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The Effect of Cultural Differences on Behavioral Responses to Low Job Satisfaction

Author(s): David C. Thomas and Kevin Au

Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2 (2nd Qtr., 2002), pp. 309-326
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals
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David C. Thomas*


This article reports the results of a

field study that evaluated behavioral responses to low job satisfaction of participants in Hong Kong
and New Zealand. Culture, measured by vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism, had
both main and moderating effects
on responses. First, cultural groups
Rarely can organizations guarantee
uniformly high job satisfaction among
members. Thus, behavioral responses of
employees to low job satisfaction, such
as absenteeism, turnover, and dissent,
are of continuing interest. Also, increased
globalization and changing work force
demographics mean managers are increasingly concerned with understanding the complexities associated with

responded differently to low job satisfaction with exit, voice, loyalty, or

neglect. Second, culture moderated
the effect of quality of job alternatives and job satisfaction on exit
and loyalty, and moderated the effect of quality of job alternatives on

managing workers from different cultures. These factors suggest a practical

concern for understanding cultural differences in the nature of exchange relationships that employees have with their
employer and their responses to low job
satisfaction in particular.
Rusbult and colleagues
Farrell, Rogers, and Mainous, 1988)
made a significant contribution to our
understanding of employee-employer

*David C. Thomas is an Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University. His research is

concerned with cross-cultural interactions in organizationalsettings.

**Kevin Au is Associate Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research
interests include cross-culturalmethods, intra-culturalinteraction, and various management
issues in MNCs.
The authors are grateful to Kurt Dirks, Ping Ping Fu, Chun Hui, and Bruce Meglino for
comments on a previous version of this article and to JaniceChan for data collection assistance.
Part of this research was conducted while the first author was affiliated with the University of
Auckland, New Zealand.

33, 2 (SECONDQUARTER2002): 309-326



transferring; searching
for a different job; thinking about quitproblems with
ting; Voice-discussing
the supervisor or co-workers; suggesting
solutions; seeking help from an outside
agency; Loyalty-waiting and hoping for
improvement; trusting the organization
to do the right thing; Neglect-reduced
interest or effort; chronic lateness or absenteeism; using company time for personal business; increased error rate. The
responses relate to one another systematically by differing along the dimensions of constructiveness versus destructiveness and activity versus passivity.
According to Rusbult et al. (1988), exit is
active and destructive, voice is active
and constructive; neglect is passive and
destructive, loyalty is passive and constructive.
Rusbult et al. (1988) found that high
prior job satisfaction consistently promoted the constructive responses of
voice and loyalty. And, high quality job
alternatives encouraged high levels of
exit and voice behavior while inhibiting
loyalty. Numerous studies have applied
the exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect
framework, with generally consistent results in a single culture (see Bemmels,
1996 for a review).
Responses to low job satisfaction can
be conceptualized as embedded in the
context of the social exchange between

the individual and the organization, and

the exchange between individuals and
organizations is interpreted within the
broader societal context (Rousseau and
Schalk, 2000). That is, society provides
the framework with which promises
made by an employer and those made by
employees in return are given meaning.
While Rusbult et al. (1988) demonstrated
that different behavioral responses to imbalance in the exchange relationship can
be predicted based on exchange variables such as job satisfaction and quality
of job alternatives, they did not consider
the societal or cultural context in which
the exchange was embedded. While the
societal context includes political, economic and institutional factors, this article focuses on the effect of culture.
Economic, legal, and political systems
develop over time and are visible manifestations of a more fundamental set of
shared meanings (Schwartz, 1994). Societal culture reflects the institutions of
society, but is represented in the relatively stable values, attitudes, and behavioral assumptions of individuals. By
focusing on this more fundamental and
stable construct we present an opportunity to understand systematic variation
in individual responses that has relevance for international management. A
basic question addressed in this article is
the generalizability of the Rusbult et al.
(1988) framework and findings to other
cultures. Addressing questions of crosscultural generalizability is fundamental
to combating the implicit universalism
that pervades much organizational research (Boyacigiller and Adler, 1991).
In order to predict how members of
different cultural groups would respond
to low job satisfaction, we first systematically describe relevant characteristics of
culture. Individualism and collectivism
are perhaps the most useful and power-



