Organizational Climate Perception and Job Element Satisfaction:

A Multi-frame Application in a Higher Education Setting


Michael D. Thompson


The central purpose of this study is to examine differences in job element satisfaction (e.g., colleagues, management, work, overall) between a “balanced” or “unbalanced” organizational climate as perceived by college administrative and support staff in the context of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory.  Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame theory prescribes a multi-dimensional or multi-frame approach in understanding the attributes and situational contexts of organizational behavior.  Distilled from organizational theory, these “frames of reference” represent the reality of each specific organizational type, and “shape how situations are defined…”(Bolman and Deal, 1991a, p. 511). 

            Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory has four essential components: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. The structural and human resource frames are related to management, while the political and symbolic frames are related to leadership.  The theory assumes that these four organizational frames represent the diverse accentuation and nature of organizations, and in turn, shape how organizational leadership within the respective frames perceive organizational situations.  In consequence, the accentuation and nature of organizations greatly influence how situations are defined and the manner in which they are managed most effectively (see Table I).  Bolman and Deal’s theory postulates that successful organizations, including leaders and managers, are those that understand and utilize a multi-frame orientation of thinking in assessing situational and environmental characteristics and anomalies.  As stated by Bolman and Deal (1991a) “ increasingly complex and turbulent organizational world demands greater cognitive complexity…” that is, effective and successful organizations need to “...understand multiple frames and know how to use them in practice” (p. 528).  Thus, the four-frame theory was selected for this study because of its proven usefulness in understanding the complexity of manners, characteristics, and behaviors of organizations and their members (see, for example, Bensimon, 1989; Bolman and Deal 1991a, 1992; Thompson, 2000).

Organizational Climate

Organizational climate, defined as the way in which organizational members perceive and characterize their environment in an attitudinal and value-based manner (Denison, 1996; Moran and Volkwein, 1992; Verbeke, Volgering, and Hessels, 1998), has been asserted as an important and influential aspect of satisfaction and retention, as well as institutional effectiveness and success in higher education.  As a result of its subjective nature and vulnerability to control and manipulate by individuals within an organization’s decision-making mechanism, the organizational climate is greatly influenced by organizational leadership (Allen, 2003; Cameron and Smart, 1998; Johnsrud, 2002; Smart, 1990; Volkwein and Parmley, 2000).

The majority of research examining organizational climates in higher education has focused on faculty and student perceptions (see, for example, Hagedorn, 2000; Johnsrud, 2002; Volkwein and Zhou, 2003).  Albeit minimal in comparison to research based on faculty and students, there have been a handful of studies specifically addressing organizational climate and administrative staff.  As stated by Volkwein and Zhou (2003):

Higher education research has shown that several work-related variables exert positive and significant influences on administrative satisfaction: a supportive organizational culture, teamwork, relationships with colleagues and superiors, worker autonomy, and self-fulfillment (Austin and Gamson, 1983; Bensimon and Neumann, 1993; Berwick, 1992; Boone, 1987; Lawler, 1986; Rigg, 1992; Volkwein, Malik, and Napierski-Prancl, 1998) (p. 151).

Similar to the above evidence, two recent studies by Volkwein and colleagues (2000, 2003) examined the administrative job satisfaction at both public and private universities.  Their collective findings reported job insecurity, stress, and pressure as having a significant negative impact on overall satisfaction, while teamwork, recognition, advancement, feelings of independence, and social and professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors had a significant positive impact on overall satisfaction. 

Two studies conducted by Johnsrud and colleagues (1999, 2000) examined the morale of mid-level administrators.  Defining morale as “a state of mind regarding one's job, including satisfaction, commitment, loyalty, and sense of common purpose with respect to one's work” (1999; p. 124), they found that organizational climate-related items such as trust, communication, guidance, feedback and recognition of competence from supervisors as significant contributors to overall morale.  Another study examined the organizational climate and its relationship to job insecurity in three different universities.  Utilizing approximately 60 administrative staff interviews, Allen’s (2003) qualitative examination identified the following organizational climate-related items as contributing factors to high levels of insecurity: lack of respect and trust, poor interpersonal relationships, and not seeing oneself as a part of the campus community.

