Sei sulla pagina 1di 28
Organization-Based Self-Esteem: Construct Definition, Measurement, and Validation Author(s): Jon L. Pierce, Donald G. Gardner, Larry L.

Organization-Based Self-Esteem: Construct Definition, Measurement, and Validation Author(s): Jon L. Pierce, Donald G. Gardner, Larry L. Cummings and Randall B. Dunham Source: The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 622-648 Published by: Academy of Management Stable URL: Accessed: 20-09-2016 07:21 UTC

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

Organization-Based Self-Esteem: Construct Definition, Measurement, and Validation Author(s): Jon L. Pierce, Donald G. Gardner, Larry L.

Academy of Management is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The

Academy of Management Journal

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

?) Academy of Management Journal

1989, Vol. 32, No. 3, 622-648





University of Minnesota

DONALD G. GARDNER University of Colorado-Colorado Springs


University of Minnesota


University of Wisconsin

The article introduces the construct "organization-based self-esteem"

and its measurement. We developed a partial nomological network

resulting in a set of hypotheses that guided efforts to validate the con- struct and its measurement. Homogeneity of scale items, test-retest and internal consistency reliability, and convergent, discriminant, incre- mental, concurrent, and predictive validity estimates were all in-

spected through conducting field studies and a laboratory experiment.

We present results from a validation effort involving seven studies that

drew on data from over 2,000 individuals, representing diverse orga-

nizations and occupations. Results support the construct validity of the

measurement and most of the hypotheses.

A number of researchers have shown an interest in investigating the role of self-esteem in a variety of organizational models. The basic hypothesis guiding most of this work suggests that the way individuals react to life experiences varies as a function of their level of self-esteem, or the extent to which they perceive themselves as competent, need-satisfying individuals

(Korman, 1976). One underlying theoretical tenet regarding self-esteem is

that individuals will develop attitudes and behave in ways that will main-

tain their level of self-esteem (Korman, 1976).1 According to this theory, in

We would like to express our appreciation to Johan Aamodt, from the Norwegian Center for

Organizational Learning, Oslo, and to Donald G. McTavish and Kjell R. Knudsen, University of

Minnesota, for their assistance with the laboratory portions of this study. Assistance with data collection given by Richard Pearson, Jeff Maida, John Hawley, and Laurie Weingart is also greatly appreciated. Finally, we wish to express our appreciation to the two anonymous re- viewers for their constructive contributions to our article.

' There are at least two competing explanations for the effects ascribed to self-

esteem-self-consistency and self-enhancement (cf. Dipboye, 1977; Korman, 1976). Predictions (continued)


This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 623

work organizations, individuals with high self-esteem will develop and

maintain favorable work attitudes, such as job satisfaction, and will behave productively-perform at a high level-because such attitudes and behav-

ior are consistent with the attitude that they are competent individuals. Individuals with low self-esteem, on the other hand, will develop and main-

tain unfavorable work attitudes and unproductive work behaviors that are

consistent with the attitude that they are people of low competence. To give an example, Hollenbeck and Brief (1987) found that high self-esteem indi- viduals valued attainment of performance goals more than low self-esteem individuals.


Many researchers have argued for recognizing self-esteem as a hierar-

chical and multifaceted phenomenon (Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976;

Song & Hattie, 1985; Tharenou, 1979). As researchers have worked with the

self-esteem construct, different levels of generality for self-esteem have

emerged. Simpson and Boyle (1975) noted that researchers have measured global self-esteem in reference to an overall evaluation of self-worth, role-

specific self-esteem as the self-evaluation that arises from one of life's many

roles (parent, student, spouse, etc.), and task- or situation-specific self-

esteem as the self-evaluation that results from behavior in a specific situa-

tion and representing a person's competence in a task just performed.

Many measures of global self-esteem have been developed, and some

have demonstrated reasonable levels of construct validity (Crandall, 1973; Wells & Marwell, 1976; Wylie, 1974). Measures of task-specific self-esteem have also been developed, though on more of an ad hoc basis (Wells &

Marwell, 1976). Nevertheless, Tharenou, after reviewing measures of self- esteem, noted that "major problems occur [in the measurement] of self-

esteem" (1979: 319). Many researchers develop their own scales, fail to

check for evidence of acceptable construct validity, and then begin to ad- dress substantive research issues (Schwab, 1980). Thus, Tharenou and oth-

ers have called for the development and validation of measures of self-

esteem specific to the domains under study-the tasks, work units, organi-

zations, and so forth, with which a researcher is concerned.

On numerous occasions, researchers (e.g., Simpson & Boyle, 1975; Song

& Hattie, 1985; Tharenou, 1979) have expressed concern over the appropri- ateness of a self-esteem measure included in an investigation. Research con- ducted on the relationship between behaviors and attitudes (Epstein, 1979) suggests that the more self-esteem is framed in a context consistent with the

behavior or attitude to be predicted, the higher will be the observed corre-

based on those two explanations are similar in some situations (Dipboye, 1977) and different in

others (ones, 1973). Our purpose here was construct validation, not the theoretical testing of

differential predictions. Indeed, some research has indicated that both theories are correct, depending on the type of dependent variable examined (Swann, Griffin, Predmore, & Gaines,


This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

624 Academy of Management journal September

lation between the two variables. For instance, task-specific self-esteem

should predict task-related phenomena like task performance more strongly

than will global self-esteem.

Song and Hattie (1985), for example, noted that observations pertaining

to the relationship between self-concept and academic performance have

been confounded by the use of global and academically specific self-concept

scales, which frequently fail to produce the same results. Following their

observation that task-specific measures frequently predict behaviors not pre- dicted by global measures, Simpson and Boyle (1975) challenged the wis- dom of universally employing global self-esteem scales in a number of re- search paradigms. Observations of this nature led Tharenou (1979) to note

that on numerous occasions researchers have employed global measures when it would have been more appropriate to use a more narrowly focused self-esteem construct. Global self-esteem scales are likely to be appropriate for studies of individuals within the context of total life events, but task- specific measures of self-esteem, measures that reveal a person's worthiness

in a particular activity, are appropriate for very task-specific behaviors.

Thus, we observe that (1) measures of global self-esteem frequently fail

to demonstrate significant relationships with measures of other constructs

when employed in organizational research, (2) although measures of global self-esteem are reasonably well developed, there are few, if any, construct-

valid measures of self-esteem framed in a task or organizational context, and

(3) self-esteem should be measured at a level of analysis that is similar to the

level of analysis of the variables with which it is being studied. Thus, orga-

nization-specific self-esteem should predict organization-related phenom-

ena like organizational commitment more strongly than task-specific or glob- al self-esteem, and global self-esteem should predict life satisfaction more accurately than either task-specific or organization-specific self-esteem.


A Rationale for a Measure of Organization-based Self-esteem

Many of the constructs that are traditionally employed in organizational paradigms, such as turnover, climate, commitment, and citizenship, are ori- ented toward employees and their role within a total organization, and it is

at the total-work-environment level of analysis that there is a need for an appropriate measure of self-esteem. To our knowledge, however, no con- struct-validated measure of self-esteem exists that is anchored in an organi- zational frame of reference, even though many important constructs in the

organizational sciences are organization-based. We directed the present re-

search effort toward the development and initial validation of such a mea-

sure of self-esteem, hoping that such a measure will better enable researchers

to examine the effects of self-esteem in relation to other organization-based


This article introduces the construct "organization-based self-esteem"

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 625

(OBSE) and its measurement. We present results from seven studies exam-

ining the psychometric properties of a measure of the construct and an empirical validation evaluation of a partial nomological network incorpo- rating it. The purpose of this investigation is the development and initial validation of a measure of organization-based self-esteem.

