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Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

Occupational psychology
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Industrial & organizational psychology

Organizational Orientation is defined as an individual's predisposition and attitude toward work, motivation to work, job satisfaction, and ways of dealing with peers, subordinates, and supervisors on the job (Papa 2008). It can also be referred to the different ways people approach their roles in an organization and the different approaches people have toward work and the place of work in their lives (Organizational orientations). Three organizational orientations have been identified as, upward mobile, indifferent, and ambivalent (Goodboy 2007). These three types of orientations are associated with organizational communication behavior and organizational outcomes such as employee job satisfaction and motivation. Presthus believed that these orientations results in employees having different orientations toward work itself,motivation to work, and job satisfaction (McCroskey 1998). These orientations are also believed to be traits, people will have these orientations regardless of the organization they are working for.

Brief history[]

The organizational orientation concept was advanced decades ago in the field of management by Presthus in 1962. He believed that the different types of orientations results in employees having different views about their job satisfaction, motivation to work, and ways of dealing with coworkers or supervisors. He viewed his theory of as organizational behavior. He believed that people learned their traits through experiences while working in an organization. His theory produced three different traits that employees would have; upward mobile, indifferent, and ambivalent (McCroskey 1998). Recently the organizational orientation concept has drawn the attention of quantitative researchers in the field of communication. McCroskey conducted research that explained a large amount about the relevance of this concept to organizational communication (McCroskey 2004).

Different Types of Organizational Orientations[]

Upward mobile[]

This type of orientation is the most recognized. These are individuals within an organization who desire advancement within the organization hierarchy. These individuals see their work as the central part of their lives and are very devoted to their career (Goodboy 2007). They are very self motivated and believe in the rules and the procedures of the organization. They are procedure oriented and identifies strongly with the organization an has a desire to secure high status rewards. An upward mobile has a high level of job satisfaction, a feeling of attachment to the organization and an exceptional drive for power (Pruden). These workers are also believed to identify with whatever organization they are employed at and are more than willing to defend their organization against people that may attack it. Upward mobiles have strong decision making skills and are also willing to take risks to keep the success of the organization and their own (McCroskey 2005). They are able to make positive contributions through their willingness to work hard and acieve goals. The people with this type of orientation are highly concerned with their own success then gaining approval from their peers. They do not like associating with people who don't have the same career path that they desire. Many organizations are looking to hire these type of people, this is because they know that they can rely on these people to do what is asked of them (Organizational orientations and communication traits).


This refers to workers who are committed to their job as a way of earning a living. They work to live, and they see their live existing separate from their work. Their life begins when work is over (Goodboy 2007). They are mostly concerned with the paychecks that they will be receiving and are not interested in their job or the organization (McCroskey 1998). To them working is a necessity in life. Work is separated from the meanings of life and his/her relationship with the organization is strictly economic based (Presthus). These people make up a large portion of the employees in an organization. Indifferent's only work to satisfy the basic needs of their loved ones. These type of people do not like to participate in organizational routines that occur on a daily basis. They would also never volunteer to do more work then they have to, they come to work to do the job they were assigned to do, and then go home(McCroskey 2004). When communicating they often talk more about their family and life at home instead of organizational matters that are going on in the workplace. Other characteristics of indifferents are that they have a high level of job satisfaction and not many upward mobility aspirations. Highly indifferent people are worried about being accepted by their peers at work(Organizational orientations and communication traits). All organizations needs these type of people in the workplace because they can be assigned to do routine tasks that require very little thought. They do the tasks that others would not enjoy doing(D. Russ). They don't mind doing these types of jobs because they get a paycheck out of it. It is easy to get along with these type of people as long as you don't push them to do extra work. A good way to get along with them is to talk to them about other things besides work. Talking to them about their family and their life outside of work is a good idea(Organizational orientations and communication traits).


This refers to workers who tend to be highly critical of any job and seem to find problems with any organization. They are very unpredictable and change jobs very often it order to fine the perfect organization because they are never truly comfortable in an organization(Goodboy 2007). They also do not adapt well to organizations. Ambivalent people tend to be introverts who also do not like rules or authority and do not fit into the roles that the organizations assigns them(McCroskey 2004).They do not see themselves as part of the organization and do not accept the organization or the people within the organization for what they are(Pruden). Ambivalent people tend to be very moody, therefore it makes it hard to work with them or for them, they can be very supportive one day and then can be very discouraging the next. Ambivalents need some type of security, in which the organization can provide but they are unable to obtain it (Presthus). These type of people are very skilled, but since they don't like authority they will try to turn others against the organization, and will also openly chastise the organization. Communicating with ambivalents can be very difficult, the only topic that you might be able to communicate with them is on criticizing the organization (Organizational orientations and communication traits).

Research In Organizational Orientation[]


Presthus created an ideal pattern of accommodation for upward mobiles, indifferents, and ambivalents which is derived from the theory that he constructed (McCroskey 1998). It showed that upward mobiles have a high job satisfaction, high upward-downward career mobility orientation, low alienation, low cosmopolitanism and high organizational rank. For indifferents it shows that they have a high job satisfaction, low upward-downward career mobility orientation, medium alienation, medium cosmopolitanism and low organizational rank. For ambivalents it shows that they have a low job satisfaction, medium upward-downward career mobility, high alienation, high cosmopolitanism, and medium organizational rank.

Pruden (1978)[]

Pruden conducted a study of 150 U.S businessmen designed to validate expected outcomes based on Presthus's theoretical typology. His study confirmed the hypothesis expected on the three orientations with regard to the five outcome variables. His results showed that the three orientations are in fact distinct from one another. Pruden's research was qualitative in nature (McCroskey 2004).

James C. McCroskey[]

McCroskey did two studies putting different variables into each study to see the effect on the three different types of orientations, ambivalent, indifferent, and upward mobile(Papa 2008). The outcome variables in study 1 were job satisfaction, communication, apprehension, nonverbal immediacy, assertiveness, and responsiveness. For ambivalents the result showed that they had a negative strong relationship for job satisfaction, positive weak relationship for communication apprehension, negative moderate relationship for nonverbal immediacy, no relationship for assertiveness, and negative weak relationship for responsiveness. For the indifferents it showed that they had a negative moderate relationship for job satisfaction, no relationship for communication apprehension, no relationship for nonverbal immediacy, a negative weak relationship for assertiveness and no relationship for responsiveness. For the upward mobile it showed that there was a positive weak relationship for job satisfaction, negative weak relationship for communication apprehension, positive moderate relationship for nonverbal immediacy, positive moderate relationship for assertiveness, and a positive moderate relationship for responsiveness(Pruden). For study 2 the outcome variables were job satisfaction, competence, caring, trustworthiness, extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism. For the ambivalent it showed a negative moderate relationship for job satisfaction, negative moderate relationship for competence, negative strong relationship for caring, negative moderate relationship for trustworthiness, negative weak relationship for extraversion, positive weak relationship for neuroticism, and positive moderate relationship for psychoticism. For the indifferent it showed negative weak relationship for job satisfaction, negative weak relationship for competence, negative weak relationship for caring, negative weak relationship for trustworthiness, no relationship for extraversion, positive weak relationship for neuroticism, and positive moderate relationship for psychoticism. Lastly for the upward mobile it showed positive weak relationship for job satisfaction, positive WR for competence, positive WR for caring, Positive WR for trustworthiness, positive WR for extraversion, negative weak relationship for neuroticism, and negative moderate relationship for psychoticism (Pruden).


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