Organizational Climate

Organizational climate is a concept of employees’ attitude and feelings towards their organization which has great impact towards their working ways and contributions; in consequence organizational climate causes organization performance because this relates directly to employees’ satisfaction and commitment towards organization.

Organisational climate forms part of the broader climate concept, which includes aspects of the social environment that are consciously perceived by the organisational members (Patterson et al., 2004). The concept dates back to the early 1900s, with the work of Lewin et al. (1939) and Lewin (1951), who suggested that climate is a characterisation of the salient environmental stimuli and is an important determinant of motivation and behaviour. This has resulted in organisational climate being the direct or indirect subject of much organisational behaviour and emerging as a construct with many behavioural consequences. The subject gained momentum with the work of Litwin and Stringer (1968), who conceptualised climate in relation to its influence on motivation and behaviour. They stated that organisational climate is: “A set of measurable properties of the work environment, perceived directly or indirectly by people who live and work in this environment and assumed to influence their motivation and behaviour” (Litwin and Stringer, 1968) Litwin and Stringer (1968) conducted the first comprehensive study on organisation climate that was based on theory developed by McClelland et al. (1953) and focused on how climate affects human motives for achievement, power and affiliation. They developed the Litwin and Stringer Organisational Climate Questionnaire (LSOCQ), a theoretically based scale for measuring climate with the nine dimensions aimed at satisfying three management needs, namely accurately describe the situation, relating the dimensions to specific motivations and motivated behavior, and enable management to measure changes in the situation.

In order to influence climate, numerous factors, such as physical structure and settings, procedures and practices, and leadership style, need to be considered. Litwin and Stringer’s (1968) model suggests that the concept of organisational climate needs to be integrated with other theories of organisational behaviour such as motivation. The integration of these organisational behaviour theories with organisational climate shows the relationship and importance of factors like leadership style, management practices, decision-making processes, technology, formal organisational structures and social structures on the formation of climate.

An initial assumption of theory and research in the area of organizational climate was that social environments could be characterized by a limited number of dimensions. For example, Campbell, Dunnette, Lawler, and Weick (1970) identified four dimensions common to a number of climate studies (individual autonomy; degree of structure imposed on the situation; reward orientation; and consideration, warmth, and support). James and his colleagues (James & James, 1989; James & McIntyre, 1996; James & Sells, 1981) describe four dimensions they identified across a number of different work contexts: (1) role stress and lack of harmony; (2) job challenge and autonomy; (3) leadership facilitation and support; and (4) work group cooperation, friendliness, and warmth. James suggested that individuals developed a global or holistic perception of their work environment (e.g., James & Jones, 1974), which could be applied to any number of contexts and industries.

However, over the years the number of climate dimensions identified as targets of assessment has proliferated, leading to confusion and slow theoretical progress. For example, Glick’s (1985) review of the field described an abbreviated list of climate dimensions including leader’s psychological distance (Payne & Mansfield, 1978), managerial trust and consideration (Gavin & Howe, 1975), communication flow (Drexler, 1977), open-mindedness (Payne & Mansfield, 1978), risk orientation (Lawler, Hall, & Oldham, 1974), service quality (Schneider, Parkington, & Buxton, 1980); equity (James, 1982), and centrality (Joyce & Slocum, 1979). Since Glick’s review, the development of new climate scales has continued. For example, the Business Organization Climate Index (Payne & Pheysey, 1971) was revised in 1992 with the addition of scales measuring concern for customer service, the impact of information quality, and ability to manage culture (Payne, Brown, & Gaston, 1992).

The lack of a theoretical basis for many climate instruments has resulted in much of the variation in climate dimensions employed in different measures. For example, Wilderom, Glunk, and Maslowski (2000) located and summarized 10 studies relating climate to organizational performance. They reported that different aspects of climate emerged as important in different studies. This diffuse pattern of results is likely to be due, in part, to the variety of methods of assessment of climate employed in these studies.

The inability to draw clear research conclusions through a lack of theory and subsequent inconsistent operationalization of climate is compounded by the fact that most climate instruments have not been validated. With the exception of some domain-specific climates such as Schneider’s service climate (Schneider et al., 1998), there are few measures with demonstrated reliability and validity.