exchange relationships by outlining and

testing a cogent model of responses to
low job satisfaction. They suggested primary exchange variables would affect
the propensity for an employee to exhibit a particular type of response behavior. Among these were level of overall
job satisfaction, and quality of job alternatives. Behavioral responses were categorized as exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect. Types of behavior that fall into
each category are illustrated as follows:


ful dimensions of cultural variation in

explaining a diverse array of social behavior (Earley and Gibson, 1998; Triandis, 1995). Despite being conducted at
widely different times, with different
samples, and using different methods
the results of major studies of national
variation in value orientations (e.g., Hofstede, 1980; Kluckhohn and Strotdbeck,
1961; Schwartz, 1994; Trompenaars,
1993) all feature the cultural dimensions
of individualism and collectivism. This
convergence suggests these dimensions
are broad cultural syndromes encompassing more basic elements (Triandis,
1995). They are particularly appropriate
in this context because the nature of the
exchange that individual's have with
their employer involves the extent to
which individuals perceive themselves
to be part of the larger organization, and
individualism and collectivism can be
described fundamentally as the way
individuals construct their concept
of themselves (Markus and Kitayama,

Expanding on cultural differences in

the definition of self, Markus and
Kitayama (1991) describe both vertical
and horizontal orientations. The vertical
self accepts inequality, while the horizontal self emphasizes that people
should be similar on most attributes, especially status (Triandis, 1995). Status
relationships are important here because
social status relates to social power in
exchange relationships. The extent to
which status differences exist determines the degree to which people concede to or have social responsibility for
others. This influences their expectations concerning the nature of social
exchange (Leung, 1997). Therefore, inclusion of vertical and horizontal dimensions of culture is of particular importance in understanding the exchange reVOL. 33, No. 2, SECONDQUARTER, 2002

lationship between individuals and the


Distinguishing between vertical and

horizontal individualism and collectivism results in four different cultural
profiles. However, verticality is conceptually equivalent to Hofstede's power
distance dimension, and the positive
correlation between power distance and
collectivism (Hofstede, 1980) suggests
that vertical collectivism and horizontal
individualism may be the dominant cultural profiles around the world (Triandis, 1995). That is, verticality serves to
reinforce collectivism and horizontalness reinforces individualism. The polarity that emerges from the most sophisticated mapping of cultures to date
(Schwartz, 1994) falls quite neatly along
the broad cultural syndromes of vertical
collectivism and horizontal individualism (Smith and Bond, 1999). Therefore,
we focused our analysis of how cultures
with dominant vertical collectivist profiles differed from cultures with dominant horizontal individualist profiles in
their responses to low job satisfaction.
The following are the defining attributes
of these cultural syndromes (Triandis,

Vertical collectivists see themselves as

an aspect of an in-group, but members of
the in-group are different in terms of status. These cultures are characterized by
patterns of social relationships emphasizing communal sharing according to
need and authority ranking, or the distribution of resources according to rank
(Fiske, 1990). They typically have social
systems not reflecting values of individual freedom or equity (Rokeach, 1973).
Inequality is the accepted norm and
serving and sacrificing for the in-group
feature prominently.
In horizontal individualism the self is
autonomous and people are generally


equal. These cultures are characterized

by patterns of social behavior that emphasize equity in resource sharing according to contribution and distribution
of resources equally among members
(Fiske, 1990). They are characterized by
social systems that emphasize both the
values of equality and individual freedom (Rokeach, 1973). We predicted that
vertical collectivists and horizontal individualists would differ in their behavioral responses to low job satisfaction.

At the most fundamental level all human beings respond to their environment in similar fashion (Hofstede, 1980;
Schwartz, 1992). Also, the strength of
situational determinants of behavior as
compared with dispositional determinants is well documented (Davis-Blake
and Pfeffer, 1989; Ross and Nisbett,
1991). Therefore, we anticipated the
main effects for the situational variables
to be generally consistent with previous
findings (Rusbult et al., 1988; Withey
and Cooper, 1989). Specifically, high job
satisfaction should encourage voice and
loyalty and discourage exit and neglect.
High quality of alternatives should encourage exit and voice, and discourage
loyalty and neglect.
This article is limited to the evaluation
of cultural differences in responses to
low job satisfaction. However, in order to
predict the probable nature of these responses, we theorize as to the mechanisms through which culture operates.
We propose that culture might affect employee responses to low job satisfaction
through two alternate but not mutually
exclusive paths; normative scripts for responses to low job satisfaction and alternative interpretations of the exchange re-

