Construct development and testing of a measure of Guanxi quality : understanding workplace relationships from a cultural perspective
Chen, Miao Hua
Date of Issue2016
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Research on guanxi, and in particular its influence on workplace outcomes, has greatly increased in the past 2 decades. Despite this proliferation, scholars have paid little attention to conceptual development of the construct. My review of the existing literature on guanxi highlighted the great variety of ways that guanxi has been conceptualized and operationalized, and the fact that existing theoretical models of guanxi operation remain largely untested. To address the lack of specificity in defining the construct of guanxi, I conducted 5 interrelated studies to define and test the construct. I focused on external guanxi between boundary spanners--people from different organizations who interact on behalf of their organizations for work purposes--in the context of the Taiwan workplace. The project entails two parts. In the initial qualitative part, I adopted an indigenous psychology perspective to delineate the contents, processes, and defining characteristics of guanxi. The results were useful in assessing the adequacy of existing theoretical conceptualizations for addressing actual workplace guanxi dynamics (Study 1, Part 1). They also supported the theoretical postulations, which I categorized as cultural-based workplace guanxi. A second objective of the qualitative study was to identify the best way to operationalize workplace guanxi, and to generate a set of items to measure it. My analysis indicated that a measure of guanxi should capture its dynamic and changeable quality and highlighted 3 dimensions of guanxi quality, namely, ganqing, renqing, and xinren (Study 1, Part 2). Based on these results, I generated items to represent each dimension. The second part of the research focused on scale development. I used the items generated in the initial qualitative study to propose a measure of guanxi quality, the Guanxi Quality Scale (GQS), which I refined and tested in subsequent studies: pretesting the initial pool of scale items (Studies 2A and 2B), testing the factor structure (Studies 3 and 4), and assessing the construct validity of the new measure (Studies 4 and 5). Results of the factor analyses conducted in Studies 3 and 4 supported a higher-order factor structure of guanxi quality that was measured by the 3 latent factors of ganqing, renqing, and xinren. The final 15-item GQS showed high reliability and validity and can be used to measure workplace guanxi in future research. The 5 studies of this project represent a concerted effort to provide a comprehensive understanding of guanxi. The results of this study provide a common starting point and language for researchers who are investigating guanxi. By maintaining an emphasis on obtaining an insider perspective, this research also provides outsiders with valuable insights on the cultural emphasis on relationships in the context of the Taiwan workplace.