The above patterns of similarity regarding the relationship between organizational climate-related variables and administrative staff satisfaction provide strong evidence of the importance and influence of such factors in the workplace.  For example, issues regarding self-fulfillment, recognition, morale, respect, and the quality of peer relationships and interactions between organizational members (and leaders) are conducive and vital in producing a positive or balanced organizational climate that facilitates loyalty, commitment, and trust.  Thus, the significance of a balanced organizational climate cannot be overstated in terms of the benefits yielded as a result of the harmony between an organization and its members.  In consequence, inquiries to that end remain important and essential.

Finally, there two studies that examined the organizational climate within the context of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory.  In a study investigating the use of four-frame leadership behaviors of department chairpersons in nursing programs and their relationships to the organizational climate as perceived by faculty, Mosser and Walls (2002) found that all four frame-related behaviors correlated positively with organizational climate-related items such as faculty support, social-needs satisfaction, and supervision.  On the other hand, all four frames negatively correlated with disengagement or fractionalization within the faculty.  Furthermore, chairpersons using a combination of the four frames (four, three, or two) in the organizational climate (department) were perceived by faculty as emphasizing faculty support, social-needs satisfaction, and supervision at significantly higher levels than chairpersons using a single or no frame.  Faculty who perceived chairpersons as using no frame reported higher levels of disengagement within the climate (department).

Another study by Scott (1999) utilized Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory as the theoretical framework for assessing both leadership and organizational climate perceptions among staff (e.g., athletic directors and coaches) in 21 successful intercollegiate athletic departments across divisions (NCAA Divisions I, II, III and the NAIA finalists for the Sears Directors’ Cup Award).  Scott’s (1999) primary focus was to explore commonalities and/or differences among a select group of departments that shared a common achievement (success).  The results revealed the organizational climates of the departments as having a multi-frame perspective, with little variation among four-frame climate characteristics.  In addition, the results also revealed an overall agreement among departmental staff regarding the dominant leadership and organizational climate frames within each department, revealing the importance and influence of leadership regarding a multi-frame or balanced climate perception and success.

The evidence noted above supports Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) assertion that a multi-frame orientation promotes organizational success, which is a by-product of the perceived organizational climate and satisfaction of organizational members.  Furthermore, the role of organizational leadership and its impact on the quality of the organizational climate is evidently clear; organizational leadership has direct bearing on the climate and may facilitate change by adopting the cognitive complexity or balance necessary in assessing situations.  The positive relationship between behaviors associated with the four frames and the degree of perceived support, satisfaction and supervision, and the negative relationship between the four frames and disengagement as reported by Mosser and Walls (2002) illustrates as much, and demonstrates the usefulness of the four frames for such inquiries.  In sum, if organizational satisfaction and success are associated with four-frame-related factors such as teamwork (human resource), guidance (structural), trust (symbolic), and autonomy (political), one would expect that an organizational climate encompassing the four frames in a multi-frame or balanced view would yield such results.  These expectations were confirmed in the findings of Mosser and Walls (2002) and Scott (1999).

            The present study will contribute to the above research on organizational climate and its relationship to job element satisfaction (e.g., colleagues, management, work, overall).  Utilizing Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame theory of organizational behavior to assess the perceived organizational climate, the present study will examine differences in the satisfaction levels of administrative and support staff on various job element variables.  The current study differs from earlier research in that it examines organizational climate in the context of a multi-frame or balanced (balanced, unbalanced) orientation and its relationship to observed differences among the perceived degree of job element satisfaction.  Furthermore, the current study will examine the organizational climate as perceived by both administrative and support staff.



            This study was based on the responses of 280 full- and part-time administrative and support staff participants (men = 101; women = 179) who provided perceptions of the organizational behaviors and characteristics of the college in which they were employed.  The college, a small, highly selective private residential liberal arts institution with an approximate enrollment of 1,800 students, was located in a small suburban city in the midwestern United States.  Approximately 600 full- and part-time administrative and support staff personnel were asked to complete the inventory, resulting in an overall response rate of 46.6%.  The analyses were based on the responses of 263 participants who provided full information on all variables as described in Table 1.  Approximately 3% of the participants were persons of color, 20% unknown, and the remaining 77% were white. 