Because the behavioral responses of

exit, voice, loyalty and neglect involve
normative beliefs about how one should
behave when interacting with others, we
suggest that one possible path of cultural
influence is through cultural differences
in the behavioral scripts (cognitions held
in memory that describe events or behaviors appropriate for a particular situation, Abelson, 1981; Gioa and Poole,
1984) that exist with regard to appropriate responses to low job satisfaction.
Through this mechanism cultural differences would exert a direct effect on the
response to low job satisfaction, based
on the extent to which individuals hold
a mental script for that situation and the
extent to which a culturally based script
prescribes a particular behavioral re-


Voice. By definition, voice is assertive
and non-conformist in that it is change
oriented (LePine and Van Dyne, 1998).
Organizations often interpret speaking
up as negative because it can threaten
cohesiveness (Nemeth and Staw, 1989).
Because social behavior of collectivists
is highly influenced by norms, perceived
duties or obligations (Bontempo and
Rivero, 1992) they are less likely to exhibit non-conforming behavior. Verticalness reinforces this dutiful pattern of
behavior, because verticals are more sensitive to cues coming from authorities
and more willing to sacrifice their individual goals (Triandis, 1995). Thus, a
dominant script for voice among vertical
collectivists seems very unlikely and is
inconsistent with the conflict avoidance
norm observed in examples of these cultures (Trubinsky, Ting-Toomey, and
Ling, 1991). On the other hand, the basic
motive structure of individualists reflects their internal beliefs and capacities
including the ability to effect change and
to withstand social pressure (Triandis,




1995). Horizontalness suggests a belief

that supervisors are approachable and
responsive and is consistent with voice
as a response to low job satisfaction
(Janssen, Vries, and Cozijnsen, 1998).
That is, voice is facilitated by a belief
that the organization is willing and able
to respond (Withey and Cooper, 1989).
Therefore, we expected vertical collectivists to be less likely to have a script for
responding to a low job satisfaction with

la: Vertical collectivists

will exhibit a lesser tendency to respond to low job satisfaction with

voice than will horizontal individualists.
Exit. Avoidance and compromise are
the dominant conflict resolution procedures for collectivists (Leung and Wu,
1990). Also, vertical collectivists are
very sensitive to the status of the other
party in the exchange relationship (Kirkbridge, Tang, and Westwood, 1991).
Therefore, verticalness reinforces the
paternalistic nature of organizations
in these cultures making confrontation
even more noxious. Under these conditions the most clear cut avoidance behavior in response to low job satisfaction
is exit. Exit is an active response and, as
such, might also be favored by individualists. We suggest, however, that for individualists the alternative active behavior of voice is a more acceptable option
than it is for vertical collectivists. Therefore, an exit script is likely to be a more
dominant active response option for vertical collectivists.

Ib: Vertical collectivists

will exhibit a greater tendency to respond to low job satisfaction with exit
than will horizontal individualists.
VOL. 33, No. 2, SECONDQUARTER,2002

Loyalty. Loyalty has been conceptualized as both an attitude that deters exit
and promotes voice and as a distinct behavioral response (Leck and Saunders,
1992). As a passive and non-confrontational response, it is consistent with the
vertical collectivist cultural orientation
described above. Maintenance of harmony and conflict avoidance norms associated with this cultural orientation
are indicative of a dominant loyalty
script. In contrast, individualists are unlikely to maintain a relationship when
perceived costs of such maintenance exceed the benefits (Kim, Triandis, Kagicibasi, Choi, and Yoon, 1994), and the
egalitarian norms of horizontals argue
against suffering in silence.
Neglect. Neglect, like loyalty is a passive response. Therefore,it seems inconsistent with active pursuit of conflict
resolution characteristicof horizontal individualists (Leung and Wu, 1990). Neglect and loyalty, like exit, are vague as
to the target of behavior, and thus are
more subtle means of responding to a
dissatisfying situation that avoids confrontation with organization members.
These subtle responses allow higher status members in the exchange relationship to maintain face while still satisfying the lower status individual's need to
respond. We suggest that both loyalty
and neglect will be more prevalent
scripts for vertical collectivists than for
horizontal individualists.
Hypothesis Ic: Vertical collectivists
will exhibit a greater tendency to respond to low job satisfaction with loyalty and neglect than will horizontal
A second means of cultural influence
exists in the way that individuals evaluate the nature of the exchange relationship with their employer based on the