The Organization-based Self-esteem Construct

According to Coopersmith (1967), the concept "self" is complex and

multidimensional. It reflects diverse attributes and capacities, some of

which are manifested in external objects such as the body, and others of which are internal, consisting of feelings and beliefs. Self-esteem is only one of many concepts of self that have found their way into the organizational


Building from the work of Coopersmith (1967), Gelfand (1962), Korman

(1976), and Wells and Marwell (1976), we viewed self-esteem as a self-

evaluation that individuals make and maintain with regard to themselves.

Self-esteem expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval of self; it is a

personal evaluation reflecting what people think of themselves as individ- uals; it indicates the extent to which individuals believe themselves to be

capable, reflecting a personal judgment of worthiness.

The concept introduced in this study is similar to other conceptualiza-

tions of self-esteem (e.g., Korman, 1976; Wells & Marwell, 1976). We define

organization-based self-esteem as the degree to which organizational mem-

bers believe that they can satisfy their needs by participating in roles within the context of an organization. People with high OBSE have a sense of

personal adequacy as organizational members and a sense of having satisfied needs from their organizational roles in the past. Thus, organization-based

self-esteem reflects the self-perceived value that individuals have of them-

selves as organization members acting within an organizational context. As a result, employees with high OBSE should perceive themselves as impor-

tant, meaningful, effectual, and worthwhile within their employing organi-


Employees with high self-esteem are likely to have a strong sense of

self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977). That is, they are likely to have strong expec- tations that they can execute the behaviors required for task performance.

Thus, individuals who develop beliefs about their own efficacy within and

across situations will simultaneously develop a strong sense of self-esteem. Efficacy perceptions at the level of specific tasks contribute to task-specific

self-esteem; efficacy perceptions across a variety of organizational tasks con- tribute to OBSE; and efficacy perceptions that accumulate across a variety of tasks and roles contribute to the formation of global self-esteem. But orga-

nization-based self-esteem differs from perceptions of self-efficacy because it

reflects an individual's self-perceived competence within an organization

and self-efficacy reflects a belief that self-perceived competence can be translated into actions that will result in successful performance.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

626 Academy of Management journal September


The studies reported here focused on validating a measure of organiza- tion-based self-esteem. Thus, we focused on demonstrating reliability of measurement, convergent validity, and the distinctness of OBSE from other constructs (Schwab, 1980). In addition, though we have not yet developed a complete nomological network for OBSE, we present an initial network here

to guide efforts to further validate the construct and its measurement (see Figure 1). This will be done, in part, by testing hypotheses derived from this

nomological network.

Properties of Organization-based Self-esteem

Korman's (1970, 1971, 1976) self-consistency motivational theory pro- vided much of the theoretical basis for our OBSE construct. He saw self-

esteem as both shaped by experiences and central to the explanation of employee motivation, attitudes, and behaviors. Extending this reasoning, we

posited that experiences within an organization will shape OBSE, which will also affect organization-related behaviors and attitudes. In contrast, global self-esteem derives from an aggregation of experiences across these and many other contexts that accumulate across time. But because experi-

enced self-worth in one domain is likely to be correlated with experienced

self-worth in other domains, we expected organization-based self-esteem to

be related to global self-esteem, of which it is a partial determinant. Further, we expected OBSE to be related to task-specific self-esteem. Task-specific

self-esteem may partially determine experiences within an organization that lead to an individual's level of OBSE. A person with low task-specific self-

esteem, for example, may perform poorly, leading to organizational sanc- tions and low OBSE. Thus, our first two hypotheses focus on organization- based self-esteem's relationships to levels of other types of self-esteem:

Hypothesis 1: There will be a positive relationship be- tween organization-based self-esteem and global self-


Hypothesis 2: There will be a positive relationship be- tween organization-based self-esteem and job- or task-

specific self-esteem.

Like global self-esteem, OBSE is part of an individual's basic belief system. As a part of personality, this belief system, once it is established, is relatively stable, especially when there are no major environmental changes that may give rise to new kinds of experiences. Viewing OBSE as a part of people's belief systems led to our next hypothesis:

Hypothesis 3: In the absence of major changes in work environment, organization-based self-esteem will be sta-

ble across time.

Working within the context of self-esteem's nomological network, we

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 627

+) (Hypothesis 4,

a The symbols + and - indicate the hypothesized directions of relationships.

to Other Constructsa


b Under conditions

of environmental

stability, OBSE will be stable and positively associated with itself across time.

Environmental Satisfaction

Stability (Hypothesis 12, +)


(Hypothesis 2, +)\ (Hypothesis 11, +)

(Hypothesis 3, + J Self-esteem Commitment

Organizational Stability Across Timeb Task and Job

(Hypothesis 10, +)

(Hypothesis 6, +) 1 Citizenship

Job Complexity I Organizational

(Hypothesis 5, -) j Self-esteem (Hypothesis 9, +)

Satisfaction Mechanistic Organization _ Organization-based

General Job

+) Managerial Respect (Hypothesis 8,

Job Performance

(Hypothesis 1, +)|| (Hypothesis 7, -1)


Motivation Global Intrinsic

of Hypothesized Nomological Network Relationships of Organization-based



This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

628 Academy of Management Journal September

agree with Tharenou's (1979) suggestions that the construct be treated as

both a dependent and independent variable and that reciprocal effects are

likely because of the nature of self-esteem (Bandura, 1978). Thus, we explore OBSE as a determinant or antecedent of behavior and attitudes and as a

consequence of work-environment experiences.

Antecedents of Organization-based Self-esteem

Our nomological network specifies several expected antecedents of

OBSE. Korman's (1971) review of the environmental antecedents of self-

esteem suggested that both the expectations of others and situational con-

ditions play a shaping role. Korman's reference to socially induced self-

esteem suggests that the comments others direct toward people and the types

of tasks assigned to them communicate messages about their value. If sig-

nificant others think a person is a valuable organizational member and their

comments and behaviors reflect that belief, enhanced OBSE is likely to be

the consequence.

Previous research has also identified environmental conditions as major

shaping factors. Korman's (1970) work suggested that in a mechanistically

designed social system-a social system in which procedures, control, for- mality, and hierarchy are emphasized-people will develop low levels of self-esteem. Mechanistic organizations achieve a high level of system-

imposed control through a rigid hierarchy, centralization, standardization,

and formalization. Rules, procedures, and management actions greatly con- trol employees' behaviors in such organizations. Korman predicted that un-

der such organizational conditions, employees will eventually develop a belief system consonant with the apparent basic mistrust or lack of respect for people implicit in highly controlled systems. He reasoned that the de-

velopment of programmed activities and high rule specification implies a

mistrust in the abilities and willingness of people to complete their tasks on their own, without direction and control from others (Kipnis & Lane, 1962). In contrast, an organic social system, which is more personal and democratic and less concerned with hierarchy, procedures, formality, and control, will lead to higher levels of self-esteem with work contexts because it places inherent trust in employees as competent, valuable, contributing individu-


An elaboration of Korman's argument would suggest that any form of

system-imposed behavior control, or external control system, carries with it an assumption of the incapability of individuals to exercise self-direction and self-control. The greater the imposed control, the less self-direction and

control individuals have in a system. One consequence of a highly con-

trolled system is likely to be the suggestion to employees that they are not

competent within the organizational context. Continual exposure to these

signals and the absence of organizational opportunities to demonstrate and experience competence lead to low levels of organization-based self-esteem.

