Compensatory control and ambiguity intolerance

Published

Journal Article

© 2017 Elsevier Inc. When do people find ambiguity intolerable, and how might this manifest in the workplace where roles, guidelines and expectations can be made to be more or less ambiguous? Compensatory Control Theory (CCT; Kay, Gaucher, Napier, Callan, & Laurin, 2008) suggests a potential driver: perceived control. Recent CCT theory (Landau, Kay, & Whitson, 2015) has posited that people with chronically lower levels of perceived control may be especially likely to seek coherent and structured environments. Given that ambiguous workplace situations – such as flexible roles and titles, or loose guidelines and expectations – necessarily represent a lack of structure, these types of situations may therefore be especially aversive to those lower in perceived control. Four studies support this prediction. Specifically, we observe that low perceived control (both measured or manipulated) predicts greater ambiguity intolerance as well as greater negative attitudes towards ambiguous situations (Studies 1, 2 and 3), but not other types of problematic workplace situations (Study 1), and that this process can exert important downstream consequences, ranging from behavioral intentions to perceived self-efficacy (Study 4).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ma, A; Kay, AC

Published Date

  • May 1, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 140 /

Start / End Page

  • 46 - 61

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0749-5978

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.obhdp.2017.04.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus