Fox Researcher Finds Cynical Employees Affect Work Environment More than Affirmative Employees

Research by a professor from Temple University’s Fox School of Business found that good vibes in the workplace, unfortunately, might be good for nothing.

Dr. In-Sue Oh’s research into organizational behavior and human resources found that organizational cynicism has a greater tendency to impact an employee’s job performance than does organizational trust.

Oh’s research is featured within a co-authored paper, titled, “Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Organizational Cynicism: A Meta-Analysis,” which was published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior and featured in Human Resource Executive Online.

So in this installment of the age-old battle good vs. bad, bad likely wins out.

“Organizational cynicism and organizational trust should be the opposite of each other, but what we found is that is not the case,” said Oh, an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management. “You may trust in your organization, but that does not mean you have a lot of positive experiences or that your job performance will improve, whereas organizational cynicism is almost always based upon tangible negative experiences and will lead to a reduction in effort and harming one’s job performance.”

Before reaching that conclusion, Oh and his co-authors had to delve into the two variables at play.

Organizational trust, Oh said, is “often based upon the lack of negative experiences at work, but not necessarily based upon the presence of positive experiences.” That is almost a complete juxtaposition of their definition of organizational cynicism, which is based solely upon negative experiences.

From there, Oh and his co-authors analyzed the responses of 9,186 employees of 34 organizations, within studies conducted between 1998-2011.

“What we found was mixed,” Oh said, “in that in predicting organizational commitment or an intent to leave the organization, organizational trust is more important than organizational cynicism. Good wins out, whereas in predicting job performance, the opposite was found.”

Another interesting finding, Oh said, was uncovered in a bid to determine whether cynical people are born or made. “They’re both born and made, we found,” Oh said, “but organizational mistreatment such as injustice and lack of support has a bigger influence on organizational cynicism than individual differences like cynical personality.”

Oh suggests companies adhere to careful hiring practices, in order to screen out cynical individuals who have negative and critical tendencies.

“However, perhaps what’s more important is the need to treat employees in a fair manner and to offer them proper support,” Oh said, “because the fact remains that cynical people can develop into nice people in the organization in which they work.”

Oh co-authored the paper with Dan S. Chiaburu and Laura C. Lomeli, of Texas A&M University; Ann C. Peng, of Michigan State University; and George C. Banks, of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Temple University's Fox School of Business programs are highly interactive, practical, and global in nature.  The co-location of the Human Resources department within the Business School creates a unique opportunity to fuse cutting edge human capital research into enterprise wide strategic thinking.  Learn more about Temple University Singapore's Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM)

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