By way of contrast, sources of environmental structure (Pierce, Dunham, &

Cummings, 1984) that permit the exercise of self-direction and self-control

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 629

should be positively associated with a perception of organizational compe- tence. Compared to individuals in work environments that control their behaviors, people in such a system have a greater opportunity to exercise competence and experience success, which contributes to self-assessments of competence. In sum, managerial attitudes and behaviors directly expressed in man- ager-employee interactions and indirectly expressed via the creation of sys- tems within which employees must function are likely to play a major role in the development of OBSE. Thus,

Hypothesis 4: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween the perception of managerial respect for organiza-

tion members and organization-based self-esteem.

Hypothesis 5: Mechanistic organizational designs will

cause lower levels of organization-based self-esteem than

organic designs.

Tharenou's (1979) and Tharenou and Harker's (1982) reviews of the

self-esteem literature suggest that job characteristics are among the most

consistent correlates of individuals' assessments of their own work and task

competence and worth. The most influential job characteristics for develop-

ing high self-esteem are the amount of challenge and autonomy in a job

(Tharenou, 1979). In other studies, job complexity has had a consistently positive and significant relationship with global self-esteem and work and

task self-esteem (Dipboye, Zultowski, Dewhirst, & Arvey, 1979; Freedman & Phillips, 1985; Sekaran & Wagner, 1981; Tharenou & Harker, 1982). Given

Hackman and Oldham's (1975) job characteristics model, we might reason

that employees' performance of complex jobs that suggest they are compe- tent, valuable, and capable of self-direction and self-control will reinforce a

similar belief system. That is, the opportunity to perform complex tasks that

require moderate to high levels of ability should allow employees the op-

portunity to experience personal worth. By experiencing complex tasks,

Hackman and Oldham (1975) proposed that employees will come to expe-

rience a sense of responsibility and to experience their organizational role as

meaningful. Both of these psychological states should unfold, unless an

individual is overmatched with his or her job. Through this process, a cog-

nitively consistent view of the self should develop, thereby enhancing an

individual's organization-based self-esteem. In addition, successful perfor-

mance of complex jobs may lead to other experiences within an organization

that reinforce OBSE, such as promotions. Through these processes, we ex-

pect OBSE to be related to perceived job complexity. Thus,

Hypothesis 6: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween perceived job complexity and organization-based


Consequences of Organization-based Self-esteem Cognitive consistency theory assumes that people are motivated to

achieve outcomes that are consistent with their self-concept (Korman, 1971:

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

630 Academy of Management Journal September

595). This model would suggest that employees with high OBSE- employees who perceive themselves as organizationally valuable and mean- ingful-will attempt to engage in behaviors valued in their organization. In similar fashion, need theory (Alderfer, 1972; Maslow, 1943) and self- enhancement theory (Dipboye, 1977) would also predict that employees are motivated to engage in behaviors that demonstrate and enhance their orga- nizational worth. To the extent that these behaviors demonstrate personal competence and make an organizational contribution, employees will derive intrinsic satisfaction, coupled with a reinforcement of their self-esteem. Sub- sequent success due to these behaviors should reinforce high organization- based self-esteem, and failure would reinforce low OBSE. Thus, to maintain cognitive consistency, employees with high OBSE should be motivated to

perform at a high level, actually perform at a high level, have favorable

attitudes about an organization, and engage in other organization-related

behaviors that would benefit the organization (cf. Taylor & Brown, 1988).

Low OBSE employees are predicted to do the opposite to maintain cognitive

consistency. Thus, we hypothesized that OBSE would relate to the following behaviors and attitudes but again acknowledged the possibility of reciprocal


Hypothesis 7: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and intrinsic work


Hypothesis 8: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and job per-

formance. 2 Hypothesis 9: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and general job sat- isfaction.

Hypothesis 10: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and engagement in

organizationally beneficial behaviors.

Increased self-acceptance within an organizational context is likely to

be associated with increased satisfaction with one's organizational associa-

tion and increased attachment to the organization (organizational commit-

2 Actually, performance level is expected to be a strong determinant in the formation

OBSE. As employees begin their organizational tenure, objective and subjective performance feedback provide cues about their level of competence within an organization, which deter-

mines beliefs about their self-perceived task- and organization-based worth. Because the re- spondent groups from which we obtained performance measures were characterized by em- ployees with high tenure, who were likely to have already-determined beliefs about organiza- tion-based competence, we phrased the hypothesis in terms of OBSE as a cause of performance

instead of vice versa.

We also note that research evidence shows that there are a host of factors that attenuate the relationship between self-esteem and performance (Brockner, 1988), even though the basic

relationship should be as hypothesized.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 631

ment). A high level of organizational self-esteem implies a correspondingly high level of experienced personal competence and organizational worth. Such a psychological state is need-satisfying and reinforcing for an individ- ual and thus positions an organization as a need-satisfying agent in an em- ployee's life. Because the organization satisfies needs, employees are likely to integrate the organization into their lives, to internalize the organization, and to make its goals and value systems part of their own. Thus:

Hypothesis 11: There will be a positive relationship be- tween organization-based self-esteem and organizational


Hypothesis 12: There will be a positive relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and organizational

satisfaction. Figure 1 summarizes the first 12 hypotheses in the proposed nomolog- ical network for the OBSE construct. It should be noted that the model is only a partial network for the construct and that many of these relationships

are likely to involve reciprocal effects (Bandura, 1978; Tharenou, 1979).

Predictive Efficacy of Organization-based Self-esteem

Building on the concerns expressed by Song and Hattie (1985), Simpson

and Boyle (1975), and Tharenou (1979) regarding the validity of self-esteem

measures, the predictive accuracy of existing measures, and appropriate

levels of construct measurement, we offer two additional hypotheses. Both

Hypotheses 13 and 14 attempt to establish the predictive efficacy of OBSE

relative to measures of task-specific and global self-esteem.

Of the several constructs examined in the series of studies reported here, organizational commitment is perhaps the perceptual target most closely

aligned with the target of organization-based self-esteem. Organizational

commitment is the degree to which employees are willing to take internal

and external actions on behalf of their organization, and OBSE is the degree

to which they see themselves as need-satisfying individuals within the con- text of their organizational experiences. Following the argument concerning levels of analysis made above, we would expect this relationship between

OBSE and organizational commitment to be stronger than the relationship

between task-specific self-esteem and organizational commitment. That is,

we expect an organization-organization relationship to be stronger than a

task-organization relationship. To help distinguish OBSE from task-specific

self-esteem, we hypothesized that:

Hypothesis 13: There will be a stronger relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and organizational

commitment than between task-specific self-esteem and

organizational commitment.

Continuing the level-of-analysis argument, we also expect that the organi-

zation-organization relationship will be stronger than the global- organization relationship. Consequently, we expect that the relationship be-

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

632 Academy of Management Journal September

tween OBSE and organizational satisfaction will be stronger than the rela-

tionship between global self-esteem and organizational satisfaction. Thus, Hypothesis 14: There will be a stronger relationship be-

tween organization-based self-esteem and organizational satisfaction than between global self-esteem and organi- zational satisfaction.


Study Designs and Respondents The studies reported here drew on seven groups of people with a com-

bined total of 2,444 individuals. The seven studies were used to test the 14

hypotheses, but each hypothesis was not tested in each study. We examined

scale dimensionality, homogeneity of scale items, reproducibility of homo- geneity across studies, reliability estimates (test-retest and internal consis- tency), and convergent, discriminant, incremental, concurrent, and predic-

tive validity estimates.

