Author(s), Title and Publication

Sollitto, M., & Cranmer, G. A. (2015). The relationship between aggressive communication traits and organizational assimilation. International Journal of Business Communication, 56(2), 278-296.


This study explored how employees’ and their supervisors’ communication traits affect employees’ organizational assimilation, that is, the process through which they form relationships with each other and become integrated members of the organizations where they work. The authors studied three aggressive communication traits: argumentativeness, a competent form of communication which refers to individuals present and defend positions on controversial issues with rational and nonthreatening messages or evidence; verbal aggressiveness, defined as attacking the self-concept of others; and indirect interpersonal aggressiveness, defined as inflicting harm to others without the use of face-to-face communication, such as spreading rumors, betraying the confidence of others, and preventing the spread of important information to others. To test the relationship between the three communication traits and employees’ organizational assimilation, the author recruited 170 full-time employees who had regular interaction with a direct supervisor. The average age of participants was 38, and 41% were males. Participants were with their current organizations for an average of 8 years.

The results showed that indirect interpersonal aggressiveness enacted by employees has a negative impact on employees’ organizational assimilation in aspects of acculturation, involvement, role negotiation, and familiarity with coworkers. This indicates that employees who engage in gossip or backstabbing behavior are less likely to understand organizational culture and norms, take work responsibility, or talk about their work roles. With regard to employees’ perceptions of supervisor communication traits, they found that supervisor argumentativeness was positively associated with employee assimilation, including aspects of acculturation, recognition, involvement, familiarity with supervisors and coworkers, and role negotiation. In contrast, supervisor verbal aggressiveness and indirect interpersonal aggressiveness were negatively associated with the abovementioned indicators.

Implications for practice

(1) Organizations should provide business communication training to supervisors to strengthen their communication competence and skills and reduce their destructive communication behaviors.  (2) Supervisors should strategically apply skills of argumentativeness (e.g., use rational and nonthreatening messages, use greater amounts of evidence in response to refused requests) to facilitate employees’ assimilation process.

Location of Article

This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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