An Examination of the Functionality of Organizational Cynical Behavior: A Mixed-method Person-centric Approach



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To-date, meta-analytic evidence suggests organizational cynicism influences organizational outcomes such as reduced job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance, and increased intention to quit (Chiaburu, Peng, Oh, Bank, & Lomeli, 2013). However, the focus on these particular outcomes indicates that the cynicism literature still emphasizes research practically relevant to organizations, rather than to the worker. Related to this shortcoming, the literature outlines a narrow conceptual view of what motivates workers to enact cynical behavior. To address these issues, I conducted a mixed methods project, using two studies to examine organizational cynicism from a person-centric perspective. In Study 1, semi-structured interviews (n= 26) were conducted to elicit workers’ accounts of cynical behaviors based on different motivations. Then, in Study 2, research hypotheses were tested using survey data from 346 workers, who varied in terms of organization type, career stage and organizational role. Using latent profile analysis, I identified 4 cynical profiles—value-expressive (low social-expressive), value-expressive (high social-expressive), social-expressive, and defensive—and found that these cynical profiles differentially predicted employee wellbeing outcomes (negative and positive job affect, depression, burnout) and intent to quit. These results reveal new insights into the nature of cynicism, thereby contributing to the extension of organizational cynicism theory and potentially the improvement in the prediction of worker well-being outcomes.