Table 1 identifies the study and respondents with which each of the hypotheses was tested. Respondents for study 1 were 32 summer school

teachers employed by a midwestern school system. Study 2 was based on data from 333 employees of a mining firm representing a variety of occupa- tional and skill categories. Study 3 drew on lower-, middle-, and upper-level

managers from a variety of manufacturing and service-oriented organiza-

tions (e.g., utility, banking, mining, oil, education, health care); these man-

agers participated in two laboratory-based organizational simulations. We

obtained a total of 38 observations (20 for one simulated organization and 18

for the second) from the simulations. The fourth study employed 1,426 mid-

western school teachers, administrators, and support workers. The fifth in-

cluded 475 employees, representing all levels and job functions, from an

automobile service club in a midwestern state. Study 6 used data from 96

office employees, from entry-level clerical workers through top managers, from a state educational association. Finally, the respondents for study 7 consisted of 45 evening M.B.A. students at a midwestern university, all of

whom were employed full-time in various types of jobs.


Respondents in six of the seven studies, study 3 being the exception,

were administered paper-and-pencil questionnaires with questions directed toward their current full-time jobs. Procedures for study 7 varied; we gave

those respondents the same questionnaire on two occasions five weeks

apart. For participants in study 3, who also received a paper-and-pencil

questionnaire, questions applied to simulated jobs the participants held dur-

ing a three-day management development laboratory program.

The organizational simulation in study 3 was designed to create two

types of organizational structures: mechanistic and organic. These differ- ences were produced through a combination of written instructions describ-

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 633

a The third group, managers from various firms, participated in laboratory simulations.

10. Organizational citizenship x

5. Mechanistic design x

4. Managerial respect x x


Hypotheses Tested in Studies

13. Comparison with task self-esteem x x

11. Organizational commitment x x x x x



















Job complexity x x

2. Job- and task-specific self-esteem x x

Studies and Respondents


14. Comparison with global self-esteem x

12. Organizational satisfaction x

3. Stability across time x x







Concepts 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Hypotheses Numbers Teachers Employees Managersa Employees Employees Association Students

School Firm School Club Employees M.B.A.

Summer Mining Service State Evening

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

634 Academy of Management Journal September

ing the structure and goals of the hypothetical organization and the role playing of the directors of the laboratory. All participants worked in both a mechanistic and an organic organization during three days of organizational simulations with the order of exposure to mechanistic and organic structure counterbalanced. A complete description of the simulation appears in Knud- sen, McTavish, and Aamodt (1985). For a manipulation check, we obtained

several structural measures-perceived authoritarianism, formality, con-

cern for control, concern for procedures, and flexibility-to compare the two social system structures. The results indicated that participants per-

ceived the manipulation as we intended (F - 40.03, p < .01). There were no

significant effects for the order in which the two structures were experi- enced.


Organization-based self-esteem. The items in the OBSE scale were de- rived from comments we have often heard in discussions with employees, managers, and organizational scientists. The following demonstrates the type of comment we mean: Joel S. Birnbaum, in an interview with Business

Week (Wilson & Harris, 1986: 116), noted that he became frustrated at IBM by the difficulty of getting his ideas to market. Emphasizing a cognition,

reflecting a personalized evaluation of self-worth, that began to develop,

Birnbaum said, "I had the feeling I didn't make a difference." We have come to the conclusion that it is not uncommon for employees to develop a belief that they "do not count," "do not make a difference," "are not a valuable part of this place." It was out of this context that we started the development of

the OBSE measure.

The OBSE scale consists of ten items generated by us. Each of the items reflects what we would expect employees to consider in evaluating the ex-

tent to which they believe that they are valuable, worthwhile, effectual mem-

bers of their employing organizations. We asked respondents in studies 1, 2,

and 3 to think about the messages they received from the attitudes and

behaviors of their managers and supervisors and to indicate, on a 5-point

scale, the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with each of the following statements: I count around here; I am taken seriously; I am important; I am

trusted; there is faith in me; I can make a difference; I am valuable; I am

helpful; I am efficient; and I am cooperative. To increase adjusted item-total

correlations, we later appended the wording "around here" to all items and

employed this revised scale in studies 4-7. We used a 5-point Likert re-

sponse scale with the ten items measuring organization-based self-esteem, except in study 4, where a 7-point scale was employed.

Other measures. To be consistent with the construct validation process

(Schwab, 1980), we tried to use measures of other constructs with previously

established psychometric properties, though in a few instances this could

not be done.

In study 1, organization-based self-esteem was also measured with a modification of a 19-item semantic-differential global self-esteem scale de-

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 635

veloped in unreported research by Gardner and Stone.3 The modification

consisted of asking for responses to the scale items based on experiences

with a current job as opposed to total life-based experiences. Gardner and Stone developed this measure from (1) thoroughly reviewing existing global

self-esteem measures (Crandall, 1973; Wells & Marwell, 1976; Wylie, 1974),

(2) isolating 19 common dimensions across those existing measures, and (3)

framing those 19 dimensions in the form of bipolar adjectives (e.g., cooper-

ative-uncooperative, self-assured-hesitant; helpful-frustrating; efficient- inefficient; supportive-hostile). In their research, which consisted of two

laboratory experiments, the semantic differential scale correlated .63 (p < .001) with the established Likert-type global self-esteem scale (Rosenberg,

1965). Inspection of the relationship between the Likert scales used with our

OBSE measure and the semantic differential scale provides insight into is-

sues dealing with convergent validity and method variance (Campbell &

Fiske, 1959; Schwab, 1980).

Managerial respect was measured using a single Likert-type item in

studies 1 and 4: "Management has little regard for the well-being of people

who work for this organization." Organizational commitment was assessed

in studies 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 with either the long (15 items) or the short (9 items)

form of the Porter, Steers, Mowday, and Boulian (1974) instrument. We used the following to measure general job satisfaction: in study 1, Hackman and

Oldham's Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS, 1975); in study 4, the Minnesota Sat-

isfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) (Weiss, Dawis, England, & Lofquist, 1967);

and in studies 5 and 6, a combination of seven of the eight facets assessed by the Index of Organizational Reactions (IOR) (Smith, 1976). Organizational

satisfaction (Dunham, Smith, & Blackburn, 1977) was measured in study 7

with a single item that read "Consider the organization that you work for and

the things that you do for this organization. Circle the face on the appropriate scale which best expresses how you feel about your association with this

organization" and employed the Dunham and Herman (1975) modification

of Kunin's (1955) Faces scale. To measure internal work motivation, we used

the JDS in study 2 and Lawler and Hall's (1970) measure of intrinsic moti-

vation in studies 5 and 6. Organizational citizenship was measured in study

4 by a self-report version of the 16-item scale developed by Smith, Organ,

and Near (1983). We measured job complexity in studies 5 and 6 with items

from the Job Characteristics Inventory (Sims, Szilagyi, & Keller, 1976) for the

measurement of variety, autonomy, feedback, and task identity and took significance items from the JDS. Global self-esteem was measured in study 7 with Rosenberg's (1965) 10-item questionnaire. Task- and job-based self-

esteem was measured in studies 5 and 6 with a 6-item modification of the

Rosenberg scale and Beehr's (1976) 3-item scale. We modified the Rosenberg

3 Our source is a personal communication from D. G. Gardner and E. F. Stone regarding

unpublished self-esteem research.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

636 Academy of Management Journal September

scale by anchoring each item in the context of a respondent's job; for exam-

ple, "I feel I have a number of good qualities" was changed to "I feel I have

a number of good qualities for the performance of my job." We used super- visory ratings to measure job performance in studies 5 and 6 and also used

an objective measure of performance for some of the employees in study 5.

