The Role of Cynicism in Teamwork Performance

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The Role of Cynicism in Teamwork Performance essay

Cynicism can be defined as an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest (Leung et al., 2002; Stavrova & Ehlebracht, 2016; Wrightsman, 1964). It refers to doubt or disbelief in sincerity and motives of others (Guastello, S. J., Rieke, M. L., Guastello, D. D., & Billings, S. W., 1992) and, by extension, in social and ethical norms and values. This attitude can be characterized as mistrust and pessimism about others (Cutler, I., 2005). An increasing number of people seem to endorse a cynical view of human nature nowadays (Stavrova, O., & Ehlebracht, D., 2018). Research showed that young adults become more cynical than ever before (Twenge, Campbell, & Carter, 2014).

Cartwright and Holmes (2006) stated that the reason for this change is the changing nature of work and work organizations. Authors noticed that the psychological contract violation is believed to be one of the main reasons of cynicism and mistrust in a work setting (Kramer, 1986, Pate et al., 2000). In other words, people are becoming more cynical at the workplace because of the relationship between an employer and its employees (Wellin, 2016) and it specifically concerns mutual expectations of inputs and outcomes.

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The behavior of cynical individuals at work can be characterized in terms of negative attitudes like frustration, contempt toward coworkers, and distrust in the company, executives, managers and other objects in the workplace (Andersson, 1996, Dean et al., 1998). It is worth noting, that people suffer from a cynical point of view. Different researches showed that cynical beliefs are related to many negative outcomes across different spheres of life. People who cynically distrust others are less likely to experience positive emotions (Egan, Chan, & Shorter, 2014), conversely, they are more likely to experience feelings of severe despondency and dejection (Haukkala & Uutela, 2000). Such individuals are more likely to be in conflict relationships with others (Baron et al., 2007) and receive less social support (Kaplan, Bradley, & Ruscher, 2004)

. In a word, people who see others mostly as untrustworthy are likely to miss beneficial opportunities for cooperation. Somewhat more is known about the associations of cynical beliefs with organizational and work success. Studies have shown cynical hostility that can be defined as a personality style of cynicism and anger mismanagement in social relationships (Houston, & Vavak, 1991) in work settings is negatively related to organizational commitment (Turner & Valentine, 2001).

Cynicism was found to be a negative predictor of job satisfaction (Leung et al., 2010). Similarly, cynicism has been associated with reduced job satisfaction, enhanced susceptibility to work-related stress and an increased frequency of counterproductive work behaviors (Dahling et al., 2009; Sakalaki, Richardson, & Thépaut, 2007). What is more, cynical individuals mostly do not strive for excellence in terms of actual task performance and income in an organizational setting (Dahling et al., 2009; for a review, see Wilson, Near, & Miller, 1996). The present study is going to examine the role of cynicism in employee engagement in work processes. The research question is as follows: ‘Do cynical individuals have a higher level of work engagement than less cynical individuals in teamwork processes?’

The concept of employee engagement has been receiving increasing attention as a predictor for individual, team and organizational performance outcomes (Rana, 2015). To add on the researchers have been arguing the prospect that when employees are engaged, they tend to perform much better, achieving way beyond their expectations and requirements (Anitha, 2014) and managers seek to enhance employee engagement, with the end goal of augmenting their performance (Wright & Cropanzano, 2000). Employee engagement can be characterized as an extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work (Macey, W. H., & Schneider, B., 2008). Different factors contribute to employee engagement (Luthans, F., & Peterson, S. J., 2002) and those factors may be culturally or contextually determined and influenced (Marciano, P. L., 2010).

However, relationships between managers and colleagues are considered to be key factors linking to issues of employees engagement, trust, and psychological well-being (Kahn, 1990). Where there is perceived support from supervisors and employee trust in managers, then employees will reciprocate and respond with positive work attitudes through increased motivation and commitment that can lead to enhanced performance’ (Chughtai, A. A., & Buckley, F., 2008). When employees don’t see this they react through a change in their attitude, for example, they become disengaged.

Based on the foregoing, we can suggest a mediation model that will help us to explain the mechanism of the relationship between cynicism (an independent variable) and engagement (a dependent variable) via the inclusion of social relationships as a mediator variable. dishonest, and unsocial (Greenglass, E. R., & Julkunen, J., 1989). Research showed that hostility is related to higher reports of interpersonal stress and lower social support. Chen et al. (2016) focused their attention on social cynicism and studied the number of relationships such individuals have. Research showed that the negativity and mistrust of cynical individuals prevent them from maintaining positive relationships with other people. Kaplan, Bradley, and Ruscher (2004) did research on the impact of cynical beliefs on receiving of social support. The researchers found that cynical people receive less responses in a conversation and less sympathetic support (Kaplan et al., 2004). Taking it into account, we propose the first hypothesis: H1: Cynical individuals have pooper social relationships than noncynical individuals.

