Journal of Nursing Education

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Organizational Climate: A Measure of Faculty and Nurse Administrator Perception

Sydney D Krampitz, RN, PhD; Marian Williams, RN, MSN

Abstract

Impetus for this research came from an increasing awareness that conflict has been experienced by many faculty and deans in baccalaureate nursing programs as they strive to coordinate efforts toward specific educational goals. Increased faculty-administrator tension often results in discourse which is not conducive to the development of a cohesive faculty-administrative team.

Any curriculum project surrounding the development of core curriculum or course objectives will require close collaboration. The success of such a team effort among nursing faculty involves the complex blending of both specialized knowledge and the individual personal values and personalities of each faculty member. The "togetherness" of the team will determine whether faculty group decision making is effective, and whether progress is evident in terms of the goals of the group. The progress of faculty team efforts is largely determined by effective interaction among the individual members of the faculty team and their leader. Thus faculty members and deans of baccalaureate programs must demonstrate increasing concern about the organizational climate of their institution since this factor influences the preparation of the professional nurse. This professional preparation ultimately impacts upon the graduate's role, and may influence the subsequent satisfaction or dissatisfaction experienced in nursing practice.

This study explores dean and faculty perception of the organizational climate in two baccalaureate nursing programs. The perceptions of faculty members and their administrators are explored regarding factors identified as indicators of the internal environment. The climate is used to describe a set of expectations and incentives, and represents a property of the environment that is perceived directly or indirectly by the individuals in the environment. Every organization has a constantly evolving climate because of the human interaction among its members. The ultimate ability of persons to communicate effectively with one another is related to the degree of accuracy of the perceptions of those involved. In a nursing education program, a number of questions may be asked that relate to organizational climate. Can a dean or an entire nursing faculty choose a desired climate and then foster its development? Is there an available means of viewing comprehensively, yet specifically, those qualities in the group which provide the basis for an exploration of strengths and weaknesses?

At one time it was believed that knowledge of the formal organization was sufficient in order to understand the functioning of the organization. However, knowledge of the formal organization gives only a partial picture of the functioning of the organization. Lawrence and Lorsch (as cited in Bennis, 1969) have done research in the diagnosis of organizational problems. They report that organizational design and the interpersonal variables are the two most important subsystems to look at in an organization. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that there is no "one best way" to structure an organization. It is important rather, to plan the structure around the environment and organizational goal variables. For Lawrence and Lorsch, the situation with its organizational variables determines the structure that will be most effective for a participating organization.

Educational and industrial organizations have given increasing attention to understanding the informal or social interactions of the organization (Argyris, 1957; Bennis, 1966; Fiedler, 1958; Halpin & Croft, 1964; McGregor, 1957.) However, little research is available in nursing or other medically related fields to analyze the informal structure, therefore the writers have primarily reviewed literature resources from other educational and industrial settings.

Initially, managers in industry were primarily interested in a science that could foster greater productivity and thus enhance profits through the science of understanding human behavior. Argyris, Blake, and Likert (1966; 1964; 1967), as well as, Litwin and Stringer (1968) emphasized the significant relationship between management…

Impetus for this research came from an increasing awareness that conflict has been experienced by many faculty and deans in baccalaureate nursing programs as they strive to coordinate efforts toward specific educational goals. Increased faculty-administrator tension often results in discourse which is not conducive to the development of a cohesive faculty-administrative team.

Any curriculum project surrounding the development of core curriculum or course objectives will require close collaboration. The success of such a team effort among nursing faculty involves the complex blending of both specialized knowledge and the individual personal values and personalities of each faculty member. The "togetherness" of the team will determine whether faculty group decision making is effective, and whether progress is evident in terms of the goals of the group. The progress of faculty team efforts is largely determined by effective interaction among the individual members of the faculty team and their leader. Thus faculty members and deans of baccalaureate programs must demonstrate increasing concern about the organizational climate of their institution since this factor influences the preparation of the professional nurse. This professional preparation ultimately impacts upon the graduate's role, and may influence the subsequent satisfaction or dissatisfaction experienced in nursing practice.

This study explores dean and faculty perception of the organizational climate in two baccalaureate nursing programs. The perceptions of faculty members and their administrators are explored regarding factors identified as indicators of the internal environment. The climate is used to describe a set of expectations and incentives, and represents a property of the environment that is perceived directly or indirectly by the individuals in the environment. Every organization has a constantly evolving climate because of the human interaction among its members. The ultimate ability of persons to communicate effectively with one another is related to the degree of accuracy of the perceptions of those involved. In a nursing education program, a number of questions may be asked that relate to organizational climate. Can a dean or an entire nursing faculty choose a desired climate and then foster its development? Is there an available means of viewing comprehensively, yet specifically, those qualities in the group which provide the basis for an exploration of strengths and weaknesses?