situation. Individuals in different cultures learn sets of values with which to

evaluate situations and potential courses
of action (Erez and Earley, 1993; Hofstede, 1980). These cultural orientations
influence the way in which people perceive situations (Bagby, 1957), the attributions they make about their causes
(Ting-Toomey, 1988), and their expectations concerning outcomes (Leung,
Bond, and Schwartz, 1995).
Differencesbetween the culturalgroups
along the dimensions of vertical collectivism and horizontal individualism
should influence the interpretation and
importance of job satisfaction, and quality of job alternatives in determining
responses. Consistent with the speculations of Ting-Toomey (1994), we expected situations that indicated the extent of an individual's relational investment such as job satisfaction would be
more influential for vertical collectivists
than for horizontal individualists. That
is, vertical collectivists might be more
sensitive to and place more value on situational factors with relevance for their
relationship to others in the organization.
Conversely, horizontal individualists
should be more susceptible to influence
of quality of outside alternatives, because of their independent nature and
high freedom of choice. As Triandis
(1995) suggests, individualists always
look for the best 'deal' they can get. That
is, they tend to emphasize the advantages and disadvantages of a particular
situation with a goal of maximizing selfinterest (Ting-Toomey, 1994). Also, enjoying freedom of choice implies a
higher degree of consciousness concerning the availability of alternatives. These
relationships would be apparent in the
effect of the interaction between culture

To test the predictions about the effect

of cultural differences on responses to
low job satisfaction we designed a field
study similar to Rusbult et al. (1988).
Participants responded to a pencil and
paper survey that measured their job satisfaction, quality of job alternatives, extent to which they exhibited exit, voice,
loyalty and neglect behavior, and their
cultural orientation along the dimensions of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. Demographic
information was also collected at the
same time.
To maximize variation on the cultural
dimensions of interest we selected participants from cultures that we expected
would typify Horizontal Individualism
and VerticalCollectivism.Based on Hofstede's (1980) indexes for Individualism
and PowerDistance(as a surrogateforverticalness) the national cultures of China
(Hong Kong) and New Zealand (AngloEuropeans)closely approximatedthe extreme opposite positions of these two
dominant cultural syndromes. New Zealand scored 79 for Individualism and 22
for Power Distance and Hong Kong scored



and the exchange variables on behavioral responses.

Hypothesis 2: Culturaldifferences will
moderate the effect of exchange variables on behavioral responses such
(2a) the effect of job satisfaction will
be more influential for vertical collectivists,
(2b) the effect of the quality of job alternatives will be more influential for
horizontal individualists.

25 for Individualism and 68 for Power Distance (Hofstede, 1980).
Participants were adults engaged in
executive development programs in either New Zealand or Hong Kong. Participation was voluntary and of 415 questionnaires distributed 218 were returned
(11lof 215 in New Zealand and 107 of
200 in Hong Kong). Anonymity of participants was guaranteed. Average full time
work experience was 15 years in New
Zealand and 10 years in Hong Kong, and
average age was 36 and 32 respectively.
Formal education level was 16 years in
New Zealand and 18 in Hong Kong. In
New Zealand 44 percent of participants
were female and in Hong Kong 51 percent were female. The study was conducted in English in New Zealand and
Chinese in Hong Kong. Competent bilinguals translated the instrument by using
a translation/back-translation
suggested by
The study measured the extent to
which participants had engaged in exit,
voice, loyalty or neglect behavior, their
orientation along the cultural dimensions of horizontal individualism and
vertical collectivism, level of job satisfaction, and the quality of their job alternatives. Age, gender, years of education,
and salary level were measured to control for possible extraneous variation.

