Relationships Among Loneliness, Communication Competence, And Career Success in a State Bureaucracy: A Field Study Of The ‘Lonely at the Top’ Maxim

Kim Reinking, Robert A Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

This field study investigates associations among loneliness, career success, and communication competence in an effort to account for the finding of Bell, Roloff, Van Camp, and Karol (1990) that individuals who occupy low positions in organizational hierarchies may be more prone to loneliness. Subjects were 182 employees at a state government agency. Each subject’s level in the organization was assessed by assigning him or her to one of five ordinal categories, ranging from Clerical (Level 1) to Director (Level 5). In addition, the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale and a measure of communication competence were completed. Hypothesis 1, which predicted a negative relationship between organizational level and loneliness, was supported for male subjects only. The second hypothesis, which anticipated a positive correlation between organizational level and communication competence, was again supported only for males. The third prediction that loneliness would be inversely related to competence received strong support for both sexes. The final hypothesis predicted that the inverse relationship between level and loneliness expected in Hypothesis 1 would become positive when controlling for baseline differences in communication competence between higher-and lower-positioned employees. No evidence was found that greater communication competence among employees at higher organizational levels masked a real tendency for career success to be accompanied by more loneliness. These results are discussed in terms of gender differences in the interface of work life and personal relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-373
Number of pages16
JournalCommunication Quarterly
Volume39
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 1991

Keywords

  • Career advancement
  • communication competence
  • loneliness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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