Are the costs worth the benefits? Shared perception and the aggregation of organizational climate ratings

Stacey R. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

21 Scopus citations


A definitional component of organizational climate is the focus on employees' shared perceptions of the focal climate domain. To operationalize the notion of sharedness, researchers typically aggregate employees' domain-specific climate perceptions to a higher level and justify this aggregation using quantitative indices of agreement. In the current paper, I argue that although accounting for sharedness among employees can provide some valuable insight, our overreliance on sharedness obscures some of the very organizational phenomena of interest. I discuss this issue by focusing on four costs of making unfounded assumptions regarding sharedness: (a) Aggregation assumes individual differences are a function of random error; (b) aggregation assumes that social situations are uniform across employees; (c) aggregation assumes that the unit of analysis is clear-cut; and (d) aggregation assumes the group mean is meaningful. I argue that researchers carefully need to weigh the costs of violating these assumptions against the expected benefits of aggregating employees' climate perceptions, recognizing that sometimes employees' perceptions (i.e., psychological climate) might provide greater insight into phenomena of interest. Although I discuss these costs within the context of organizational climate research, these arguments apply to other research areas where individual perceptions are aggregated (e.g., research on leadership and teams).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1046-1054
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • aggregation
  • organizational climate
  • perception


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