The participants in this study represented every administrative division at the college (academic affairs, 39.3%; development, 7.1%; finance and business, 35%; unknown/other, 18.6%), and occupied a diverse mix of positions from support and service staff (e.g., custodial and food services, physical plant) to the executive administration (e.g., deans, vice-presidents).  All administrative and support staff were invited to participate in the study for two reasons.  First, research regarding organizational climate and administrative staff in higher education has focused on mid-level and executive administration officers.  Thus, an examination including all members of the administrative and support staff is warranted in order to investigate the comprehensive impact of the organizational climate on a college campus.  Second, the college in question for the current study has a very lean executive administration, as well as a limited number of personnel possessing a terminal degree.  Thus, any examination resembling the participant professional demographics in the previously noted research would yield a very small number of subjects that would greatly hamper the ability to examine organizational climate and its bearing on the institution’s constituents.  Although perhaps limiting in comparison to previous noted research, which identified multiple mid- to upper- administrative levels and/or departments, the current study’s examination of organizational climate in a comprehensive manner was intentional and warranted due to the size of the institution. 

Approximately 90% of the participants were full-time, and 53% were classified as exempt employees (salaried as opposed to hourly), with an average of 8.2 years of experience in their present department and an average of 10.1 years of overall experience at the college.  Exempt employees included all levels of the administration (e.g., assistant directors, directors, executive administrators), while the non-exempt employees consisted of personnel in service and support areas (e.g., custodial, food, physical plant).  Individual departments were not identified to guarantee anonymity, which was necessary given the sensitive nature of the subject matter addressed.  The number of participants in the demographic categories was consistent with the overall institutional percentage for each group.


Via electronic and campus mail invitation, administrative and support staff personnel were asked to complete a modified version of the Leadership Orientation Survey in either paper or Web-based format (LOS: Bolman and Deal, 1991a).  Permission to use and modify the survey was sought after and granted from the authors.  The LOS is a 32-item instrument that contains eight measures for each of the four organizational frames proposed by Bolman and Deal.  Survey modifications involved minor wording changes to reflect an organizational (college) emphasis, as opposed to individual (see Appendix A).  For example, the original LOS asks how often each item is true of the person you are rating (e.g., manager, director), and then lists the items (e.g., builds trust through open and collaborative relationships).  The modification for this example was the following: Please indicate to what extent you agree that the following characteristics are typical of the College in general.  Please base your opinions on the College and not a specific person (e.g., The College builds trust through open and collaborative relationships).  The emphasis on “college” in both the initial question and the 32 items was to alleviate any potential misunderstanding regarding what an employee was intended to be rating. 

Thus, the modified LOS yields information to the extent to which the behaviors and characteristics of an organization exhibit the four frames proposed by Bolman and Deal (1991a).  Participants indicated the extent to which the college exhibited each of the 32 behaviors and characteristics using a five-point response scale (1 = “never” to 5 = “always”).  Brief descriptions of the eight-item scales for each of the four Bolman and Deal frames and their reliability estimates, calculated from the participants’ responses, are found in Table 1.


Table I.  Bolman and Deal’s Theory of Four-Frame Leadership Styles

Structural Frame  (the assembly plant)

The structural frame emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness.  Structural leaders make the rational decision over the personal, and strive to achieve organizational goals and objectives through coordination and control.  They value accountability and critical analyses.  Specialization and division of labor are used to increase performance levels.  Problems in performance may result in restructuring.  (alpha = .93).

Human Resource Frame  (the clan)

The human resource frame emphasizes the individual.  Human resource leaders value camaraderie and harmony within the work environment, and strive to achieve organizational goals through meaningful and satisfying work.  They recognize human needs and the importance of congruence between the individual and the organization.  (alpha = .95).

Political Frame  (the coliseum)

The political frame emphasizes competition.  Political leaders value practicality and authenticity, and strive to achieve organizational goals through negotiation and compromise.  They recognize the diversity of individuals and interests, and compete for scarce resources regardless of conflict.  Power is an important resource.  (alpha = .93)

Symbolic Frame  (the shrine)

The symbolic frame emphasizes meaning.  Symbolic leader value the subjective, and strives to achieve organizational goals through interpretative rituals and ceremonies.  They recognize that symbols give individuals meaning, and provide direction towards achieving organizational purpose.  They recognize unity and a strong culture and mission.  (alpha = .94).



            As stated earlier, a central assumption of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory is that effective organizations must possess the ability to use multiple frames in organizational policy and procedure, and, conversely, that reliance of any one or two frames will not lead to effective organizational performance or a conducive climate.  This notion of “balance” or cognitive complexity among the four frames was operationalized in this study by creating two climate types that indicated the degree to which perceptions of the behaviors and characteristics of the organization reflected its balanced (or unbalanced) use of the four organizational frames.  The following is a description of each of the two climate types used in the study:

Balanced climate type.  In this category, participants perceived the college as having behaviors and characteristics that encompass at least three of the four frames (structural, human resource, political, symbolic).  A total of 124 participants (44.3%) perceived the college as having this type of climate, which was determined by those who scored the college above the mean score of any three of the four frames of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) organizational theory.

Unbalanced climate type.  In this category, participants perceived the college as having behaviors and characteristics that encompass no more than two of the four frames.  A total of 156 participants (55.7%) perceived the college as having this type of climate, which was determined by those who scored the college above the mean score of only two or less frames of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) organizational theory.

The choice to operationalize Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) notion of “balance” or cognitive complexity among the four frames by creating two climate types was made in order to examine groups of relative size and variance, given the limited number of participants in the current study.

            Six individual job element items were developed to assess the administrative and support staff’s level of satisfaction with departmental and college-wide colleagues and management, as well as their level of satisfaction with their work and overall experience.  The job element items were developed for the current survey in order to examine the variability, if any, between the different facets of satisfaction employees may experience at the college.  All six items were based on a five-point scale (1 = very dissatisfied, 2 = dissatisfied, 3 = neither, 4 = satisfied, 5 = very satisfied).


            Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) procedures (Stevens, 1996) were used to assess the extent to which there were differences in the level of satisfaction with departmental and college-wide colleagues and management, as well as work and overall experience of administrative and support staff who classified the organizational climate of the college according to the two climate types described above.  The independent variables in the MANOVA design were the two organizational climate types (balanced, unbalanced) derived from Bolman and Deal’s four-frame organizational theory.  The dependent variables were the six job element items (departmental management, college-wide management, departmental colleagues, college-wide colleagues, work experience, overall experience).  Univariate effect sizes were calculated to determine the strength of significant organizational climate type differences when the multivariate F ratios were statistically significant.


            The F ratio for the two organizational climate types was statistically significant (F = 32.50; df = 6, 256, p < .001), indicating significant differences in the levels of job element satisfaction of those administrative and support staff perceiving the college as having a balanced or unbalanced organizational climate.  There were no significant interactions between any of the demographic categories (e.g., sex, race/ethnicity, division, full- or part-time, salary status) and organizational climate types.  Table 2 presents the means and standard deviations for the two climate types on the six job element items. 


Table II.  Means and Standard Deviations of the Organizational Climate Types


             Organizational Climate Type

                                        Balanced                            Unbalanced                         Univariate

                                                                                                                                    F Ratioa

                                    Mean        SD                                  Mean          SD                       



Management             4.07         0.90                       3.54         1.13                         21.82*



Management             3.99         0.52                       2.82         0.85                       183.91*



Colleagues                4.24         0.67                       3.79         1.00                         19.13*



Colleagues                4.14         0.55                       3.55         0.76                         53.77*



Experience                4.35         0.63                       3.72         0.89                         51.39*



Experience                4.31         0.53                       3.62         0.83                         67.41*


a = df = (1, 261)

* = p < .001


Inspection of the univariate F ratios in Table 2 indicates statistically significant differences (p < .001) on all six job element items.  Administrative and support staff who perceived the college as possessing the characteristics of three or four organizational frames (balanced) have greater satisfaction than those employees who perceived the college as “unbalanced” in the following job elements: departmental management; college-wide management; departmental colleagues; college-wide colleagues; work experience; and overall experience.  Univariate effect sizes for each significant test are reported in Table 3.


