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«UNDERSTANDING EMPLOYEES’ BEHAVIORAL REACTIONS TO AGGRESSION IN ORGANIZATIONS by MARIE S. MITCHELL B.S., George Mason University, 1993 M.A.H.R., ...»

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only the Department administration would see the responses. Students were then asked to answer a series of questions based on the scenario in the second section. The 5-item fear of retaliation measure asked respondents to rate the questions on a Likert-like scale (1=strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree) (alpha=.95). Example items are “I would feel that my Instructor was going to get back at me because of my comments on the evaluation form” and “Based on my evaluation, I would be fearful that my Instructor would get back at me in some way in the remainder of the course.” In general, the manipulation checks illustrated that the experimental conditions had the intended effects. Perceptions of the aggressive nature of the comments (the manipulation check) were lower in the low perceived aggression condition than the high perceived aggression condition (M = 3.43 vs. 5.81; F = 84.09, p.001). Participants also experienced less negative emotions in the low perceived aggression condition than the high perceived aggression condition (M = 2.87 vs. 5.33; F = 52.75, p.001). Further, the results of the instructor evaluations suggested that the perceived aggression manipulation positively influenced retaliatory reactions in that the instructor evaluations were higher in the low perceived aggression condition than the high perceived aggression condition (M = 4.77 vs. 3.03; F = 55.88, p.001). Moreover, participants’ responses to the fear of retaliation manipulation suggest perceptions of fear of retaliation were lower in the low fear of retaliation condition than the high fear of retaliation condition (M = 2.08 vs. 4.55; F = 69.57, p.001).

Perceived Aggression Manipulation. Perceived aggression was manipulated with written instructor comments on the students’ exams. High perceived aggression comments were those that were considered most harmful (or destructive) and anger-provoking. Examples of comments in the high perceived aggression condition include, “This answer is simply moronic”, “I’m not impressed—maybe it’s your lack of talent” and “I can’t believe they let you into college.” Low perceived aggression comments were considered neutral and were not angerprovoking. Examples of comments in the low perceived aggression condition include, “ok”, “√” and “Suitable.” The researcher felt that if students had received the same and all of the eight comments on their exam that the comments might be perceived as artificial. Therefore, for each exam, four comments were randomly selected from the overall sample of eight comments, and were hand-written throughout the written portion of the exam.

Fear of Retaliation Manipulation. Fear of retaliation was manipulated through information provided to the students by the researcher about the Instructor Evaluation Form.

Specifically, in the high fear of retaliation condition, students were required to fill out their name, the instructor’s name, and the course and section number on the Instructor Evaluation Form. (See Appendix A: Instructor Evaluation Form—High Fear of Retaliation Condition.) Before passing out the evaluation forms, the researcher told these students, “We will provide your instructor with a copy of your evaluation within the next day or so.” Students in the low fear of retaliation condition were not required to fill out their name on the Instructor Evaluation form and were told, “Your evaluations will not be provided to your instructor. Only the Department administration will review your responses.” (See Appendix B: Instructor Evaluation Form—Low Fear of Retaliation Condition.) Low fear of retaliation instructor forms were coded in order to match the evaluation form with the subject.

Measures Outcomes. The outcome variables were retaliatory aggression, displaced aggression and constructive problem-solving. Each measure is described below.

