Communicating your participation at work: an exploration of participation types, communication behaviors, organizational commitment, and satisfaction

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Cooper, Christine Evelyn

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The purpose of this research was to determine the existence of and then clarify employees’ varied responses to participative opportunity. The study explored communicative participation by delineating participation classes 1 and categorizing participation relevant communication behaviors. Specifically, connections between employees’ motivation, sense of opportunity, and selfefficacy were created to determine unique groupings with differing approaches to participation. Next, categories of participation relevant communication behaviors were determined and then related to the participation classes. Finally, differences 1 The label “class” can be understood as a synonym for category or cluster. There is no intended meaning related to social class structure. among the participation classes on satisfaction with participative opportunity and organizational commitment were tested. These data suggest the presence of five participation classes: sideliner, engager, coaster, potential engager, and avoider which are marked by varying levels of four dimensions of communication behavior: formal, informal, social, and non-participation. The greatest contributor to the model of participation class was employees’ sense of opportunity to participate. This was followed by their general self-efficacy, and finally their motivation to participate. Further, results indicate that only coasters, with low levels of commitment and satisfaction, vary significantly from the other classes on these issues of morale. In addition, potential engagers are significantly less satisfied with the opportunity to participate in their organizations. These findings have implications for participation theory and practice. One key contribution is a model of participation types that can explain why employees respond to participative opportunity in differing ways within the same context. The model also suggests that one reason participation programs achieve differing levels of success is the lack of differential management of employees who possess varied perspectives and abilities in relation to participation. In addition, the findings focus our theoretical understanding of participation by clarifying that the participative act is inherently communicative. One valuable contribution this study makes for practitioners relates to the importance of participation in organizational change efforts. Classification of employees prior to implementation of an initiative, which is then followed by management of their participation in a manner that complements their class characteristics, may alter the type of involvement employees contribute as well as the organizational climate during and after the change effort. The benefits of differential management can influence individual and organizational outcomes.