When it comes to research on organizational climate, the concept called “climate uniformity” is the new kid on the block. In fact, new research by González-Romá and Hernández (2014) is the first to actually collect data and start to determine what this concept means for organizations. The results are intriguing, as they found that the degree of climate uniformity is related to communication, conflict, and even team performance. So now you might be asking, what in the world is climate uniformity?
DEFINING CLIMATE UNIFORMITY
First of all, we have to begin with the idea of organizational climate. This term refers to a combination of individual employees’ perceptions about their workplace. For example, if employees typically feel that supervisors and coworkers treat each other justly, you might say they have a climate for organizational justice.
Another way of describing a climate is called “climate strength,” or the extent to which employees agree on what the organization’s climate is like. For example, if each and every employee believed that the organization rated a 5/10 on organizational justice, researchers would say they have a “strong climate.” If a group of employees thought it was 5/10, but many gave higher ratings and many gave lower ratings, the climate would be considered weaker because the individual ratings are more spread out.
This article discusses climate uniformity, which considers a different possibility. Perhaps half of the employees think that the organization should get a very low rating, and the other half think it should get a very high rating. In this case, there are two distinct opinions among employees. The researchers call this non-uniformity.
FINDINGS ON CLIMATE UNIFORMITY
The researchers collected data from numerous settings and considered those in which they noticed disagreement on how much support their organization provided. Like our example above, they were looking for settings in which a distinct group of employees gave low ratings to the organization, and another distinct group gave high ratings. They found that these “split” groups were associated with worse communication and more conflict about how to conduct work-related tasks. They also found that the poor communication that results fully explained why these “split” teams had worse overall performance.
So what does this all mean? From a general perspective, this article helps us think about the different types of data we can collect about our employees. It’s not always correct to think about an average score or imagine that employees’ perceptions resemble a “bell curve”. Instead, there may be two or more distinct groupings of opinions. This is important to keep in mind no matter what we are measuring, whether it is particular type of organizational climate or simply job satisfaction.
In particular, this study highlights some of the negative effects that occur when there are two distinct opinions about organizational support. If some believe that the organization supports them and some do not share this belief, bad things happen. Specifically, the rift or “us versus them” attitude that occurs can negatively impact communication, team conflict, and ultimately performance. Organizations should be advised to note the harmful impacts of this type of rift, and learn how to identify and halt these tricky situations before they become problematic.