Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Sharon F. Matusik

Second Advisor

Professor Xin Yao

Third Advisor

Bret Fund

Fourth Advisor

Joseph Rosse

Fifth Advisor

David Levy

Abstract

Organizational control is a fundamental management process but has consistently presented a dynamic challenge to leadership. As organizations have increased in size and complexity, however, control of processes and individual behavior has become progressively more difficult. Membership in a group or organization does not necessarily imply aligned goals and behaviors, which can lead to dysfunction and create the perception that even more control is necessary. In addition, technological progress in the design of electronic monitoring devices has made observation and data collection relatively cheap and easy. More and more organizations are choosing to gather data about employees in this manner, but this observation could have negative effects not readily seen. These tactics could threaten employees and leave them in a negative emotional state where they look to reestablish their freedom, either directly or indirectly. The seminal theorist Jack Brehm called this emotional state Psychological Reactance (1966). I predict this elevated level of Reactance will result in behavioral reactions which can be ultimately harmful to the organization. Other control strategies that attempt to create alignment between an individual's identity and the company might be useful in mitigating these behaviors, particularly in relatively autonomous job settings where control is somewhat limited.

This study tests the connection between how threatened an employee is by a control system, the psychological reactance experienced, and subsequent behaviors. The perceived organizational justification for a system and the strength of the individual identity with the company are theorized to moderate these relationships, as well.

My sample includes commercial airline pilots (N=217) who fly for a major U.S. airline. I chose this group because their work environment is highly monitored yet they maintain a relatively large amount of autonomy. The findings generally support the hypothesized relationships and suggest that organizations consider multiple courses of action as well as negative side effects when choosing control mechanisms.

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