Individualism/Collectivism. This measure consisted of two 8-item sub-scales

validated by Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk,
and Gelfand (1995). Participants responded on nine-point scales (1 =
Never, 9 = Always). Internal consistency
reliability was Horizontal Individualism,
a = .60 and Vertical Collectivism, a =
.57. These alphas, while somewhat low,
are consistent with previous research
(Singelis et al., 1995) and typical of measures of cultural dimensions that characteristically have high bandwidth, which
makes high alphas difficult to obtain.
Bandwidth is the amount of information
obtained while fidelity is the consistency
of information. The idea of balancing
bandwidth and fidelity in measures of
culture has been widely discussed and
has generally had broad acceptance (e.g.,
Chen, Meindl, and Hunt, 1997; Hui,
1988; Hui and Triandis, 1986; Triandis
et al., 1995).
In order to validate the cultural profiles
of the participants in our sample we conducted a multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA) on the two cultural dimensions with the independent variable the
two national cultural groups. Results demonstrated cultural variability across the
two groups, F 2,211 (Wilks Criterion) =
22.40, p < .01. Univariate results are
presented in Table 1. As shown, Anglo-


Cultural Group (Means)
Dependent Variable

Hong Kong

New Zealand




Vertical Collectivism
Horizontal Individualism
** =p<.01,

* =p<.05,

= p < .10

VOL. 33, No. 2, SECONDQUARTER,2002



European New Zealanders, differed significantly from Hong Kong Chinese on the
dimensions of vertical collectivism, F
1,212= 35.17, p < .01, and horizontal individualism, F 1,212 = 9.73, p < .01. Subsequent analyses used these cultural profiles of individuals in order to avoid the
problems associated with implying homogeneity in national cultures (Smith and
Bond, 1999).
Exit, Voice, Loyalty, and Neglect. We
constructed a measure to assess behavioral responses consistent with the Rusbult et al. (1988) framework, but that
was equivalent in the different cultural
groups. We subjected 16 items from Rusbult et al. (1988) and three items developed by us to an exploratory factor analysis in each culture. Consistent with
prior research, four factors emerged. We
subjected items with factor loadings
greater than .50 in each culture to a confirmatory factor analysis simultaneously
in each culture. Using modification indexes as a guide, items were removed
until an acceptable fit, X2 (84) = 121.63,
p =. 01, GFI = .93 was achieved for both
models simultaneously (J6reskog, 1971).
This resulted in good fit statistics in both
cultures, Hong Kong: X2(71) = 85.43, p =
.12, GFI = .89, New Zealand: X2(71) =
98.08, p = .02, GFI = .87. Reliabilities of
the scales in the overall sample were Exit
(a = .75), Voice (a = .52), Loyalty (a =
.64), and Neglect (a = .75). These alphas,
while less than ideal, compare favorably
with prior studies that included alphas
associated with each response ranging
from .45 to .78 (see Farrell and Rusbult,
Job Satisfaction and Quality of Alternatives. Job satisfaction and quality of
alternatives were also measured with
items derived from Rusbult et al. (1988).
Again, confirmatory factor analysis in
both cultures was used to establish

cross-cultural equivalence resulting in

excellent simultaneous fit statistics for
both job satisfaction, X2(4) = 15.21, p =
.01, GFI = .97 and quality of alternatives,
2(4) = 2.38, p = .67, GFI = .99. Internal
consistency reliability for the four-item
job satisfaction scale was a = .85 and for
quality of alternatives the alpha for the
eight-item scale was .71.




Descriptive statistics and correlations

among the variables in the study are presented in Table 2. Demographic characteristics of gender, education and salary
level were found to affect outcome variables and were entered as control variables in subsequent analyses. An effect
for age was not significant when other
demographic characteristics were controlled. In order to examine predictions
about the effect of culture on outcomes,
exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect were regressed separately on job satisfaction,
quality of alternatives, vertical collectivism, and horizontal individualism. Interactions involving horizontal individualism and vertical collectivism were of
particular interest in support of the moderating effect of culture. Deviation scores
(raw score minus the mean) of the independent variables were used in this estimation to minimize problems with multicollinearity (Aiken and West, 1991).
Results of the regression analysis are presented in Table 3.
As shown, all four regression equations were statistically significant with
R2s ranging from .42 to .21. Generally
consistent with our expectations, high
job satisfaction reduced the tendency for
exit and neglect, and promoted voice
and loyalty. Also, quality of alternatives
promoted exit and voice, but was unrelated to loyalty and neglect. As predicted, horizontal individualism was















