ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (1): 128-140.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00128

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles    

Hostile retaliation or identity motivation? The mechanisms of how newcomers’ role organizational socialization affects their workplace ostracism

WANG Haibo1,YAN Ming1,*,WU Haibo2,LI Jinrong3,WANG Xiaohui2   

  1. 1 Management School, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
    2 Lingnan College, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    3 FAW-Volkswagen Automotive Co. Ltd Foshan Branch, Foshan 528237, China
  • Received:2017-09-11 Published:2019-01-25 Online:2018-11-26
  • Contact: Ming YAN


The term "workplace ostracism" refers to the acts of ignoring or excluding others in a workplace. Most previous studies on workplace ostracism are based on the revenge perspective, arguing that revenge cognition triggered by interpersonal conflict is the main motivation of workplace ostracism. However, this logic may not be applied to the newcomers. This is because they are part of the relatively disadvantaged groups in the organization and are eager to involve themselves to the new settings rather than engage in interpersonal conflicts that can worsen their situation. Drawing on identity theory, we attempt to explore the mechanisms by which newcomers’ role organizational socialization contributes to their workplace ostracism. Specifically, our model integrates both mediating and moderating mechanisms into a single model, thus providing an explanation of how newcomers’ role organizational socialization affects their workplace ostracism through the mediating and moderating roles of work alienation and insiders’ developmental feedback, respectively.
To test the hypotheses in our model, we conducted a survey on 249 employee-supervisor dyads from four companies in Guangdong Province, China. The survey was conducted in three waves. In the first wave, newcomer participants were asked to complete a questionnaire, including demographic information (gender, age, tenure, education), role organizational socialization, and interpersonal conflict. In the second wave, newcomer participants reported their work alienation, revenge cognition, and developmental feedback. In the third wave, their leaders were required to rate the newcomers’ workplace ostracism. We examined our hypotheses with MPLUS 6.12 and SPSS 22.0.
Empirical results showed that the role identity mechanism can significantly explain newcomers’ workplace ostracism after controlling the traditional conflict-retaliation mechanism. Specifically, we found support for our arguments as follows: 1) newcomers’ role organizational socialization is negatively related to their workplace ostracism, 2) newcomers’ work alienation serves as a mediator in the relation between their role organizational socialization and workplace ostracism, and 3) developmental feedback moderates the relationship between newcomers’ role organizational socialization and work alienation. Specifically, the negative relation between newcomers’ role organizational socialization and work alienation is stronger when the level of developmental feedback they received is low. Furthermore, 4) developmental feedback moderates the negative and indirect effect of newcomers’ role organizational socialization on their workplace ostracism. Specifically, work alienation mediates the negative effect when developmental feedback is low, but not when it is high.
This study contributes to the theoretical and empirical literature in the following ways. First, we extend previous studies on workplace ostracism by demonstrating that newcomers and experienced employees can have different reasons for their workplace ostracism. The verification of the role identity mechanism for newcomers’ workplace ostracism significantly extends our understanding of the unique features of their behaviors during the organizational socialization period. Second, our findings deepen our understanding of the role identity mechanism by examining the mediating role of work alienation and the moderating effect of developmental feedback under a general theoretical framework. Finally, our work uses identity theory to build a comprehensive frame work for understanding the antecedents of workplace ostracism, thus providing a uniquely generative frame work for future research.

Key words: newcomers, workplace ostracism, role organizational socialization, work alienation, developmental feedback

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