Perceptions of politics and organizational cynicism: An attributional and leader-member exchange perspective

Walter D. Davis, William L. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


As the political perspectives of organizations gain acceptance, leadership is increasingly viewed as a political process. While some researchers have begun to shun the notion that politics should be viewed as necessarily bad and undesirable, it is still commonly seen as a negative attribute of the organizational environment. Moreover, organizational members who perceive themselves to be working in negative political environments may develop cynical attitudes toward the organization. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into the role that attributions play in eliciting negative cognitive and affective reactions to the political environment. We argue that because the quality of the leader-member exchange (LMX) is often central to these reactions, LMX theory and research possess considerable promise for enhancing our understanding of these processes. We explore attributional processes in detail, with special attention to (a) how these attributional processes occur within a leader-member relationship and (b) how attributions ultimately impact perceptions of politics, as well as organizational cynicism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-465
Number of pages27
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Leader-member exchange
  • Organizational cynicism
  • Politics


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