Retaliatory aggression. Retaliatory aggression was assessed with the completed instructor evaluation forms. Two evaluation forms were used, depending on the fear of retaliation condition. High fear of retaliation instructor forms required students to write their names on the form (Appendix A), whereas low fear of retaliation instructor evaluation forms did not require students to write their names (Appendix B). The 20-item instructor evaluation form asked subjects to rate their instructor’s performance throughout the semester on a 5-point scale (1=excellent, 5=poor) (alpha=.97). The items were averaged for analysis, such that low scores reflect low retaliatory aggression and high score reflect high retaliatory aggression. Sample items include, “The instructor’s interest in your learning” and “The instructor’s organization for the course.” Displaced aggression. Displaced aggression was assessed with a team peer evaluation form (Appendix D: Peer Evaluation form). The peer evaluation form assesses individual team member performance and contributions to team work activities. Students rated team members on a 5-point scale (1=causes major problems, 2=not enough, 3=enough, 4=most of the time, 5= all the time). Sample items include, “Notifies other members if going to miss class or a meeting, or if s/he will be late” and “Contributes equally to team assignments.” Items were reverse-scored (to reflect displaced aggression) and averaged. The items were then averaged to produce an overall team member evaluation score; such that low scores reflect low displaced aggression and high score reflect high displaced aggression (alpha=.68).





Constructive problem-solving. Lastly, constructive problem-solving was assessed through the comments written by the students to the instructor on the back of their exams. A total of ten students wrote comments on the back of the exam to the instructor. Because not all of the statements may be considered constructive, two judges, who were blind to the experiment, rated the ten statements based on a Likert-like scale (1=not at all constructive, 7=extremely constructive). The ratings from the judges held an Interrater reliability of.90, suggesting the judges had consistent agreement in their evaluations of the statements. One of the statements was judged “not at all constructive” and was excluded from the analysis.

A separate set of seven judges, who were also blind to the experiment, then assessed the remaining items in terms of their constructiveness. These ratings would be used in the analysis.

The judges rated the comments on a 5-point scale (1=not very constructive, 2=somewhat constructive, 3=constructive, 4=very constructive, 5=extremely constructive). The average measure intraclass correlation (ICC =.88) indicated the judges consistently rated the statements.

Glick (1985) suggests ICC ratings of.60 are appropriate when items rated by judges are averaged and included in analysis. Therefore, the judges’ evaluations of the 9 statements constituted the items for constructive problem-solving; all other observations received a 0, which produced an overall 6-point scale (0=no comments received, 1=not very constructive, 5=extremely constructive).

Personality questionnaire. The personality questionnaire included a variety of personality traits. Of interest to this study are: trait anger, locus of control, and need for social approval. (See Appendix E: Personality Questionnaire.) Trait anger. The anger subscale of Buss and Perry’s (1992) Aggression Questionnaire was used, which assesses an individual’s dispositional tendency toward anger in everyday life.

Participants can express agreement on a five-point scale (1= very slightly true of me, 5 = very highly true of me) (alpha=.87). Example items include, “I flare up quickly but get over it quickly” and “I am an even-tempered person” (reverse-coded).

Locus of control. The Interpersonal Locus of Control subscale of the Spheres of Control measure (Paulhus, 1983) was used. This scale measures expectancies regarding outcomes of interpersonal situations. Subjects will respond to a scale using a 7-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree). High scores indicate an internal locus of control (alpha=.70).

Example items include, “I can usually achieve what I want if I work hard for it” and “I can learn almost anything if I set my mind to it.” The need for social approval. The 9-item Martin-Larsen Approval Motivation measure (MLAM; Martin, 1984) assesses an individuals approval seeking. Participants were asked to rate their agreement on a 7-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree) (alpha=.78).

Sample items are “In order to get along and be liked, I tend to be what people expect me to be” and “If there is any criticism or anyone says anything about me, I can take it” (the second item is reverse-coded).