At one time it was believed that knowledge of the formal organization was sufficient in order to understand the functioning of the organization. However, knowledge of the formal organization gives only a partial picture of the functioning of the organization. Lawrence and Lorsch (as cited in Bennis, 1969) have done research in the diagnosis of organizational problems. They report that organizational design and the interpersonal variables are the two most important subsystems to look at in an organization. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that there is no "one best way" to structure an organization. It is important rather, to plan the structure around the environment and organizational goal variables. For Lawrence and Lorsch, the situation with its organizational variables determines the structure that will be most effective for a participating organization.

Educational and industrial organizations have given increasing attention to understanding the informal or social interactions of the organization (Argyris, 1957; Bennis, 1966; Fiedler, 1958; Halpin & Croft, 1964; McGregor, 1957.) However, little research is available in nursing or other medically related fields to analyze the informal structure, therefore the writers have primarily reviewed literature resources from other educational and industrial settings.

Initially, managers in industry were primarily interested in a science that could foster greater productivity and thus enhance profits through the science of understanding human behavior. Argyris, Blake, and Likert (1966; 1964; 1967), as well as, Litwin and Stringer (1968) emphasized the significant relationship between management as a motivating force and organizational climate as a means to increase worker satisfaction and productivity.

The concern for organizational climate appears to be gaining increased significance and has implication for both nursing education and practice. A recent endeavor to assess organizational climate in the hospital setting was developed by Moos (1974). Moos implemented the Ward Atmosphere Scale (WAS) within a psychiatric setting as a hospital milieu study. The WAS includes leader, staff and patient relationships, treatment and goals of the unit, and the maintenance variables of the system. This instrument is in the process of being further revised for utilization within other hospital settings.

Organizational climate studies have been utilized in educational settings. Halpin and Croft (1964) wrote that the meaning of climate in school organizations was somewhat analogous to the "personality" ofindividuals. In their search for a means to assess organizational climate, Halpin and Croft developed the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire (OCDQ). This instrument grew out of their belief that different climates exist within and among schools. In their research, they were concerned with one aspect or component of the organizational climate, that of the social interaction between the principal and the teachers. They termed this interaction between principal and teachers as "the social component of organizational climate." This research, however, was limited initially to elementary and high school educational settings. To date, neither this instrument nor similar organizational climate measurements have been used to assess climate in a nursing education program.

Halpin and Croft (1964), in their efforts to map organizational climate of schools, addressed themselves to the principal-staff relationships with specific emphasis placed upon the principal behavior in creating an effective organization in which he and other staff members could initiate and consumate acts of leadership. It is assumed, that although the philosophical beliefs and personal characteristics of the dean and faculty members in baccalaureate programs in nursing may vary from other educational settings, administrator-faculty relationships are similar enough so that it is possible to obtain some measure of organizational climate by means of existing reliable instruments.

To date, research relative to the influence of the informal organization operating within schools of nursing has received little attention. The need for further study into the nature of the informal organization of professional schools is recognized. Educational administrators are charged with the effective operation of the formal organization, and therefore must have an awareness of forces influencing the learning environment.

A study of the informal organization's climate in schools therefore has significance for administration of nursing programs. In a profession which is rapidly undergoing change, it is important that faculty members and administrators of baccalaureate schools of nursing be prepared to meet the interpersonal challenges inherent in rapid change and expansion. Successful management of complex organizations demands both timely and crucial assessment of the existing climate and its impact on organizational goals.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

This research was designed to determine the organizational climate of two baccalaureate schools of nursing and is based on perceptions of faculty and deans in those schools of nursing (Williams, 1978). The similarities or discrepancies which may have existed between administrator perception of organizational climate and faculty members' perceptions of the climate in each school were explored. The following factors tested were concerned with the perceived dean's behavior and are defined as follows:

A. Aloofness is the dimension which identifies the distance the dean maintains from her staff, at least, "emotionally." She lives "by the book" in a formal and impersonal atmosphere.

B. Production emphasis describes the degree the dean is close on the heels of her staff; the communication tends to move only to the staff; the dean is not sensitive to feedback from the faculty members.

C. Thrust describes the tendency of the dean to move the organization by example.

D. Consideration describes the tendency of the dean to do something extra for the faculty members in human terms.

The climate index of openness was also tested and is defined as follows: Open climate - the dean represents an appropriate integration between her own personality and the role she must play as dean.

The hypotheses are stated as follows:

A. There is no significant difference in perceptions of aloofness between faculty members and nurse administrators in two baccalaureate nursing programs.

