Perceptions of relational practices in the workplace

Date of Completion

January 2004


Psychology, Industrial




This study examined the intersection of gender and work through an investigation of relationally-motivated behaviors in the workplace. Using Fletcher's (1999) work as a springboard, I questioned how work is defined, what has been left out of the definition, and whether men and women would be evaluated differently for relationally-motivated behaviors. Working adults (N = 128), recruited via e-mail, completed online surveys containing eight workplace scenarios and rated how effective and submissive they perceived the targets' behaviors to be. Overall, participants rated relationally-motivated behaviors as ineffective and submissive; however, targets were not rated differentially based on gender. Perceptions of effectiveness and submissiveness differed across vignettes. For submissiveness, this was also dependent on participant sex, with women viewing some relationally-motivated behaviors as less submissive than men did, and others as more submissive. An individual difference variable, relational-interdependent self-construal, was related to perceptions of submissiveness such that individuals whose self-construal was less interdependent perceived relationally-motivated behaviors as more submissive. However, an open-ended question revealed that participants often indicated that they would have behaved in the same way as the target. Further, they tended to offer relationally-oriented reasons for their choice. This contradiction reflects the ambivalence associated with relationally-motivated behaviors. Relational work is an under-articulated aspect of workplace behavior, and performing relational behaviors may not be advantageous for employees because these behaviors are not formally incorporated into organizational culture. Limitations, implications, and future research are discussed. ^