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Multilevel research in the field of organizational behavior: an empirical look at 10 years of theory and research

Costa, P. L., Graca, A. M., Marques-Quinteiro, P., Santos, C. M., Caetano, A. and Passos, A. M. (2013) Multilevel research in the field of organizational behavior: an empirical look at 10 years of theory and research. SAGE Open, 3 (3). ISSN 2158-2440

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/2158244013498244


During the last 30 years, significant debate has taken place regarding multilevel research. However, the extent to which multilevel research is overtly practiced remains to be examined. This article analyzes 10 years of organizational research within a multilevel framework (from 2001 to 2011). The goals of this article are (a) to understand what has been done, during this decade, in the field of organizational multilevel research and (b) to suggest new arenas of research for the next decade. A total of 132 articles were selected for analysis through ISI Web of Knowledge. Through a broad-based literature review, results suggest that there is equilibrium between the amount of empirical and conceptual papers regarding multilevel research, with most studies addressing the cross-level dynamics between teams and individuals. In addition, this study also found that the time still has little presence in organizational multilevel research. Implications, limitations, and future directions are addressed in the end. Organizations are made of interacting layers. That is, between layers (such as divisions, departments, teams, and individuals) there is often some degree of interdependence that leads to bottom-up and top-down influence mechanisms. Teams and organizations are contexts for the development of individual cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors (top-down effects; Kozlowski & Klein, 2000). Conversely, individual cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors can also influence the functioning and outcomes of teams and organizations (bottom-up effects; Arrow, McGrath, & Berdahl, 2000). One example is when the rewards system of one organization may influence employees’ intention to quit and the existence or absence of extra role behaviors. At the same time, many studies have showed the importance of bottom-up emergent processes that yield higher level phenomena (Bashshur, Hernández, & González-Romá, 2011; Katz-Navon & Erez, 2005; Marques-Quinteiro, Curral, Passos, & Lewis, in press). For example, the affectivity of individual employees may influence their team’s interactions and outcomes (Costa, Passos, & Bakker, 2012). Several authors agree that organizations must be understood as multilevel systems, meaning that adopting a multilevel perspective is fundamental to understand real-world phenomena (Kozlowski & Klein, 2000). However, whether this agreement is reflected in practicing multilevel research seems to be less clear. In fact, how much is known about the quantity and quality of multilevel research done in the last decade? The aim of this study is to compare what has been proposed theoretically, concerning the importance of multilevel research, with what has really been empirically studied and published. First, this article outlines a review of the multilevel theory, followed by what has been theoretically “put forward” by researchers. Second, this article presents what has really been “practiced” based on the results of a review of multilevel studies published from 2001 to 2011 in business and management journals. Finally, some barriers and challenges to true multilevel research are suggested. This study contributes to multilevel research as it describes the last 10 years of research. It quantitatively depicts the type of articles being written, and where we can find the majority of the publications on empirical and conceptual work related to multilevel thinking.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour
ID Code:36865

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