Theories of organizational behavior posit dynamic processes. Inherent in the generation of predictions is how variables operate and interact over time. For example, the observation that conscientiousness should relate to job performance inherently posits that conscientious individuals engage in behaviors that enhance their job performance to a greater extent than nonconscientious individuals. This hypothesis is typically tested across individuals by relating trait conscientiousness to some level of aggregated performance. It is likely that there is a set of behaviors that mediate the relationship between conscientiousness and job performance. Such behaviors consist in part of ensuring that assigned tasks are done, infrequently missing meetings, following up with others more often, arranging work in a logical fashion, setting goals and subgoals to be accomplished during a workday (Ryan, 1970), and coping with personal problems during nonwork times. Studies that address variance over time are crucial to understanding the processes behind well-documented relationships.
Mediating behaviors are likely to influence some, but not all, aspects of an employee's job performance. One can hypothesize that these mediating behaviors occur more frequently in conscientious employees but still not assume they are static and completely regularly occurring aspects of how conscientious employees organize their workdays. Nor do we need to assume that trait conscientiousness is a fixed characteristic of individuals. It is likely that state conscientiousness may fluctuate across time and situations, although it should be higher in individuals with high degrees of trait conscientiousness. The degree of stability will likely depend in part on the consistency and impact of feedback from behav iors that typify conscientiousness. Episodic mediating behaviors are more likely to occur when state conscientiousness is high. These mediating behaviors are likely to be related to performance effectiveness during those times.
The picture this presents is a dynamic, within-per-son, instantiation of the much-studied between-per-son correlation between trait conscientiousness and aggregated overall performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991). We can assume that between-person observations will generalize to some within-person processes without also taking the step of assuming fixed, static traits and behaviors. As we move away from a pragmatic field concerned with documenting relationships to a more theoretically oriented one, dynamic processing understanding will become crucial.
For example, we might think of organizational commitment as a relatively more stable variable than is mood. However, even organizational commitment varies about its long-term mean over time. Some weeks we are very committed to our organizations, others, not so because of, for example, a press story that the CEO of our organization and his captive finance committee recently awarded him a 20-year increase in his years with the organization to increase his retirement benefits; no such additions to rank-and-file employees' years of service were made. These deviations are regarded as random minor fluctuations or measurement errors in the current application of classical measurement theory. As a consequence of this, they are ignored in our studies of the constructs; within-person, across-time variances in the assessments of the construct are neither studied nor analyzed for possible relations with antecedents or behavioral consequences. We do not investigate the potential antecedents and consequences of fluctuations of these variables because we assume these fluctuations to be random error.
For example, some have suggested that understanding of how personality influences outcomes may be achieved by examination of such intrapersonal variability (e.g., Block, 1995; Pervin, 1994). Personality does not express itself in a vacuum. Individuals constantly choose and react to situations in their environment. That is, personality processes might be better understood by examining how they predict momentary behavior, affect, and cognition. In response, researchers (Moskowitz & Cote, 1995; Cote & Moskowitz, 1998) developed the behavioral concordance model building on prior work that examined situational concordance (Diener, Larson, & Emmons, 1984; Emmons, Diener, & Larsen, 1986). A few recent studies have documented the utility of such models for understanding several dimensions of personality (Cote & Moskowitz, 1998; Gable, Reis, & Elliot, 2000; Moskowitz & Cote, 1995). Applied to I/O endeavors such an approach could, for example, help researchers understand how personality interacts with job characteristics to influence job performance across time and across people with different personality profiles. Key is the idea that we need to get data about how personality operates across situations to get a better understanding about how it operates in work settings.
In summary, we believe that increasing attention to dynamic construct variance is important for two reasons. First, it is important to address a potential misestimation of error terms. If researchers sweep meaningful variance in constructs into their error terms inappropriately, they commit errors potentially as large as artificially inflating correlations by using common methods. Second, we see potential for the expansion of theory to process rather than documentation of correlations by increasing access and attention to temporal ordering. We recognize such a focus will make most organizational research more difficult, just as Dunnette (1966) argued decades ago. Managers will undoubtedly resist efforts to extend data collection beyond familiar survey instruments administered at one arbitrary time and the occasional supervisory evaluations of performance. Researchers will also object to attempts to partition temporal variance into true and error components rather than simply assuming that temporal variance is all error. However, the alternative is to continue the status quo and to ignore what seem to be serious problems with theory/data interfaces.
Was this article helpful?