Data for that measure came from archival personnel files and reflected the most recent performance measurement before survey measures were ob-

tained. The two measures of performance for study 5 reflected the major

categories of employees at the research site: nonexempt employees, who received an hourly wage, and telemarketing employees, who received an hourly wage plus a commission for membership sales. The nonexempt per-

formance measure was the sum of supervisory ratings on eight dimensions:

knowledge, quality, quantity, initiative, dependability, adaptability, cooper- ation, and attitude. The performance measure for telemarketers was average

dollar club-membership sales per hour during the most recent performance

review period. In study 6, supervisory ratings of nonexempt employees were

in one of three classes: below standard, at standard, or above standard. Table

2 summarizes information on which measures were employed in the various



Studies and Their Measures

Measures 1








Organization-based self-esteem x x x x x x x Organization-based self-esteem,

semantic differential x

Managerial respect x x Organizational commitment x x x x x

General job satisfaction








Organizational satisfaction

Internal work motivation JDS



x Hall x



Organizational citizenship x Global self-esteem, Rosenberg x Task- and job-specific self-esteem Rosenberg, modified x x






ratings x


Archival personnel files x Organic-mechanistic social system structures x





This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 637

Analyses Descriptive statistics, reliability, and validity. Group means and stan-

dard deviations were calculated for each variable. For multiitem scales, we used coefficient alpha (Cronbach, 1951) to estimate reliability. In study 7, a test-retest estimate of reliability for organization-based self-esteem was also calculated. In addition, we calculated this test-retest correlation controlling for employee perceptions of the degree to which organizational change had

occurred between the two data collections. For study 1, convergent validity

evidence for the OBSE measure was obtained by correlating the scores for the

Likert and semantic versions of the scale. We examined evidence on dis-

criminant validity for that group by comparing the convergent validity co- efficients to correlations of OBSE with other study variables. Convergent and

discriminant validity evidence was also tested in studies 5 and 6 by com-

paring the correlations of OBSE with measures of job and task self-esteem

and with the correlations of OBSE with other study variables. Evidence as to the incremental validity (Sechrest, 1963; Stone, 1978; Zaccaro & Stone, 1988) of OBSE derives from studies 5, 6, and 7. Incremental validity provides

''some increment in predictive efficiency over the information otherwise

easily and cheaply available" (Sechrest, 1963: 154). Tests of Hypotheses 13 and 14 examined the predictive efficacy of OBSE, task-specific, and global

measures of self-esteem with organization-based constructs. Finally, we

used principal component factor analyses with varimax rotations in studies

5 and 6 as part of the examination of discriminant and convergent validity evidence. Tests of hypotheses. Most hypotheses that make up the OBSE network

were tested through correlational analyses of the proposed relationships. We

tested Hypothesis 5, involving the impact of social system design on orga-

nization-based self-esteem, using a one-way analysis of variance for differ- ences in OBSE between mechanistic and organic settings, controlling for the

order in which the simulated organizational types were experienced.


Since the purpose of the empirical studies was to demonstrate the con-

struct validity of the OBSE scale, we have chosen to organize our results

around several major indicators of construct validity, for example, reliability

and incremental and predictive validity. Some of the tests reported here

derive from the hypothesized predictions presented in the OBSE nomolog-

ical network, and others reveal information about other properties (e.g., in-

ternal consistency and convergent and discriminant validity) of a construct-

valid scale. Descriptive Statistics

Table 3 presents means, standard deviations, correlations, and the size

of the data set for each variable by study. Where appropriate, coefficient

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

638 Academy of Management Journal September

alphas are also shown. Coefficient alphas for all variables in the nomological network for organization-based self-esteem reached acceptable levels.

Reliability Estimates

Coefficient alphas and test-retest correlations were calculated in order to examine the reliability of the OBSE scale. These tests provided us with

insight into the scale's internal consistency, the homogeneity of scale items,

and the stability of the scale's measurement across time (Hypothesis 3).

Internal consistency. Across all seven studies and eight variables, each

alpha value was equal to or greater than .86, ranging to a high of .96 in study

4. The average alpha value was .91. The strength of these internal consis-

tency estimates provides evidence for the homogeneity of the scale items.

Test-retest reliability. The test-retest reliability coefficient was .75 (p <

.01). After we controlled for perceived organizational change, the test-retest correlation rose to .87 (p < .01). The strength of this association provides support for the stability of the construct proposed in Hypothesis 3.

Convergent Validity A construct-valid scale converges more with similar measures of the

same construct than with measures of substantively different constructs. We

examined organization-based self-esteem in association with a semantic dif-

ferential version of the OBSE scale and inspected evidence in support of the positive association between OBSE and global self-esteem (Hypothesis 1),

and OBSE and job- and task-specific measures of self-esteem (Hypothesis 2).

The two OBSE measures used in the first study correlated .69 with one another (see Table 3). With one exception, a correlation of .77 between OBSE

and organizational satisfaction, this association was stronger in magnitude than correlations of OBSE with any of the other non-self-esteem variables examined across the seven studies and 26 comparisons. In study 7, global

self-esteem measured at time 2 had a positive (r = .48, p < .01) relationship

with OBSE, also measured at time 2, thereby supporting Hypothesis 1. In

studies 5 and 6, we expected that the OBSE measure would converge more with the modified Rosenberg (1965) and Beehr (1976) task-specific self-

esteem measures than with other study variables. With one exception- OBSE and commitment in study 6-this was true. OBSE correlated .54 (p <

.01) and .57 (p < .01) with the Rosenberg and Beehr scales in studies 5 and

6 respectively, supporting Hypothesis 2. This pattern of correlations pro-

vides convergent validity evidence for the OBSE scale.

Discriminant Validity

In order to provide additional evidence for the construct's convergent

and discriminant validity, results from the three self-esteem scales (OBSE,

Beehr, and Rosenberg) used in studies 5 and 6 were factor-analyzed with

several other study variables: organizational commitment, job complexity,

intrinsic motivation, job satisfaction, and organizational satisfaction. In both

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 639

5. Automobile service-club employees

b 3. Managers

employees 4. School district

employees 2. Mining firm

1. Summer school teachers

2. Organization-based self-esteem

1. Organization-based self-esteem 3.86 0.56 469 (.86)

1. Organization-based self-esteem 5.18 1.41 1,403 (.96)

1. Organization-based self-esteem 3.75 0.67 38 (.93)

1. Organization-based self-esteem 3.53 0.59 329 (.90)

1. Organization-based self-esteem 2.97 0.89 32 (.93)

2. Rosenberg's job self-esteem 4.12 0.54 477 .54** (.66)

3. Beehr's task self-esteem 4.09 0.61 480 .57** .63** (.72)

4. Job complexity 3.74 0.55 462 44** .30** .30** (.66)

5. Intrinsic workmotivation 4.30 0.66 488 .21** .25** .25** .26** (.70)

2. Managerial respect 2.67 1.17 1,409 .30** N.A.

3. Organizational citizenship 3.79 0.52 1,314 .19** .12** (.71)

4. General job satisfaction 3.69 0.56 1,368 .58** .39** .18** N.A.

5. Organizational commitment 4.40 1.25 1,399 .43** .52** .17** .57** (.89)

2. Organic-mechanistic comparison 19.77 7.99 30 -.46** (.94)

2. Internal work motivation 3.77 0.49 326 .47** (.82)

3. Organizational commitment 3.20 0.61 326 .59** .37** (.87)

semantic differential 4.79 1.24 32 .69** (95)