Social relationships and work engagement Strong social connections make people happier and physically healthier, (Martin, & Dowson, 2009) which can translate into work performance. Research showed that perceived social and emotional support from peers is associated with motivational outcomes such as the pursuit of goals and intrinsic value (DuBois, Felner, Brand, Adan, & Evans, 1992; Felner et al., 1985; Harter, 1996; Wentzel, 1994). Thoms, Moore, & Scott (1996) in their research found that individuals who has strong social relationships are performing much more effectively because they feel more comfortable and gain social support. This feeling is based on the assumption that having strong relationships with trusted others is a resource in stressful times (Sandler, Miller, Short, & Wolchik, 1989).

Several motivational models explain that people have a basic need to be related to others (Umberson, & Karas Montez, 2010). For instance, Baumeister and Leary (1995) argue for the “belongingness hypothesis”. This hypothesis proposes that people have a pervasive drive to form and maintain lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships. More specifically, people who have a greater sense of relatedness or belonging also feel more confident, work harder, show more positive affect, and perform better (Anderman, 1999; Anderman & Anderman, 1999; Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Lynch & Cicchetti, 1992; Ryan et al., 1994; Skinner & Snyder, 1999). Taking it into account, we propose the second hypothesis: H2: Strong social relationships will lead to an individual’s engagement in work processes.

Cynicism and work engagement Above mentioned suggests the indirect relationship between cynicism and work engagement and this relationship is mediated by social relationships. If there will be a relationship between cynicism and social relationships and social relationships and work engagement we can propose that cynical individuals are less engaged in work processes than non-cynical individuals. To test hypotheses according to the G-power analysis using statistical method Pearson correlation and assuming that the effect size will be 0.2 and statistical power 0.80 the minimum sample of 123 participants is required. In our research will participate students from two different universities the Tilburg University that is based in Tilburg, Netherlands, and the National research university Higher School of Economics that is based in Moscow, Russia. The procedure, measures, and design of the study participants will be asked to fill three different questionnaires. To assess students’ level of cynicism, the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale Measure will be used (see appendix 1).

Paper-and-pencil questionnaires will be administered to students. Survey will also include questions about demographics, such as age and sex. All materials will be translated in Russian and English languages. As far as the author is the Russian language native speaker, we will not do any language checks of scales. To access quality of social relationships students will be asked to fill the Negative interaction scale (Krause, 1995). The questionnaire (see the appendix 2) will include the original 4-item scale plus one adapted item (based on Schuster, Kessler, & Aseltine, 1990). The scale will help to indicate the frequency with which significant others are critical or make demands of them. All items are scored on a 4-point frequency rating scale ranging from 0 (never) to 3 (very often).

Students’ engagement will be assessed with the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) (Schaufeli, Salanova, et al., 2002). The items of the UWES (see the appendix 3) are grouped into three sub-scales that reflect the underlying dimensions of engagement: Vigor (6 items), Dedication (5 items), and Absorption (6 items). All items are scored on a 7-point frequency rating scale ranging from 0 (never) to 6 (always). Plan for data analyses In order to test our hypotheses, firstly we will correlate all the variables with Pearson correlation. This statistical method is applicable for our case because all the variables are continuous. This method helps to measure the existence and strength of a linear relationship between two variables. If the outcome is significant we conclude that a correlation exists.

Next step is the causal-steps approach to mediation will be used. Baron and Kenny’s Causal-Steps Test (1986) is the most commonly used test of mediation so far. As they suggested, partial mediation is a more realistic model than complete mediation. A multiple regression analysis will be conducted. The following linear regression equations will be built: first, effect of the independent variable on the mediator variable; second, effect of the mediator variable on the dependent variable. SR = ?0 + ?1* C Eng = ?0 + ?1* SR, (Where C – Cynicism, SR – Social relationships, Eng – Engagement). Separate coefficients for each equation will be estimated and tested. Model will also be controlled for demographic variables, such as age, sex and nationality. After that, we will use an SPSS macro “Process”, developed by Andrew Hayes (Hayes & Rockwood, 2017), in order to test an indirect effect of the predictor variable on the outcome variable. The mediation hypothesis will be approved if the joint effect of the mediator and independent variables on the dependent variable is stronger than.


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The role of cynicism in teamwork performance. (2021, Dec 01). Retrieved from