of Mathieu and Zajac (1990), is our finding that the relationship between gender and continuance commitment was significantly stronger than the gender-to-affective commitment relationship when using the Cohen and Cohen's (1983) test for the significance of the difference between dependent zero-order correlation coefficients.3 Also, when entering the partial correlation coefficients between the variables of interest into this analysis after having controlled for the demographic variables, this difference remained statistically significant. Thus, in general women may have higher levels of continuance commitment because they perceive more organizational entry obstacles and less interorganizational mobility in comparison to men (Angle & Perry, 1981; Grusky, 1966; Hrebiniak & Alutto, 1972). Nonetheless, our findings, like those of other researchers, do not point to very strong gender differences in organizational commitment.
More important to the current research were the interactions found for gender and psychological climate in the explanation of employee dedication. If one performs a content analysis of the psychological climate items in the Appendix, then a general pattern that is consistent with past research emerges to explain these interactions. The five items of the recognition scale seem to embody a relationship-oriented content that is connected to issues of interpersonal (un)friendliness, such as blame, praise, and acknowledgement. In contrast, although the four items of the support scale contain interpersonal issues, they seem to be of a task-oriented nature, regarding help from management and the organization.
The finding that perceptions of workplace support predict the affective commitment of men suggests that men who perceive management and organizational barriers to task completion have lower levels of affective commitment when compared to their male counterparts who do not perceive these barriers. There was no relationship between perceptions of organizational support and affective commitment for women. This finding is somewhat consistent with Witt's (1989) results, which indicate the relationship between perceptions of organizational support and organizational commitment to be stronger for men in comparison to women, and yet positive in both cases. Our results with recognition indicate a pattern opposite of that found above for perceived support. As women perceive a decrease in workplace recognition they appear to lower their affective commitment towards the organization, whereas perceptions of workplace recognition have only a slight effect on the affective commitment of men.
The finding that perceptions of recognition predict turnover intentions for women, suggests that as women begin to perceive a deterioration in the social aspects of the work environment they begin to consider exiting the organization. This corresponds with Weisberg and Kirschenbaum's (1993) finding that there "appears to be a greater sensitivity among women to the social milieu of the workplace; the state of personal relationships are seen as paramount in staying or leaving" (p. 1004). In contrast, as men perceive a lack of support by management or by the organization as a whole, they consider leaving. This also coincides with Weisberg and Kirschenbaum's (1993) finding that as men perceive less support, they are more likely to have turnover intentions, whereas perceptions of workplace support had no effect on women's turnover intentions.
Limitations and Future Research
There were several limitations to this study that must be considered. First, the psychological climate-commitment relationship could not be addressed over time due to the cross-sectional research design employed in the present study. Although there is disagreement about the utility of detecting causal effects with cross-sectional data (cf. James, Mulaik, & Brett, 1982), such analyses were chosen with the rationale that perceptions about one's work environment might have immediate implications for one's organizational commitment, and in a decision to leave the organization. However, there is a need for research in this area that utilizes longitudinal field studies. Studies that use this approach will lend themselves to more rigorous evaluation, and will address the predictive power of these constructs. Work environments are rapidly changing due to mergers, downsizing, and technological advancements. It would be of interest to track changes in climate perceptions that follow these work environment changes, and discover how these changes affect employee commitment and intentions to remain with the organization over time.
Second, most studies of psychological climate use self-report questionnaires. While this method of measurement is convenient and can provide for anonymity, other methods must be used to ensure that any consistent findings are not an artifact of this single method. It would seem that content analysis of interorganizational communication, behavioral observation of members in organizational settings, and interviews with others who are knowledgeable of the organization member's perceptions might be feasible (e.g., significant other, friends, coworkers) for obtaining multiple measures of psychological climate perceptions. These alternate measures, in turn, could be used for convergent operations to replicate the above findings, and thus to increase confidence in the current results.
Third, this study did not account for the effect of family life on men and women’s commitment and intentions to remain with their organization. We have taken a “job model” approach to explain worker’s attitudes rather than a “gender model” approach, which would have studied attitudes as related to personality and domestic roles (Feldberg & Glenn, 1982). Future research in this area should be broadened to take into account additional variables when examining gender-related motivations concerning both work and family.
Practical implications of the present study are worth considering by business management or human resource practitioners. The results from this study could be used to assist managers in the creation of strategies that support a diversified work force. For example, policy makers can focus on gender-specific work environment conditions that have a direct impact on organizational commitment and turnover intentions. This is especially important when one considers that commitment and intentions to remain are major inputs of the employee, which, as these increase, can decrease organizational costs through reductions in turnover (Cascio, 1991). By selectively placing an emphasis both on climate factors perceived important by men (organizational support) and those perceived important by women (workplace recognition), positive conditions can be created which will increase the level of employee dedication for both genders.
In addition to focusing on gender and gender-related variables, organizational decision-makers may examine climate factors to redesign tasks and structures in an effort to provide greater opportunities to enhance the dedication of their employees. While management cannot change workers' personal characteristics or those factors external to the job or organization, it does have control over a wide choice of change strategies that may affect some psychological climate variables. For example, management can provide gender awareness training (see Burke & MacDermid, 1996), modify the climate to eliminate gender stereotypes, reasonably accommodate workers, and provide workers with necessary social, task, or organizational support to facilitate goal attainment (Stokes, Riger, & Sullivan, 1995). Interestingly, in one study, it was found that perceptions of a family-friendly workplace policy was significantly related to higher organizational commitment and job satisfaction regardless of whether or not the employee had actually utilized the program (Scandura & Lankau, 1997). These findings suggest that the perception of the presence of support and programs important to both men and women, and not the actual impact on these individuals, may be a critical factor in the interpretation that an organization is willing to adapt to employee needs. Such actions can be used by management to provide a more positive psychological climate by showing sensitivity to gender role demands, as well as to correct unjust circumstances such as gender stereotyping, sex discrimination, and even sexual harassment (Deaux, 1995).
Just as climate provides theorists with a conceptual link between the elements of the organizational system and the determinants of individual behavior, it provides managers with a link between their organization's procedures and practices and the concerns and needs of individual workers. Managers must know how different procedures and practices stimulate, or fail to stimulate, worker needs and how worker motivation can be enhanced. To gain this understanding, the dynamics of psychological climate must be studied, for climate may represent a direct determinant of employee motivation and dedication. By studying their own working climates, managers may learn to appreciate the subtle relationships between their own managerial behaviors and dedication of their work force. If one assumes that climate is antecedent to organizational commitment and turnover intentions, managing climate should allow some control over these variables. Perhaps organizations could publish or make available descriptions of their psychosocial environment as it is and as it could be. Schneider (1987) has proposed that people are attracted to organizations precisely because they perceive them to have values similar with their own. Such a description of the work environment may facilitate recruitment of personnel who are more likely to be committed and dedicated to the organization.
3 For gender and continuance commitment the zero-order r and partial r controlling for demographics equaled -.16 and -.15, respectively. For gender and affective commitment the zero-order r and partial r controlling for demographics equaled -.05 and -.05, respectively. For the significance tests of dependent r's, t(505) = 3.72, p < .01 for the zero-order correlation coefficient comparisons, and t(505) = 3.87, p < .01 for the partial correlation coefficient comparisons of the gender-to-continuance commitment relationship with the gender-to-affective commitment relationship.
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