3. Managerial respect 3.06 1.16 32 .52** .52** N.A.

4. General job satisfaction 3.53 0.95 32 .45** .48** .26 N.A.

5. Organizational commitment 4.20 0.99 32 .53** .60** .60** .54** (.85)

6. General job satisfaction 3.47 0.56 466 .41** .29** .21** .27** .24** (.83)


Correlation Matrixesa


7. Organizational commitment 3.45 0.71 474 .50** .31 ** *.34** .28** .30** .71** (.89)

8. Performance, telemarketers 6.14 5.53 116 .11 .31** .15 .12 .03 .07 .17* N.A.

  • 9. Performance, nonexempt employees 3.80 0.47 188 .15** .16** .14* .22** .02 .07 -.06 N.A. (.82)

Studies Means s.d. N 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

640 Academy of Management Journal September

applicable. N.A. = not

** p c .01, one-tailed tests

* p .05, one-tailed tests

students 7. Evening M.B.A.

employees 6. State educational association

simulations. b The third group, composed of managers from various firms, participated in laboratory

45 1. Organization-based self-esteem, time 1 4.05 0.56

2. Organization-based self-esteem, time 2 3.89 0.66 45 .75**

(3.98) (0.55) (25) (.88)

.48** 3. Chronic self-esteem, time 2 3.44 0.37 41 .32*

(3.83) (0.52) (25) (.87**) (.93)

.24 4. Organizational satisfaction, time 1 5.14 1.41 44 .61 * * .61 * *

(3.37) (0.30) (22) (.20) (.29) (.82)

.77** 5. Organizational satisfaction, time 2 5.00 1.33 45 .59** .77** .39**

(5.28) (1.28) (25) (.76**) (.80**) (.33) N.A.

(5.28) (0.98) (25) (.70**) (.82**) (.34) (.93**) N.A.

(.87) 1. Organization-based self-esteem 3.98 0.54 96

(.72) 2. Rosenberg's job self-esteem 4.28 0.52 95 .54**

(.73) 3. Beehr's task self-esteem 4.23 0.57 96 .57** .63**

(.66) 4. Job complexity 3.95 0.51 93 .39** .43** .32**

(.83) 5. Intrinsic work motivation 4.27 0.61 96 .30** .30** .09 .23*

(.83) 6. General job satisfaction 3.66 0.60 93 .44* .27** .10 .17 .33**

TABLE 3 (continued)


controlled. a Correlations, means, standard deviations, and N's in parentheses stem from analyses in which organizational change was

(.89) 7. Organizational commitment 3.63 0.68 96 .60** .27** .26** .22* .32** .58**

N.A. 8. Performance 1.49 0.54 55 .26* .04 .06 .19 .08 .06 .11

Studies Means s.d. N 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 641

studies, a two-factor solution emerged, with self-esteem forming one factor

and affect forming the other (see Table 4). Across the two groups, the three

self-esteem scales have average loadings of .79 on the self-esteem factor and

.21 on the affect factor. The other variables averaged .26 on the self-esteem

factor and .62 on the affect factor. Thus, OBSE associated more strongly with

other measures of self-esteem than with measures of conceptually distinct

variables, providing additional convergent validity evidence. The emer-

gence of the two-factor solution, with OBSE as one factor and measures of expected organizational correlates as the second, provides evidence of dis- criminant validity for the measurement of organization-based self-esteem.

Incremental Validity

Hypotheses 13 and 14 were created in order to demonstrate the incre-

mental validity of the OBSE scale. The results of tests of these two hypoth-

eses provided evidence for the predictive efficacy of OBSE in relation to

other organization-based constructs, organizational commitment and orga- nizational satisfaction. To discriminate the OBSE measure from measures of task-specific self-

esteem, the correlations between OBSE and organizational commitment were contrasted with the correlations between task-specific self-esteem and

organizational commitment (Hypothesis 13). In line with the argument for consonant levels of analysis, on the average OBSE correlated higher (r = .55)

with organizational commitment than did the task-specific measures (aver-

age r = .30), providing support for Hypothesis 13. These differences were

significantly different (p < .01) on four out of four possible contrasts. Thus,

findings support the hypothesis that consonant levels of analysis produce

stronger relationships, though we must also remember that the task-specific

self-esteem scales were less reliable than our measure of OBSE.

Hypothesis 14 was also formulated in an effort to discriminate OBSE

from measures of global self-esteem in the prediction of organization-based

constructs. We compared the correlation between OBSE and organizational


Rotated Factor Matrixes for Discriminability Analyses

Study 5 Factors Study 6 Factors

Variables Affect Self-esteem Affect Self-esteem

  • 1. Organization-based self-esteem .36 .73 .50 .67

  • 2. Rosenberg's job self-esteem .11 .83 .02 .83

  • 2. Beehr's task self-esteem

.05 .85

.22 .80

  • 4. Organizational commitment .87 .25 .76 .25

5. Job complexity .22 .56 .07 .66

  • 6. Intrinsic motivation .32 .31 .43 .21

  • 7. General job satisfaction .88 .18 .89 .07

  • 8. Organizational satisfaction .92 .13 .86 -.03

Eigenvalues 3.67 1.46 3.36 1.56 Percent variance explained 45.90 18.20 42.00 19.50

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

642 Academy of Management Journal September

satisfaction in study 7 with a similar correlation involving global self- esteem. The correlation between OBSE and organizational satisfaction at time 2 was .77 (p < .01) and the correlation between global self-esteem and organizational satisfaction was .39 (p < .01). Not only does OBSE account for 44 percent more of the criterion variance than global self-esteem, but the difference between these two correlations is statistically significant (p < .01). The test of Hypothesis 14 provides further evidence for organization-

based self-esteem's distinctness from existing measures of self-esteem as

well as evidence for the use of consonant levels of analysis in self-esteem research.

Predictive Validity

Tests of Hypotheses 5 and 12 provided evidence for the predictive va- lidity of OBSE. We conducted a laboratory experiment manipulating condi-

tions believed to affect OBSE to test Hypothesis 5, and examined a conse-

quence of OBSE in a longitudinal correlation between the construct and

organizational satisfaction to test Hypothesis 12.

An ANOVA was employed to examine the relationship between social

system design and organization-based self-esteem. Hypothesis 5 predicted

that employees experiencing a mechanistic-bureaucratic social system will

experience a significantly lower level of OBSE than their counterparts in a

more organic social system. Results from the ANOVA reveal a statistically

significant (F = 21.58, p < .01) difference in OBSE across the two types of organization. Confirming the prediction, those working under the mecha- nistic design reported lower levels of OBSE (x = 33.11) than their counter- parts working under more organic organizational conditions (x = 41.72).

Analyses indicated that there were no significant effects on the criterion

attributable to the order of laboratory experiences. The product-moment correlations were inspected to gain clearer insight into the relationship between social system structure and OBSE. Six of the seven design variables, concern for procedures being the single exception, had significant correlations with the OBSE scale (r = -.32, p < .05 to r = - .54, p < .01). The direction of these relationships suggests that employees exposed to high levels of impersonality, authority, formality, concern for

control, and inflexibility and to low levels of democracy tend to develop a

psychological state in which their OBSE is low. Individuals who experi-

enced a social system with the opposite design features developed high OBSE. Because of the strong intercorrelations among the social-system struc-

ture variables, however, a unit-weight model depicting a mechanistic-

organic social system design was constructed and correlated with the crite-

rion (see Table 3). This relationship (r = -.46, p < .01) suggests that as a

social system becomes increasingly mechanistic, OBSE decreases. This pat-

tern provides support for the construct validity of our OBSE measure (Hy- pothesis 5) and for one of Korman's (1976) major hypotheses. Organization-based self-esteem was also hypothesized to predict an em- ployee's level of organizational satisfaction (Hypothesis 12). OBSE measured

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 643

at time 1 significantly predicted organizational satisfaction (r = .59, p < .01) at time 2, thereby providing support for the positive relationship between organization-based self-esteem and employee satisfaction. With the organi- zational change that occurred between time 1 and time 2 controlled, this relationship was somewhat stronger (r = .70, p < .01).