Salary Level
Job Satisfaction
Quality of Alternatives

* = < .05, ** =

< .01, n = 218












Job Satisfaction [5]
Quality of Altemnatives [Al
S xA
Horizontal Individualism [HI]
Vertical Collectivism [VC]
VC X A X 5

< .01,


< .05, t



14, 190
< .10


- 2.65*

- .02
14, 190


3.73 **
- .31

- .17
14, 190


significantly related to voice. Also, as

predicted, vertical collectivism was positively related to neglect. Unexpectedly,
and as discussed later, vertical collectivism was negatively related to loyalty.
To understand the interactions (between measures of culture and job satisfaction and quality of job alternatives)
that provided support for the moderating
effect of culture, we conducted a simple
slope analysis (Aiken and West, 1991).
That is, where interactions were statistically significant, the regression coefficient for one variable was calculated at
high (one standard deviation above the
mean), medium (at the mean), and low
(one standarddeviation below the mean)
levels of the other variable in the interaction (Cohen and Cohen, 1983). While
standardized coefficients are reported in
Table 3, unstandardized regression coefficients were used for the slope analysis.
Exit. Explaining the influence of culture is facilitated by understanding the
significant interaction of satisfaction and
quality of alternatives on exit. Simple
slope analysis indicated that when job
satisfaction was high or medium the
availability of high quality job alternatives was strongly related to exit (b = .49

and .32 respectively). Although still positive when job satisfaction is low, the
relationship becomes much weaker (b =
.15). These results suggest when job satisfaction is very low, people have such a
strong tendency to exit that quality of job
alternatives is of little concern. In contrast, when job satisfaction is high, attractive job alternatives can entice people to leave.
Three interactions involving culture
on exit were statistically significant.
First, horizontal individualism moderated the effect of satisfaction on exit. Regression coefficients remained significant at high, medium, and low levels of
VOL. 33, NO. 2, SECOND QUARTER, 2002

horizontal individualism, however values decreased with stronger horizontal

individualism (b = -.34, -.30, and -.21
respectively). Horizontal individualism
also moderatedthe effect of quality of job
alternatives on exit. Regression coefficients remain significant at high, medium, and low levels of horizontal individualism, however values increase with
stronger horizontal individualism (b =
.44, .32, and .20 respectively), suggesting
horizontal individualists are more sensitive to quality of job alternatives when
considering whether or not to exit. Finally, the interaction between vertical
collectivism and quality of job alternatives was statistically significant. High
levels of vertical collectivism enhanced
the effect of quality of alternatives on
exit, but this effect was not significant at
lower levels of vertical collectivism (b =
.45, .32, .18 respectively). As discussed
ahead, this result was inconsistent with
our general prediction that vertical collectivists would be less sensitive to quality of alternatives.
Voice. The interaction between quality
of alternatives and horizontal individualism was statistically significant. Simple slope analysis indicated that quality
of alternatives and voice were positively
related at high level of horizontal individualism (b = .17). However, the relationship becomes very weak and nonsignificant at medium (b = .08) and also
at low (b = -.01) levels of horizontal individualism. For persons high in horizontal individualism, high quality job alternatives enhanced the extent to which
they used voice as an approach to dealing with issues at work.
Loyalty. A three-way interaction involving vertical collectivism and quality
of alternatives and job satisfaction was
statistically significant (Figure 1). For
employees high in vertical collectivism,





? 0.25-



2 0.15



?u~ =
0. .-





Quality of Alternatives

job satisfaction was positively and significantly related to loyalty but high
quality alternatives moderated this relationship. The relationship was strongest
when quality of alternatives was high (b
= .31), and decreased gradually when it
was medium (b = .26) and low (b = .22).
For employees low in vertical collectivism an opposite picture emerged. With
high quality alternatives, job satisfaction
was not statistically significant (b = .09).
However, as the quality of alternatives
reduced to medium and low, the relationship became stronger and statistically significant (b = .15 and .20 respec-

satisfaction and loyalty becomes more

positive for those high in vertical collectivism while it decreases in strength for
those low in vertical collectivism.