B. There is no significant difference in perceptions of production emphasis between faculty and nurse administrators in two baccalaureate nursing programs.

C. There is no significant difference in perceptions of thrust between faculty members and nurse administrators in two baccalaureate nursing programs.

D. There is no significant difference in perceptions of consideration between faculty and nurse administrators in two baccalaureate nursing programs.

E. There is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrator's perception of openness.

METHODOLOGY

Sample

Faculty members and deans of two baccalaureate schools of nursing in the Chicago area participated in the study. College A had 27 full-time faculty members and College B had 11 full-time faculty members in nursing. Scores of the two school administrators were used as comparative data. All faculty members involved in the study had held their position for one year or more and held a Master's degree in nursing. The administrator of School A had held her position for one year while the administrator of School B had held her position for seven years.

Instrumentation

The OCDQ was used to measure organizational climiate. This instrument was developed by Halpin and Croft, and had a climate score which measured the proposed "authenticity" in organizational behavior which is identified as one of the significant characteristics of the preferred Open Climate. If the ultimate goal is the achievement of an open climate, then a logical first step would be for faculty members and administrators of each school to discover where their school ranks on an open-closed continuum. Halpin and Croft discuss climate as somewhat analogous to attempts to establish personality measures in regard to individual behavior (Halpin & Croft, 1964).

Recognizing the need for a theoretical framework, Halpin and Croft selected items for the questionnaire which would reflect what they considered four dimensions of group behavior and four dimensions of leader behavior. In answer to each item, the respondent is asked to indicate her perception of the frequency of occurrence of the behavior described on a four-point Likert-like scale. Standardized subtest scores were computed for each respondent, and mean subtest scores were used to construct an organizational profile. For the purposes of this study, the following four characteristics of dean's behavior were explored: aloofness, production emphasis, thrust, and consideration. The climate profile of openness was compared between faculty and nurse administrator's perception of openness.

Central to the classification of the climates is the conceptualization of the open-closed dichotomy which marks the extreme of climate range. "Openness" is used in the Halpin and Croft framework to denote a climate characterized by a high degree of flexibility, freedom of communication, and receptivity to new ideas. A climate exhibiting opposite characteristics, that is rigidity, authoritarianism, and resistance to innovation, is referred to as "Closed."

The Halpin Questionnaire consists of 64 items that may be used to establish the organizational climate as perceived by the members of the school's staff. The OCDQ provides eight subtest or dimension scores, four of which describe the perceived teacher's behavior: Disengagement, Hindrance, Esprit, and Intimacy; and four which provide dimensions of the administrator's behavior as perceived by members of his teaching staff: Aloofness, Production Emphasis, Thrust, and Consideration. This study looks at the four characteristics of the administrator's function.

Reliability coefficients reported in Halpin and Croft's norming sample of 1151 respondents ranged from 0.6 to 0.88 on all scales (Halpin & Croft, 1964). Gross and Herriott replicated the Halpin and Croft study using a modified instrument, and their research reported similar concern for the "authenticity or genuineness" in behavior of the principal (Gross, et al., 1968).

The basic format provided data feedback by the response possibilities by items grouped according to the eight dimensions. The dimensions scores are standardized to a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10, and have meaning according to the definition of the several dimensions. For example, a low score on Hindrance is desirable but a low score on Esprit and Thrust would not be good. Considerable data can be obtained from the results. For example, the computer scoring may be used to compile not only a school score but, in addition, individual faculty member scores and the dean's score.

The participants in this study responded to the OCDQ items, which described possible intra-group behaviors by rating them according to frequency of occurrence. These individual perceptions determined responses which furnished the raw material from which the organizational dimension was abstracted. Eight dimensions were defined by individual subscore measurements and these were analyzed.

Data Collection

The authors administered the OCDQ in March and April 1979 to the two baccalaureate schools of nursing participating in the study. The tests were given to the dean (administrator) and faculty members at regular scheduled faculty meeting times. An effort was made to obtain the absent member responses by mail, and all but one faculty response from one school was incorporated into the data. All responses were anonymous to provide the optimal validity to the questionnaire responses.

ANALYSIS OF DATA

This research study was designed to test discrepancies in perception of faculty and administrators on selected characteristics as measured on the Halpin and Croft Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire. The individual characteristic scores analyzed were: aloofness, production emphasis, thrust, and consideration. In addition, scores on the Climate Similarity Index which relate to measurement of openness or closeness of climate have also been systematically evaluated.

Both normative and double standardized scores were analyzed using tests of means and the T-test to determine significant variance. Tables 1 and 2 provide the reader with this data.