Concurrent Validity

Several hypotheses (4, 6, and 7-11) from the OBSE nomological net-

work were examined in an effort to inspect the concurrent validity of the

organization-based self-esteem scale. We positioned variation in job com- plexity and managerial respect (Hypotheses 4 and 6) in the nomological

network as antecedents of organization-based self-esteem. Each of these vari- ables had a significant (p < .01) cross-sectional correlation with the crite- rion. In fact, inspection of Table 3 reveals that some of these correlations are quite substantial in magnitude. The strength of these associations ranged

between .30 (p < .01) and .52 (p < .01) for managerial respect and between .39 (p < .01) and .44 (p < .01) for job complexity. These observations support

the hypothesized relationships. Employees who experience managerial re-

spect and complex jobs have higher levels of OBSE than employees who do

not. Five variables -organizational commitment, organizational citizen-

ship, general job satisfaction, internal work motivation, and performance-

were theoretically positioned in the nomological network as consequences

of OBSE (Hypotheses 7-11). Tests confirmed all hypotheses (see Table 3)

with one exception: one hypothesis was confirmed on only one of the two

performance measures used in study 5. The correlation coefficients ranged

between .15 (p < .05) for job performance (supervisory rating) to .60 (p < .01)

for organizational commitment (self-rating). Thus, compared to employees

who experience a low level of OBSE, employees with a high level tend to be

better organizational citizens and better performers and to have higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and internal work motivation. It might be argued that the correlations between self-report measures and organization-based self-esteem were higher than between the non-

self-report measure and the construct because of methods bias (Schwab, 1980). We do not doubt that this is partially true. However, all the self-report

measures used in testing these hypotheses have reasonably well-known psy-

chometric properties, and thus the impact of method variance is likely to be

low (Spector, 1987). Moreover, this pattern of correlations could also be due

in part to the performance appraisal measures having lower psychometric

quality than the self-report measures. We feel that the magnitude and dif-

ferential pattern of correlations across measures outweigh criticisms of

methods bias (cf. Gerhart, 1987).


Employees with high organization-based self-esteem perceive them- selves as important, meaningful, effectual, and worthwhile within their em-

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

644 Academy of Management Journal September

ploying organization. The results of our research on the measurement and validation of OBSE across seven studies suggest the importance of the con-

struct and the viability of our measure of it. Our measure demonstrates

consistently good internal consistency reliability, homogeneity of scale

items, and stability over time. This developmental research scale possesses

appropriate convergent and discriminant validity and reasonable predictive and concurrent validity when placed within a nomological network. The scale had stronger predictive efficacy in relations with other organization- based constructs than measures of global or task- and job-specific self-

esteem. The evidence presented here supports our belief that OBSE is part of employees' belief systems. Both the proposed determinants and conse- quences of OBSE were appropriately related to OBSE in the various studies

reported here. Neither the nature of the respondents involved nor the spe- cific instruments used to measure other study variables appeared to substan-

tially affect these relationships.

The results of the seven studies reported here suggest that the determi-

nants of OBSE may include managerial respect, organizational structure, and

job complexity. Factors influenced by organization-based self-esteem may

include not only global self-esteem but also job performance, intrinsic mo-

tivation, general satisfaction, citizenship behavior, organizational commit-

ment, and organizational satisfaction. It should be noted, however, that only

two of the seven studies were longitudinal, thereby permitting few conclu-

sions about causality. These results are not much different from those of earlier examinations of self-esteem in terms of the nature of relationships

revealed: Positive experiences lead to high self-esteem, negative experiences

lead to low self-esteem. But our results are some of the first to indicate that

experiences in an organization affect employees' levels of organization- based self-esteem, which in turn may affect their organization-related be-

haviors and attitudes.

We also provide evidence that using measures with consonant targets of

perception-here, organization to organization-enhances the predictive

validity of those measures. In that respect, we encourage researchers inter- ested in self-esteem to use a measure of self-esteem that is consistent in

context (isometric) with the other variables under study. But we also would

encourage researchers to employ multiple measures of self-esteem to con-

tinue to ascertain the degree to which different measures possess construct


Although the focus of the studies reported here was construct validation and not testing theories of self-esteem, it should be noted that results sup-

ported all of the study hypotheses. It is clear that future research on organi- zation-based self-esteem needs to provide additional longitudinal tests of

both its determinants and consequences. In a more theoretical vein, we

believe that our measure of OBSE may yield better predictive efficacy than

task- and job-specific or global measures of self-esteem in the study of such

variables as organizational commitment, organizational citizenship, organi-

zational culture, and organizational climate and satisfaction. For example,

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 645

OBSE may moderate the relationship between organizational commitment

and job performance in such a way that the relationship between commit-

ment and performance is stronger for high OBSE employees than for low

OBSE employees; these relationships would be analogous to the relation-

ships between task-specific self-esteem, job complexity, and performance hypothesized by Tharenou and Harker (1984). In using OBSE in future hy-

pothesis testing, researchers need to ask themselves whether the way em-

ployees view their competence in an organization directly or indirectly af-

fects, or is affected by, other constructs of interest.

It should also be noted that organization-based self-esteem focuses on

individuals' assessments of their organizational worth, which stems from a

history of organizational, interpersonal, and systemic experiences. OBSE

differs from such value-laden constructs as central life interest (Dubin, 1956) and job involvement (Lodahl & Kejner, 1965), which possess higher emo-

tional-affective components. We also distinguish OBSE from such possible

outcomes as self-perceptions of efficacy in performing a particular task

(Bandura, 1977). Self-efficacy is frequently seen as an expectation (efficacy

expectation) in "the conviction that one can successfully execute the behav-

ior required to produce the outcomes" (Bandura, 1977: 193). Future research

should be directed to testing the consequent and antecedent relationships of

self-efficacy and self-esteem. Future research might also be directed toward

testing the intervening role of self-efficacy in the relationships between

OBSE and performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, emotional

arousal, and verbal persuasion (cf. Bandura, 1977). Still other research might

seek to distinguish self-consistency (Korman, 1976), self-enhancement (Dip- boye, 1977), and information-screening (Taylor & Brown, 1988) explanations

for effects of OBSE on organization-based employee responses. Finally, we

need to learn more about the relative importance of situational factors and

the attitudes and behavior of others as antecedents to organization-based self-esteem and the process through which these determinants operate.

On the basis of the research reported here, we concur with Korman's

view that the structural features of work environments can and do send

strong messages that shape individuals' beliefs about their organizational value. There is also evidence suggesting that individuals may well develop organizational attitudes and engage in behaviors that are consistent with

their organization-based self-esteem.


Alderfer, C. 1972. Existence, relatedness, and growth: Human needs in organizational set-

tings. New York: Free Press.

Bandura, A. 1977. Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological

Reviews, 84: 191-215.

Bandura, A. 1978. The self system in reciprocal determinism. American Psychologist, 33:


Beehr, T. A. 1976. Perceived situational moderators of the relationship between subjective role

ambiguity and role strains. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61: 35-40.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

646 Academy of Management Journal September

Brockner, J. 1988. Self-esteem at work: Research, theory, and practice. Lexington, Mass.: D.C.

Heath & Co.

Campbell, D. T., & Fiske, D. W. 1959. Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-

multimethod matrix. Psychological Bulletin, 56: 81-105.