Table III.  Univariate Effect Sizes for Significant Tests


Climate Comparison                                                                                                Effect Size


Departmental Management

            Balanced and Unbalanced                                                                            0.53

College-wide Management         

            Balanced and Unbalanced                                                                             1.65

Departmental Colleagues

            Balanced and Unbalanced                                                                             0.53

College-wide Colleagues

            Balanced and Unbalanced                                                                             0.87

Work Experience

            Balanced and Unbalanced                                                                             0.83

Overall Experience

            Balanced and Unbalanced                                                                             1.00



            The findings of the present study contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting the use of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory in efforts to understand perceived organizational behavior and characteristics (climate) in relation to the job element satisfaction of organizational members.  The differences found among Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) two organizational climate types (balanced, unbalanced) in all six job element satisfaction items are consistent with the findings of Allen (2003), Cameron and Smart (1998), Johnsrud (2002), Johnsrud, Heck, and Rosser (2000), Johnsrud and Rosser (1999), Smart (1990), Volkwein and Parmely (2000), and Volkwein and Zhou (2003), who assert the importance and influence of organizational climate-related variables on administrative staff satisfaction with job-related elements. 

The results of the present study are also consistent with the evidence asserting the benefits of a multi-frame orientation, whether in an organizational climate or leadership context.  An organization that demonstrates the ability to encompass cognitive complexity in the decision-making process to reconcile the competing demands and needs, say, for example, between fiscal responsibility (structural), avoiding conflict (political), emphasizing camaraderie and harmony within the work environment (human resource), while maintaining loyalty and enthusiasm (symbolic), reveals acknowledgement, understanding and consideration of the need for “balance” within the working environment, and thus yields greater levels of satisfaction for the organization.  As previously noted, embracing cognitive complexity by utilizing the four-frame organizational characteristics and behaviors enhances perceived levels of satisfaction and effectiveness (Bensimon, 1989; Bolman and Deal, 1991a, 1992; Mosser and Walls, 2002; Scott, 1999; Thompson, 2000). 

Management and Colleagues

            The findings of the present study suggest that organizations perceived as having a balanced organizational climate, have greater levels of perceived satisfaction among employees in terms of departmental (local) and college-wide (universal) management and colleagues.  Although significant differences were revealed between the balanced and unbalanced climate types for both the management and colleague groups, it is apparent from the effect sizes that the differences in satisfaction with college-wide management and colleagues were much larger than those on the departmental level (see Table III).  One explanation regarding the effect size differences between the departmental and college-wide management and colleague groups may be related to the context of the four-frame behavioral and characterization items, which asked for perceptions of the college as opposed to individual departments.  It may also be a result of strong individual climates within departments and their ability to modify organizational-specific behaviors and characteristics to their advantage.  In sum, the effect sizes between climate types for both college-wide and departmental management and colleagues were from moderate to large, which again illustrate the importance of the organizational climate on administrative and support staff perceived satisfaction. 

Work and Overall Experience

            Similar to the results regarding management and colleagues, the findings of the present study suggest that organizations perceived as having a balanced organizational climate have greater levels of perceived satisfaction among employees in terms of work and overall experience.  Again, as observed by the effect sizes, and similar to the differences between departmental and college-wide job elements, the perceived organizational climate had more bearing on the more “universal” item, overall experience, as opposed to the more “local” item, work experience.  It is likely that work experience was perceived as more departmental-specific and subsequently, not as largely affected by organizational climate-related behaviors and characteristics.  However, despite the observed difference, both effect sizes for work and overall experience satisfaction were quite large, and again lend credence to the previously noted assertions regarding the magnitude of the organizational climate and perceived job-element experiences. 


The findings of the present study revealed that the perceived ability to encompass the cognitive complexity, or use of multiple frames (balanced) in organizational (college) policies and procedures (climate), yielded a more satisfied group within the organizational community than those who perceived the college as having an unbalanced organizational climate.  These findings have implications for organizational leadership (e.g., trustees, presidents, executive administrators), as well as for researchers examining organizational climate and its effect on employee satisfaction.  If organizational climate-related variables such as a supportive culture, worker autonomy, advancement, and social and professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors exert significant influences on the satisfaction of organizational members, it would behoove organizational leadership to periodically assess and make efforts to improve the organizational climate.  Furthermore, if employee satisfaction is related to retention, loyalty and commitment, it makes sense to address such factors on an organizational level, as it could save resources expended in the recruitment and retainment of quality personnel.  If the accentuation and nature of organizations greatly influence how situations are defined and the manners in which they are managed most effectively as asserted by Bolman and Deal (1991b, 1997, 2003), one would expect that an assessment of the organizational climate would illustrate such accentuations and reveal the effectiveness or lack thereof, of management-related behaviors and characteristics.  The present study’s examination of job element satisfaction in the context of organizational climate confirmed these expectations. 