Post-Experimental Questionnaire. The post-experimental questionnaire was disguised as a Management Department services evaluation, and included various items that assessed the department’s effectiveness (e.g., the quality of books, quality of class scheduling, overall fairness of the department), as well as the manipulation checks. (See Appendix F: Post-Experimental Questionnaire.) Manipulation checks. The perceived aggression manipulation was assessed with a 5-item measure. Respondents were asked to rate each item on a 5- point Likert-like scale (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree) (alpha=.90). Sample items include, “The comments provided by the instructor were mean-spirited” and “I felt that the comments written by the instructor were more personal attacks than constructive criticism.” The fear of retaliation manipulation was assessed with a 4-item measure. Respondents were asked to rate each item on a 5-point Likert-like scale (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree) (alpha=.89). Sample items include, “I would fear that my Instructor was going to see my evaluation responses” and “I would feel that my Instructor was going to get back at me because of my comments on the evaluation form.” Control. Organizational justice research suggests that the outcomes individuals receive (e.g., a grade on an exam) may influence reactions to perceived mistreatment, particularly when outcomes received are not what is expected (e.g., Greenberg, 1993). Therefore, in this study, grades were not manipulated; rather, students received their actual grades on their exams.

Further, to ensure reactions were the consequence of perceived aggression rather than the grade students received on the exam, it was necessary to control for the students’ actual grade in the analysis.

Social Desirability Check. In order to assess for socially desirable responses in the trait anger measure, the correlations between individual self-reported items to those of social desirability was assessed. Social desirability was assessed with an 18-item short version of the Paulhus (1991) measure (alpha =.63). Consistent with previous research (Aquino et al., 1999), I eliminated items that correlated greater than.30 with the Paulhus items. Three trait anger items were eliminated from the original set (“When frustrated, I let my irritation show” (r =.33), “I sometimes feel like a powder keg ready to explode” (r =.41), and “I have trouble controlling my temper” (r =.41)). All other items showed low correlations with social desirability (i.e. r.30).

The remaining trait anger items were retained and used in the analysis (alpha=.76).

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Manipulation Checks In general, the manipulation checks illustrated that the experimental conditions had the intended effects. Perceptions of the aggressive nature of the comments were lower in the low perceived aggression condition than the high perceived aggression condition (M = 2.59 vs. 3.58;

F = 13.91, p.001). Further, perceptions of fear of retaliation were lower in the low fear of retaliation condition than the high fear of retaliation condition (M = 1.41 vs. 2.19; F = 13.26, p.001).

Descriptive Statistics and Correlations Table 2 provides the descriptive statistics and correlations for the variables used to test our hypotheses.

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a The phi-coefficient is reported for perceived aggression and fear of retaliation. Point-biserial correlations are reported for all dichotomous and continuous variables, and zero-order correlations are shown for all continuous variables.

n = 77; * p.05, ** p.01, *** p.001 Tests of Hypotheses The moderated regressions used to test our hypotheses are shown in Table 3. Following the recommendation of Cohen, Cohen, West, and Aiken (2003), measured predictor variables were mean-centered to reduce multicollinearity. Variance inflation factor (VIF) scores were assessed for the measured predictive variables; all were well below the 10.0 standard (Ryan, 1997), suggesting multicollinearity did not present a biasing problem. Values representing plus or minus one standard deviation from the mean were used to generate the plotted regression lines for all personality moderators (Cohen et al., 2003).

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Hypothesis 1(a-c) predicts fear of retaliation will moderate the positive relationship between perceived aggression and (a) displaced aggression such that the relationship will be stronger when fear of retaliation is high than low, but that the positive relationships between perceived aggression and (b) retaliatory aggression and (c) constructive problem-solving will be stronger when fear of retaliation is low than high. The results show the fear of retaliation x perceived aggression interaction was not significantly related to displaced aggression or constructive problem-solving. Therefore, Hypotheses 1(a) and 1(c) were not supported.

The fear of retaliation x perceived aggression interaction was significantly related to retaliatory aggression. As with perceived aggression, fear of retaliation was manipulated (with values of 0=low and 1=high). Means and standard deviations for the perceived aggression and fear of retaliation manipulations are reported in Table 4. Bonferroni post hoc test results revealed the mean of the no aggression/low fear of retaliation condition was significantly different from all other categories (p.05), and that none of the other conditions were significantly different from one another. However, the difference in the mean between the no aggression/low fear of retaliation condition was marginally significantly different from the no aggression/high fear of retaliation condition (p.10).

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