Coopersmith, J. 1967. The antecedents of self-esteem. San Francisco: Freeman.

Crandall, R. 1973. The measurement of self-esteem and related constructs. In J. P. Robinson & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Measures of social psychological attitudes: 45-167. Ann Arbor,

Mich.: Institute for Social Research.

Cronbach, L. J. 1951. Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, 16:


Dipboye, R. L. 1977. A critical review of Korman's self-consistency theory of work motivation

and occupational choice. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 18: 108-


Dipboye, R. L., Zultowski, W. H., Dewhirst, H. D., & Arvey, R. D. 1979. Self-esteem as a mod-

erator of the relationship between scientific interest and the job satisfaction of physicist and

engineer. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63: 289-294.

Dubin, R. 1956. Industrial workers' world: A study of the "central life interests" of industrial

workers. Social Problems, 3: 131-142.

Dunham, R. B., & Herman, J. B. 1975. Development of a female Faces scale for measuring job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60: 629-631.

Dunham, R. B., Smith, F. J., & Blackburn, R. S. 1977. Validation of the Index of Organizational Reactions with the HDI, the MSQ and Faces scales. Academy of Management Journal, 20:


Epstein, S. 1979. The stability of behavior: 1. On predicting most of the people much of the

time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37: 1097-1126. Freedman, S. M., & Phillips, J. S. 1985. The effects of situational performance constraints on

intrinsic motivation and satisfaction: The role of perceived competence and self-

determination. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35: 397-416.

Gelfand, D. M. 1962. The influence of self-esteem on rate of verbal conditioning and social matching behavior. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 65: 259-265.

Gerhart, B. 1987. How important are dispositional factors as determinants of job satisfaction? Implications for job design and other personnel programs. Journal of Applied Psychology,

72: 366-373.

Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. 1975. Development of the Job Diagnostic Survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60: 159-170.

Hollenbeck, J. R., & Brief, A. P. 1987. The effects of individual differences and goal origins on

goal setting and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,

40: 392-414.

Jones, S. C. 1973. Self- and interpersonal evaluations: Esteem theories versus consistency theo- ries. Psychological Bulletin, 79: 185-199. Kipnis, D., & Lane, W. P. 1962. Self-confidence and leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology,

46: 291-295.

Knudsen, K. R., McTavish, D. G., & Aamodt, J. 1985. The strategic management and organi-

zation laboratory. Bureau of Business and Economics working paper 85-4, School of Busi-

ness and Economics, University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Korman, A. K. 1970. Toward a hypothesis of work behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology,

54: 31-41.

Korman, A. K. 1971. Organizational achievement, aggression and creativity: Some suggestions

toward an integrated theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 6: 593-


This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

1989 Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, and Dunham 647

Korman, A. K. 1976. Hypothesis of work behavior revisited and an extension. Academy of

Management Review, 1(1): 50-63.

Kunin, T. 1955. The construction of a new type of attitude measure. Personnel Psychology, 8:


Lawler, E. E. II, & Hall, D. T. 1970. Relationships of job characteristics to job involvement, satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 54: 305-312. Lohdahl, T., & Kejner, M. 1965. The definition and measurement of job involvement. Journal of Applied Psychology, 49: 24-33. Maslow, A. H. 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50: 370-396. Pierce, J. L., Dunham, R. B., & Cummings, L. L. 1984. Sources of environmental structuring and

participant responses. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 33: 214-241.

Porter, L. W., Steers, R. M., Mowday, R. T., & Boulian, R. V. 1974. Organizational commitment,

job satisfaction, and turnover among psychiatric technicians. Journal of Applied Psychol-

ogy, 59: 603-609.

Rosenberg, M. 1965. Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univer- sity Press.

Schwab, D. P. 1980. Construct validity in organizational behavior. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cum-

mings (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior, vol. 2: 3-43. Greenwich, Conn.: JAI


Sechrest, L. 1963. Incremental validity. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 23:


Sekaran, V., & Wagner, F. R. 1981. Sense of competence: A cross-cultural analysis for manage-

rial application. Group and Organization Studies, 6: 340-351.

Shavelson, R. J., Hubner, J. J., & Stanton, G. C. 1976. Self-concept: Validations of construct- interpretations. Review of Educational Research, 46: 407-441.

Simpson, C. K., & Boyle, D. 1975. Esteem construct generality and academic performance. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 35: 897-904.

Sims, H. P., Jr., Szilagyi, A. D., & Keller, R. T. 1976. The measurement of job characteristics. Academy of Management Journal, 19: 195-212.

Smith, C. A., Organ, D. W., & Near, J. P. 1983. Organizational citizenship behavior: Its nature

and antecedents. Journal of Applied Psychology, 68: 653-663.

Smith, F. J. 1976. Index of organizational reactions (IOR). In American Psychological Associa-

tion (Eds.), Journal supplemental abstract service and catalog of selected documents in

psychology, vol. 6: ms no. 1265. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Song, I-S., & Hattie, J. 1985. Relationships between self-concept and achievement. Journal of

Research in Personality, 19: 365-372.

Spector, P. E. 1987. Method variance as an artifact in self-reported affect and perceptions at

work: Myth or significant problem? Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 438-443. Stone, E. F. 1978. Research methods in organizational behavior. Santa Monica, Calif.: Good-

year Publishing Co.

Swann, W. B., Griffin, J. J., Predmore, S. C., & Gaines, B. 1987. The cognitive-affective crossfire:

When self-consistency confronts self-enhancement. Journal of Personality and Social

Psychology, 52: 881-889.

Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. 1988. Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103: 193-210.

Tharenou, P. 1979. Employee self-esteem: A review of the literature. Journal of Vocational

Behavior, 15: 1-29.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to

648 Academy of Management Journal September

Tharenou, P., & Harker, P. 1982. Organizational correlates of employee self-esteem. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67: 797-805.

Tharenou, P., & Harker, P. 1984. Moderating influence of self-esteem on relationships between job complexity, performance, and satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69: 623-


Weiss, D. J., Dawis, R. V., England, G. W., & Lofquist, L. H. 1967. Manual for the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Industrial Relations


Wells, L. E., & Marwell, G. 1976. Self-esteem. London: Sage Publications.

Wilson, J. W., & Harris, C. L. 1986. Joel Birnbaum, the odd man in at Hewlett-Packard. Business Week, March 10: 116.

Wylie, R. C. 1974. The self-concept: A review of methodological considerations and measur-

ing instruments. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Zaccaro, S. J., & Stone, E. F. 1988. Incremental validity of an empirically based measure of job characteristics. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73: 245-252.

Jon L. Pierce is a professor of organization and management in the Department of Management Studies at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. He received his Ph.D.

degree in management and organizational studies from the University of Wisconsin. His

current research interests focus on the development of self-esteem in organizational settings, on change, and on the development of ownership in participative organiza- tional settings.

Donald G. Gardner is an associate professor of management and organization at the

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He received his Ph.D. degree in organiza-

tional behavior from the Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue Univer-

sity. His research interests include antecedents and consequences of employee atten-

tional processes, activation theory and task design, and human stress and cognition.

L. L. Cummings is the Carlson Professor of Management in the Carlson School of Man-

agement, University of Minnesota. His current scholarship centers on executive focus

of attention, feedback generation, and self-esteem in organizational settings. Randall B. Dunham is a professor of organization behavior in the Graduate School of

Business at the University of Wisconsin. He received his Ph.D. degree in industrial-

organizational psychology at the University of Illinois. His current research interests are organizational change, self-esteem, and employee attentional processes.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:21:01 UTC All use subject to