One of the best-known general measures of organizational climate is the Organizational Climate Questionnaire (OCQ) by Litwin and Stringer (1968). It comprises 50 items that assess nine dimensions of climate. A number of studies (e.g., Sims & LaFollette, 1975; Muchinsky, 1976) have suggested that a six-factor structure is more appropriate and pointed out that the existing nine scales showed poor split-half reliabilities. A review by Rogers, Miles, and Biggs (1980) showed that most studies had found six factors and that there was virtually no agreement among researchers regarding which items loaded best on the different factors. They concluded that the OCQ lacked validity and was not a consistent measurement device.

For the purpose of this research study, in the light of various theories and models on organizational climate given by various theorist and management practioners and after the broad discussion with faculty members, five antecedents of organizational climate was identified as important and more prevalent among the educational settings.

Antecedents of Organizational Climate

On the basis of through literature review & broad discussions with faculty members, five antecedents of organizational climate have been identified with the help of Organizational Climate Questionnaire (OCQ) by Litwin and Stringer (1968): Orientation, Supervision, Communication, Decision making, and Reward management.

1. Orientation: A concern with clearly defining the goals of the organization to the employees. (Locke, 1991)
2. Supervision: the extent to which employees experience support and understanding from their immediate supervisor (Cummins, 1990; Eisenberger et al., 2002).
3. Communication: The free sharing of information throughout the organization. (Callan, 1993; Hargie & Tourish, 2000)
4. Decision making: Employees have considerable influence over decision-making activities in the organization. ( Miller & Monge, 1986; Hollander & Offerman, 1990)
5. Reward management: Reward identifies the feeling of being rewarded fairly and equitably as well as the perceived organization’s promotion policies. If an employee feels that he or she is unlikely to obtain a good evaluation or promotion even after having great endeavours in such a working environment, he or she will probably search for another job elsewhere (Ing-Chung Huang et al, 2003).

Turnover Intention

Employee Turnover is acting like an incurable disease now-a-days as it is becoming very difficult for the organizations to retain their valuable employees, which are the means of gaining competitive advantage. Intention to leave and actual turnover are often highly correlated. For this reason, researchers often use intent to leave as a proxy for turnover. Price (1977) developed a model of turnover which proposes that intention to leave is influenced by personal characteristics, role related characteristics, facility characteristics, turnover opportunities, and job characteristics. Mobley (1982), on the other hand classes the causes and correlates of turnover into a simple model, which presents the determinants into external economy, organizational variables and individual variables.

Turnover intention is defined as a conscious and deliberate wilfulness to leave the organization (Tett and Meyer, 1993). High turnover often means that employees are unhappy with the work or compensation, but it can also indicate unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or that too few employees give satisfactory performance (due to unrealistic expectations or poor candidate screening). The lack of career opportunities and challenges, dissatisfaction with the job-scope or conflict with the management has also been cited as predictors of high turnover. Low turnover indicates that none of the above is true: employees are satisfied and their performance is satisfactory to the employer.

This study on employee’s intention to quit, however, is zooming in at the organizational levels. One of the organizational variables used is organizational climate which potentially correlates to individual’s turnover intention. Employees tend to leave organizations that endure unfavourable organizational climate. Implementing employee retention strategies by changing organizational climate could be time-consuming and it would not probably show significant results in the short term. It is hoped that this study will shed some light for organizations that encounter high turnover rates resulting from unfavourable organizational climate. Knowing more about why people intent to leave is important to develop general guidelines to improve the relevant organizational climate factors that are considered short-coming in the organizations.

Links between Organizational climate and Turnover Intention

Research has suggested that climate perceptions are associated with a variety of important outcomes at an individual, work group, and organizational as a whole. One of the important outcome and also the focus of this study is turnover intention (Rousseau, 1988; Rentsch, 1990).

Lewin (1951) proposed that behaviour of an individual within an organisation is a function of the individual and the organisational environment as depicted by the following equation:

Behaviour = f (P, E)
P is the characteristics of the individual; and
E is the characteristics of the environment that the individual operates in.

This formula summarises the essence of environmental influences on an individual’s behaviour. It is therefore also indicative of the effect that organisational climate has on behaviour. The behavior can be depicted as turnover intention of faculty members.