As shown in Figure 1, with low quality
alternatives the relationship between job
satisfaction and loyalty is similar for
both those high and low on vertical collectivism. However, as quality of alternatives improves the relationship between

In this study we focused on the extent

to which individuals from different cultures responded to situational contingencies in the context of an exchange
relationship with their employer. A
model of responses to low job satisfaction (Rusbult et al., 1988), formulated
and tested in the U.S., generalized to
some extent across cultures. First, we
developed measures along the four dimensions of exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect that were conceptually equivalent
in cultures with distinctly different profiles. Establishing construct equivalence
is a prerequisite to comparative studies
(van de Vijver and Leung, 1997) and this




finding bodes well for future use of

this framework. Second, behavioral responses were contingent on prior job satisfaction and quality of job alternatives
in much the same way in this multicultural sample as in previous single culture studies. This finding suggests possible use of this framework to study phenomenon indicative of exit and voice,
such as turnover and grievance filing behavior, across cultures.
However, culture directly influenced
the behavioral responses of exit or voice,
indicating the likelihood of culturally
based normative behavior (scripts) for
the exchange relationship. Horizontal individualism was significantly related to
voice. The strong horizontal dimension
typical of New Zealanders indicated a
belief in equality that would argue for a
behavioral norm that included the right
to voice one's opinion. This effect was
probably further enhanced by the high
individual self-efficacy typical of individualists (Triandis, 1995). The failure of
vertical collectivism to relate significantly to exit as predicted was potentially an artifactof the timing of the field
study. Hong Kong respondents were surveyed in 1998 just after the Asian financial crisis had its impact on the Hong
Kong job market.For the first time in the
memory of these respondents exiting
one's present job had a real possibility of
leading to long-term unemployment.
Any existing normative script for exit
may have been overwhelmed by this factor. Vertical collectivism was related
positively to the passive response of neglect. However, it was negatively related
to loyalty. An examination of items that
made up the loyalty construct suggested
that they fell in the active constructive
quadrantof responses as opposed to passive constructive quadrant that defines
loyalty. If respondents interpreted this
VOL. 33, No. 2, SECONDQUARTER,2002

response as active, results are typical of

the passive non-confrontational norms
of vertical collectivists. Also, if loyalty is
viewed as the antithesis of exit (or as an
attitude that deters exit), as indicated by
the negative correlation of loyalty and
exit (Table 2), consistency with vertical
collectivist norms is evident. On the
whole, these results indicate the existence of culturally based normative behavior (scripts) that must be considered
in explaining and predicting the behavior of different cultural groups in their
employment relationship.
Cultural orientation of participants
moderated the effect of some exchange
variables on some outcomes. Consistent
with Fiske (1990), we suggested that social exchange rules would assign different weights to the same situational variables across cultures, apparent in interaction effects. As expected, the effect of
quality of job alternatives on both exit
and voice was enhanced by horizontal
individualism. However, somewhat surprising was the finding that the inverse
relationship between job satisfaction and
exit was also strongerfor those higher in
horizontal individualism. Also, not predicted, the relationship of quality of alternatives on exit was also stronger at
very high levels of vertical collectivism.
However, as predicted, the interaction
effect of job satisfaction and alternatives
on loyalty was different for those high in
vertical collectivism and for those low in
vertical collectivism. In the first case,
high quality alternatives strengthened
the relationship, while in the later higher
quality alternatives weakened the relationship.

This research is limited by the broader
environmental context including legal,
political and economic influences in the


Where statistically significant, main

effects found for exchange variables and
for cultural orientations on behavioral
responses were, with one exception,
consistent with our predictions. Additionally, moderating effects for cultural
variation on exchange variables were
similar in many respects to other crosscultural studies of reward distribution,
conflict resolution, and negotiation (Earley, 1997, p. 207). However, effects of
culture were not always as predicted by
our suggestion that participants in one
culture would assign more weight to a
particular situational factor than would