Other implications regarding organizational climate assessment and employee satisfaction, specifically support staff, goes beyond the personnel themselves.  Perhaps not as appreciated as they should be, the majority of higher education institutions would not be able to function properly without quality support staff personnel.  Both students and faculty rely on various personnel to provide important and vital services (e.g., food and custodial services, technology, administrative assistants).  An unhappy and disengaged support staff would not foster a pleasant living and learning environment, and may prove to be distracting and disruptive to campus harmony.  Furthermore, such discord would not facilitate the retention and success of students, since a large percentage of students’ informal interactions is with support staff personnel, especially on a residential campus where students rely heavily on the institution for room and board.  Again, the importance of fostering retention, loyalty, commitment, and related factors among organizational members is vital to the success of the organization, and should not be allowed to lapse or be ignored by organizational leadership.

In sum, the perceived balance of the organizational climate appears to be largely a function of the cognitive complexity or use of multiple frames in organizational policies and procedures.  A “balanced” organizational climate yields more satisfied organizational members.  The administrative and support staff who perceived the college as behaving in a balanced fashion, that is, embracing multiple frames, were clearly more satisfied with their work environment and colleagues.  Those who study organizational climate and employee satisfaction would be advised to focus their attention on the use of Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory, and how organizational behavior and characteristics might be related to yielding a committed and loyal workforce, resulting in a successful organization.  For those who aspire to become leaders and managers of organizations, it would be wise to recognize the utility of using a multi-frame orientation in developing, and later assessing, a behavior repertoire.  Due to the complex and turbulent nature of organizations, it is essential that organizational leadership develop a greater cognitive complexity to facilitate the growth and maintenance of a dedicated and satisfied constituency, as well as to enhance and implement decision-making and strategic planning. 

Hence, Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory has much potential to contribute to our understanding of organizational behavior and characteristics.  It provides a theory-based approach, combined with conceptually and empirically defensible classification procedures, to examine differences in the satisfaction of organizational members and its relationship to the perceived cognitive complexity or balance of the organizational climate. 

            A few cautions are offered to readers evaluating the validity of the findings and their applicability on other campuses and/or organizations, given the particular institution in which the present study was conducted.  As stated previously, the institution is a private baccalaureate liberal arts college located in the Midwestern United States and serves a diverse and predominately residential student population.  Due to the size of the institution, detailed analyses regarding specific administrative levels is limited.  Furthermore, the institution in question lacks a demographically diverse workforce large enough to make adequate assertions and/or examinations based on race/ethnicity.  Research studies examining organizational climate on larger campus settings with more diverse constituencies are needed, as are examinations exploring differences, if any, between multiple administrative layers. 

It should also be noted that personnel within a smaller institution might be more susceptible to changes to, and the effects of, an organization’s climate.  Greater levels of exposure to decision-making processes and a closer-knit “community” culture, where strong professional and social relationships are important and necessary on an institution-wide basis, may have bearing on perceived organizational climate and satisfaction with job elements.  For example, a similar study within a large research university, where personnel may be less attuned to the leadership and decision-making processes of the institution and more familiar with their respective departmental colleagues than those in other departments and colleges (e.g., College of Education versus College of Arts and Sciences), may reveal different climate-related effects. 

Thus, the applicability of the findings to other campus and large corporate settings (e.g., public research universities, for-profit businesses) is unknown.  However, the instrument utilized for the present study, the Leadership Orientation Survey (LOS: Bolman and Deal, 1991a), has been successfully employed in assessing leadership styles in diverse educational and corporate settings (Bolman and Deal, 1991a, 1992; Mosser and Walls, 2002; Scott, 1999; Thompson, 2000), and thus shows potential for larger organizational climate examinations.  Further research utilizing Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory in an organizational climate context is warranted to assess the degree of validity across different types and sizes of educational institutions and businesses.  Explorations regarding the nature and impact of organizational climate in higher education institutions may also reveal problematic situations with administrative leadership roles, and may lead to necessary adjustments or modifications to the hierarchical models of institutions.  In sum, continued investigations employing Bolman and Deal’s (1991b, 1997, 2003) four-frame organizational theory to explore organizational climate have the potential to contribute new ideas and methods regarding organizational personnel, management and effectiveness. 




