The moderating role of trust on the relationship between ingratiatory communication strategies and interactional fairness
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Lynn K. Harland
James M. Thomas
Previous research has shown that when perceptions of both procedural justice and distributive justice are low, increasing perceptions of interactional fairness can serve to reduce negative consequences that an organization may face, including subtle forms of retaliation, or what are known as organizational retaliatory behaviors (ORB). In an organizational setting personal attempts to improve perceptions of interactional fairness, under conditions of low distributive and procedural justice, can take on ingratiatory-like qualities when the source attempting to boost these perceptions of interactional fairness uses flattery, expresses excessive empathy, or excessive sympathy. Research has shown that ingratiatory actions such as these become more transparent as the level of trust surrounding them decreases, and if the actions are perceived as transparent the source risks creating an unfavorable impression. The purpose of this study was to determine if the level of trust present in an organization would interact with attempts to improve perceptions of interactional fairness through ingratiatory-like actions in predicting the perceived level of interactional fairness and the likelihood of ORB. It was predicted that under conditions of low trust attempts to improve perceptions of interactional fairness through ingratiatory-like communications would decrease perceptions of interactional fairness and lead to a higher likelihood of ORB, relative to a more neutral communication style. Conversely, it was predicted that under conditions of high trust this same style of communication would increase perceptions of interactional fairness and decrease the likelihood of ORB, relative to a more neutral communication style. Finally, it was predicted that all effects on ORB would be mediated by perceptions of interactional fairness. Participants each read one of four narratives after being led to believe that the narrative was a transcript of a phone conversation with a former University of Nebraska at Omaha student who was asked to describe some of his recent work experiences. Participants were told that the purpose of the study was to investigate the job quality of former students who majored in psychology. Results revealed effects of both trust and communication style on perceptions of interactional fairness and ORB. Regardless of the level of trust present in an organization, participants perceived less interactional fairness and a higher likelihood of ORB when an ingratiatory communication style was used than when a neutral communication style was used. Perceptions of interactional fairness were found to mediate the relationship of trust to likelihood of ORB and the relationship of communication style to ORB. The implications of these results highlight the danger of using a communication style that contains ingratiatory elements, such as excessive flattery and sympathy under conditions of low procedural and distributive justice, in the hopes of boosting perceptions of interactional fairness. A supervisor who chooses to use this type of communication style when communicating news of a work related event that will negatively impact his or her subordinates, under similar conditions to those depicted in this study, runs the risk of decreasing his or her subordinates’ perceptions of interactional fairness and increasing the likelihood that they will engage in ORB.
Drafsten, Erik, "The moderating role of trust on the relationship between ingratiatory communication strategies and interactional fairness" (2001). Student Work. 182.
A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment o f the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha.