Miller, V. D. and F. M. Jablin (1991). "Information seeking during organizational entry: Influences, tactics, and a model of the process." Academy of Management Review, 16(1): 92-120.


The means by which newcomers seek information has received little research. They present a theoretical model of factors that may constrain new hire's information-seeking behaviors during organizational entry.

 

Factors affect information seeking during organizational entry

The ease and quickness which newcomers learn their roles are likely to affect their relationships with members of their role set and have an impact on their career paths (Gomersall & Meyers, 1966).

 

Their heightened sense of uncertainty leads newcomers to:

* be conscious of values and behaviors to be learned

* to often think about what they do not know and how to obtain the info they desire

They must seek info in a more deliberate manner.

 

Uncertainty

Newcomers may experience (according to Brett) "effort-behavior uncertainty" (do I have what it takes) and "behavior-outcome uncertainty" (exactly what should I do). The extent of behavior-outcome uncertainty should affect information seeking p. 95.

 

Social Costs

All communication involves costs. The rewards of social exchange are information, personal attraction, social acceptance, social approval, and respect/prestige.

 

The costs are social rejection, etc. Newcomers are particulariliy concerned with negative costs associated with asking questions. They fear coming off as "bugging" and fear being cut off from future information p. 97. They worry about approaching supervisors over things they think they "already should know". Individuals will size these costs up differently.

 

As a result, newcomers may seek tactics that are less overt. Anticipated costs in seeking information are a consequence of beliefs about the likelihood of the target becoming aware of the information-seeking act and the newcomer's relationship with the source, the nature of information sought, how the information-seeking act will be interpreted by others who may hear of it, and other relational and contextual factors. p. 97

 

Information Sources

Potential sources are:

* official messages

* newcomer's role set (supervisor, co-workers, and subordinates)

* other members (secretaries, friends)

* extra-organizational (clients)

* task itself

 

According to Katz new employees reduce uncertainty through eliciting feedback from supervisors and co-workers. Supervisors are important because they need their approval for role negotiation. Supervisors are more reliable info sources, but less available than co-workers.

 

Information Content

The authors propose three categories :

Referential -- what is required for success on job"

Appraisal -- tells worker if they are functioning successfully on the job

Relationsl -- informaiton about the nature of his relationship with another

 

Individual Difference and Contextual Factors

Newcomers level of self-esteem and tolerance for ambiguity may affect their info-seeking behaviors. People with low self-esteem are less likely to search for information. Individuals with with a low tolerance for ambiguity are more likely to use direct information-seeking tactics than persons with high tolerances.

 

Individuals who are more integratively complex will sample more sources of information. Levels of self-efficacy, experience and familiartity to similar work environments.

It can also be affected by organizational socialization tactics.

Outcomes of Newcomer's Information Seeking

Newcomers may experience role ambiguity or conflict as a result of:

* lack of clarity or unanimity of other's expectations

* mixed feedback about job performance

* not being able to negotiate informal agreements on role definition

* other breaking or neglecting to fultill contracts or negotiated functions

To reduce these uncertainties, newcomers wiil seek information. It is expected that newcomers who do not seek information will experience more role ambiguity and conflict.

 

Newcomer's Repetoire of Information-seeking tactics

Information seeking tactics are deliberate, conscious efforts. But the overtness can vary.

 

Overt Questions

This will be utilized when newcomers are comfortable with soliciting information from a source (it is conducive to target openess and social costs). It involves direct interaction with the information target. They may opt for overt tactics because such tactics are:

* efficient

* provide opportunities to clarify abiquities in answers received

* may ease access in future requests

Newcomers think asking questions tells supervisors they are doing a good job.

 

They may be cautious about overt tactics because:

* pre-occupations with their self-preservations may detract from attention given to target's responses

* revelations of uncertainty may be disadvantageous

* target may tire of repetitive questions

 

Prior research shows that people are more uncomfortable asking superiors questions. They will use it when there is little chance of losing face. Overt questions are often initially encouraged.

 

Thus asking overt questions is efficient but its use is dependent on perceptions of the source's approachability or "openness". Newcomers may risk it when the information is more vital. It's use is probably good in the short term but costly in the long term.

 

Propositions1.1 Newcomers will use overt, closed-ended questions for questions of low uncertainty and overt, open-ended questions for information which they have moderate to high levels of uncertainty

 

1.2 Overt questions used when newcomer's expect few negative consequences or percieve overt questions as situationally normative

 

1.3 Newcomers will use overt questions more with co-workers than supervisors.

 

Indirect Questions

This tactic allows targets to avoid responding or the asker to discount the information-seeking intent of the message. Children use this strategy with higher status sources. Hinting is an indirect tactic. It often occurs with questions about job performance. They are face-saving tactics

 

2.1 Indirect tactics used when seeking potentially embarassing information such as appraisal and relational information than when seeking referent information

 

2.2 Newcomers likely to use indirect tactics with supervisors than co-workers

 

Third Parties

Often used when primary source is unvailable. They use them to confirm or clarify the primary's sources messages or to second-guess them. Secondary sources are potentially available and convenient, provide emotional support, reinforce or confirm newcomer's impressions, and serve as informal socialization agents. But the person may get misleading information.

 

3.1 Newcomers more likely to use 2nd parties for appraisal or relational information than referent information.

 

3.2 Newcomers more likely to use third-party tactic when primary target is supervisor than co-worker and 2 the seconday source is perceived as credible and confidential

 

Testing Limits

In this situation the newcomer creates conditions in which the information target must respond. The info seeker then monitors their responses. For example, one can violate a written procedure to learn its relative importance. This tactic may have large costs, or produce less information than a direct question.

 

In this mode newcomers build knowledge based on experience than on speculation about consequences. One tactic, "Garfinkeling" is breaking a rule to evaluate organization and group rules. "Testing" is breaking rules to define relationships or priorities. Working on all tasks and having delays in all of them may force the supervisor to develop priorities.

 

4.1 Newcomers are more likely to use the testing tactic is situations of low uncertainty.

 

4.2 Newcomers are likely to use testing tactics when:

* they expect the consequences to be minimal

* they perceive no other less costly means to obtain the information

 

Disquising Conversations

Here information seekers engage in general conversation and subtle encourage their targets to speak about certain topics. Specific modes include joking, using objects in the environment, verbal prompts, and self-disclosure. One could joke about a new rule and see if others laughed too. Verbal prompts can help keep the target talking about a desired topic. Self-disclosure is a form of reciprocity seeking

 

Individuals seem skillful in cloaking their conscious intent.

 

5.1 Newcomers more likelty to use disguising conversation when seeking appraisal or relational info than referent info.

 

5.2 Newcomers are more likely to use disguising conversation when seeking info from supervisors than co-workers

 

Observing

This is used when the newcomer wants to unobtrusively get information about attitudes or procedures. They may compare their work to other more experienced people. It is probably more salient to watch co-workers who are doing similar jobs. Its probably more useful for assesing procedures than motives or attitudes. People tend to prefer observing others in informal groups situations than formal or solitary situations.

 

Weiss found that people with low-esteem tend to model their behaviors on their supervisors, while those with high-esteem used previous models to guide behavior. There are few consequences with its use, it allows past/present comparisons, can be used simultaneously with other tactics.

 

6.1 Though newcomers can observe in both high and low cost situations, they are more likely to use it in high cost situations.

 

6.2 Newcomers are more likely to use observing tactics when seeking information from co-workers than from supervisors.

 

Surveillance

This tactic focuses on cues and often has no specific infomation target. It is usually serendipitous and made sense through retrospective analysis. Newcomers may monitor the talk of co-workers to avoid missing important information. Monitoring helps refine their attention strategies. Attention to other's sense-making may help ones own.

 

7.1 Although newcomers may encounter unfamiliar stimuli in any situation, they are more likely to use surveillance in situations of high uncertainty than those of low uncertainty.

 

7.2 They are more likely to use surveillance with co-workers than supervisors (mainly due to location).

 

Information - seeking Outcomes

Choice of tactics will affect role clarity.

8.1 Newcomers who rely on overt questions (often stimulated by observations and surveillance) in the majority of their info seeking attempts are more likely to experience less role ambiquity and lower levels of role conflict than those use fewer overt questions

8.2 Over time, newcomers who rely on third party sources to the exclusion of their supervisors will encounter high levels of role ambiguity and conflict than those who rely on both third party and supervisors for information

8.3 New who often employ less direct tactics will experience higher levels of role abiguity and conflict

8.4 Newcomers who use testing tactics will experience higher role ambiguity and conflict.

Summary