Table

TABLE 1SCHOOL AORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE NORMATIVELY STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 1

SCHOOL A

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE NORMATIVELY STANDARDIZED SCORES

Table

TABLE 2SCHOOL AORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE DOUBLE STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 2

SCHOOL A

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE DOUBLE STANDARDIZED SCORES

Table 1 indicates the following hypotheses were rejected at the .01 level of significance:

A. There is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrator in perception of aloofness.

B. There is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrator perception of thrust.

C. There is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrator perception of consideration.

Table

TABLE 3SCHOOL AORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE CLIMATE SIMILARITY INDEX

TABLE 3

SCHOOL A

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE CLIMATE SIMILARITY INDEX

Table

TABLE 4SCHOOL BORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE NORM ATIVELY STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 4

SCHOOL B

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE NORM ATIVELY STANDARDIZED SCORES

Table 2 uses double standardized scores and demonstrates rejection of the last two hypotheses listed above also at the .01 level of significance.

Although these findings in themselves are significant and have broad implications for nursing education, the Climate Similarity Index data in Table 3 is of major importance. The hypothesis that there is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrators' perception of openness on climate is rejected at the .01 level of significance.

Data reported for School B in this study reflect similar discrepancies in faculty and administrator perception. Tables 4 and 5 report scores for Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire for School B.

Table 4 normatively Standardized Scores demonstrates reflection of the following hypotheses:

A. There is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrator perception of thrust.

B. There is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrators' perception of consideration.

Table 5 demonstrates rejection of the hypothesis that there is no significant difference between faculty and nurse administrators' perception of production emphasis in addition to those hypotheses rejected in Table IV at the .01 level of significance.

Table

TABLE 5SCHOOL BORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE DOUBLE STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 5

SCHOOL B

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE DOUBLE STANDARDIZED SCORES

Table

TABLE 6SCHOOL BORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE CLIMATE SIMILARITY INDEX

TABLE 6

SCHOOL B

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE CLIMATE SIMILARITY INDEX

Table 6 demonstrates that in School B the Climate Similarity Index reflects a rejection of the same hypothesis on openness which was identified in Table 3 for School A.

Implications

This study demonstrates that inconsistency exists between faculty and nurse administrators' perception of the organizational climate as measured by the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire. How these differences in perception impact on organizational effectiveness was not measured. However, to create a learning environment, it often is assumed that not only students but staff must experience a climate of openness and trust. This study does not answer any questions but does indeed raise questions which must be investigated if nursing faculty, nurse administrators, and students are to function in a creative and open fashion.

Further research should be undertaken which will use multiple instruments to measure various facets of climate and populations. The use of a single instrument to measure climate is a limitation recognized in this study. Research populations should include not only faculty and administrators, but students. A number of educational programs, students, and faculty in various components of the educational program should be included in subsequent research.

Although generalization of the findings to a broader faculty population is limited by sample size, schools of nursing may foster constructive dialogue and subsequent openness and growth within faculty in the research setting. This growth may have a broad impact on the students who engage in many activities with nursing faculty during their college years and who often identify very closely with nursing faculty.

References

  • Argyris, C. Personality and Organization. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1957.
  • Argyris, C. Personality and Organization. New York: McGrawHill, 1966.
  • Bennis, W. Changing Organizations. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
  • Bennis, W. The Planning for Change. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 1969, p. 468.
  • Blake, R, & Mouton, J. The Managerial Grid. Houston: The Gulf Publishing Co., 1964.
  • Fiedler, F. Leader Attitudes and Group Effectiveness. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1958.
  • Halpin, A., & Croft, D. Organizational climate of schools. A research paper, Midwest Administration Center, University of Chicago, 1964.
  • Likert, R. The Human Organization. New York: McGrawHill, 1967.
  • Litwin, G., & Stringer, D. Motivation and Organizational Climate. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968.
  • McGregor, D. The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957.
  • Moos, R.H. Evaluating Treatment Environments. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1974.
  • Watkine, J. F., Grose, Herriott, Halpin and Croft: Two research teams on the same course? The Journal of Educational Research, 1968, 61, 405-411.
  • Williams, M. Organization climates as perceived by deans and faculty members in baccalaureate schools of nursing. A research proposal, St. Xavier College, Chicago, 1978.

TABLE 1

SCHOOL A

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE NORMATIVELY STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 2

SCHOOL A

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE DOUBLE STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 3

SCHOOL A

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE CLIMATE SIMILARITY INDEX

TABLE 4

SCHOOL B

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE NORM ATIVELY STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 5

SCHOOL B

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE DOUBLE STANDARDIZED SCORES

TABLE 6

SCHOOL B

ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE DESCRIPTION QUESTIONNAIRE CLIMATE SIMILARITY INDEX

10.3928/0148-4834-19830501-05

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