participants in the other. Exchange calculations might be more complex than

we expected and may involve a more
indirect effect of culture than we have
proposed. Broad cultural orientations
measured here were only moderately
predictive of specific behaviors. That is,
culture as measured by value orientations, may be strongly related to categories of behavior aggregated across time
and/or situations, but may be less effective as a predictor of specific behavior
unless the effect of culture on the perceived value of that behavior for individuals is considered (Leung, Bond, and
Schwartz, 1995). For example, horizontal individualists had a propensity to
voice and vertical collectivists a propensity to neglect, consistent with their
broad cultural orientations. Both vertical
collectivism and horizontal individualism moderated the effect of quality of
alternatives on exit in much the same
way. We can suggest that for horizontal
individualists high quality of alternatives indicated that exit would enhance
their feelings of freedom and independence, while for vertical collectivists
high quality of alternatives made exit
more attractive by increasing their ability to avoid conflict. Also, for participants high on vertical collectivism, high
quality job alternatives reinforced the
perceived value of job loyalty as an indicator of culturally based strong relationship orientations when they were satisfied with their job. That is, if I have good
quality job alternatives being loyal has
more perceived value because I am forgoing those good alternatives to maintain
a good relationship and group cohesion.
In contrast, for those low on vertical collectivism, high quality alternatives did
not increase the perceived value of being
loyal. These interpretations may be going somewhat beyond the data. How-



two countries in which the data were

gathered. However, our focus on the cultural orientation of individuals mitigated
this effect. Also, as in any correlational
study, the possibility that participants
were cognitively consistent in their responses cannot be entirely ruled out.
Furthermore, some of the measures had
less than ideal internal consistency reliability, which had the effect of attenuating results involving these variables.
This study was also limited to studying
only behavioral responses and of only
two cultural groups. While we specified
possible mechanisms for culture's influence, these were not tested. And, as discussed ahead, our results suggest the
possibility of other mechanisms.
Despite these limitations, this study is
consistent with the type of cross-cultural
research advocated by Bhagat and McQuaid (1982). First, the organizational
phenomenon was articulated in a manner that was conceptually equivalent
across cultures. Then, specific features of
the cultures examined were defined. Finally, the importance of specific cultural
characteristics on the variables of interest was examined.



ever, they suggest that future research

may need to consider the effect that cultural orientation has on establishing the
perceived value of expected outcomes in
trying to predict specific behavior. Of
particular interest may be the value that
different cultures put on outcomes that
produce feelings of freedom and independence versus those that provide conflict avoidance or serve to maintain good
relationships and group cohesion.
A related observation is that the quality of job alternatives is present in three
out of four significant interactions involving culture. This suggests that this
variable is more susceptible to the influence of the moderating effect of cultural
variation. Key elements of this study, the
independent versus interdependent nature of the self and the equality versus
status hierarchy perspective on relationships with others, can be seen to influence how individuals might value good
job alternatives.
In practice, employers must recognize
the multiple dimensions that differentiate among the various responses to low
worker satisfaction. Satisfaction with
one's job is clearly an important factor in
promoting the constructive behaviors of
voice and loyalty while deterring the
negative actions of exit and neglect regardless of culture. And high quality job
alternatives clearly encouraged workers
of both cultures examined here to consider other employment, indicting the
probable universal nature of this phenomenon across cultures.
However, the culture of workers has
an influence on their response to low job
satisfaction that should not be ignored.
Workersin some cultures are more likely
to express their dissatisfaction with their
job by voicing their concerns to management. Therefore,it is particularly important for managerswho have come to rely
VOL. 33, No. 2, SECONDQUARTER,2002

on employees to tell them (or file a grievance) when things aren't quit right to
recognize that this propensity may be
much diminished in other cultures.
These employees are likely to favor more
indirect non-confrontational responses
to low satisfaction. Managers must be
careful not to use 'self-referent' criteria
when evaluating the behavior of their
subordinates. Using the rule of thumb
'what would cause me to behave that
way' may cause managers to wrongfully
interpret the motives for non-confrontation behavior such as neglect and respond inappropriately or to try and encourage culturally inappropriate behavior such as voice.
It is also clear that employers should
be sensitive to changes in the quality of
job alternatives because of the moderating influence of cultural differences. Employees from vertical collectivist cultures may respond very differently to
employees from horizontal individualist
cultures when economic conditions affect the quality of alternative jobs available to them. For example, vertical collectivists may view having good job alternatives as an opportunity to reinforce
their loyalty, whereas individualists may
see the same situation as an opportunity
to express their independence and ability. In order to anticipate and explain
employee responses to such situational
contingencies managers must get to
know employee values and beliefs that
are the product of culture.

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