            Respondents indicated to what extent the following characteristics were typical of the college using a 5-point scale (1 = never to 5 = always).  Source: Bolman and Deal (1991a).

Structural Frame (alpha = .93)

1) The College has a clear structure and chain of command.

2) The College sets specific, measurable goals and emphasizes employee accountability.

3) The College develops and implements clear, logical policies and procedures.

4) The College emphasizes careful planning and clear time lines.

5) The College approaches problem solving with logical analysis and careful thinking.

6) The College operates in a clear, logical and rational manner.

7) The College addresses problems with fact and reason.

8) The College emphasizes extraordinary attention to detail and care.

Human Resource Frame (alpha = .95)

1) The College shows high levels of support and concern for employees.

2) The College builds trust through open and collaborative relationships.

3) The College shows high sensitivity and concern for employee needs and feelings.

4) The College encourages high levels of participation and involvement in decisions.

5) The College gives personal recognition for work well done.

6) The College is very receptive to employee ideas and input.

7) The College fosters a helpful and responsive environment.

8) The College actively solicits employee feedback (positive and/or negative).

Political Frame (alpha = .93)

1) The College anticipates and deals skillfully with institutional conflict.

2) The College demonstrates political sensitivity and skill.

3) The College shows exceptional ability to coordinate employees and resources to accomplish goals.

4) The College develops and/or participates in associations to build a strong base of support.

5) The College practices very skillful and shrewd negotiations.

6) The College is very effective in garnering influential and powerful support.

7) The College is very successful in dealing with conflict and opposition.

8) The College is very influential and persuasive in promoting cooperation.

Symbolic Frame (alpha = .94)

1) The College communicates a strong and challenging vision and sense of mission.

2) The College generates loyalty and enthusiasm.

3) The College serves as an influential model of institutional aspirations and values.

4) The College sees beyond current realities to create exciting new opportunities.

5) The College inspires employees to do their best.

6) The College operates in a highly imaginative and creative manner.

7) The College fosters a stimulating and inspiring environment. 

8) The College possesses an alluring, charming and appealing environment.


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Stevens, J.  (1996).  Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Thompson, M. D.  (2000).  Gender, leadership orientation, and effectiveness: Testing the theoretical models of Bolman & Deal and Quinn.  Sex Roles, 42, 969-992.

Verbeke, W., Volgering, M. and Hessels, M. (1998).  Exploring the conceptual expansion within the field of organizational behavior: Organizational climate and organizational culture.  Journal of Management Studies, 25, 303-329.

Volkwein, J. F. and Parmley, K.  (2000).  Comparing administrative satisfaction in public and private universities.  Research in Higher Education, 41, 95-116.

Volkwein, J. F. and Zhou, Y.  (2003).  Testing a model of administrative job satisfaction.  Research in Higher Education, 44, 149-171.

About the Author

Michael D. Thompson, Ed.D., is the Director of Institutional Research at The College of Wooster. Thompson received his Bachelor of Arts degree (social science) from Cumberland University and his Master of Arts (sociology) and Doctor of Education (higher and adult education) degrees from The University of Memphis.

            Before coming to Wooster, Dr. Thompson was the Assistant Director of Institutional Research at Dartmouth College. He specializes in higher education research and has published several articles, including "Student Leadership Process Development: An Assessment of Contributing College Resources" in the Journal of College Student Development; “Leadership Orientation, Effectiveness, and Gender: Testing the Theoretical Models of Bolman & Deal and Quinn” in Sex Roles; "Disparate Academic Environments: An Emergent Framework of Socialization," in The Qualitative Report; “Informal Student-Faculty Interaction: Its Relationship to Educational Gains in Science and Mathematics Among Community College Students” in Community College Review; and “Student Competencies Emphasized by Faculty in Disparate Academic Environments” in the Journal of College Student Development (with J. C. Smart).



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